The understanding of the message of Islam is contingent upon the understanding of the human being. How did the early revealed verses of Qur’an initiate that discussion? What worldview was formulated about the human being, and how did that worldview shape the quality of the human life?
In a clear and direct Qur’anic statement, Allah (ﷻ) declared that human beings, men and women, are solely responsible for their own actions: “Every soul will be held in pledge for its deeds.” [74:38]
Psychologically, humans are fully conscious about the intentions and the hidden thoughts behind their actions. Human beings have clear insight of what they want regardless of all the excuses and justifications they may give: “Nay, man will be evidence against himself, even though he were to put up his excuses.” [75:14]
Consequently, human beings need to look continuously inward and stop blaming others for their own errors and shortcomings:
“Say: It is from yourselves.” [3:165]
“But whatever evil happens to you, it is from your own soul.” [4:79]
The early revealed verses of Qur’an would make this important issue an established principle in the overall project of prophecy. Qur’an brought before us the experience of Adam and his mate and described for us the first historical events that immediately followed their creation by Allah (ﷻ). Satan tempted and lured Adam and his mate to eat from the forbidden tree. Adam and his mate would together realize their mistake and disobedience of their Creator, acknowledge it, and together would transcend it through repentance and asking Allah (ﷻ) for forgiveness: “They said: Our Lord! We have wronged our own souls: If you forgive us not and bestow not upon us your mercy, we shall certainly be lost.” [7:23]
Allah (ﷻ) accepted their repentance and did not label them as responsible for the errors of their descendants. On the contrary, they came down to this planet and received the guidance from Allah (ﷻ) who made it clear to them and their descendants. The outcome and the quality of your life will be dependent on your devotion and commitment to my revelation. “As is sure, there comes to you guidance from me, whoever follows my guidance will not lose his way nor fall into misery. But whoever turns away from my message, verily for him is a life narrowed down.” [20:123-124]
The same principle regarding human responsibility and accountability has been clearly stated in the corpuses revealed to the Prophets Abraham and Moses. “Is he not acquainted with what is in the books of Moses and of Abraham who fulfilled his engagements- namely, that no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another; that man can have nothing but what he strives for; and that the fruit of his striving will soon come in sight: Then he will be rewarded with a reward complete.” [53:36-41]
This is not an easy principle to be accepted by humans as part of their worldview and for its implications to insinuate their everyday life. It needed a series of Prophets and Messengers and to be emphasized in multiple revelations. The role of Prophet Mohammad (ﷺ) at the peak and apogee of prophecy is to take this principle to the level of culture, i.e., to transform it into a learned behavior and a social pattern. What were the processes and the mechanisms by which the early Muslims expressed their belief in personal responsibility and accountability? Prophet Mohammad (ﷺ) and his disciples were advised to make “tasbeeh” at the beginning and at the end of each day and at different times during the night. What is the relationship between “tasbeeh” and responsibility?
“Tasbeeh” is a human way to glorify Allah and acknowledge that He is above and beyond error and deficit. In this way, Prophet Mohammad (ﷺ) introduced into the lives of his companions a new habit or habitus- the ability to ask themselves how they are going to start their day and how they are going to navigate through its challenges with the minimum number of mistakes. And at the end of the day and during the night they have the courage to reflect and review their actions, identify their errors, ask for forgiveness and resolve not to repeat them again: “And celebrate the praises of your Lord before the rising of the sun, and before its setting; yea, celebrate them for part of the hours of the night and at the sides of the day.” [20:130]
“Tasbeeh”, therefore, is directly connected with everyday life, shaping it and investing its rewards for the next everlasting life. It is a skill that makes us vigilant about our actions that eventually determine our outcome.
All the verses that we have cited in relation to this topic and others formulate for the human beings a distinct worldview that dictates the temper, the tone, and the character of their personal and social life.
By Dr Walid Khayr