Ethics In Islam
Trustworthiness, besides being a beautiful trait of noble character and a virtue that adorns human society, is the life spirit of Islamic ethics and conduct. For a healthy society, and a right course of development in various fields with which man is concerned in this worldly life, trustworthiness is a must, otherwise the whole community will remain disintegrated, surely lacking unity, faith and discipline.
Trustworthiness means that whatever is given to a person as a trust, for keeping in safe custody or any other purpose, or transmitted through him to a third party, should be honestly kept and safeguarded by the trustee, and on the demand of the owner it should be given back or given to the third person according to his instruction. The trustee must protect the trusted article so long as it remains in his custody and when demanded back by the owner it should be returned to the owner in the original form and condition without any charge or alteration. This is the sacred duty of the trustee.
Trustworthiness is a high and responsible attribute of mankind. It is the distinctive sign of courage, constancy and confidence of man. Because of trustworthiness, man has been recognised as a figure of strong character and courage vis-à-vis the whole universe and the creation therein like the river, ocean, huge desert, high mountain, the earth and all that we find. This status of man is for his determination and wellness. But, whereas he has been exalted among the creations of Allaah, his responsibilities and duties have also been fixed much more than the duties of all other beings of the world. Allaah describes man's courage, ambition and fortitude in the following words:
"We did indeed offer the Trust to the Heavens and the Earth and the mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof: But man undertook it." (The Qur'aan: S. 33: 72).
Thus man became the most superior creation of Allaah, and therefore, trustworthiness must adore his personality to prove the worth of his station and assignment.
In the above lines, the word "Trustworthiness" has been used in a broad sense, including all shades of meaning. As such all duties, responsibilities, obligations. Divine Rights, human rights or the rights of fellow beings etc. do come under the head of "Trustworthiness," and their discharge is also the fulfillment of the requirements of "Trustworthiness." Among the rights of people, the protection and safeguard of entrusted goods, wealth etc., both ordinary and precious, and the return of the same as if it is demanded by the owner; the guarding of one's secret and restricting it to himself and not divulging it to others: giving of true and sincere advice to anyone who consults him on some matter, are the noble examples of trustworthiness. Man has been ordained by Allaah to follow this course The Qur'aan clearly states:
"Allaah does command you to render back your Trusts to those whom they are due..." (S. 4: 58).
Trusts may thus be of various kinds as stated above i.e., property, goods, credit; plans, confidence, secrets and knowledge, talents; opportunities etc., which we are expected to use for our fellow-men. Men may betray the trust of Allaah and His Messenger by misusing property or abusing the confidence reposed in them or the knowledge or talents given to them. On that special occasion, when the plans for the protection of Allaah's worshippers against annihilation were of special importance, the Messenger's trust and confidence had to be guarded with special care. Occasions for scrupulously respecting the trust and confidence of our fellow-men occur every day in our life, and a few of us can claim perfection in this respect. Hence the special distinction of the noblest man of Allaah, the Kind Prophet, was the one who was true to every trust reposed in him. We shall follow him as our guiding light.
The violation of the Divine command about the trust, the spoiling or destruction of other's wealth, unlawful spending of other's money has been forbidden by Allaah and His Prophet, as these amounts to breach of trust and misappropriation of other's wealth and property. Allaah says:
"O you that believe! Betray not the trust of Allaah and the Messenger, nor misappropriate knowingly things entrusted to you." (S. 8: 27).
The Kind Prophet in his pious life, both before and after the conferment of prophethood, maintained this attribute in himself and commanded his companions and colleagues to adorn their person with honesty and trustworthiness. Before the conferment of the prophethood the Kind Prophet had become so popular for his honesty, trustworthiness, ethical virtues, good behaviour and conduct that the nobles and lords of Quraish as well as the common people remembered him with the title of 'Al-Amin' (Trustee).
It was also the Prophet's trustworthiness which won him the confidence of that great lady Hazrat Khadijah (razi-yal-laa-hu 'anha), who was one of the leading traders of Mecca. People keenly desired to carry her goods in partnership to far and distant countries for sale. But, Hazrat Khadijah chose the true and trustworthy person - Hazrat Muhammad (Sal-lal-la-hu 'alai-hi wa aa-li-hi wa sal-lam). She approached him and conveyed her wish to enter into partnership with him. The Prophet agreed with the offer, and started carrying her goods to distant markets for sale. Hazrat Khadijah noted his trustworthiness and honesty during this period when she found that he sold the goods at reasonable profits and managed the business most honestly and efficiently. These attributes so enthralled her that she herself made an offer of marriage and, on acceptance by him, became his wife. Thus she gained the noblest prosperity of the world and the Hereafter.
After the declaration of the conferment of Prophethood on Hazrat Muhammad (sal-lal-laa-hu 'alai-hi wa-aa-li-hi wa sal-lam), although the Quraish bore malice and grudge against him and proved themselves his bitter enemy, yet they believed in his trustworthiness and entrusted their wealth, precious things and articles in the custody of the Prophet as they considered his hand and house safe for their jewellery and treasures. In the thirteenth year of Prophethood, when the enemies of Islam conspired and consulted among themselves at 'Darul Nadwah' to root out the religion of Islam and its followers by killing the Prophet, then the goods and articles belonging to the conspirators were kept as trusts in the custody of the Kind Prophet.
In the darkness of the night when the militant youths of every tribe had surrounded the Prophet's residence with unsheathed swords in their hands and malicious intention of killing the Prophet in their hearts, and the Prophet had already been communicated the decision of Allaah to leave Mecca and migrate to Madina, the Prophet in that serious situation made arrangements for the return of the goods and articles committed to his trust and care to the rightful owners. He handed the articles and goods to Hazrat Ali (razi-yal-laa-hu 'an-hu) and instructed him to return them to their owners. After making such arrangements the Prophet left the residence in obedience to the command of Allaah.
This example clearly throws light on the responsibility of protecting, guarding and returning safely to their owners the articles and goods committed to one's trust. When a man accepts anything as a trust then that thing becomes for him more important than his own goods and property.
The life of the Prophet in Madina is the period during which the Prophet himself followed the teachings of Islam which were revealed to him from time to time and instructed the servants of Allaah to do so. He promulgated those teachings and commands as the Law of Allaah and made it binding on all peoples without any distinction of race and rank. During that period, he displayed by his words and deeds the qualities of trustworthiness and honesty and instructed his companions and the whole Ummah to adopt them and maintain them as a noble trait of character, as that formed an ethical standard for man. He instructed them to abstain from breach of trust and dishonesty as that demolished the very foundation of human edifice.
In connection with trustworthiness it would also be proper to give a little details of the conditions which a trustee has to fulfill in order to discharge entirely, in consonance with the Islamic Shariah, his duties. People who receive in their trust and care the goods and articles from others are not authorised to use them, consume them or take benefit from them in any way unless and until so permitted by the owner. Some people believe that they can consume the trusted article or goods and replace it or provide it when demanded by the owner. Even with this intention, the articles and goods committed to trust cannot be taken in personal use of the trustee. This will not be trustworthiness but in fact such an act of consumption or utilisation without the permission of the owner amounts to breech of trust. This is highly objectionable both in the eyes of the mankind and Islamic Shariah. Allaah also disapproved this. The goods and articles which are kept as a trust must be guarded by the trustee in their original condition. Even the money and currency shall not be spent without the permission of the owner, and the same money should be returned when demanded by the owner. If one swerves from this course, he commits breach of trust and Allaah does not like such men.