The trial of surviving Boston Marathon jihadi Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has included much discussion of the boat he was hiding in when the police took him down. Tsarnaev wrote a message on the inside of the boat, which is somewhat difficult to read because it is punctuated with bullet holes and bloodstains.
There was some debate about how this message would be shown to the jury – at one point, his lawyers wanted to lug the entire boat into the courthouse, because they thought it would create sympathy for the young killer with the jury. “It’s really quite striking – you can imagine Mr. Tsarnaev lying in that boat as one might lie in a crypt,” said a defense lawyer. Of course, the people Tsarnaev put into actual crypts, one of them an eight-year-old boy, were unavailable for comment.
The prosecution ended up showing photographs of the boat message to jurors this week, and with their release to the public, we have the full copy of what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev intended to be his final testament for the first time, presented here with annotations to explain some of the terms, and guess at the words obscured by bullet holes:
“I’m jealous of my brother who ha[hole] ceived the reward of jannutul Firdaus (inshallah) before me. I do not mourn becuase his soul is very much alive. God has a plan for each person. Mine was to hide in his boat and shed some light on our actions.”
God’s plan for Tamerlan Tsarnaev apparently involved his brother running over him with a stolen Mercedes during a panicked attempt to escape. Dzhokhar was trying to run down the cops who were cuffing Tamerlan after a gun battle, but he missed. That’s why his brother “has received the reward of jannutul Firdaus,” the highest level of Paradise, envisioned in Islam as a garden filled with prophets and martyrs.
“Inshallah” means “as God wills.” It’s not clear if Dzhokhar meant to imply he thought the boat was a sacred place belonging to God, or if he meant to say “Mine was to hide in this boat and shed some light on our actions.” Note that he did write the word “God” in this passage, not “Allah.”
“I ask Allah to make me a shahied to allow me to return to him and be among all the righteous people in the highest levels of heaven. He who Allah guides no one can misguide. A[hole] bar!”
A “shahied” or shaheed is a martyr, especially one who died while carrying out jihad. While some readers might think “A[hole]” seems perfectly appropriate as transcribed here, it’s clear that a bullet hole obscured part of the jihadi battle cry, “Allahu akbar!” or God is great!
“I bear witness that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger [hole] r actions came with [hole] a [hole] ssage and that is [hole] ha Illalah.”
The first part of this quote is the shahada, the ritual declaration of faith that is the first of Islam’s five pillars. (The term shaheed for martyrdom can also mean “witness,” as the shahada is meant to be the faithful Muslim bearing witness to divine truth.) The bullet-riddled sentence following the shahada is most likely a declaration on behalf of both Tsarnaev brothers that “our actions came with a message, and that is la ilaha illallah,” which means “There is no God but Allah.”
“The U.S. Government is killing our innocent civilians but most of you already know that. As a M[hole] I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished, we Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all, well at least that’s how Muhammad (pbuh) wanted it to be [hole] ever.”
The first hole obviously obscures the word “Muslim,” while the last sentence asserts “that’s how Muhammad wanted it to be forever.” The abbreviation “pbuh” stands for Peace Be Upon Him, a gesture of respect spoken after Muhammad’s name. Those who are not Muslims may wonder if Muhammad appreciates the irony of someone wishing him peace in a message blotted with blood and bullets on the inside of a hidey-hole, following a murderous bombing rampage and shootouts with the police.
“The ummah is beginning to rise / awa[hole] has awoken the mujahideen, know you are fighting men who look into the barrel of your gun and see heaven, now how can you compete with that.”
The ummah is entire body of Muslims, which jihadis always presume to speak for. Tsarnaev asserts that the whole community of global Islam is rising or “awakening,” including the mujahideen, or holy fighters. Evidence would suggest that one highly effective way of “competing with that” is to pump bullets into the boat where the mujahideen is hiding.
“We are promised victory and we will surely get it. Now I don’t like killing innocent people it is forbidden in Islam but due to said [hole] it is allowed. All credit goes to [hole].”
Those are the most interesting bullet holes in the message, because Tsarnaev’s general meaning is clear – he thinks the offenses of the U.S. government against Muslims erase the alleged Islamic prohibition against killing innocent people, and sadly he’s not the only one who sees it that way. It would be interesting to know exactly what word he used in “due to said [hole] it is allowed.” The final bullet hole almost certainly erased the word “God” or “Allah.”
It will be interesting to see how the boat message influences the trial, as the defense seems confident it will be taken as evidence that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was out of his mind, while the prosecution is equally confident it will demonstrate he knew exactly what he was doing.