Allah (SAS) says in Surah An-Nisa (verse 58),
Indeed, Allah commands you that you restore deposits to their owners and if you judge between mankind, you should judge justly. Indeed, Allah gives you very good advice. Allah is ever hearing and seeing.
The circumstances in which this verse was revealed are very interesting. We know that before the conquest of Mecca, the keys for the house of Allah (SWT) were kept by Uthman bin-Talha. At the time of the conquest of Makkah, Prophet Mohammad (SAS) asked Uthman bin-Talha to hand him over the keys. Uthman bin-Talha gave them reluctantly saying that it is ‘amana’ (trust) with you. Prophet Mohammad (SAS) opened the House of Allah (SWT) and removed all the idols from it. At that time his uncle Abbas and Ali (RU) requested that these keys be kept in the family. Prophet Mohammad (SAS) did not give them the keys. As narrated by Umar (RU), the Prophet (SAS) came out of the house of Allah reciting verse 58 of Sura An-Nissa. He handed the keys back to Uthman bin-Talha. This surprised Uthman, since the Holy Prophet (SAS) as a conqueror, could keep these keys for good. Uthman bin-Talha was highly moved by the character of Prophet Mohammad (SAS) and immediately accepted Islam.
Anas (RU) narrated that Prophet Mohammad (SAS) always insisted on fulfilling the covenants. Anas (RU) said that Prophet Mohammad (SAS) rarely gave a khutbah in which he did not mention the following:
“He who betrays his trust, does not have an iota of faith in him. He who breaks a promise, has no sense of Islamic life.”
Abu Huraira (RU) and Umar (RU) narrated in Bukhari and Muslim that while describing the indicators of hypocrites, Prophet Mohammad (SAS) said, “He who breaks his trust when he is trusted.” Allah (SWT) mentions several prerequisites for entering Heaven in Surahs Al-Muminun and Al-Ma’arij.For example, Allah says in Surah Al-Ma’arij: # 32-35
Hence some of the prerequisites are: They fulfill their covenants and keep their promises. They also stand by their testimony firmly. They also establish prayer regularly and with full concentration. They will be honored in Gardens.
Thus fulfilling covenants is just like performing salat correctly. Prophet Mohammad (SAS) also said that:
The meetings of people should display total trustworthiness, among themselves. Hence what is said in the meeting must not be disclosed, to outsiders.
Similarly, Prophet Mohammad (SAS) said, “Whosoever is consulted should act in a full trustworthy manner. He should give the best and useful advice. He should not knowingly give wrong advice, otherwise he would break the trust. Similarly, if someone shares his secret with you, do not divulge it to others without his permission.
Let us examine how the companions handled such situations. Keep in mind that the companions of Prophet Mohammad (SAS) were human beings like us and prone to slips like any other human being. Allah (SWT) mentions a specific situation in Sura Al-Anfal (verse #27),
Oh you believers, do not cheat Allah and his messenger and you betray your trust knowingly. Remember that your wealth and children are a test for you. And indeed there is a great reward with Allah.
This verse is referring to a particular situation, as mentioned by many scholars. Prophet Mohammad (SAS) surrounded Banu-Quraiza, who had fortified themselves on the outskirts of Madina. This conflict lasted for 21 days, until the provisions of enemies were totally used up. This tribe asked Prophet Mohammad (SAS) for permission to go to Syria. Prophet Mohammad (SAS) refused, since he knew that the Jewish tribe would create mischief while in Syria. Prophet Mohammad (SAS) informed them that they should accept any decision by Sa’ad bin-muath (SAS) as a mediator. The Jews requested that Sa’ad bin-muath (RU) be replaced by Abu Lubaba (RU). Since Abu Lubaba (RU) had his family members and real-estate property on this Jewish neighborhood and they expected him to be kinder to them. Prophet Mohammad (SAS) granted their request. When Abu-Lubaba (RU) reached this tribe, they asked Abu-Lubaba, (RU) “What will be our fate if we just come out of this fort?” Abu-Lubaba said putting his finger on his throat that their heads will be chopped off. This was in fact the secret of Prophet Mohammad (SAS) with Abu-Lubaba (RU).He disclosed this secret to the Jews. As soon as Abu-Lubaba (RU) left these people he realized his mistake and felt very bad. He tied himself to a tree, and this went on for seven days and seven nights. He declared that he will not untie himself until his repentance is accepted. He hardly ate anything during this time and passed out again and again. When Prophet Mohammad (SAS) learned about him, he said, “He could have come directly to me and I would have prayed for his forgiveness. Now he has left the whole matter with Allah. He should wait until Allah accepts his repentance directly.” After seven days Prophet Mohammad (SAS) was informed about the acceptance of his repentance by Allah (SWT). Some of his brothers came running to him to untie him. Abu-Lubaba (RU) refused and indicated that he would rather wait until Prophet Mohammad (SAS) very kindly untied him with his own hands, signaling total acceptance of his repentance. This shows us that breaking a trust was a very serious matter with the companions and they adopted such drastic measures to rectify it. Even now we see a pillar in the masjid Nabvi inscribed on it the pillar of Abu-Lubaba. This pillar has replaced the original tree with which Abu-Lubaba was tied up. Many people pray near this pillar and ask for forgiveness for their sins from Allah (SWT) with the sincere spirit of Abu-Lubaba (RU).
