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Man and Responsibility in the Holy Qur'an

Man and Responsibility in the Holy Qur'an
Presented by : Al-Balagh Foundation

The Holy Our'an speaks about man, as a being who has both sacredness and holiness on this land through addressing him as a person who has both dignity and great importance.

Allah, the Almighty says:

"Surely We have honoured the children of Adam, and carried them on land and sea ...".

Holy Qur'an (17:70)

Man is distinguished from other beings owing to his wisdom, will and being a vicegerent, who holds responsibility and deserves such distinction. He is referred to through revelation and upon whom the word of Allah, the Merciful is revealed. His value and respect compared with other creatures indicates great honour and trust bestowed upon him. Such responsibility remarks that his position is raised through giving him more importance and esteem. Indeed, man is not considered neither a neglected being nor a worthless one in life due to his possessing of wisdom, will and the ability and who takes his will and his capability to make a choice and take a decision. Therefore, he is responsible for his deeds and behaviour accordingly.

Allah, the Exalted says:

"And if Allah wills He would certainly make you a single nation, but He causes to err whom He wills and guides whom He wills; and most certainly you will be questioned as to what you did." 1

Holy Qur'an (16:93)

Islam fixes two responsibilities upon man: individual and collective ones. Concerning individual responsibility, he is responsible far his own self , thus Allah, the Mast High, addresses him:

"Nay! man is evidence against himself. Though he puts forth his excuses."

Holy Qur'an (75:14-15)

This verse refers to man's being responsible before Allah far his speech, behaviour, and deeds and will be judged by Him on the Resurrection Day the Day of Justice and Punishment).

All these are in order to make his relation with his Lard directly and also to judge himself before his Lord. He is made to feel his shortcomings and responsibilities. As such, negative attitudes should be corrected spontaneously and without any force lest he loses his self-sensibility and feeling of responsibility which leads him to lose his self-motivation and self-respect. Later on it can lead to losing his value as a wise and distinguished man, who then needs farce to make him carry out his obligations and avoid what is forbidden.

Allah, the Almighty says:

"And those who give w hat they give (in alms) while their hearts are full of fear t hat to their Lord they must return. These hasten to do good things and they are foremost in (attaining) them. And We do not lay on any soul a burden except to the extent of its ability, and with Us is a book which speaks the truth, and they s hall not be dealt with unjustly."

Holy Qur'an (23:60-62)

"He who does not judge him/ herself daily is not from us, if one does a good deed, Allah will increase it while if he does an evil deed, Allah forgives him." 2

Islam wants to bring up the power of conscience in man's soul in precedence of the power of state and to develop the virtue of personal responsibility; to became a guardian to judge oneself and know that one is responsible an the Resurrection Day far what Allah has granted. Everyone is responsible for the property he owns. And from where did he gain it and how did he use it? Man is also responsible far the knowledge he acquires and the capabilities to which it is applied before Allah and how they are employed. Did he use them far his own personal benefit or far the general benefit of society? Did he exploit them far corrupt and destructive practices, and for boosting only himself and his worldly interests? Man is responsible far his mentality and intelligence which Allah gave him and how they are put to use. And if they were misdirected in deviated ways, deceiving others or corrected in the way of guidance and edification of soul and its reformation.

He is also responsible for the strength that Allah gave him and to what purpose did it gain. Was it spent in wasteful disobedience and being aggressive? Or was it used towards goodness and following the right way? Man is also responsible for the power, position and social rank which Allah gave him and whether they were misused for suppression, creating terrorism, and seeking predominance to obtain personal gain over others? Or was it constructively put to use for social development in the way of Allah, the Almighty?

Consequently, man will be questioned for the tongue which Allah gave him and how did he use its talents. Did he use it for uttering the word of goodness, reformation and benefitting social progress? Or did he use it for cheating, backbiting, lying, and insulting others?

Similarly, he will be questioned for the. eyes which Allah gave him and for what purpose were they put. Did he use them for reading knowledgeable books and respecting Allah's greatness? Or did he use them for looking at what Allah has forbidden and prohibited?

He will also be questioned on Allah's gift of ears and was the sense of hearing used only for listening to gossip, empty words, indecency and wasteful entertainment? Or were they directed at hearing the word of guidance, educative and fruitful debates?

Allah, the Almighty says:

"... surely the hearing and the sight and the heart, all of these, s hall be questioned about that."

Holy Qur'an (17:36)

"He utters not a word but there is by him a watcher at hand."

Holy Qur'an (50:18)

"And stop them, for they will be questioned."

Holy Qur'an (37:24)

"He cannot be questioned concerning what He does and they shall be questioned."

Holy Qur'an (21:23)

People will be questioned for everything they do whether it be small or great :

"... what a book is this! it does not omit a small one nor a great one, but numbers them (all); ..."

Holy Qur'an (18:49)

Islam legislates individual responsibility before Allah and also individual responsibility before the Islamic state, run according to Islamic laws. Such a state is given the right of governing and organizing the affairs of society, promulgating law to safeguard the interests of the Muslim communities, the welfare of humanity and its progress. It is also given the right for issuing orders and judgements. So, man is also responsible for these before Allah, the Most High.

Allah, the Almighty says :

"O you who believe! obey Allah and obey the Apostle and those in authority from among you; ..."

Holy Qur'an (4:59)

As man is responsible before the legislative state, which has the right of governing over him, it has the right of presenting him before court and punishing him in the case of violating its laws and regulations.

