Responsibility as a Moral Value
And say: "Work (righteousness): Soon will Allah observe your work, and His Messenger, and the Believers. (AL-TAWBA: 105)
Every soul is a pledge for its own deeds (AL-MUDDATHTHIR: 38)
Therefore, by the Lord, We will, of a surety, call them to account, For all their deeds. (AL-HIJR: 92-3)
The (Qur'an) is indeed the message, for thee and for thy people; and soon shall ye (all) be brought to account. (AL-ZUKHRUF: 44)
And fulfil (every) engagement, for (every) engagement will be enquired into (on the Day of Reckoning). (AL-ISRA’: 34)
O ye that believe! betray not the trust of Allah and the Messenger, nor misappropriate knowingly things entrusted to you. (AL-ANFAL: 27)
Every man's fate We have fastened on his own neck: On the Day of Judgment We shall bring out for him a scroll, which he will see spread open. (It will be said to him:) "Read thine (own) record: Sufficient is thy soul this day to make out an account against thee.” Who receiveth guidance, receiveth it for his own benefit: who goeth astray doth so to his own loss: No bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another: nor would We visit with Our Wrath until We had sent an messenger (to give warning). (AL-ISRA’: 13-15)
Social Responsibilities, or, Communal Obligations:
By way of Abdullah Ibn Umar, who states that he heard the Messenger of God say, “You are all shepherds, and you are all responsible for your flocks. The Imam is a shepherd, bearing responsibilities towards his flock. The man, in relation to his family, is a shepherd, responsible for his flock. The woman is a shepherdess within her husband’s home, and she is responsible for that which has been entrusted to her stewardship. The servant who takes care of the belongings of his master is a shepherd, responsible for the stewardships which have been entrusted unto him.” He then said, “I heard the Messenger of God talk about all of them, and it seems to me that the Prophet likewise said, ‘The man, as regards the wealth and possessions of his father, is a shepherd, responsible for that over which he has been given stewardship. So, as you can see, all of you are shepherds, and each of you will be called to account for the stewardship he performed in relation to his flocks.’”
By way of Anis, who tells us that the Prophet said, “Truly, God will ask each shepherd about those matters with which He u entrusted him, inquiring as to whether he protected or was negligent towards fulfilling those trusts. He will ask each man regarding the members of his household.”
By way of Jabir Ibn Abdullah, who said, “I was with the Prophet during a battle when my camel held me back because it was exhausted. Then, the Prophet came to me and said, ‘Jaber?’ I replied, ‘Yes,’ and he said, ‘What is going on with you?’ I replied, ‘My camel is moving slowly due to exhaustion; that is why I have fallen behind.’ He then dismounted and used his staff to keep the camel under control, saying, “Mount it.” I then took control of the camel and got it away from the Messenger of God, who inquired, ‘Have you married?’ I answered, ‘Yes,’ and he said, ‘Is this her first marriage or has she previously been married?” I said, ‘I chose to marry a woman who was married before, of course.’ He continued, ‘Why did you not choose a young girl, so that you might grow together and have fun learning each other’s ways?’ I responded, ‘You know, I have sisters, and I wanted to marry a woman who could keep them company and bring cohesiveness to them, see to it that they were well groomed, and, as it were, take responsibility for bringing them up properly.’ He said, ‘My, but you have a lot of foresight. When it came time to propose marriage you did so with wisdom.’ He then said, ‘Would you sell your camel?’ ‘Yes,’ I replied, and he purchased it from me for an ounce (of currency). Then, the Messenger of God proceeded on ahead of me. I caught up in the morning, then, we went to the mosque and I encountered himat the door to the mosque. Hesaid, ‘Finally, you have arrived.’ I replied, ‘Correct,’ and Hesaid, ‘So, leave your camel and come inside to offer two rounds of prayer,’ whereupon I entered the mosque and prayed. He commanded Bilal to measure out an ounce for me. Bilal then used the scales to measure an ounce, allowing them to tip in such a way as was beneficial to me. I then went on my way, and, when I was long gone, Hesaid, ‘Summon Jaber for me,’ and I thought to myself, ‘Now he will return the camel to me,’ there being nothing so hateful to me as that. Hetold me, ‘Take your camel and its price; both are yours.’”
Thus did the Prophet discharge his responsibilities towards his companions, setting about to ask Jaber what had caused him to lag behind, inquiring about his beast of burden, then, coming down off of his own mount in order to keep the camel under control, holding on to it so that Jaber could mount it. Then, Heasked him about his marriage, inquiring as to why he had chosen a previously married woman. (p. 89) After that, he gifted him and assisted him in an elegant and indirect manner by offering to purchase his worn-out camel. Hegave him its value in currency, then, he gifted the camel right back to him.
