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The Trust

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Emphasis has been placed in this entire Surah on the reverence of the
Messenger of Allah and orsthe obligation of obeying him. Now in the later
part of the Surah, the great station and rank of this obedience has been
identified. Here, the obedience to Allah and His Messenger and the
implementation of their commands has been expressed through the word:
amanah: (Trust), the reason of which will appear later.

What does “amanah” mean?

What is meant by the word: amanah at this place? many views of the
leading exegetes among Sahabah and Tabi‘in, and others, have been
reported to answer this question. Different things have been held to be
the ‘amanah’, such as, Islamic Legal Obligations, Protection of Chastity,
Properties held under Trust, Removal of Impurity through having bath,
Salah, Zakah Fasting, Hajj etc. Therefore, the majority of commentators
have said that all areas of religious conduct are included in it. Qurtubi)

In Tafsir Mazhari, it was said: The whole package of all obligations
and prohibitions set by the Shari‘ah is amanah. In Al-Bahr-ul-Muhit,
Abu Hayyan said:

Apparently every thing one is trusted with (by the Shari‘ah)

from obligations and prohibitions, and every state of life which
relates to this world or the Hereafter – in fact, the Shari‘ah, all
of it, is amanah. And this is the position the majority of
Muslim scholars has taken.

In short, amanah (trust) means to be obligated with the precepts and
injunctions of the Shari‘ah and being under command to carry these out.
Once this is accomplished to the best of one’s ability, the eternal blessings
of Jannah (Paradise) have been promised, and on any contravention or
shortcoming, there shall be the punishment of Jahannam (Hell). Some
early commentators have said that amanah (trust) refers to the capability
of fulfilling the heavy responsibility placed by Divine injunctions,
something that depends on a particular degree of reason and awareness –
and moving forward therein and deserving Divine vice-regency depends
on this very capability. The species of creation that do not have this
capability, no matter how high or superior their placement, simply cannot
advance from their given place. For this reason, the skies and the earth,
even angels, have no inherent ability to go forward from the place they
are in. Everything from these creatures is restricted to whatever station
of nearness (to the Creator) it has. Their state is aptly pointed to in a
verse of the Qur’an where it was said: pple alia ‘aj YI Tau (There is no one
among us who does not have a known station – As-Saffat, 37:164)

Under this sense of amanah (trust), all narrations of Hadith about
amanah turn out to be symmetrical and the sayings of the majority of
commentators also converge on almost a mutual agreement.

In the Sahihs of al-Bukhari and Muslim, and in the Musnad of
Ahmad, there is a narration from Sayyidna Hudhaifah 35) saying that,
‘the Holy Prophet #2 had told us about two things. One of these we have
already witnessed with our own eyes. The unfolding of the other is still
awaited. The first thing was that, “First of all, amanah was sent down
into the hearts of the men of faith. Then, the Qur’an was revealed and
then the people of faith acquired knowledge from the Qur’an, and practice
from the Sunnah”. ,

After that, he narrated the other Hadith as follows: “A time will come
when no sooner does a man rise from sleep, amanah (trust) will be
confiscated from out of his heart leaving some of its traces behind, just
like you would roll down an ember from the fire on your feet (and this
ember will certainly roll away but) its traces will survive in the form of
inflammation or blister – although, no constituent element of the fire itself
is left out there. So much so that people will enter into mutual
transactions and contracts, but no one will fulfill the obligations of
amanah due against him and (there will be such a dearth of trustworthy
men that) people will be found saying that there is a trustworthy man in
such and such tribe!”

In this Hadith amanah has been declared to be something which
relates to the heart and this alone has the ability of fulfilling the
obligations and duties imposed by the Shari‘ah of Islam.

