Moral Teachings of Islam- Trustworthiness

Host:’ What is the meaning and translation of the term amaneh?

Jamal Badawi:

First of all, the common usage of the term amaneh in Arabic by an Arabic speaker is used to refer to honesty but as an Islamic term it carries more meaning.’ The term amaneh has a number of meanings which all rotate around the basic concept of accountability before God for any of our actions.’ This is why fulfillment of trust seems to be the closest meaning to the term amaneh. In the Quran there is reference to this in (17:34) ‘fulfill (every) engagement, for (every) engagement will be enquired into (on the Day of Reckoning).” To go back on one’s promise was likened in the Quran to a woman who nits a garment and after spending so many hours on it and then unravels it.’ To renege on one’s promise is just like undoing a knitted garment which is found in the Quran in (16:92).’ So the meaning is actually closer to trust than just honesty.

Host:’ Usually when we talk of trust we refer to people who are in positions of leadership but it seems that this interpretation of amaneh is not limited to people with responsibility.

Jamal Badawi:

This statement is correct and in fact in one of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) which is narrated in Bukhari he says that ‘Each one of you is a Sheppard (leader or trustee) and each one of you is answerable to God for the trust that was given to you.” He continues to say that ‘a ruler is a trustee and is responsible for the people he leads, a man is responsible for taking care of his family, a woman is a trustee and is responsible for her household and even a servant is a trustee and is responsible for the property of the person whom he is serving.’ Each and every person carries a part of the trust.

In another Hadith of the Prophet (PBUH) he says ‘there is no faith for a person who is dishonest and there is no religion for a person who deliberately fails to fulfill his promise.’

Host:’ Can you elaborate more on the issue of trust at an individual level?

Jamal Badawi:

The most important aspect of trust at an individual level is to live a meaningful life in a way which achieves God’s purpose for creating human beings here on earth.’ Constantly struggle against the forces of evil, oppression and injustice that are within ourselves or that are at a universal level (Jihad as Islam calls it) is a manifestation of the obedience to God.’ Obedience to God doesn’t mean following rituals but following His way of life.’ Each person has a contract with God which is inherent in our creation, inherent in our nature as humans and which is manifested in our spirituality which is a universal character that God has endowed us with.’ Islam sees the human being as a trustee of God on earth; it doesn’t regard the human being as a sinful being with sin as the center of his life.’ Sin is present in human life but trust and responsibility is the concept that supersedes all other things.

In order for a human being to truly be the trustee of God on earth they must have a great deal of determination as it is not an easy trust.’ The Quran in (33:72) describes this trust as a responsibility which the earth, mountains and seas could not undertake but the human must carry this challenging responsibility.’ This responsibility was also expressed in the Quran in (36:60-61) ‘Did I not enjoin on you, O ye Children of Adam, that ye should not worship Satan; for that he was to you an enemy avowed?’ And that ye should worship Me, (for that) this was the Straight Way?” This shows that worshipping Satan doesn’t mean bowing to him but rather being obedient to the Satanic systems which is contrary to the way of life as ordained by God.’ The Quran makes it clear that this kind of divine contract is a prerequisite that we fulfill our part before we ask God about the promise that He made us. ‘When addressing the children of Israel we find in (2:40) ‘fulfil your covenant with Me as I fulfil My Covenant with you, and fear none but Me.’

In brief the most important application of the concept of fulfillment of trust on the individual is to select the way of life that was ordained by God.

Host:’ How is trust related to ones social life?

Jamal Badawi:

In regards to the most intimate type of relationship found in the family circle we find again that the text of the Quran and sayings of the Prophet (PBUH) emphasizes the nature of this trust.’ For example at the time of marriage whenever a commitment is made by the future husband to his future wife it becomes a commitment that must be fulfilled. ‘In Bukhari and Muslim the Prophet (PBUH) was quoted as saying that the most important conditions or promises that are worthy of fulfillment are those related to marital relationships.’ Another Hadith refers to the private and intimate relationship between husband and wife as it says that the secrets that relate to this relationship should never be unnecessarily divulged to others.’ This restriction deals with decency and preservation of privacy within the family circle.

In regards to friends, if one friend tells another something confidential while the other promises not to tell anyone else then as a Muslim this friend should keep the promise.’ Even if one has a difference of opinion with the person or get angry with him one should always respect this particular commitment.’ In fact in Abu Dawood the Prophet (PBUH) says if a person tells you something in confidence and turns his face then this is a trust (amaneh).’ Similarly, if someone has a confidential meeting for a job or an organization the information should be kept confidential and not divulged to others.

The payment of one’s debts is also regarded as another form of fulfillment of trust because when one borrows a certain amount of money it is also considered as a commitment.’ In the collection of Muslim the Prophet (PBUH) warns us that a martyr (a person who offers his life for God) would be forgiven all of his sins except for debt.’ Also, if someone leaves money with someone as a trust, one should give it back when they want it back.’ In fact the Quran is very strict and clear about this in (4:58) ‘Allah doth command you to render back your Trusts to those to whom they are due; And when ye judge between man and man, that ye judge with justice: Verily how excellent is the teaching which He giveth you! For Allah is He Who heareth and seeth all things.’