Abdullah Ibn Abu Awfaa said, “The Messenger or God engaged heavily in the remembrance of God, had little inclination towards meaningless speech, spent a long time in prayers, kept his sermons short, and disdained not to walk in the company of widows and impoverished persons, seeking to take care of their needs.”
From this we can see how the Prophet fulfilled his responsibilities towards widows and the poor. Among those who received their character discipline at the hands of the Messenger of God are Umar Ibn Al Khattab, who, upon becoming responsible for the community, was known to roam Medina night and day, helping those who were in need and taking care of business for widows and the disabled.
By way of Aamir, who said, “The Messenger of God took seventy captives during the Battle of Badr, and he set their ransoms in accordance with their relative wealth. At that period in time, generally, the people of Mecca were literate while the people of Medina were illiterate. Whoever was not ransomed was given ten youths from Medina’s young men, in order to teach them how to write. If they were excelled at it, that teaching served as their ransom.”
This is an example of how the Prophet bore his responsibilities towards educating his companions and increasing their expertise. He went so far as to make the freeing of a captive from among the people of Mecca contingent upon his teaching ten Medinan youths how to write. It is instructive to note that the Prophet chose, as students, the youths of Medina, who, being of a young age, would come across more opportunities than their elders to make use of that knowledge and, therewith, bestow benefits upon the community as a whole for a longer period of time. It is noteworthy that the Prophet chose to set up his educational paradigm around the skill of writing, the master-key to knowledge in all its permutations. Literacy was to play a major role in protecting and preserving God's word, as well as in the facilitation of correspondence with others, allowing them to establish communications with others as well as to introduce and invite them to Islam.
By way of Anis, who said, “The Prophet did, indeed, make a regular practice of visiting the Ansar. He would offer the greeting of peace to even their very young children, patting them on their heads.”
By way of Sahl Ibn Al Hanthaliyya, who said, “The Messenger of God came upon a camel which was so malnourished that it seemed as though its back and abdomen were one, which led him to exclaim, ‘Fear God as regards these speechless beasts of burden; whenever you make use of them for transportation or as sustenance, make sure that you do so in an honorable manner and that they are in good health.’”
This is demonstrative of how the Prophet went about fulfilling his responsibilities towards cattle and other animals. He paid attention to their conditions and commanded that the treatment they received be both kind and merciful. Similarly, Umar Ibn Al Khattab, during his Caliphate, was very aware of his responsibility towards cattle. He considered the construction of proper roadways upon which they could traverse to be his duty and their right.
By way of Abu Saeed Al Khudri, from the Prophet s, who said, “Consider yourselves warned regarding the dangers of convening in the road-ways.” They said, “Oh Messenger of God, we cannot do without our get-togethers; it is there that we are able to express ourselves.” The Messenger of God continued, “It it be that you refuse to desist from holding councils therein, you must respect the rights of the road-ways.” They said, “And what are its rights?” He replied, “That you should lower your gaze, prevent harm, return such greetings as you receive, and enjoin good morals and manners while simultaneously forbidding bad morals and manners.”
This demonstrates the Prophet ’sconscientiousness of his duty to maintain safety upon the road-ways traversed by men. It comprises a general prohibition against jamming up the road-ways in such a way that peoples’ ability to move around freely is compromised. Likewise, the Prophet clarified, by means of logical discussion, that exercising rights entails performing duties. That is why it is incumbent upon such individuals as convene in the road-ways to do so in such a way that its rights are preserved. That is, they must refrain from violating mankind’s privacy, return such greetings of peace as are offered to them, maintain the safety of their road-ways by prohibiting trouble making, and enjoin what is good while forbidding what is bad.
By way of Abu Huraira, who said, “The Messenger of God said, ‘Faith is comprised of seventy-odd, or, sixty-odd divisions, the greatest among which is the proclamation, “There is no object worthy of worship other than God ,” and the least of which is the act of removing debris from the road-ways. Also, modesty is a branch of faith.’”
Here we observe the Prophet using the encouragement to adhere to moral values as a tool of character discipline, forming a link between them and faith in the Creator. In so doing Hecategorized the removal of debris from mankind’s road-ways as a discreet unit among seventy-odd manifestations of faith. The general nature of the words “harm; debris” encompasses every sort of bother which might harm those who traverse or sit upon the road-way. Indeed, it encompasses anything which hinders the free movement of traffic thereupon.
