Man and duty

Man and duty

Since non-living beings and vegetations are lacking perception and intention, they are not capable of bearing any kind of responsibilities. Animals are also not competent enough to bear duties and responsibilities, because they do not possess intellect, which may enable them to use contemplation and insight before their personal inclinations and to moderate and control their carnal desires.

Angels are also not needful of duties and legislation of commandments and laws, because their existence is superior to matter and materialism, they have no sensuality and anger that they should need to control them. Therefore, disobedience and sins can never be expected from them that they should be needful of commands and prohibitions. Angels, with regard to duties, which are naturally imposed on them, are absolutely submissive to them and do not oppose them in any way.

The Holy Quran says, with regard to angels:

لَّا يَعْصُونَ اللَّهَ مَآ أَمَرَهُمْ وَ يَفْعَلُونَ مَا يُؤْمَرُونَ‏

“…they do not disobey Allah in what He commands them, and do as they are commanded.” (66:6)


It quotes the statement of angels that they say:

وَمَا مِنَّآ إِلَّا لَهُ مَقَامٌ مَّعْلُومٌ * وَإِنَّا لَنَحْنُ الصَّآفُّونَ‏  * وَإِنَّا لَنَحْنُ الْمُسَبِّحُونَ‏

“And there is none of us but has an assigned place, and most surely we are they who draw themselves out in ranks, and we are most surely they who declare the glory (of Allah).” (37:164-166)


But man, as a result of his special creation, has accepted responsibilities and he can be entrusted with responsibilities, because firstly, he is not like the angels; on the contrary, his soul is related to the material body and through this it gains perfection and degradation; and obedience and disobedience can be expected from him.

Secondly: Man is a being that is created as intelligent and free and he is capable of reasoning and contemplation to discriminate what is good for him and what is against his interests. Man, as a result of these two special qualities, can be made duty bound and be subject to commands and prohibitions.

Abdullah bin Sinan says: I asked Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a): Who is superior, angels or human beings? He replied: Amirul Momineen Ali Ibne Abi Talib (a) said in this regard: Allah, the Mighty and Sublime gave intellect to angels without sensuality and gave the animals, sensuality without intellect; but He gave both to human beings. Thus, every person whose intellect dominates his sensuality, is better than angels and one, whose animal desires dominate his intellect, is inferior to the animals.[105]

The Holy Quran says:

إِنَّا عَرَضْنَا الْأَمَانَةَ عَلَى السَّمَوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَالْجِبَالِ فَأَبَيْنَ أَن يَحْمِلْنَهَا وَأَشْفَقْنَ مِنْهَا وَحَمَلَهَا الْإِنسَانُ إِنَّهُ كَانَ ظَلُوماً جَهُولًا

“Surely We offered the trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, but they refused to be unfaithful to it and feared from it, and man has turned unfaithful to it; surely he is unjust, ignorant.” (33:72)


Some commentators have interpreted ‘trust’ to be the responsibility of bearing commands and prohibitions. In justification of this statement, it can be said: Allah, the Mighty and the High presented the duties to the earth and the heavens, but since they were not having the capability to bear them, they expressed helplessness in accepting those responsibilities. Angels of the heavens, also since they are not material and since they do not possess sensuality and anger, they were also not prepared to accept the duties. In between this, man alone was such that he had the capability of accepting the responsibility, since he is in possession of contemplation, discretion and intention, and is able to impose the limitations of divine laws on himself. Since man was unjust and ignorant that is he was prone to injustice and ignorance, he was able to accept the heavy trust of divine responsibilities. Becoming duty bound for man is a value, because as opposed to other created beings, for which the chosen path of perfection is closed, man was having this divine gift and the way of perfection has been prepared for him.

These duties are imposed by the creator of the universe, who due to His creation, is aware of the specialties of the body and soul of man and his well being and disadvantages of the world and the hereafter; so He designed and framed these rules and sent them to human beings through infallible prophets. Since Almighty Allah was aware about factors of felicity and wickedness of man that is why He did not allow man to create this program for himself; He framed and designed the necessary laws and programs Himself and sent them to man through the prophets.

Although divine duties have to some extent, limited the absolute freedom of man, but this limitation is not against the interest of man. On the contrary, they are framed keeping his best interest in mind, because Almighty Allah can never do anything, which is harmful to His servants.

Basically, man cannot live in absolute freedom, since it is not in his real interests. Since man lives in a society and is in need of others, he has to accept social limitations as a result of which the limitations of religious laws also become applicable to him.

Quran says:

كَانَ الْنَّاسُ أُمَّةً وَ حِدَةً فَبَعَثَ اللَّهُ الْنَّبِيِّينَ مُبَشِّرِينَ وَمُنْذِرِينَ وَأَنْزَلَ مَعَهُمُ الْكِتَبَ بِالْحَقِّ لِيَحْكُمَ بَيْنَ الْنَّاسِ فِيمَا اخْتَلَفُوا فِيهِ وَمَا اخْتَلَفَ فِيهِ إِلّا الَّذِينَ أُوتُوهُ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا جَآءَتْهُمُ الْبَيِّنَتُ بَغْياً بَيْنَهُمْ فَهَدَى اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا لِمَا اخْتَلَفُوا فِيهِ مِنَ الْحَقِّ بِإِذْنِهِ وَاللَّهُ يَهْدِى مَنْ يَشَاءُ إِلى‏ صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيمٍ‏

“(All) people are a single nation; so Allah raised prophets as bearers of good news and as warners, and He revealed with them the Book with truth, that it might judge between people in that in which they differed; and none but the very people who were given it differed about it after clear arguments had come to them, revolting among themselves; so Allah has guided by His will those who believe to the truth about which they differed and Allah guides whom He pleases to the right path.” (2:213)


Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a) was asked: Why has the Almighty Allah created man? He replied: Allah, the Mighty and the High, has not created man in vain and for no aim. He has not left them on their own wayward and without any control, on the contrary in order to show His power, He has created them in order to make them liable for duties, so that they may obtain His pleasure through obedience of divine commands. He has not created them to gain some advantage or to remove some harm from Himself, on the contrary, He created them in order to convey benefit to them and to make them inclined to the everlasting bounties of the hereafter.[106]

[105] Biharul Anwar, Vol. 5, Pg. 299
[106] Biharul Anwar, Vol. 5, Pg. 313