Forgiveness in Arkansas – Forgiveness in Islam

This is quite the story of forgiveness, arguably one of the main teachings of the Islamic tradition (and Christianity for that matter).

The story goes like this:

Abraham Davis, 20, was caught on CCTV helping a friend vandalize the Masjid Al Salam in Fort Smith, Arkansas, with racist graffiti in October 2016. Davis was sentenced to community service, and handed $3,200 in fines and restitution, per

Davis, however, didn’t have the money to pay – and in Arkansas, if you don’t pay your fine, you get an automatic six years in prison.

Davis actually spent three months in prison, and while he was there he wrote a letter to the mosque expressing his remorse.

So what did Louay Nassri, the president of Masjid Al Salam, do?

Nassri commented: “After all that he had been through, we didn’t want him sitting on the severe financial stress. And like I told him, we want him to have a much better future.”

In short, Al Salam paid Davis’ fines.

“We thought this was the right thing to do,” Nassri added. “We thought if someone does something bad and comes and apologizes, you just forgive them. That should be the natural thing. We had no idea that this forgiveness would be an international story.”

Davis said he was amazed that such an incredible act of kindness could come from the people he had hurt the most with his actions.

“It’s a great weight being lifted off my shoulders,” he told The New York Times. “And I don’t deserve it, but this act of kindness, it’s just, wow.”

Nasri added that “Al Salam” means “peace” and that he strives to uphold that meaning.

So what might explain the incredible act of forgiveness by Masjid Al Salam?

Let’s start with the many names of God given in the Qur’an. Some of these names are related to His mercy and forgiveness. Here are some of these names, as noted by IslamiCity:

  • Al-Ghafoor (The Most Forgiving): This name occurs in the Qur’an more than 70 times. There are other names from the same root, such as Ghafir and Ghaffar. The meaning of the Arabic word “ghafara” is to cover, to hide and from it comes the meaning “to excuse,” “to pardon,” “to remit” and “to forgive.” God does all these things. In the Qur’an, it is mentioned that God does not forgive the Shirk (without repentance) but He may forgive every other sin for whomsoever He wills. (4:116) We must turn to God to seek His forgiveness.
  • Al-`Afuw (The Pardoner): This has another part of forgiveness. This name occurs in the Qur’an five times. Literally, the word ‘Afw means “to release,” “to heal,” “to restore,” “to remit.” Thus in relation to God it means “to release us from the burden of punishment due to our sins and mistakes; to restore our honor after we have dishonored ourselves by committing sins and making mistakes.” Sometimes in the Qur’an both names, Afuw and Ghafoor, come together.
  • Al-Tawwab (The Acceptor of Repentance): This name of God is mentioned in the Qur’an about 11 times. Allah accepts repentance of those who sincerely repent and turn to him. The word “tawwab” gives the sense of “oft-returning,” which means that He again and again accepts the repentance. We make sins and mistakes then we repent, He accepts our repentance. Then again we commit sins and make mistakes and when we repent, He again very kindly accepts us and gives us another chance.
  • Al-Haleem (The Clement): This name is mentioned fifteen times in the Qur’an. This means that God is not quick to judgment. He gives time. He forebears and is patient to see His servant return to Him.
  • Al-Rahman and Al-Rahim (The Most Merciful and Compassionate): These names are the most frequent in the Qur’an. Al-Rahman is mentioned 57 times and al-Raheem is mentioned 115 times. Al-Rahman indicates that God’s mercy is abundant and plenty and Al-Raheem indicates that this is always the case with God. God is full of love and mercy and is ever Merciful.

All quotes from this post are credited to


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