In this we can see the Prophet gently indicating that Shariah commands exist on various levels. Faith is dynamic and progressive. It has multiple expressions and dimensions, the greatest among which is the statement, “There is no entity worthy of worship other than God ,” and the least among which is the simple act of sparing others such things as are potentially bothersome. This gradual approach must be acknowledged and implemented when calling people to Islam. It is never appropriate to introduce people to Islam with a speech about keeping one’s dress short, or, about the ritual impurity of dogs. Those issues should not be brought up before we have even explained to them what monotheism is and how the Creator is unique in His flawlessness. We ought to begin by offering proofs that Muhammad was, indeed, a Prophet . Similarly, it is not acceptable to deny the faith of any person who has participated in the highest of its levels by saying “There is no entity worthy of worship other than God ” just because he has fallen short in some of faith’s lesser manifestations.
Whoever does that has gone against both the obvious and esoteric meanings of the text. He has failed to follow both the Prophet ’sapproach and the spirit which guides the entirety of Islam’s rules and teachings.
The Responsibility to Enjoin Good and Forbid Evil:
By way of Nuaman Ibn Bashir, from the Prophet s, who said, “The parable of those who uphold the boundaries set by God and those who transgress them is as the parable of a group of individuals who drew lots as to where they would be positioned upon a boat. Some of them were assigned to the upper deck while others got the lower level. Those who were in the lower part had to ascend to the upper deck in order to draw water, so they said, ‘How about if we create an opening in our portion of the boat? That way, we won’t bother those who are above us.’ If they are allowed to do what they propose every last one of them will perish, whereas, if they prevent them from carrying out their plan, they will be saved, one and all.”
Clearly, social responsibility among Muslims is not the duty of one or two individuals. Rather, it is a communal obligation to protect and maintain the moral values and niceties which preserve serenity, peace, and safety in the lives of individuals. Therefore it is mandatory that those who are charged with imparting character discipline to the upcoming generation allow them to practice responsibility in their lives. Whether they are at home, in school, or on the streets, they have the responsibility to practice cleanliness and good hygiene as well as ensure security and tranquility. Indeed, the Prophet assigned to Usama Ibn Zaid, while he was yet a teenager, the responsibility of leading the army abroad in a campaign to meet the (Eastern) Romans, despite the presence and availability of the most senior and well qualified among hiscompanions.
By way of Tameem Al Daari, who tells us that the Prophet said, “Religion consists of advice and sincerity.” We replied, “Towards whom?” and Hesaid, “Towards God, His Messenger, and all Muslims, whether they be leaders or common folk.”
By way of Abu Huraira, who said, “The Messenger of God said, ‘Truly, each of you is his brother’s mirror; therefore, if he sees a flaw in him, he ought to try to correct it.’”
By way of Anis, who said, “The Messenger of God said, ‘Save you brother, whether he is in the wrong or has been wronged.’ A man stated, ‘Oh Messenger of God, I can offer him help or save him if he is being transgressed against, but, have you not considered what it would be like if I see that he is the transgressor and I help him?’ Hesaid, ‘Block him or forbid him from transgressing; that is the way that you save him.’”
This statement clarifies the responsibility of Muslims to instill uprightness and sincerity. Likewise, it is a statement of how to provide help in a positive and proactive way, whether the one you are helping out is the oppressor or the oppressed. If he is being oppressed we should assist him to assert and obtain his rights. If he is engaging in oppression we should oppose him and prevent him from engaging in oppression. All this and more renders the Muslim an active participant in his society, effective in all of his actions.
By way of Hudhaifa, who said, “The Messenger of God said, ‘Do not be mindlessly followers, saying, ‘If people are well behaved, we, too, shall behave well, whereas, if people are oppressive, we, too, shall behave oppressively. Rather, be in control of yourselves; if people behave well towards you, behave well, but, if people behave oppressively towards you, do not, yourselves, engage in oppression.’”
This gives one practice in taking independent, positive stands, whatever one is confronted with. Similarly, it gives one practice at not following up every affront with oppression or abuse. It is a drill in implementing independent problem solving as well as the use of mental faculties to figure out how to behave with sincerity and accustom oneself to choosing and spreading good behavior rather than surrendering to the spirit of apathy and defeatism in the face of transgression and evil, whether verbal or rooted in action.
