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FaithSociety

The Spiritual Roots of Trust

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FaithSociety

The Spiritual Roots of Trust

Those even with little knowledge of Arabic language can appreciate that words amānah (trust), īmān (faith), and aman (comfort, peace) – all come from the same root letters ( ’a – m – n). This shows how closely the act of fulfilling the trust is related to one’s faith and how it leads to a sense of comfort and peace within.   

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Those even with little knowledge of Arabic language can appreciate that words amānah (trust), īmān (faith), and aman (comfort, peace) – all come from the same root letters ( ’a – m – n). This shows how closely the act of fulfilling the trust is related to one’s faith and how it leads to a sense of comfort and peace within.   

Once, a boy and a girl were playing together in front of their houses. The girl had some sweets with her, and the boy had a few marbles. After a while, the boy told the girl that he will give her all his marbles in exchange for her sweets. The girl agreed. The boy kept the most beautiful marble aside and gave the rest to her. The girl, as agreed, gave him all her sweets. That night, the girl slept peacefully but the boy couldn’t. He kept wondering if the girl had hidden some sweets from him the way he had hidden his best marble.  

A very short story but enough to teach us the value of trust. The girl did not get her due share, yet she slept peacefully. The boy, despite having more than he should, was incomplete. This tells us that perhaps the value of trust is innate to humans and it has the notion of peace attached to it. We trust because we are always vulnerable. We cannot be in control of each and every aspect of our lives hence it is inevitable that we trust.

The value of trust has an inherent belief that people will act out of motive other than self-interest. It is this belief that gives us the peace within. When we trust someone, we hold them in high esteem, we expect them to act like a human because that is what humans do, keep trust. 

Trusting the Prophet

Believers in faith-based traditions can appreciate the value of trust like no other. When the angel Gabriel inspired the Prophet with the first of revelations, the messenger, after the initial hesitation, trusted that it is from the Almighty. When he invited his family to the path, Bibi Khadijah and Imam Ali trusted that the Prophet was the chosen one. They did not ask for miracles or test his knowledge of the unseen; they trusted his word.

When the Prophet extended his invitation to one and all, those who came towards him trusted his word. They believed in the presence of one God, the revelation, angels, the day of judgment because they trusted the words of the Prophet. So essentially the believers’ very first act of trust was placed on the Prophet and then on the notion of the divine as he explained.

One can argue that those who trusted the Prophet did so because they were either related or had known him based on his past interactions. He was known for his honesty and trustworthiness before the revelation so people would have expected him to be honest. He looked like them, was of the same ethnicity, spoke the same language, was from a respected family and tribe. Even the message was something they were familiar with. So, is it surprising that they took his word for it? Had it been a Chinese man in blue loose-fitting knee-length silk robes showing up in Arabia and claiming the same thing as the Prophet in ancient Mandarin, would anyone have trusted him?

Shifting from a divinely inspired Prophet to divinely breathed human – there is no doubt that familiarity breeds trust. But if we can trust people with the same skin colour and similar cultural norms, can we not extend our circle for all of humanity that shares the same spiritual roots? After all, this principle of universality is expressed beautifully in the Qur’an where we have been told: ‘O Mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from the two scattered a multitude of men and women…’ (Q, 4:1).

Perhaps more so than the common language and local customs, we can look towards the unity of our human race as the defining factor in matters of trust. As His Highness the Aga Khan puts it: ‘This remarkable verse [of the Holy Qur’an] speaks both of the inherent diversity of mankind – the multitude – and the unity of mankind – the single soul created by a single creator – a spiritual legacy which distinguishes the human race from all other forms of life.’ [1]

The Qur’anic Principle of Trust

The Qur’an speaks about this ethico-religious value, trust, in two distinct ways. Tawakkul, a recurring word in many forms, has a meaning of ‘relying on someone else for your affairs because of one’s incapability’. So, our relationship with the divine is based on the principle that we rely on the Omnipotent for our affairs.

