A Concept Called Accountability
(Bringing Islam to the World One Concept at a Time!
Taking the Qur'an to Every Home and Heart that Needs It --
And which One Does Not?)
Like all or most people in the world, Muslims too dislike being criticized. Maybe more so than many others.
Even though continuing self-evaluation and critical self-examination – Muhaasabah – is an integral part of their faith of Islam: the Deen of Islam.
I don’t know how else to render this most amazing Islamic Concept of Muhaasabah in English other than to call it “Accountability.”
Nor do I know of too many systems of thought, belief and action, including some of the most advanced and sophisticated theories and systems of modern management, that come with such strong original components of ongoing self-evaluation, accountability and course correction built into them as does Islam.
Recognizing and acknowledging errors, and consciously and deliberately turning away from them, and doing so in both private and public, is what sets Islam apart from everything else that human beings know or are used to.
It is a clear indication that this system of Islam is not a convenient human concoction but a real and full-fledged Divine System that was sent down by God for human guidance on earth.
As a result, both the Qur’an and the Hadith are clear and emphatic on making Istighfar a part of the daily routine of a Believer’s life.
Even though in English Muslims dull the edge of this ground-breaking concept of ongoing self-evaluation and course correction by theologizing it and calling it “Repentance,” the meaning and implications of the term Istighfar are quite clear in Islam.
And the entire package consists of the following steps:
- Recognizing one’s error or mistake of omission and commission.
- Acknowledging personal responsibility for that error or mistake.
- Having a strong sense of remorse, regret and contrition over it.
- Making a solemn vow in one’s heart and mind never to repeat that mistake again.
- Verbalizing that new commitment to avoid that old error by saying to oneself and to God: Astaghfirullah.
- And repeating that word Astaghfirullah as many times during 24 hours as possible.
- And adding wherever possible the words “Wa A-toobu Ilaih” to “Astaghfirullah.”
- And even going to the extent of making the announcement – to oneself and to others and to God Almighty – a blanket resolve never again to commit an error or mistake or misdeed either willfully or unknowingly by saying:
Astaghfirullaha Rabbee Min Kulli Dhanbin wa Khatee-atin Wa A-toobu Ilaihi.
“I consciously turn away from every wrong or error or violation of God’s Law I have committed knowingly or unknowingly, willfully or otherwise, and I ask God Almighty to forgive me, and I make a solemn resolve never again to repeat any of it in future.”
Just take a minute and ponder these words carefully. Where and when did anyone ever hear them, or anything like them, outside Islam?
Of course, English-speaking Muslims, once again, reduce the divine sheen of these glowing words by throwing in Western Christian-Jewish words like “Sin” into the translation, even though the word Dhanb comes temptingly close to being an equivalent of the English expression “Sin.”
Theologizing things has the diabolical and nefarious effect of taking them out of mainstream circulation of daily living. It then makes them an exclusive domain and a prerogative of the “religious” elements in society such as priests, pundits, Rabbis, “Mowlanas” and Sheikhs.
And it limits their applicability and use to the narrow confines of the so-called “theological” aspects of life, and that too almost exclusively to individual life – life at the most Micro Levels.
That means it gives a pass to all aspects of a people’s social and collective life – the Macro Dimension of human life as it were.
Thus, no corporations or governments or societies are ever thought to fall under the rubric of the sweeping range of human follies that are covered by the two expressions in Hadith: Dhanb and Khatee-ah.
As a result, no one ever thinks of holding corporations or governments or societies in the so-called Muslim World accountable for their misdeeds.
Or outside Muslim World for that matter, even though thoughtless and directionless fulminations and rants concerning all sorts of non-Muslim Macro actors abound.
As for those expressions in the Hadith, Dhanb refers to a specific violation of God’s Law.
And Khatee-ah stands more broadly for the entire error factor in human life.