By way of Anis, who tells us that the Jews, when their women had their menses, would neither eat with them nor allow them to gather in groups within their houses. The Messenger of God's companions asked the Messenger of God, whereupon God u revealed the verse, ” They ask thee concerning women's courses. Say: They are a hurt and a pollution: So keep away from women in their courses.”. Then, the Messenger of God said, “Do everything short of engaging in sexual intercourse.” This news reached the Jews, and they said, “This man does not intend to come across any of our practices except that he defies us therein. Then, Usaid Ibn Hudair and Abbad Ibn Bishr came and said, ‘Oh Messenger of God, the Jews are saying “such and such.” Therefore, we will not gather together and socialize with our women when they are on their menses.’ At that, the face of the Messenger of God changed and we thought that he had become angry with the two of them. So, the two departed. Later, they were greeted with a gift of yogurt to the Prophet so he sent after them and provided them with a drink; then, they knew that he was not angry with them.’”
Bearing Responsibility in Difficult Times by Exerting Maximum Effort:
By way of Ibn Masood, who said, “When the verse which touched upon charity was revealed we were carrying the burdens of others in exchange for money, when a man came to us and offered a large amount in charity, and the people said, ‘What a show off.’ Then, another man came and offered a small amount in charity and the people said, ‘Surely, God is in no need of the pittance which he offered.’ Then, the verse “ Those who slander such of the believers as give themselves freely to (deeds of) charity, as well as such as can find nothing to give except the fruits of their labour,- and throw ridicule on them,- Allah will throw back their ridicule on them: and they shall have a grievous penalty.” was revealed.
By way of Anis, who said, “We were with the Prophet on a journey, some of us fasting while others were eating.” He continued, “Then, we stopped to rest on a hot day. Those among us who had the most shade were such as possessed a garment. Some of us were warding off the sun with our hands.” He went on, “Then, those who were fasting collapsed, whereupon those who were not fasting got up and set up the camp and saw to it that the animals were watered. Then, the Messenger of God said, ‘Today, those who were not fasting took all of the reward.’”
The truth is, fasting is a major act of worship. However, engaging in it on a journey, when so doing results in the inability to perform one’s duties and carry out one’s responsibilities, is not an act of piety.
Al Baraa’ Ibn Aazib said, “Abu Bakr went to my father at his home in order to purchase something from him. Then, he said to Aazib, ‘Send your son; he will carry it with me.’” He continued “So, I assisted him in carrying it and my father came out, critiquing its value. Then, he said, ‘Abu Bakr, tell me how the two of you did it when you fled by night with the Messenger of God s.’ He said, ‘Okay. We travelled under cover of the night and, during the day, up until around noon, when the sun was standing above us and the road-ways were empty, not a soul travelling upon them. Then, a long boulder was raised up for us, providing us with shade against the sun. We stopped there, and I used my own hands to smooth out, for the Prophet s, a space upon which he could sleep.
I spread something thereupon and said, “Sleep, oh Messenger of God, and I will make certain that no enemies come upon you.” Then, he went to sleep, and I went out to make sure the surrounding area was clear of enemies. Suddenly, I saw a shepherd with his flock approaching the overhang, wanting of it just what we wanted. I spoke to him, saying, “Who is your master, lad?” to which he replied, “He is a man from among the people of Medina, or, Mecca.” I said, “Is there any milk in your goats?” He said, “yes,” and I said, “Do you know how to milk?” He said, “yes” and took hold of a female goat, and I said, “Clean the soil, hair, and other impurities off of the utter.” He said, “Then, I saw Al Baraa’ strike one hand upon the other, cleaning up. Then, he milked into a wooden bowl a full portion of milk. I had with me a leathern container which I carried to the Prophet s; he ate, drank, and performed ablution by means of it. I went back to the Prophet but disliked the idea of awakening him, so, I told him about it when he awakened, whereupon I poured enough water atop the milk that it became cold from beneath. Then, I said, ‘Drink, Oh Messenger of God. ’ He continued, “Then, he drank until I was satisfied, then, he said, ‘Is it not yet time that we set out?’ and I said, ‘Indeed.’ He continued, ‘So we set out on our journey after the sun had set, following Suraqah Ibn Malik, and I said, “It was brought right to us, Oh Messenger of God ,” to which he responded ”Grieve not, for God is with us”
In this example Abu Bakr, a thoroughly trustful man, makes a singular demonstration of how he carried out the enormous responsibilities lain upon him as he accompanied the Prophet in migrating to Medina, along with the jealous protectiveness he showed while ensuring his comfort and safety.
