Published in FrontPage Magazine
Inasmuch as the recent death of Coptic Pope Shenouda III exposed the humanity of some Muslims, it also exposed the inhumanity of Islamic teachings.
Consider some examples of Muslim sympathy following his death: Egypt’s Al Akhbar newspaper called the Pope’s burial “the funeral of the century,” reporting that a million Egyptians—likely more Muslims than Christians—came out to mourn him; “His death is a tragedy and a great loss for Egypt and its people, Muslims and Christians,” declared Egypt’s Grand Mufti; a recent episode of Al Dalil, famous for criticizing Islam, gave several more examples of Egyptian Muslims mourning and sympathizing with their Christian counterparts—including one Muslim who had tried to give his kidney to the ailing Pope.
In short, human nature took over. Some of Egypt’s Muslims saw in Pope Shenouda a beloved national figure—much to the chagrin of Islam’s clerics, like Khaled Abdullah, who, in amazement, said, “I can’t believe it—what I saw today [the Pope's funeral], I can’t believe it! If a Companion [of Muhammad, among Islam's most revered people] died we wouldn’t do this for him”; he added that Muslim participation and mourning in the funeral was “hurtful to the feelings of 80 million Muslims.”
Accordingly, Islam’s clerics rushed in, pointing out Sharia law’s teachings concerning the death of an infidel, or non-Muslim, like Pope Shenouda. Fatwas appeared, many saying it is forbidden to offer condolences to the Copts, others saying it is permissible—but through carefully crafted words, and in the hopes of attracting Christians to Islam (reminding one of Sheikh Muhammad Hassan‘s assertion that smiling to non-Muslims is permissible, but only as a way to attract them to Islam). Salafi leader, Yassir al-Burhami, permitted minor condolences—mostly by way of tawriya, using words that console, but that have a generic or pro-Islam meaning—while insisting it is forbidden to pray for deceased infidels (since all non-Muslims are destined and deserving of hell, Koran 9: 113).
The most vicious condemnations came from Sheikh Wagdi Ghoneim, formerly a Californian mosque prayer-leader, who, a day after Pope Shenouda’s death, referred to him as an “accursed criminal” and praised Allah for his death: “Yesterday [March 17], thanks be to Allah, the head of infidelity and polytheism, this so-called Shenouda, died—may Allah be avenged on him. He perished, and all were relieved of him—people, worshippers, trees, and animals; Egypt is relieved of him, for he initiated sectarian strife.”
While Ghoneim engaged in the usual lies and projections—saying the Pope wanted to create a Coptic state and “set Egypt ablaze”—there is no denying that Ghoneim’s position on condemning dead infidels is grounded in Islam: the remainder of the cleric’s “eulogy” is riddled with quotes from Islam’s core texts, the Koran, Hadith, and scholarly [ulema] consensus.
For instance, he quoted Caliph Omar’s famous ejaculation upon learning that a Muslim had hired a Christian scribe: “What is wrong with you—may Allah curse you?! Have you not heard Allah’s words: ‘O you who believe: do not take the Jews and the Christians as friends and allies; they are friends and allies of each other’ [Koran 5:51]? Why did you not employ a hanif [a Muslim]? The man replied, “I profit from his [the Christian's] writing, and his religion is his own affair,” to which the pious Omar rebounded, “I will not honor them, when Allah has humiliated them, nor will I be close to them, when Allah has cast them away.”
Incidentally, Omar is the same “righteous caliph” who gave the contradictory commandment to “Humiliate them [Christians] but do not wrong them”—as if humiliating people does not amount to “wronging” them. (For more Islamic quotes, see this fatwa.)
All this hate is in keeping with doctrines that command Muslims to have enmity for infidels; Koran 60:4 has the famous Muslim position concerning non-Muslims: “Enmity and hate shall forever reign between us—till you believe in Allah alone.” Indeed, according to other fatwas, even cursing dead infidels, as Ghoneim cursed the Pope, is legitimate—with the caveat that the curse should only be made public if not detrimental to Muslims (in increasingly Islamist Egypt, Ghoneim must have concluded his maledictions for the beloved leader of some 15 million Christian “dhimmis” would have no negative repercussions for Muslims).
When it comes to how Muslims should feel about Pope Shenouda’s death, the question is, who is right—the Muslim clerics, learned in Sharia, or Egypt’s nominal Muslims? As Wahid of Al Dalil concluded, “Inasmuch as many Egyptian Muslims were kind and sympathetic to us Christians, there is no doubt that the clerics, like Ghoneim, have Islam’s teachings on their side.”
Which leads to the great irony of Islam: while it boasts that it is the religion of fitra, the religion of “nature,” which is why all humans are supposedly born Muslims, its teachings—from “adult breastfeeding” to “death-sex“—often contradict the most natural human impulses. Worse, while many religions try to ennoble humanity, by making them strive to a higher level, here is yet another example of Islam forcing people downwards, to tribalism and egoism, to rancor and hatred.