And according to a narration of Sayyidna ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Amr <2
appearing in the Musnad of Ahmad, the Holy Prophet %@ has been
reported to have said, “There are four things which, if you come to have
them, and you have nothing out of so many worldly things, you are still
no loser. (Those four things are): Guarding of trust, telling the truth, good
morals and lawful sustenance. (From Ibn Kathir)

An investigation into the way the ‘trust’ was ‘offered’

In the cited verse (72), it was said that Allah Ta‘ala placed this
amanah (trust) before the heavens, the earth and the mountains and all
of them refused to bear the burden of this responsibility shrinking from it
out of the danger of not being able to fulfill its due right – but, man did.

Here, it is worth pondering that the heavens, the earth and the
mountains that are inanimate and, obviously devoid of knowledge and
consciousness, how then would it be possible to rationalize the
presentation of such an offer before them and that of their response to it?
Some early commentators have taken this to be a figure of speech – as the
noble Qur’a an has said elsewhere by way of comparison: ‘ + eal aos ug!
is ake I has ees aid je (Had We sent down this Qur’an to a
mountain, you would have seen it humbled, burst apart out of awe for
Allah – Al-Hashr 59:21). [t is obvious that this example has been given as a
matter of supposition – not that it was really revealed to or on a mountain.
So, these commentators have taken the ‘offer’ of ‘trust’ to the heavens etc.
also in a figurative or metaphorical sense.

But, in the sight of the majority of Muslim scholars, it is not correct,
because in the verse of Surah Al-Hashr, the Qur’an has itself made it
clear, by initiating the statement with the word: ‘if,’that it is just a
hypothetical statement. On the contrary, the present verse is an
affirmation of an incident in a descriptive style, and it is not permissible to
take it in figurative or metaphorical sense without any proof. And if it is
argued that these things have no senses and therefore no question can be
asked from them and no answer is expected from them, then this
argument stands rejected on the basis of other express statements of the
Qur’an. The reason is that the Qur’an has explicitly said: co yi geet ort Ol
gary (And there is not a single thing that does not extol His purity and
praise – Al-Isra’, 17:44). And it is obvious that knowing Allah Ta‘ala,
realizing that He is the Creator, the Master, the highest and the best, and
glorifying Him consequently is something not possible without knowledge
and consciousness. Therefore, it stands proved from this verse that
knowledge and consciousness do exist in all elements of creation to the
extent that these are also there in what is considered to be inanimate. On
the basis of this knowledge and consciousness, these can be addressed and
a response can be expected from them. Their response could take different
forms. It could take the form of words and letters and – it is not rationally
impossible – that Allah Ta‘ala could bestow on the heavens and the earth
and the mountains the functional ability to verbalize and speak.
Therefore, in the sight of the majority of the learned among the Muslim
Ummah, the phenomenon of this ‘ard of amanah (the placement or offer
of trust) came to pass in reality and these entities expressed their inability
to bear the burden of this responsibility – also in reality. There is no simile
or metaphor at work here.

The acceptance of the offer of the ‘trust’ was optional, not

A question may be asked here. When Allah Ta‘ala personally made
the offer of this great trust before the heavens and the earth and the
mountains, how could they dare refuse it? If they had contravened the
Divine order, they would have been destroyed totally. In addition to that,
the obedience of the heavens and the earth to divine orders is also proved
from the verse: stb “3! (we come in obedience – Fussilat, 41:11) which
means: When Allah Ta‘ala ordered the heavens and the earth to come to
implement His command, be it willingly or unwilling, both of these
responded by saying that they were pleased to come to obey His

The answer is that, in the cited verse (41:11), the command given hada
mandatory command with it where it was also said that they were to come
with pleasure, or without it but, no matter what is the case, they had to
obey the command. This is contrary to the present verse featuring the
offer of the trust where following its presentation, they were given the
choice of taking or not taking this awesome responsibility.

