There is a tradition which says that once a man came to the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and asked him to teach him something from what Allah had taught him. The Holy Prophet sent him to one of his followers to teach him the Qur’an. He taught the man Surah Zilzal to the end. Then, the man was ready to leave saying that that was sufficient for him.
Another narration has cited that the Holy Prophet said:
“He returned as a scholar.”
Tafsir Ruh ul Bayan Vol 1., p. 495, Tafsir Nur uth Thaqalayn Vol 5, p. 650
The last two ayahs of this surah are known to be the most expressive ayahs and in this article, we intend to delve into the meaning of these ayahs.
فَمَنْ يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ خَيْرًا يَرَهُ ، وَمَنْ يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ شَرًّا يَرَهُ
So whosoever does good equal to the weight of an atom (or a small ant), shall see it. And whosoever does evil equal to the weight of an atom (or a small ant), shall see it.
Thus the question is, what are these verses telling us? These verses are asking us humans to be responsible for each and everything we do because, as they say, we are our actions. There are multiple reasons one can give to why we commit sins. One can say we are not God conscious or that we tend to fall for our desires etc., but you see, all such answers are actually revolving around one fact that is the root cause of such excuses: we are not being responsible. It may be because of this reason that the person who returned after learning these verses ‘returned as a scholar’.
A person who assumes responsibility will be able to hold himself accountable, and the one who holds himself accountable will make spiritual progress constantly. Our complete life is a responsibility of how we live it.
What happens when we become irresponsible? The Quran says:
وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ لَا تُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ قَالُوا إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ مُصْلِحُونَ ، أَلَا إِنَّهُمْ هُمُ الْمُفْسِدُونَ وَلَٰكِنْ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ
And when it is said to them: “Make not mischief on the earth,” they say: “We are only peacemakers.” Verily! They are the ones who make mischief, but they perceive not.
Sura Al-Baqarah, Ayah 11 – 12
The Holy Book also says:
صُمٌّ بُكْمٌ عُمْيٌ فَهُمْ لَا يَرْجِعُونَ
They are deaf, dumb, and blind, so they return not (to the Right Path).
Sura Al-Baqarah, Ayah 18
These verses might be addressing the fact that we are not conscious of making mischief because we are not ready to take responsibility. The end result of this is that we become deaf, dumb and blind despite having ears, mouth, and eyes. There’s a reason why the Quran keeps reminding the reader every now and then that God is All Seeing, All Knowing, All Hearing and All Aware. When a person commits a sin and then realizes that he made a mistake and takes the blame or responsibility for what he did and becomes guilty, God forgives him because he has held himself responsible.
It is about time we start taking responsibility for our actions. We should realize that the worldly pleasures are nothing but distractions to keep us away from being responsible. We need to sincerely ask ourselves why we run away from responsibility, and we also need to realize at all stages in our life, we have a responsibility, be it at the level of being a human being or at a social level, political level, spiritual level, at the level of being a believer and at all the levels of our relationships etc. Now read the last two ayahs of Surah Zilzal again and ask yourself, are you ready for such a level of accountability?
by Syed Mustafa Hussain