Consciousness of Responsibility


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Consciousness of Responsibility

In a hadith reported by Abdullah b. Omar Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, "We are all shepherds and we are all responsible for those who are under our hands (i.e. in our flocks). An administrator is a shepherd. The man is the shepherd of the family. A woman is the shepherd of her husband's home and children. We are all shepherds and we all are responsible for our duties as such." (Bukhari, Nikah, 91)

In this hadith, which uses the metaphor of the shepherd and the flock, the importance of the consciousness of responsibility is emphasized while attributing responsibility to all sane and mature individuals, it is also indicated that other roles, such as being an administrator or the head of a family, carry a greater responsibility due to the obligations connected with such duties. The human being, who agreed to take on the trust, which the earth and the skies had refused (1), is, above all, responsible before Allah. According to the verse, "Every soul will be (held) in pledge for its deeds"(2) everyone will have to account for their words and actions, attitude and behavior before Allah. The verse, "Then shall we question those to whom Our Message was sent and those by whom we sent it" (3) tells us that the prophets are not exceptions to this accounting.

In order to be able to give an account before Allah it is necessary that one fulfill one's responsibilities in this world, which is the place of examination. This is possible with the fulfillment of duties incumbent on a person for themselves, their families and relatives, and for all people and the natural environment. In the same way that reason and will are two abilities peculiar to human beings, the consciousness of responsibility, which is the result of these, is also peculiar to humans. This consciousness separates humanity from other living creatures. Human beings can decide how they should behave and they must accept the result of what they do. The verbal and active accounting that takes place in the conscience creates these emotions. The rights of those for whom one is responsible are protected by this consciousness. Those who carry the greatest responsibilities towards others, without a doubt, are the administrators in society. The responsibility for the people they administer is on their shoulders in proportion to the authority they possess. They will be responsible not only for their own account before Allah, but they will also have to give account on behalf of the others for whom they are responsible. For this reason, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did not approve of giving anyone a responsibility that they had not sought (4). In the past, some leaders in Islamic history, well aware of the spiritual accountability inherent in administrative duties, did not seek duties, refusing them despite great insistence, and even, as a result, being exposed to great oppression. For example, the imam of the Hanafi madhab (school of jurisdiction), Abu Hanifa refused the offer of the Abbasid Caliph Abu Jafer al-Mansur to be the qadi (judge) in Baghdad, on the grounds that he was not qualified; when the caliph said to him, "You are lying" he replied, "If I am lying, a liar cannot be qadi, and if I am telling the truth then I am not qualified" risking being thrown into prison. What Abu Hanifa did here was not avoiding duty or responsibility, but rather avoiding the liability of such a great duty in conditions and an environment that were not suitable.

In the hadith, the father is acknowledged as the shepherd of the family, and he is responsible for fulfilling the financial and spiritual needs of the family, for protecting them against all kinds of danger and for making all necessary efforts to bring the children up properly. No matter to what degree these duties are nowadays shared among spouses, the greatest weight is still on the man. Thus, for a person who does not fulfill this responsibility the Prophet said, "Anyone who neglects the responsibility of care, this is sin enough for him."(5) On the other hand, the Prophet said, "One who raises two girls to puberty well will be with them on the Day of Judgment"(6) thus praising those parents who raised their daughters well in a society that looked down on female children. The mother, who carries a great deal of the responsibility for the family home, is responsible for the home, taking care of the children, and working towards a peaceful and happy family environment with her husband.

The best example we can take in the matter of the consciousness of responsibility, without a doubt, is Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The Prophet gave a magnificent example of what responsibility is when he cut a prayer short out of consideration for a mother whose child was crying(7). To Uthman b. Abi'l-As'a, whom he sent as governor to Taif, he made the following recommendations, "O Uthman, do not pray excessively. Judge the people according to the weakest, for among them there are the elderly, the young, the ill and those who are far away or in need."(8) Thus, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) desired to inculcate this consciousness of responsibility in the Companions, while at the same time he was giving an indication of what an administrator should be like. Allah says "On no soul do We place a burden greater than it can bear..." (9) and in keeping with this Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, "Responsibility is removed from those who are sleeping until they awake, from children until they reach the age of maturity and from mental patients until they recover." (10) A Creator who offers religion to those who have reason could not possibly hold responsible those who are not in a position to use their reason. Allah, who is always merciful to His servants, shows us the limits of our responsibilities as well as teaching us how to seek mercy when we are in trouble in the following verse: "On no soul doth God place a burden greater than it can bear. It gets every good that it earns, and it suffers every ill that it ears. (Pray) "Our Lord! Condemn us not if we forget or fall into error; our Lord! Lay not on us a burden like that which Thou didst lay on those before us; Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. Blot out our sins, and grant us forgiveness. Have mercy on us. Thou art our Protector; Help us against those who stand against Faith."(11)


1) Al-Ahzab, 33/72

2) Al-Muddaththir, 74/38

3) Al-A´raf, 7/6

4) Nesai,  Adabu´l-kudat, 5

5) Abu Davud, Zaqaat, 45

6) Muslim, Birr,  46.

7) Abu Davud, Salaah,122

8) Ibn Maje, Iqametu´s- Salaah, 48

9) Mu´minun, 23/62

10) Abu Davud, Hudud, 17

11) Al-Baqara, 2/286


عن أبي هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه قَالَ:
قَبَّلَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم الْحَسَنَ بْنَ عَلِيٍّ وَعِنْدَهُ الأَقْرَعُ بْنُ حَابِسٍ التَّمِيمِيُّ جَالِسًا‏.‏ فَقَالَ الأَقْرَعُ إِنَّ لِي عَشَرَةً مِنَ الْوَلَدِ مَا قَبَّلْتُ مِنْهُمْ أَحَدًا‏.‏ فَنَظَرَ إِلَيْهِ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ثُمَّ قَالَ ‏"‏ مَنْ لاَ يَرْحَمُ لاَ يُرْحَمُ ‏"‏‏
God's Messenger kissed Al-Hasan bin Ali (his grandchild) while Al-Aqra' bin Habis At-Tamim was sitting beside him. Al-Aqra said, "I have ten children and I have never kissed anyone of them", God's Messenger cast a look at him and said, "Whoever is not merciful to others will not be treated mercifully." (Bukhari, Good Manners and Form (Al-Adab), 18)

Title: Tracks from Neyzen Sadreddin Özçimi's album, Sufi Rhythms - Sultan-i Ask Artist: Sadreddin Özçimi