David Calling

Reflecting on the Life and Death of Muhammad Mehriz

Muhammad Mehriz, an Egyptian, is a figure of our times. His story has been picked up by Memri, an invaluable service that monitors the entire Arab media, and then translates and broadcasts the findings. Muhammad was 27, with a wife three years younger. He was a lawyer in a private firm in Cairo. He was well-connected, as his brother Yasser was a leading spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood. The photograph that Memri posted shows a serious man holding his little daughter lovingly in his arms.

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Sometime at the beginning of the year Muhammad went to consult the sheikhs of Al Azhar, the ancient centre of Sunni learning in Cairo. He wanted to know what sharia or Islamic law had to say about his possible volunteering to fight alongside the rebels in Syria. The sheikhs told him that sharia justifies his departure for Syria. Muhammad drafted a note, stating that jihad for the sake of Allah is an obligation on all Muslims. After a very few days in Syria, he was killed in Aleppo. His brother Yasser eulogized him.

First reflection: This man was a middle-class lawyer with no military training and no possible use to the rebels.

Second reflection: The keepers of the faith in Al Azhar deliberately sent him to his death.

Third reflection: How can an educated and settled family man believe that Allah wants him to kill? Why isn’t he thinking for himself?

Fourth reflection: In previous days Nazis and Communists couldn’t be argued out of their fatalism. The religious compulsion of the man’s belief has to end in death, his own or his victims.

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