Therefore, an Islamic state has the right to interfere in the individual, social and economic affairs in order to achieve an equitable society. It also has the right to charge and restrict man's actions which contradict the general interest. In case of emergency, it also has the right to prevent the forbidden behaviour and act against whoever abandons his obligations by forcing him to carry them out even to the extent if such obligations oppose his personal interests. An Islamic state has also the right to impose certain duties upon man or make him work in a special field, to punish him in the case of killing another, of drinking alcohol, of cheating or manipulating prices and misleading commercial markets. The individual has no right to behave or do anything without responsibility. He must feel that he is responsible both in front of Allah and the legislative state.

Through carrying our responsibilities, based upon Islamic laws and values which organize personal duties to regulate behaviour, a society can be established to keep an equilibrium, where security, social peace and economic welfare are preserved. Without these responsibilities, life turns into chaos and anarchy, the role of justice and law disappears, and society becomes a tyrannical one.

Islam organizes responsibility by making every one responsible both for himself and others, therefore, a shepherd is responsible for his flocks, a father for his children and a governor for his subjects.

Each have their responsibilities arranged according to their position in society as the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) says :

"All are custodians and are responsible for their charges". 3

Imam Ali (a.s.) describes this responsibility in his letter to Malik al-Ashtar by saying :

"... so, extend to them your forgiveness and pardon, in the same way as you would like Allah to extend His forgiveness and pardon to you, because you are over them and your responsible commander (Imam) is over you while Allah is over him w ho has appointed you. He (Allah) has sought you to manage their affairs and has tried you through them ..." 4

Life can not be organized without responsibility. Imam Ali (a.s.) explains that Muslims on one hand are responsible before those who take responsibilities, while on the other hand, they (who take responsibilities) themselves are also responsible before their leader (Imam) who himself is also responsible before Allah both for the Muslims and those who take the responsibilities.

In effect, Islam makes an Islamic state be responsible in front of Muslims, while it gives Muslims the right to supervise and advise such a state.

Allah, the Most High says :

"And (as for) the believing men and the believing women, they are guardians of each other; they enjoin good and forbid evil ..."

Holy Qur'an (9:71)

All these directions are made in order to fulfil responsibility and build both state and society on an equitable foundation of rights and du ties. Islam considers man to be responsible fur himself, his actions as well as for others. It prompts upon him towards reforming society and standing against all kinds of corruption: moral, political, economic, and social...etc. It compares society to a ship carrying its passengers in the middle of the sea and in which all are responsible from protecting it because if something happens to the ship, all will be drown and destroyed.

As the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) describes such reciprocal responsibility :

"The example of him who sets the limits of Allah and then contradicts them is like a people who were travelling together on a ship. It happened that some of them took the upper part, while others took the lower part of it. Those who took the lower part, while seeking for water came near those w ho were above them. Those who were above, told them: We will not allow you to take water because you will hurt us. In response to their answer, those w ho below said: We can make a hole in the bottom of the boat without hurting those above us. In this case, if they leave them to do w hat they want, all will perish while if they took their hand (help them) all will be saved." 5 all will be saved ..." 6

Islam refuses and stands against the spirit of dependence by making all responsible for the shortcomings in any action, which has a cooperative mode of necessary obligations. So, in fulfilling necessary obligation, there is a cooperative duty for which one is not directly responsible for actions performed by others but which all have some responsibility and will be questioned for it. Therefore, it is not permitted for individuals to depend upon others to carry out tasks and actions which have a cooperative nature, like bidding for what is right and forbidding what is wrong.

For instance, if it so happens that some apologize and excuse themselves for being unable to perform certain functions and stand against corruption and crime, in that case, responsibility will be directed at those who sit and withdraw themselves, neglecting their cooperative duty and not participating in safeguarding Islam as a belief and as a right path for life.

Islam educates man through connecting him with Allah, the Creator of this existence in order to make him feel self-responsible and raise within himself the power of inner consciousness and sensibility.

Allah, the Most High says :

"Nay! I swear by the Day of Resurrection! Nay! I swear by the Self-Accusing self!"

Holy Qur'an (75: 1-2)

Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) is also reported to have said :

"Judge yourselves before being judged by others".

"No foot of a servant (of Allah) (on the Resurrection Day) will move before being asked about four things: his years (age) and how he spent them, his youth and how he worn it out, his wealth and how he earned it and on what he spend it and about his love towards us, the Ahlul-Bait (the Prophet's Household)". 7

Notes :

1- Allah, the Almighty created man who possesses will and choice and his guidance or his deviation is made accordingly to their use. Whoever chooses the way of deviation, is misled. Whoever chooses the way of guidance, is led towards it. Therefore, divine guidance and deviation mentioned in this verse is but the punishment or reward adjusted to accord with to man's choice.
2- Narrated by Imam al-Kadhim, in al-Wasa'il al-Shi'a, Amili, vol. 11, p.377
3- Bukhari, Sahih al-Muslim, vol. 2, p.6.
4- Imam Ali (a.s.), Nahj al-Balaghah, compiled by Dr. Subhi Salih, p.426.
5- Sunnan al-Tirmidhi, Kitab al-Fitan, vol. 4, p.470, Hadith No. 2173.
6- Amili, al-Wasa'il al-Shi'a, vol. 11, p.380.
7- Sayuti, Ihya' al-Mayyit, Hadith No. 44.

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