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The Qur'an Differentiates Between Individual and Collective Acts

The Qur'an distinguishes between an individual act and a collective act. Besides mentioning the deed-sheets in general, it mentions the deed-sheets which record the deeds of the individuals and the deed-sheets which record the deeds of a community or the nation as a whole. This is a way of making a fine distinction between the act of an individual and the collective act attributable to the whole society or the whole nation, a distinction between a three-dimension act and an act which does not possess more than two dimensions.

A two-dimension act has an active cause and a material cause only. Such an act is recorded in the deed-sheet of the individual concerned only. But a three-dimension act besides having an active cause and a material cause also has a final cause. It is, therefore, recorded in the deed-sheet of the individual as well as society.

On the Day of Resurrection society will not only be confronted with its deed-sheet, but will also be called to render an account of its deeds. The Qur'an says: You will see each nation crouching, each nation summoned to its record. (It will be said to them): `This day you are requited what you used to do. This Our Book pronounces against you with truth. We were recording what you were doing.' (Surah al-Jathiyah, 45:28 - 29)

Here the Qur'an speaks of the deeds of a community, that will be crouching before Allah, while the details of what they did as a community in this world will be read out to them. How well the Qur'an has said: `We were recording what you were doing'.

A collective deed-sheet is not the History of Tabari so that it should record all natural, physiological and physical events. It is a recorded reaction of the deeds of the individuals performed by them as a community or a nation. Such acts are purposive acts performed at least with the tacit consent of the community as a whole. That is why the whole community becomes accountable for them.

All this was about the deed-sheets of collective acts, as is clear from another verse which says: Every man's deed-sheet We have fastened to his own neck, and We shall bring forth for him on the Day o f Resurrection a book (deed-sheet), which he will find wide open. (It will be said to him): `Read your book. You yourself are enough as reckoner against you this day.' (Surah Bani Isra'il, 17:13)

According to this verse on the Day of Resurrection, each individual will have a separate case. Every one will be confronted with his own deed-sheet, containing all his big and small deeds, whether good or bad. No error, no slip and no accomplishment will be left out. This deed-sheet has been compiled by Him who knows even the tiniest things in the heavens and the earth.

Every man some time or other wants to conceal his weak points. He wants to conceal his sins. He does not want his neighbours, his relatives, his children or the members of his community to know all that he has been doing. He wants to conceal certain things even from himself. He deceives himself and pretends not to have committed any sin. But nothing will be left out in his deed-sheet. On the Day of Reckoning it will be said to him: "Be your own reckoner, for you will find in your deed-sheet all the deeds that you have committed. Today you will be treated as the principle of justice demands. Today no one can hide a truth."

In the above verses the deed-sheet of an individual and the deed-sheet of a nation have been mentioned separately. At one place we find a nation crouching before Allah, and at another place we see that every individual has his own personal deed sheet fastened to his neck. The distinction which the Qur'an has made between the deed-sheet of an individual and the deed sheet of a nation, is another way of expressing what we have said earlier to the effect that a historical act is that which forms an item of the deed-sheet of a nation. Such an act has three dimensions. Not only the individuals and the nation will be given separate deed-sheets, but they will also be summoned separately. There will be two different appearances before Allah, one for the individuals and the other for the nations. In individual appearance all men will be brought before Allah one by one. None will have any friend to help him at that time. All that will be helpful to a person is his own good deeds, pure heart and his faith in Allah, the angels, the revealed Books and the Prophets. This was the account of the individual appearance. In this aspect the Qur'an says: There is none in the heavens and the earth, but comes to the Beneficient as a slave. Surely He knows them and numbers them with right numbering. And each one o f them will come to Him on the Day o f Resurrection alone. (Surah Maryam, 19: 93-95)

There will be another appearance when the individuals will appear collectively, as whole nations will be summoned before Allah.

Therefore as there exist two kinds of deeds-sheets, there will be two separate appearances. The verse: You will see each nation crouching, each nation summoned to its record. Refers to the collective appearance.

It appears from the context of these verses that this second appearance will be for the purpose of reconciling the past relations of the nations to the requirements of justice and law. These relations have often been contrary to justice and fairplay. For example, among a people there might be an underprivileged person quite fit to be at the helm of affairs. All such wrongs will be redressed.

The Qur'an has called the day on which all this will happen the day of Taghabun or the day of disillusion. How will this disillusion take place? When all people will get together, each one of them will be feeling that in his worldly life he was cheated by his society. One that day when nothing but truth will be accepted. Each one will be compensated for the wrong done to him. The Qur'an says: The day when He shall gather you for the Day of Assembling, that will be a day of mutual disillusion. (Surah al-Taghabun, 64: 9)

In short, there exist two types of deed-sheets: (i) Individual deed-sheets which deal with the individual deeds and (ii) Collective deed-sheets showing the deeds of each nation.

As mentioned earlier, an act of a nation is a three-dimensional act. The first dimension is provided by the doer, who is called the active cause by Aristotle. The second dimension is provided by the objective which the doer has in his mind. Aristotle has named it final cause. The third dimension is provided by the field of the action and the extent of its effect, is known as the material cause. The laws of history apply only to a three-dimension act. That is true of a collective act only.

Adopted from the book: "Trends of History in Qur'an" by: "Ayatullah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr"

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