Ibn Kathir has, with the support of various authorities, reported from
several Sahabah and Tabi‘in – Sayyidna Ibn ‘Abbas, Hasan al-Basri,
Mujahid and others – the following details of this offer of the trust:

‘What Allah Ta‘ala offered first to the heavens, then to the earth, and
then to the mountains as a matter of choice was: Would you undertake to
carry out the responsibility imposed by this trust (obedience to given
injunctions) from Us against a return fixed for it?’ Everyone asked, ‘What
is the return?’ It was said, ‘If you fulfill the demands of this trust
(obedience to given injunctions) to the best of your ability, you will have
the best of reward, and particularly the honor of having nearness to
Allah, and if you failed to implement these injunctions, or fell short in it,
you will be punished.’ Hearing this, all these huge big bodies responded
by saying, ‘O our Lord, we are operating under Your command even now.
But (now when we have been given a choice), we find ourselves weak and
unable to bear the burden of this heavy responsibility. As reward, we do
not want it, and as for punishment, we cannot bear it.’ And Tafsir
Qurtubi, with reference to Hakim Tirmidhi, has reported from Sayyidna
Ibn ‘Abbas «& that the Holy Prophet a said: ‘(After the offer of the trust
to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, and after their
response), Allah Ta‘ala addressed Sayyidna “Adam SE and said: ‘We
offered Our trust to the heavens and the earth but they expressed their
mability to bear the burden of this responsibility. Now, would you assume
this responsibility knowing that which goes with it?’ “Adam $68) asked, ‘O
Lord, what is it that goes with it?’ The answer was: ‘If you succeeded in
fulfilling the demands of this trust to your best (that is, remained obedient
to your best), you will be rewarded (which will be in the form of the
nearness and pleasure of Allah and the eternal bliss of Jannah
(Paradise), and if you let this trust go to waste, you will be punished.’
“Adam Sel (eager to advance towards nearness and pleasure of Allah
Ta‘ala) went ahead and assumed this responsibility. However, from the
moment he assumed the burden of this heavy trust, not much time had
passed, not. even that much as is between the Salah of ‘Asr and Zuhr,
within which the Satan snared him into that well-known slip and he was
made to leave Jannah. ,

During which period of time did this event of the offer of trust
take place?

From the narration of Sayyidna Ibn ‘Abbas -4 which has appeared
immediately above, it seems that this offer of trust made to the heavens
and the earth and the mountains was made before the creation of Adam.
Then, following the creation of Sayyidna ‘Adam NeEl it was also said
before him that this trust was also offered to the heavens and the earth
earlier, and that they did not have the ability to bear the burden of this
responsibility, therefore, they excused themselves out of it.

And what is apparent here is that this event of the offer of trust came
before the Covenant of Eternity, that is, the Covenant of ‘Alast because
the Covenant of Ne 221) (Am I not your Lord?) is a phase of this very
acceptance to carry out the responsibility of fulfilling the trust – and
stands for taking a solemn pledge to hold and discharge the
responsibilities enjoined by an office.

For vicegerency on the earth, the ability to bear the
responsibilities of the great trust was necessary

As eternally predestined, Allah Ta‘ala had already decided to appoint
Sayyidna “Adam “el His Khalifah (vicegerent) on the earth and this
Khilafah (vicegerency) could only be entrusted with one who bears the
responsibility of upholding the essential obedience to Divine injunctions –
because, it is the very objective of this Khilafah that the Law of Allah be
implemented on the earth and that the creation of Allah be induced to
obey Divine injunctions. Therefore, as a matter of creational imperative,
Sayyidna “Adam Sl agreed to bear the burden of the responsibility of
this trust – although the inability of other humongous units of creation to
bear it was already in his knowledge. (Mazhari and Bayan-ul-Qur’an).