The Qur’an says: ‘…God will be enough for those who put their trust in Him…’ (Q, 65:3). It is this trust in the Almighty that gives us a sense of peace, comfort, satisfaction, and hope. The therapeutic function of religion has long been acknowledged in human societies. It is no surprise that many believers tend to turn towards religion more so in times of grief. The trust in the Almighty – submitting our affairs to His mercy, gives us much-needed comfort.

In return for this sense of peace, the Almighty stipulates the fulfillment of certain rituals and ethical actions. Many literalists would say that against the fulfillment of these commitments, a believer will find a place in paradise but a person with an esoteric worldview would argue, whether paradise is something other than the peace within. 

The second notion of trust, as mentioned in the Qur’an, is in the sense of responsibilities that a believer carries within the world. ‘O you who believe! Betray not the trust of Allah, the Messenger, or knowingly betray (other people’s) trust’ (Q, 8:27). The Arabic word for ‘betrayal’ is Khiyāna, which originates from the root letters (kh – w – n) meaning ‘reduction’. So, any reduction in our fulfillment of responsibilities is a betrayal of trust.

This trust is made up of responsibilities towards the Almighty, fellow humans, and most importantly, the environment. To not misappropriate this trust is to fulfill our primordial promise of using our gifted knowledge and skills for the betterment of the society, of being generous and sincere in our dealings, of leaving this world a better place than what we inherited. Those even with little knowledge of Arabic language can appreciate that words amānah (trust), īmān (faith), and aman (comfort, peace) – all come from the same root letters ( ’a – m – n). This shows how closely the act of fulfilling the trust is related to one’s faith and how it leads to a sense of comfort and peace within.   

There is no doubt that fulfilling these trusts and being responsible for not just our peace but also of fellow humans is a massive undertaking, but the sense of peace within comes not cheaply. The Qur’an, referring to the primordial dealing of the Almighty with humans, says: ‘We offered the Trust to the heavens, the earth, and the mountains, yet they refused to undertake it and were afraid of it; mankind undertook it, it is indeed inept and foolish’ (Q, 33:72). ‘When God said to the angels that I will create a vicegerent on the earth’, they did not appreciate the idea. Perhaps they thought that in search of peace, humans will cause corruption and bloodshed.

But ‘the Almighty (knowing His creation) said: I know what you do not know’ (Q, 2:30). When we were sent as His successors on earth, we were meant to fulfill this trust. It is this very trust that God will question us about on the day of Judgment and grant us eternal peace. 

Insufficiency of Secular Roots

We live in a time where our values carry secular roots. I do not mean to undermine the philosophical journey that has led to the rationalisation of our social values, but one can ask, can the value of trust be rationalised?

There is absolutely no doubt that a strong justice system allows us to trust freely knowing if we are wronged then the other person will be held accountable. This is why many developed countries have a higher degree of trust in their society. But this very secular root becomes impotent in our relationships. Be it in our personal relationship or in organisations where we work, the tangible aspect of trust is accountable, it is repayable in the form of damages. But what about the intangible? A feeling, as long as it stays, makes us bloom. But when it leaves, we are not the same person anymore. 

The present situation of the society – the lawlessness – takes root from the lack of trust between citizens and the government, employees and the line manager, and most importantly between our minds and souls. Perhaps, the secular root of trust has taken care of the peace of material things, but the lack of spiritual roots has made us emotionally restless. One can reflect whether it could ever be rational to trust other people?

When we have all experienced disappointments, we continue to trust people because this is what it means to be human. The very definition of trust incorporates the idea of inherent risk – of relying on others. But being human also means keeping trust. It is in this act of keeping trust that we become the reason for each other’s peace. I become the reason for yours and you become the reason for mine.


Sources

[1] Speech delivered upon receiving the Tolerance Award at the Tutzing Evangelical Academy, Germany (20 May 2006). It can be accessed at https://www.akdn.org/speech/his-highness-aga-khan/upon-receiving-tolerance-award-tutzing-evangelical-academy.

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