“I don’t have any grudge against him, I have forgiven him and I am praying for him that God will guide him and then one day he will be a saviour,” this is how Farid replied when a correspondent asked him to comment on the arrested shooter.
By Tabish Shafi
A 54-year-old Bangladeshi, Farid Ahmed, disabled since 2013, lost his wife, Husna, in a terror attack in New Zealand on March 15, 2019. People in two mosques which lie in the vicinity of Christchurch were attacked by a 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant, an Australian, leaving 50 persons, all worshippers, dead. Around 50 persons were also injured. The investigations revealed that the shooter, who live-streamed the massacre of worshippers, had a manifesto completely filled with anti-migrant and anti-Muslim ideas.
It may feel strange to most of us to comprehend a person who just after a day of attack not only forgives the accused shooter but even prays for him. Imagine us, being given a chance to hit back a person who slew our beloved unjustly and we rather than avenging, forgive. The pain which Farid, and kith and kin of other victims had gone through are genuine and anything they would have spoken for the shooter was to be considered rational, or even appealing for a death sentence, but what Farid had for the shooter, who killed his wife, demands a lot of mental verve and patience, and knowing the complexities he will have to face after his wife, among which is being disabled.
Saying ‘I have forgiven him’ might seem mere words to us, but one needs to have the audacity to say that. Sometimes when we aren’t directly involved in the persecution, be it of any form, we try to justify the perpetrator’s action because of the bias of human nature. But the same human nature is such that ‘we may justify the persecution on someone else but we will never accept any wrong being done against us.’ It just isn’t possible.
Putting ourselves in the shoes of Farid and feeling what he must have gone through and in contrary to that what he did, we’ll be very sure to conclude that forgiving is indeed a brave task.
But what made him say so?
This transcendental approach of Farid towards this materialistic world’s realms and doing something which is unusual does make us curious about his belief. The belief that makes him willing enough to forgive, and pray rather than cursing.
This gesture of Farid’s forgiveness relates us to the faith which he acknowledges and that is what Islam preaches. The kernel of the message that Islam has is peace and for peace to prevail, forgiveness is an important factor. To eliminate the hostility between two persons or two communities or even two nations, one has to forgive or bear, otherwise the growing animosity would only breed. But forgiving isn’t easy and vengeance is what everyone desires to please his individuality.
Islam presents an outline: There is a supreme authority, Allah, the Lord of the universe and Who created this world and whatever is in it including us, human beings. We have been given free will to acknowledge the truth and what is right and what is wrong is inherent in our conscience, besides that what is to be done is explained in The Holy Qur’an, the word from Allah, revealed on Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), the last messenger of Islam. This world is temporary, and a testing place for our actions and we all shall die. Death of a believer, termed as ‘meeting Allah’, is predestined for everyone and we all shall be accountable for our actions in front of our Lord and shall be rewarded according to our deeds on the Day of Judgment. The reward is either getting consigned to Jannah (paradise) for good deeds, or to Jahannam (hell) for wrong deeds. This is termed as Aakhirah (afterlife) which is permanent and everlasting. Hence, making death not the annihilation of life but actually a bridge to afterlife which everyone shall cross.
Islam calls successful those who meet their Lord with right deeds. Islam emphasises that the priority of Muslims should be afterlife rather than this world which is temporary.
What Farid did doesn’t seem strange to us now because he believes that Husna’s time had come as it was destined and avenging her death -it is also permissible to avenge someone who has wronged you unjustly- would yield nothing other than building more animosity as revenge breeds revenge.
He could have avenged or he could have also left this horrendous act of shooter up to the accountability of Allah. Instead, he forgave and wished that the same shooter becomes a saviour of mankind one day. He knows he also has to leave this world one day to meet his Lord and if proven successful, will meet Husna again. She might have left him in this world temporarily but their meeting in hereafter will be unending. Farid actually oversaw the temporary nature of this materialistic world and hence prioritized that which is permanent and everlasting: Hereafter.
However, there have been cases like these in the past also where people have forgiven their family’s killers:
Abdul Munim Jitmout forgave Trey Relford in courtroom who killed his 22-year-old son Salahuddin Jitmout, a pizza delivery boy, after robbing him. What Munim expressed in the courtroom for Relford shook everyone: “My Son! I forgive you on behalf of Salahuddin and his mother. I blame the devil who misguided you and mislead you to do such a horrible crime. I don’t blame you. I am not angry at you all,” and hugged emotional Relford, leaving everyone in the courtroom teary.