In the last sentence of verse 72: Vex Uj16 5 ‘a1: Surely, he was unjust
(to himself) unaware (of the end), the word: ‘Zalum’ means one who is
unjust to himself, and ‘jahul’’ means one who is unaware of the end. From
this sentence, it is generally assumed that it has appeared here blaming
man in an absolute sense, that is, so ignorant was man that he went
ahead inflicting injustice upon himself by accepting to carry such a big
burden of responsibility, something beyond his power. But, in the light of
explicit statements in the Qur’an, this is not actually so because ‘man’
may mean either Sayyidna Adam 42 or whole mankind. Now Sayyidna
‘Adam 8! is, as a prophet, protected by Allah from committing sins. The
burden of responsibility which he had assumed was carried out by him
duly and certainly. As a result of this, he was made a vicegerent of Allah
(Khalifatullah) and sent to the earth. He was made the object of
prostration by angels and, in the Hereafter, his station is far higher than
that of the angels. And if ‘man’ must mean mankind, then, in this class,
there are several hundred thousands of noble prophets e—!! pgle and
several millions of the righteous and the men of Allah (awliya’ Allah)
even angels emulate – those who proved by their conduct in life that they
were capable of handling and deserving this Divine trust. It was because
of the basis laid out by these very noble souls, who duly vacated the
rights and demands inherent in the great trust, that the Holy Qur’an
declared mankind to be the noblest of Divine creation: 23) 2) 3S 3H, (And
We bestowed dignity on the Children of “Adam – ALsra’, 17:70). This proves
that neither is Sayyidna ’Adam sel blameworthy, nor the mankind as a
whole. Therefore, commentators have said that this sentence is not there
to impute a blame, rather, it appears there as the description of the actual
event with regard to the most of individuals in the class. As such, the
sense is that the majority of human kind proved to be zalum (one who
inflicts injustice upon himself) and jahul (one who is unaware of the end)
that failed to fulfill the rights and demands of this trust and fell into the
abyss of loss. And since this was the state of affairs with the majority,
therefore, it was attributed to humankind.

In short, in the verse, the two words (Zalum and Jahul) mentioned
above have been used for those particular individuals among human
beings who did not obey the injunctions of the Shari‘ah as they werc
expected to, and failed to fulfill the right entailed by the amanah or trust
placed with them – that is, the disbelievers, hypocrites, transgressors, the
wicked, and sinning Muslims of the community. This Tafsir has been
reported from Sayyidna Ibn ‘Abbas 28, Sayyidna Ibn Subayr #8, Hasan
Al-Basri {Jts Alpes -yand others. (Qurtubi)

And there are others who have said that Zaltim and Jahul has been
used at this place in the sense of ‘naive’, as an affectionate form of
address carrying the thought that man, brimming with love for his
Creator and in quest of the station of nearness to Him, simply forgot the
Surah al-Ahzab : 33: 72 – 73 256

end of the whole thing. Similarly, these words could also be taken to have
been spoken for the entire humankind. In Tafsir Mazhari, details of this
aspect have been reported from Mujaddid Alf Thani and other noble

a ithy Saath Uy O13 (with the result that Allah will punish the
hypocrites, men and women, and the Mushriks, men and women, and will
accept the repentance of the believing men and women. Surely Allah is
Most-Forgiving, Very-Merciful. (73]) The letter ‘lam’ used in the beginning
of this verse is not for mentioning the cause or aim, as generally
understood in common usage, but it is the lam of ‘aqibah in the
terminology of Arabic linguistics. It points out to the end of something, as
it appears in a line of Arabic poetry which reads:

‘Be born only to be dead and build only to be ruined’

It does not mean that the aim of one’s birth was to be dead or that the
aim of constructing of a building was that it could be ruined, but it simply
means that the end of everyone born is death and the end of every
building is falling into ruins.

The sense of the verse is that, as a result of man’s assumption of
responsibility for the trust, mankind will split in two groups: (1) Dis-
believers, hypocrites and others who will rebel against Divine orders and
become wasters of the great ‘trust’. They will be punished. (2) There will
be believing men and believing women who, through their obedience to
Divine injunctions, will fulfill the dictates of the trust reposed in them.
They will be treated with mercy and forgiveness.

The Tafsir of the two words: Zalum and Jahiil that has been reported
above from most Tafsir authorities finds additional support in this last
sentence as well – that these words are not meant for the whole mankind.
In fact, they particularly refer to those individuals who wasted away the
Divine trust reposed in them. And Allah, Pure and High, knows best.

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