In the last article we showed that the responsibility of defining one’s self or soul is exclusively personal and cannot be delegated. In this article, we will answer the following question:

How do we define ourselves?

The short answer to this question is: by our deeds and actions. Let us elaborate more on this answer.

In the very early days of the message of Islam, Mohammad (ﷺ) made it clear to his immediate family and relatives that their biological and tribal ties to him neither determine their social and religious status in this life, nor their outcome in the hereafter. In this manner he addressed directly and explicitly his beloved daughter, Fatima saying: O Fatima! Act on your own. I cannot save you or lift your accountability before Allah.

The close relation to Mohammad (ﷺ) is a privilege, but with privilege comes the extraordinary responsibility. Being the daughter, the wife, the cousin, or the companion of Mohammad (ﷺ) doubles the responsibility and the accountability whether it results in a reward or a punishment.

“O wives of the Prophet! If any of you were guilty of evident unseemly conduct, the punishment would be doubled to her, and that is easy for Allah.

But if any of you that is devout in the service of Allah and his Messenger, and works righteousness- to her shall We grant reward twice, and We had prepared for her a generous sustenance. O wives of the Prophet! You are not like any of the other women.” [33:30-32]

Quran narrates a similar judgment in reference to the disciples of Jesus after they were granted the table of the last super. “Allah said: I will send it down unto you; but if any of you after that resists faith, I will punish him with a penalty such as I have not inflicted on anyone among all the peoples.” [5:115]

Mohammad (ﷺ) destroyed tribal and family favoritism and put an end to biological lineage and genetic inheritance as the ultimate parameters for the definition of human beings. Prophet Abraham before him learned this lesson. The fact that Abraham was appointed a leader and “Imam” to the people, did not mean that his progeny will automatically inherit that title. “But my promise is not within the reach of evildoers.” [2:124]

Only through their good deeds and dedicated work could his children and grandchildren join him in the orbit of prophethood and leadership. “And We bestowed on him Isaac and, as an additional gift, Jacob, and We made righteous of every one of them. And We made them leaders, guiding by our command.” [21:72-73]

The emphasis on good actions and deeds was among the major themes of Quran during the early years in Mecca. Good deeds and words are valued and rewarded for themselves regardless of who does them or says them. “Then shall anyone who has done an atom’s weight of good, see it! And anyone who has done an atom’s weight of evil, shall see it.” [99:7-8]

“See you not how Allah sets forth a parable? A goodly word like a goodly tree, whose root is firmly fixed, and its branches reach to the heavens. It brings forth its fruit at all times by the will of its Lord.” [14:24-25]

“And the parable of an evil word is that of any evil tree. It is torn up by the root from the surface of the earth: It has no stability.” [14:26]

The next step was to eliminate guilt or accusation by association. Human beings should not be defined by the other or experience their being or ontology through others. “That no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another; that man can have nothing but what he strives for; and the fruit of his striving will soon come in sight.” [53:38-40]

Having said that, there are instances where individuals are held responsible for their misguidance of others. Their sins are compounded by those of whom they misguided. “Let them bear, on the Day of Judgment, their own burdens in full, and also of the burdens of those without knowledge, they misled.” [29:13]

Mohammad (ﷺ) surprised Mecca with a new message that does not use money and wealth to evaluate its followers. Mecca, the center of trade in Arabia was known for its economic exploitation and trading the souls of its people with merchandise and money. Quran was very adamant in calling for a significant change of this attitude. The target was, in particular, a prominent personality in Mecca and with close family ties to Mohammad (ﷺ). It was his uncle, Abu-Lahab, who was famous for his good looks, wealth, and social nobility. “Perish the hands of Abu-Lahab! Perish he! No profit to him from all his wealth, and all his gains!” [111:1-2]

Since his wife was following the same course of wrongdoing, she was not spared denouncement.

“His wife shall carry the crackling wood-as fuel in hell fire.” [111:4]

Like biology; money, wealth, and progeny do not bring human beings closer to God unless they are given the direction of truth. “It is not your wealth nor your sons, that will bring you nearer to Us in degree, but only those who believe and work righteousness.” [34:37]

By Dr. Walid Khayr