So we have all heard about the virtues of forgiveness as taught by Scriptures. But how many of us actually show the courage to forgive our enemies, or those who harm us? This is a heart-warming story of a young man’s bigotry turning into an act of kindness, and a small community coming together in response to the young man vandalizing the mosque in Fort Smith, Arkansas in October 2016.
The story gives much meaning to the teachings of the Qur’an on forgiveness and showing kindness, even to your enemies.
Show forgiveness, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the ignorant. The Qur’an 7:199
Indeed The Hour(Day of Accounting) is approaching, so pardon (those who wrong you) with most graceful pardon (without revenge). The Qur’an 15:85
Repel evil with good
Not only forgiving others but returning evil deeds with goodness is the best course of action.
Not equal are the good deed and the bad deed. Repel evil by that which is better, and then the one who is hostile to you will become as a devoted friend. The Qur’an 41:34
The same theme shows up in the Bible.
Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. Romans 12:21
Forgive and be forgiven
Be merciful to others and you will receive mercy. Forgive others and Allah will forgive. Hadith of prophet Muhammad- Masnad Ahmad 7001
“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.’ Luke 6:37
A small mosque in a small town in America decided to walk the walk, rather than talk the talk.
In October 2016, Abraham Davis, a 20-year old man drove up to the mosque in his small town and helped his friend spray graffiti all over the mosque, painting swastika and profanities. It was no doubt a hate crime and a show of bigotry. This was in the heat of presidential elections, when (then) candidate Donald trump was calling for a Muslim ban, and calling Muslims enemies of America among other things.
The mosque goers were shocked to see the writings on the door and the walls of their mosque. “Go Home”, “We don’t want you here” and other profanities about Islam and Allah greeted them as they entered the mosque. In the months leading up to this hate crime, the mosque received hate email from someone”Shariah is a cancer that must be eliminated”. The mosque was on the edge.
Fortunately the CCTV camera captured the act and the two friends were apprehended and were facing felony charges and 6 years in prison, along with a fine of over $3,000. Some friends and community members were able to pay part of the fine but a bail amount of over $1700 was still outstanding and the prospect of a long jail sentence was looming large.
In the meantime, the hate crime became an international story. The mosque was receiving letters and phone calls of support from the community and around the world. They received calls from churches, a synagogue and the Buddhists. They could not feel more supported. The mosque received a pledge to compensate for the fine.
Abraham Davis had felt bad after the act but never confessed until he was apprehended. He did show remorse and sent a letter of apology to the mosque.
The president of Al Salam Mosque , Louay Nassiri and the social director Hisham Yasin, a Palestinian and an immigrant from Syria felt bad about the young man and offered to remove the charges but the prosecutors continued on to press charges. The judge wanted to teach these young men a lesson. Abraham Davis was about ready to accept spending several years of his youth in a prison cell. That’s when the prison guard approached him.
The mosque decided to pay the bail amount of over $1700 to free him up. He was free to spend Christmas with his family!
We thought this was the right thing to do,” Mr Nassri said. “We thought if someone does something bad and came and apologized, you just forgive them. That should be the natural thing. We had no idea that this forgiveness would be an international story.
The funds were originally allocated for renovations to the mosque, but Mr Nassri said that he believes paying the fines was a better choice. “It shouldn’t be hanging over him for the rest of his life,” Mr Nassri said. “ We knew this person did a bad thing, and there has to be consequences for their actions. But we didn’t have any ill feelings toward anybody.”  Independent News, UK.
And Abraham Davis’ reaction?
‘And I don’t deserve it, but this act of kindness, it’s just, wow.’
There was a man who Prophet Muhammad predicted will go to paradise. His companions were puzzled because the man appeared pretty ‘ordinary’. They observed him for a while and still could not figure out what was so special about him. They could not resist asking him what does he do to earn it, the man was not able to figure it out either, and after some time he said “Every night, before I go to sleep, I forgive whoever has wronged me. I remove any bad feelings towards anyone from my heart.”
Who are we going to forgive tonight?