Note that when Prophet Mohammad (SAS) gave the keys of the House of Allah to Uthman bin-Talha, these keys had no monetary or intrinsic value since they were a piece of old metal. Actually it was the high position of honor to serve the House of Allah. Hence, amanat means assigning positions of responsibility. We conclude that all positions in a government or organization are “amanat”. Prophet Mohammad (SAS) said that if a ruler assigns others for various positions of responsibility because of nepotism or friendship and these appointees do not have skills and/or ability to handle this assignment. Allah’s curse is afflicted on such rulers. Their prayers are not accepted and they will go to hell-fire.
As mentioned in Bukhari, Prophet Mohammad (SAS) said :
“When you see that the responsibilities of jobs are assigned to those who are incapable, then just wait for The Day of Judgement.” In other words there is no remedy for problems in such organizations or government agency, if these instructions of Quran and hadith are ignored.
We further note that trust is a big responsibility and should be fulfilled. On betraying the trust, grave consequences will occur. As an example, one time Abu-Zhar (RU) asked Prophet Mohammad (SAS) to assign him a position of high responsibility. Prophet Mohammad (SAS) said, as mentioned in Muslim,
“Oh, Abu-Zhar, you are an old man and a position of responsibility is a trust with Allah. Those who cannot fulfill the trust will be highly disgraced by Allah (SWT) on the Day of Judgement. Those who keep the spirit of trust, however, will be safe from this shame and misery.
In the second verse, Allah (SWT) says that when you judge between mankind, you must judge justfully. This instruction is not only for leaders and officials, but also for common man. Note that Allah did not say, (Bainul-Momineen or Bainul Muslimeen) But said:Bain-un-Nas.
“It means all people are to receive equal justice. In Islam friends or foes, muslims or non-muslims, countrymen or strangers, all must receive equal justice.”
It is also important to note that Allah mentioned “amanat” first and then instructed to establish justice. Perhaps it is to guide us that justice cannot be established unless deserving or capable people are assigned for various duties. This is what is missing these days in governments and other organizations including masajid and Islamic schools. Unless fair assignments are made, various problems in the organizations cannot be solved.
The Quran also dispels the wrong thought and practice of assigning positions in a government according to the number of people in a state or province. The Quran said that these positions are not their personal rights. These positions are a trustship with Allah and can be given to only and only qualified people. The Quran spells it out in a verse, (Qavi-ul-Ameen) which means a person has to be fully qualified first even if he is honest and is a good practicing Muslim. Both conditions should be satisfied simultaneously. This was further brought out clearly in the case of Prophet Musa (AS). When he saw two young girls with their cattle near a well. Prophet Musa (AS) noticed that many people came with their cattle and drew water from the well, their cattle drank the water and they left. These girls were holding their cattle away from the well for a very long time. Prophet Musa (AS) asked them, “What is the matter?” The girls replied, “Our father is an old man. We cannot pull water from the well. We take our cattle to the well after everybody has left, so that our cattle can drink any leftover water.” Prophet Musa (AS) drew the water from the well and their cattle drank it to their fill, and the young girls went back home. They requested their father, to hire Prophet Musa (AS) for the job because they found him qualified with his strength and honest in behavior. This is the criteria to assign any trust.
Hence the fundamental rules to formulate an organizational structure of a government are as follows:
1. Allah (SWT) is “the real ruler and the order is from Allah alone. All governments are Allah’s vicegrant or representative. The real power in a country is of Allah alone.
2. The jobs in a country are not to be distributed in the ratio of their population in various territories. Only qualified and able people should be assigned to various jobs.
3. Since people are only representative of Allah, they should always obey the instruction and guidance of Allah in all maters.
4. If a dispute arises, justice should be done irrespective of race, language, color, or religious affiliation.
Last of all, we note that at the time of migration of Prophet Mohammad (SAS) from Makkah to Madina, he left Ali (RU) in his bed and instructed him to return all the deposits to their owners. This was the time when all tribes had joined hands and surrounded the house of Prophet Mohammad (SAS) to kill him outright. The Prophet on the other hand displays such high character that he insures that all deposits, even of his worst foes, are delivered to them under all circumstances.
May Allah help us to fulfill our trusts and promises with the same spirit. Ameen.