By way of Aisha we hear that the Messenger of God said, “Truly, God, in His elevation and majesty, loves it when any of you, upon undertaking a task, seeks to do it well.”
The most important goal of character discipline as imparted by the Prophet is the production of individual Muslims who are productive as human beings, skillfully engaging in upright work. That is because upright work is the reason behind creation and existence. It is the product of trials and tribulations in this world. Upon it is constructed victory in the world to come. God u proclaimed, ” He Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deed” Also, upright works are the practical manifestations of the relationships which the Philosophy of Islamic Character Development sets down between human beings on the one hand and the Creator and all that exists, on the other. In fact, the word “work” is mentioned in the Noble Quran no fewer than three hundred and fifty nine places. In the Blessed Hadeeth it is quite difficult to place a number upon how many instances of the work “work” are present.
Islam is a religion which finds poverty to be a hateful thing, thus does it oppose and attempt to shut down its causes. It calls for hard work in developing the energy and potential, as well as the strength, of its adherents.
1-By way of Abu Tharr we hear that some people from among the companions of the Prophet addressed the Prophet s, saying, “Oh Messenger of God, the people who have great wealth have taken all of the rewards. They pray just as we pray and they fast just as we fast; however, they give in charity out of their excess wealth.” He responded, “Has not God provided you with the means of offering charity? Truly, every glorification of His name is an act of charity, as is every praising of Him an act of charity. Every word uttered in worship is an act of charity. Enjoining good is an act of charity. Forbidding evil is an act of charity. Even the act of having sexual relations with one’s wife is a form of charity.” They said, “Oh Messenger of God, are you saying that one of us can fulfill his lust and be rewarded for it?” He said, “Do you not see how, if any of you satisfies his lust in an unlawful way, it results in a black mark upon him? By the same logic, if he satisfies his lust in a lawful manner, it results in a reward for him.”
This comprises a statement of the Muslim’s responsibility to behave righteously, which is displayed whenever he enjoins good or prohibits evil as well as whenever he sets about to fulfill the rights of his wife by watching out for her and keeping her chaste. Indeed, the Prophet constructed the fulfillment of one’s responsibilities upon a platform of rewards despite the fact that the benefits and enjoyment thereof are distributed among the responsible person himself, then his family, then the society. That is because he would be worthy of punishment were he to be negligent in his duties or fall short of fulfilling them.
This also comprises a statement about the moral paradigm with which God instills character discipline among human beings. It is a statement about how he holds them accountable for being in alignment therewith. It is a paradigm which has facets of bestowing as well as facets of withholding. Therefore, whoever follows his base desires and allows himself to be led by the whims of his soul winds up transgressing and abusing, thus earning punishment, even if the transgressions he commits are against his own soul. In a similar manner, he who protects his soul and keeps it far away from what is forbidden and fulfills his responsibilities earns a reward and a prize, even if and though he himself was the enjoyed and derived benefits there-from. That is so because the soul, according to Islam, is not a possession of the individual which he is free to do whatever he pleases with. Rather, it is bestowed upon the individual by the Creator in order that the Muslim might depend upon and make use of it in obeying his Lord and drawing nigh Him with love and sincerity.
By way of Saade Ibn Abu Waqqas, who tells us, “The Prophet said, “And certainly, every last bit of spending you do is considered an act of charity, up to and including the bite of food which you place in your wife’s mouth.”
By way of Thawban, who said that the Prophet said, “The best money which a man spends is the money he spend upon his dependants, the money he spends upon his cattle for the sake of God, and the money he spends upon his companions for the sake of God. ” Abu Qilada said, “He began with dependants, then he said, ‘and what man could reap a greater reward than a man who spends upon his youthful dependants, God protecting their chastity thereby just as He takes away their neediness thereby.’”
By way of Abu Rafi’, who said, “I said, ‘Oh Messenger of God, do children have rights which we must fulfill towards them just as we have rights that they must fulfill towards us?’ He replied, ‘Yes; the right of a child upon his father is to be taught the written word, swimming, and marksmanship. In addition to that, he has the right to be brought up with good manners.’”
Thus did the Prophet disambiguate for his companions the responsibilities of a father in taking care of his children. These responsibilities consist of spending upon them, watching out for them as a shepherd does for his flock, with affection and gentleness, and treating them with fairness and equality, favoring none over the any other. Also, he must educate them, teach them good manners, and give them practice at sports; it is the reinforcement of those practices which builds their bodies, imparts spirituality to their souls, and allows them to develop their potentials to the fullest.