PETALING JAYA: A father demonstrated the true meaning of forgiveness in a Kentucky courtroom in the US recently when he embraced and forgave the man who abetted in the murder of his son.
Trey Alexander Relford, 24, was about to receive the death sentence after pleading guilty for his involvement in the murder of 22-year-old Salahuddin Jitmoud, who was robbed and stabbed to death while making a pizza delivery on the night of April 19, 2015, in Lexington, Kentucky.
However, Salahuddin’s 66-year-old father, Abdul-Munim Sombat Jitmoud, stunned the courtroom and left the judge teary eyed when he said from the witness stand that he forgave Relford.
“Forgiveness is the greatest gift of charity in Islam,” the Washington Post quoted Jitmoud as saying.
Jitmoud later embraced Relford, who sobbed as he apologised for Salahuddin’s death. Tears flowed freely as their families joined in a group hug.
A video of that touching moment has since gone viral on social media and made headlines around the world.
Speaking to FMT, Jitmoud, originally from Thailand, said although he had never met Relford or the latter’s parents, he decided to forgive Relford and agree for him to be sentenced to 31 years in prison instead of the death penalty.
“We could not stand the thought of having to bear witness to Relford’s death in an electric chair,” he said.
Jitmoud, a retired school principal, was in charge of seven Islamic schools in the United States for 31 years.
He said he was told not to make eye contact with Relford during the trial but his long experience as a school principal made it difficult for him to obey that instruction.
“I broke all the protocols in court,” he said.
People in the courtroom were touched not only by his decision to forgive Relford but also by his gesture of offering him paper napkins to wipe his tears and embracing him.
“When I saw him cry, it was natural for me to hand him the tissues because he was wiping his tears with the collar of his prison uniform,” he said.
When he embraced and comforted Relford, he said, he could sense that the man was overcome by guilt. So he whispered a few words of comfort.
“I also told him to seek good friends when he gets out of jail.”
Jitmoud said that it was his belief in God’s attribute of mercy, as often repeated in the Quran, that moved him to give Relford a second chance.
“The Quran says whoever saves one life saves humanity,” he said, referring to the 32nd verse of the fifth chapter of the Quran.
He said a verse that comforted him and helped him make his decision was the 51st verse of the ninth chapter: “‘Never will we be struck except by what Allah has decreed for us; He is our protector. And upon Allah let the believers rely.”
Another verse that inspired him was the 53rd verse of the 39th chapter: “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves (by sinning), do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins.”
Jitmoud’s wife, Jamilah Kolocotronis, died of leukaemia in 2013. She wrote a series of novels about the challenges faced by Muslims living in America, especially converts.
Salahuddin was working as a pizza delivery driver to earn money to pay for the classes he took with Stage Right Acting (SRA), a performance arts school. He was also working on a film inspired by his mother’s books.
SRA has made a tribute video, describing Salahuddin as a kind, passionate and “wildly creative” individual.