Reflecting upon five of the earliest Muslim converts — Khadīja, the first woman to embrace Islam; Abu Bakr, the first free adult male to convert; ‘Ali ibn Abi Tālib, the first child to embrace the faith; Bilal, the first slave to convert; and al-Arqām Ibn Abi al-Arqām, the eighth person to embrace Islam at the hands of Abu Bakr — two relevant observations are deduced.
Firstly, the common thread between them all was their profound sense of duty.
None of them waited for others to set the standard, rather it was individual responsibility that spurred them to be the trailblazers.
Secondly, they each expressed this sense of duty in their own individual ways.
- Khadīja, as the Prophet’s wife, expressed it by guiding the Prophet ﷺ to her cousin for clarity about his Prophetic experience.
- Abu Bakr’s sense of duty was expressed through his relentless companionship and service to the Prophet ﷺ.
- ‘Ali demonstrated his sense of duty by ensuring the safe return of the Prophet’s trusts during his migration (ﷺ).
- Bilal expressed his duty through his public declaration of faith, even in the face of torture.
- al-Arqām expressed his sense of duty by offering his property free of charge as a safe haven for Muslims to gather privately.
This diversity of roles and expressions of duty illustrates that each individual has a unique part to play in the Ummah.
Duty to Islam is not a one-size-fits-all obligation; it’s a call to action that resonates differently with each person, depending on their circumstances, abilities, and resources.
As Muslims, we may not all be called to do the same thing, but duty compels us to contribute in some way, to do something that aligns with who we are and the context in which we find ourselves.
Responsibility is joy
Life’s heaviest burden is to have nothing to carry.
Just as we recognise how eating is not only necessary but can be a source of immense pleasure, the same holds true for duty and responsibility. Those who find no joy in duty were either raised to be selfish or are simply stuck in a childlike state, as it is children who avoid responsibility.
For this reason, the irresponsible blame everyone else for their shortcomings, because that’s precisely the behaviour of a child: whining and blaming.
Low-level vs. high-level thought
It is low-level thinking to obsess over the question of,
“What are my rights?”
The higher levels are to ask,
“What are my duties? How can I make a positive change to society?”
That is where maturity, joy, and Allah’s reward are found!
Responsibility is freedom
This connection may seem paradoxical at first, but upon closer examination, it becomes clear.
Without responsibility, you are a manipulated and controlled slave, caged by your own urges, reliant upon anti-depressants to navigate your emotions, reliant upon drugs to make an “income”, addicted to the dopamine rush of video games, ensnared in a cycle of pornography, and complying with each and every social trend like a school of fish that swim in the same direction, at the same pace and turn altogether at the exact same time.
In contrast, when you embrace responsibility, you regain control.
You become free from the chains of such humiliating dependencies and compulsions. This is why responsibility is indeed the sister of freedom. They are two sides of the same coin; if you are responsible, you are free.
Abdication of responsibility causes totalitarianism
Hasan le Gai Eaton, in his book King of the Castle, demonstrated how the modern “man” has abdicated responsibility, how the modern “man” wants the state to look after his elderly parents, to teach his children right and wrong, to look after his neighbours.
Eaton, also known as Hassan Abdul Hakeem, explained how the modern “man” wants to be childlike and just play, which effectively empowers the state to dictate terms and rules to the masses, or state control.
In other words, it is the abdication of responsibility that leads to a totalitarian state. Man then complains of the state’s meddling with his freedom yet, as argued by Eaton, when a man accepts injustice unto himself, he is facilitating the tyranny of others, or in other words, the victim creates the bully.
If you are responsible, you are free.
Responsibility is motivation
No-one should outstrip a Muslim in zeal and determination.
In today’s society, the discourse around vision and goal-setting is trendy. Yet, in a world dominated by individualism, these aspirations often stem from a self-centred ethos: self-fulfilment, self-actualisation, self-discovery, self-mastery, etc., starting and ending with the self.
Contrastingly, for a Muslim, he is fuelled by something profoundly more meaningful: a duty bestowed upon him by the Creator of the Heavens and Earth.
Islamic individual responsibility is not self-centred
Certainly, like others, a Muslim is committed to personal growth and success, but these endeavours are neither self-serving nor selfish.
Instead, they revolve around an obligation to Allah, a responsibility that will ultimately be scrutinised before Him. With this conviction and perspective, no human being should eclipse a Muslim in drive and motivation.
The intelligent one realises that there is no escaping responsibility, as the irony of it is that if you don’t take responsibility and actively make responsible decisions, time will pass and decisions will be made for you.
Such an individual also recognises that there are only two circumstances where the weight and reward of responsibility cease: the loss of sanity or the end of life.
Until either of the above events occur, the mantle of duty continues to rest firmly on your shoulders.
- Harness your unique role based on circumstances, resources, and abilities, to provide your very own contribution to the Ummah.
- Move beyond low-level thinking focused on rights; happiness is found in understanding and fulfilling your duties.
- Understand that responsibility is not a burden; it's a source of freedom that gives you control over your life.