Sura Al-Isra, ayat 36 – Accountability

Today the focus of the reminder is on single ayat and the lessons that we can derive from it. It is from sura Al-Isra, ayat 36 and it is translated to say:

And do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart – about all those [one] will be questioned.

Dear brothers and sisters, in essence this is a lesson on having accountability for all actions that we perform.
 
A basic characteristic of the Islamic faith is that it is straightforward, clear and transparent. Nothing is permitted based on suspicion, myth or unsubstantiated impression.

If we listen to the translation of the ayat again.
 
“Do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. Man’s ears, eyes and heart shall all be called to account.”
 
These few words establish a complete method for the human mind and heart, incorporating the scientific approach that humanity has begun to apply only recently. It adds, however, honesty and fear of God.

This is an advantage Islam adds over cold rational approaches that are devoid of spirituality.
 
Making certain of every report, action or situation before passing a judgement concerning it is the essence of the Qur’ānic approach.

When hearts and minds faithfully follow this approach, there remains no room for superstition in matters of faith, or for suspicion in legal affairs. On top of that there is no room for theoretical assumptions or superficial conclusions in science and research.
 
Scientific integrity which, in modern times, people unreservedly praise and place in place of religion, is no more than the conscientious integrity which the Qur’ān establishes as a requirement to be accounted for. Science is no more than the use of our senses to make a sense of the world around us and establish laws of science based on the patterns observed by the senses.

The Qur’ān makes everyone responsible and accountable for their hearing, seeing and feelings in front of God who has given them their ears, eyes and hearts. This is the integrity and honesty of senses, heart and mind.

Man is accountable for all these and the organs themselves will be questioned about their actions on the Day of Judgement. When we consider the magnitude of this responsibility, we are overwhelmed because it applies to every word we say and every judgement we make.
 
Certain knowledge must be the only basis for judgement or conviction. Whatever is not certain must never constitute such a basis. In an authentic ĥadīth, the Prophet is quoted as saying:

“Avoid suspicion, for suspicion is the most false form of talk.”  

And in another quote he said:

“He who believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him be hospitable to his guest; and he who believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him maintain good the ties of blood relationship; and he who believes in Allah and the Last Day, must speak good or remain silent”.

And thirdly, he said:

A sign of man’s good observance of Islam (his piety) is to keep away from that which does not concern him.” 

Thus we see how Qur’ānic verses and aĥādīth combine to establish such a complete and integrated system which requires the mind to make certain of its grounds for any judgement it makes.

But Islam does not stop at this. It also requires the heart to make sure of its basis for whatever thoughts or feelings it entertains. Thus people must ascertain every detail, circumstance and factor before making any judgement or arriving at any conclusion. And this, dear brothers and sisters, is a practical fulfilment of the Qur’ānic statement made earlier in this surah, ayat 9 which says: “Surely this Qur’ān shows the way to that which is most upright.”

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