Host:’ How does trust relate to job responsibilities and other contractual relationships?

Jamal Badawi:

The basic principle with respect to jobs is that a person must do their utmost to it perfectly.’ The Prophet (PBUH) said God loves it if one takes charge of any particular job it should be done in a complete and thorough manner.’ In regards to contractual arrangements which do not have to be in written form but a word is just as good.’ Islam was actually the oldest legal system (1400 years ago) that require in its scripture the writing of debts in order to avoid disputes.’ But still if the means of writing it are not present word of mouth is accepted.

In regards to contractual agreements the Quran says in (5:1) ‘O ye who believe! fulfill (all) obligations.’ ‘Also, the Quran describes true believers as those who fulfill trusts in (23:8) ‘Those who faithfully observe their trusts and their covenants’.’ Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) emphasized that Muslims should be bound by their own conditions that they agreed to except under the condition that makes something unlawful lawful and which makes something lawful unlawful which was narrated in both Bukhari and Muslim.’ All of these measures are very essential to establish a sense of trust in dealings in the civil, commercial and other levels.

Host:’ Does the topic of trust relate to government?

Jamal Badawi:

Islam doesn’t separate between religion and state.’ Religion in Islam is a way of life which includes all aspects of an individual’s social and what people call political life.’ This whole concept which is common in the western world is totally alien to the Muslim way of life.’ Verse (23:8) which I quoted above does not only apply to money but goes beyond that in referring to any trust such as appointing someone for a job, position or responsibility.’ The Prophet (PBUH) warns people, particularly those in power, that they must be very careful not to betray the trust placed on them.’ In one saying of the Prophet (PBUH) narrated in Muslim he says ‘On the Day of Judgment people who betray this trust will have flags behind them’ as identifiers and a way of humiliation.’ He also says that the worst of the people who betray trusts are rulers who betray their own people.

Another aspect which is quite common is people who exploit their position of trust or power to benefit themselves.’ Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that if anyone is appointed to a given position of power and is paid a salary anything that he takes in addition to that is called ghalul and a person would be accountable for this on the Day of Judgment.’ The Quran refers to this in (3:161) ‘No prophet could (ever) be false to his trust. If any person is so false, He shall, on the Day of Judgment, restore what he misappropriated; then shall every soul receive its due,- whatever it earned,- and none shall be dealt with unjustly.’

Some may ask what the case is if a ruler exploits his position to benefit others or his relatives.’ This was specifically condemned and there many Hadiths on the same subject.’ There is one saying of the Prophet in Al Hakim which says if a person is responsible for the affairs of people and he appoints someone who doesn’t deserve to be appointed out of nepotism or favoritism then he has betrayed God, the messenger of God and the community of believers.’ This is why the Prophet (PBUH) regarded the betrayal of this responsibility as one of the most dangerous things.’ He also considered it to be one of the signs of the approach of the Day of Judgment.’ Once the Prophet was sitting with his companions and was talking about the coming of the hour and some people asked him when the Hour was going to come and he replied ‘when trust is lost!” Then he was asked ‘how is trust lost?” He replied ‘when people are given responsibilities which they are not qualified for.’

Host:’ Are there any exceptions from the fulfillment of promises?

Jamal Badawi:

I will refer back to the very text that I quoted earlier that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) emphasized that Muslims should be bound by their own conditions that they agreed to except under the condition that makes something unlawful lawful and which makes something lawful unlawful which was narrated in both Bukhari and Muslim.’ This means the condition or promises is only valid so long as it does not contradict the teachings of Islam, moral principals or has been laid down in the Quran or sayings of the Prophet.

Similarly as we mentioned before that if one has a confidential meeting one should not divulge the secrets by respecting that trust.’ In one saying of found in Abu Dawood the Prophet made an exception for three cases ‘if the meeting plans unduly bloodshed, plans immoral acts like adultery or fornication or if it plans to take away the property of other people unjustifiably then one is required to warn people who might be subjected to this injustice.

The other exception is if one takes an oath and later finds out that this thing is harmful or bad then they are not bound to fulfill it.’ In this case the Prophet mentions as narrated in Muslim that if someone swears to do something and finds out that this thing is bad then one should not do it but should participate in an act of atonement in order not to make hasty promises.

Host:’ What kind of atonement is there for not fulfilling one’s promises?

Jamal Badawi:

Atonement is called kafarah in the Quran.’ The atonement for not fulfilling a particular oath or promise is to fast three days.’ This is not just a punishment as it also gives spiritual training.’ In Islam as a rule one should not swear a lot as found in the Quran in Chapter 68.’ If a Muslim has to swear for some reason it must only be on the name of God.’ This kind of atonement is placed so that one does not rush to swear.

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