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Individual Responsibility

In the system of Islamic teaching the realisation of eternal and spiritual felicity also depends on one's personal conduct. Basically, personal responsibility constitutes the foundation of Islamic teaching. That is, man is expected to carry out all the duties that have been assigned to him in the spheres of religion and worldly existence through the various stages of life by reliance on his effort and action. The concept of retribution and recompense, which is one of the self-evident notions of Islam, is also founded on this basis. The Noble Qur'an teaches that man will not get any reward except for his effort and endeavour.

Every soul is a hostage of its own deeds. (75:37)

We will give a pure and wholesome life to everyone, man or woman, who acts righteously and has faith, and We will rewards them in accordance with the best of what they used to do. (16:97)

Aside from the reward and punishment of the Hereafter, man would see the outcome of his conduct in this world itself. The Prophet of Islam said:

Whoever commits an evil deed will receive its retribution in this world Itself. 13

Whoever sows good will reap a good reward, and whoever sows evil will not gather any fruit except regret. 14

Emerson, an American philosopher, writes:

The world looks like a multiplication table, or a mathematical equation, which, turn it how you will, balances itself. Take what figure you will, its exact value, nor more nor less, still returns to you. Every secret is told, every crime is punished, every virtue rewarded, every wrong redressed, in silence and certainty. What we call retribution is the universal necessity by which the whole appears wherever a part appears. If you see smoke, there must be fire. If you see a hand or a limb, you know that the trunk to which it belongs is there behind.

Every act rewards itself, or in other words integrates itself, in a twofold manner; first in the thing, or in real nature; and secondly in the circumstance, or in apparent nature. Men call the circumstance the retribution. The casual retribution is in the thing and is seen by the soul. The retribution in the circumstance is seen by the understanding; it is inseparable from the thing, but is often spread over a long time and so does not become distinct until after many years. The specific stripes may follow late after the offence, but they follow because they accompany it. Crime and punishment grow out of one stem. Punishment is a fruit that unsuspected ripens within the flower of the pleasure which concealed it. 15

13. Nahj al-fasahah, p. 592.

14. Ibid. p. 622.

15. Emerson, "Compensation," ef. Commins & Linscott, The Social Philosophers (New York: Modern Poeket Library 1954), pp. 442-443.

Adapted from: "Ethics and Spiritual Growth" by: "Sayyid Mujtaba Musawi Lari"

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