In 2015, Salahuddin Jitmoud was murdered while working as a pizza delivery driver in Lexington, Kentucky. The 22-year-old’s death shook the local Muslim community, many of whom knew the young man through his father, the principal of a local Islamic academy and a highly respected figure.
Following a trial which culminated at the beginning of November this year, Trey Alexander Relford was sentenced to 31 years for his part in the murder of Salahuddin. He had previously plead guilty to complicity to murder, complicity to robbery and attempted tampering with evidence in the stabbing death of the 22-year-old, an aspiring artist who wanted to pursue a career in film.
In incredible courtroom scenes, the victim’s father, Dr. Abdul-Munim Sombat Jitmoud, offered his forgiveness to the 24-year-old Relford. With moving words, he addressed Relford directly during a victim-impact statement:
‘If he [Salahuddin] was alive, he would forgive you. That’s the way he was. That’s the way he is…I am here to represent his Mom, and to represent him. My dear nephew, Trey, I don’t blame you for the crime you commit. I’m not angry at you for being part of hurting my son. I’m angry at the devil. I blame the devil for misguiding you and misleading you to do such a horrible crime.’
Dr. Jitmoud went on to say, ‘I forgive you on behalf of Salahuddin and his mother’ (she died in 2013), before adding this deeply profound truth:
‘Forgiveness is the greatest gift, or charity in Islam. I have to pour myself out to forgive someone that has wronged our family.’
After his statement, Relford said this to Dr. Jitmoud: ‘I’m sorry about what happened that day…It takes a powerful man to know that someone has hurt them and to get up there and say what you just said. I can’t imagine the hurt, the pain. There’s nothing I can do…I thank you for your forgiveness.’
The video of the emotional courtroom statement was greeted with uncharacteristically warm reactions on Facebook, with one commenter writing: ‘I want to be a better person after watching this.’
Dr. Jitmoud’s gesture represents the purest values of Islam. For a man to forgive despite suffering such a loss signals a strength of faith few could muster. While we pray no one will ever have to endure what Dr. Jitmoud has gone through, we would all do well to remember his act of humanity if we are ever faced with difficult times.