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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,” adding 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 Copts 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.”
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