There were stories this week in the Independent and the Guardian about 130 imams and Muslim religious leaders who have refused to perform funeral prayers for the London Bridge and Borough Market attackers – “a ritual normally performed for every Muslim regardless of their actions”. I understand the impulse of this and the political expediency, but I cannot help but think it is wrong to withhold prayer from anyone. Here are my fumbling thoughts on the matter.

The word ‘God’ is not a proper noun.

God does not exist. God is. God is the word we use to denote the very possibility of existence.

We tend to think of God as an object on our landscape: something that can be discussed, examined, questioned. (I am a scientist, so I completely believe in discussing, examining, questioning.) But, God is the landscape. We (and every thing) are the objects on the landscape we call God.

Mercy is not ‘deserved’. Mercy is a fundamental quality of existence.

That you and I draw breath is the first and fundamental demonstration of God’s mercy. Every breath is God. Every breath is mercy. Every breath is grace.

When, at the end of our lives, we relinquish our last breath back into the Universe and we are received back into the soil, this is mercy.

Even murdering terrorists receive mercy: through each breath, and when they are received by the kindly earth/Earth.

The murdering terrorists’ refusal to show mercy to their victims is fundamentally wrong at the very core of existence and humanity.

And yet, their refusal to show mercy is also the apotheosis of my daily refusal to show mercy in countless smaller and seemingly insignificant ways.

Therefore, I count myself culpable in some small way for their actions.

People lay flowers after a vigil for victims of Saturday’s attack, at Potter’s Field park in London. Photograph: Tim Ireland/AP

2 thoughts on “Mercy

  1. I read something else that suggested the Imans’ refusal to say prayers is intended as a deterrent, i.e. ‘don’t think you can do this in the name of Islam and then expect the blessings in the afterlife you’ve been brainwashed into expecting’. As well as, perhaps, an absolute rejection (by the Imans) that these people and their actions can in any way be linked to Islam.

  2. Maybe the right thing would be for these guys to be have funeral prayers offered by Christians – a priest perhaps: it would show the spirit of forgiveness and mercy that you, Julian, refer to whilst also meeting the (somewhat political) wishes of the imams, referred to by Annette. This would provide a deterrent to those who misunderstand religion (and see things in conflicted dualistic terms), whilst demonstrating the true meaning of all religions and encouraging us all in that direction.

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