“The Janaza prayer is not a special condition for the afterlife,” Dagli said in an email. “It’s not like a sacrament that’s necessary for salvation, for example. Muslims believe that even perpetrators of heinous sins might be forgiven by God.”
Chishti said the mosque’s decision was prompted by a call to the mosque’s funeral director about Abedi specifically, though he clarified that Abedi did not attend the mosque.
“Traditionally the families would be going to the mosques that they attended,” he said. “They didn’t attend our mosque.”
Qari Asim, an imam at the Makkah Mosque in Leeds, told me the Manchester Central Mosque’s decision not to be involved in Abedi’s funeral is noteworthy. “It’s not taken lightly to refuse to bury or, more importantly, not to offer a funeral prayer,” Asim said. “By committing suicide and causing carnage and bringing harm to others, [suicide bombers like Abedi] have gone so beyond the boundaries of Islam that they are deprived of the last right to be prayed upon.”
Such a decision is not unprecedented. In the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, a series of shootings and bombings that resulted in 164 people being killed and more than 300 others wounded, India’s Muslim community refused to bury the nine assailants, arguing that the “people who committed this heinous crime cannot be called Muslim.”
Boston’s Muslim community came to a similar conclusion following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, after which an imam at the Islamic Institute of Boston said he would not be willing to hold a funeral for one of the attackers because “this is a person who deliberately killed people. … He already left the fold of Islam by doing that.”
Following the deadly attack on a church in the French town of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray last July, which resulted in the death of a priest, the town’s Muslim community also refused to be involved with the assailant’s burial. The leader of the local mosque told Le Monde, “We will not sully Islam with this person. We will not participate in the funeral or the burial.”
Not all Muslim community leaders believe funeral prayers should be withheld from those who commit acts of violence. After a Philadelphia police officer was killed in 2008, one mosque leader said that the assailant, who was Muslim and who died in the ensuing confrontation, had the right to be given the funeral prayer—he just refused to be the one to do it.
Dagli told me differences of opinion among Muslims may sometimes stem from differing interpretations over Islam’s stance on suicide.
“There are reports that the Prophet Muhammad did not pray the Janaza prayer for someone who committed suicide,” Dagli said, “but there is difference of opinion as to whether this means that we should not do so either, or whether one still can and the Prophet did that to discourage suicide.”