He concluded by saying “Forgiveness is the greatest gift or charity in Islam.”
Ruqaya, whose son Suliman was robbed and shot on his way home by three, hugged one of the accused, a 14-year-old, when she came face to face at the courtroom and also hugged his mother. “I don’t hate you. I can’t hate you. It’s not our way. Showing mercy is our way,” she told the teen and expressed her wish to see a better life ahead for him, making everyone emotional including his mom.
There would be more cases alike but they might not have caught this much attention.
This is the true message of Islam. It promotes peace and for peace to prevail, forgiveness is an important factor. In The Holy Quran, forgiveness has been called a courageous task.
The one who defends himself after having been wronged, there is no blame on such people. Blame, in fact, is upon those who wrong people and make mischief on earth unjustly. For such people there is a painful punishment. And if one observes patience and forgives, it is, of course, one of the courageous conducts. –Qur’an: (Chapter 42, Verse 41, 42 and 43)
Good and evil are not equal. Repel (evil) with what is best, and you will see that the one you had mutual enmity with him will turn as if he were a close friend. –Qur’an: (Chapter 41, Verse 34)
The ones who spend (for Allah’s sake) in prosperity and adversity, and those who control anger and forgive people. And Allah loves those who are good in their deeds. –Qur’an: (Chapter 3, Verse 134)
From these verses of Qur’an, we can comprehend that how important forgiveness is and how it can help shrink the hatred between two persons or groups.
The best examples of forgiveness can be understood from the life of the last messenger of Islam, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), who not only preached we-should-forgive but even set such heroic examples of forgiveness which can be simply termed inimitable in the history of mankind. We just don’t find any parallel to them. He was the most kind and affectionate person world has ever witnessed and the events of his forgiveness are extraordinary.
The message which Prophet (PBUH) was preaching met lots of tough challenges including rejections from his own people, who went to exceed all limits to hurt him physically and mentally but Prophet (PBUH) never avenged anyone for his personal interests rather prayed for them. This character won hearts of people and became a reason for them to accept the message of Islam.
I would like to share some events of forgiveness in the life of Prophet (PBUH) narrated in the books of hadith (authentic record of the life of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)):
Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) forgave an old woman who used to throw garbage at him whenever he would pass by her house. But, one day, when it didn’t happen, Prophet (PBUH) queried about her and came to know about her sickness. He felt sad and went to her house to see her and if she needed any help. This moved the lady. She apologized for her behaviour and accepted Islam.
Once Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was sleeping in tree shade and a man tried to attack him with sword but was overpowered by Prophet (PBUH). He asked Prophet (PBUH) to spare him, he was spared and apologized and Prophet (PBUH) forgave immediately.
After Makkah was conquered, the city where Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was born and where he commenced preaching, he forgave all those who once forced him to leave his home. He could have easily avenged them when everything was under his authority but he chose to forgive them all.
Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) also forgave the woman who used her African servant, a shooter, to kill his uncle and later mutilated his (uncle’s) dead body by cutting his chest and tearing liver and heart into pieces and chewing them. At the time of conquest of Makkah, scared of revenge, she apologized for her act and Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) forgave. She later accepted Islam. The shooter, ashamed of his act, also came to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) to apologize and as usual Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) forgave.
A young man once attacked Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) pregnant daughter in the abdomen with a sword. She was grievously injured and reached her father’s house with utmost suffering. She narrated everything to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) who didn’t retaliate. She later succumbed with an unborn child. After many years, during Makkah conquest, a man came to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) to apologize and accept Islam. He didn’t recognize him first but after revealing his identity, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) understood who the visitor was. Even before he could’ve said anything, Prophet (PBUH) told him, “I have forgiven you there on that day when my daughter told me about you.”
This is what Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) taught and showed us practically and Farid, Abdul Munim, Ruqiya and all those brave souls, who have forgiven, have followed the same. Their overseeing the pain and destruction which the loss of their loved ones had bought and constricting natural human drives of vengeance, have indeed garnered respect from every person with a heart.
A true Muslim is one who believes that his upliftment, his downfall, his health, his life, his death, and his destiny, everything is from Allah. May He bestow us with a heart which forgives!