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Being Trustworthy

Saying in one hadith, "Anyone who is not trustworthy has no faith," the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) pointed out that one of the most important traits of a believer (or muqmin) is his trustworthiness. Well, what does being trustworthy mean?

In the Quran the term trust is generally used to mean the duty of a servant, divine responsibility and duty stipulated in revelation. "We did indeed offer the Trust to the Heavens and the Earth and the Mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof: but man undertook it; he was indeed unjust and foolish; (with the result that) God has to punish the Hypocrites, men and women, and the Unbelievers, men and women, and God turns in Mercy to the Believers, men and women: for God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (Qur'an, surah al-Ahzab, 33:72)

Although it is possible to think of trust here in the sense of the responsibility offered in revelation, obedience to Allah's command and the quality of vicegerency unique to man, it is obvious that man's divine responsibility of serving only Allah is emphasized. In fact, this divine responsibility, the limits of which are delineated by revelation and which man should conform to, is called "offer" or "being responsible for the offer" in Islamic Jurisprudence. In some other verses of the Qur'an the term trust is also used in the same way for the responsibility of servanthood.

For example, the concept of trust in the expressions, "Those who faithfully observe their trusts and their covenants" (23:8) and "Those who respect their trusts and covenants; and those who stand firm in their testimonies; and those who guard (the sacredness) of their worship; such will be the honored ones in the Gardens (of Bliss)" (70:32-34), point to the divine responsibility bestowed upon man and the duty of serving only Allah.

Together with the term trust having the general meaning in the Qur'an of servanthood duty and divine responsibility, it is sometimes used in the special sense of some goods left in trust to someone else or a duty or position people take upon themselves.

Reliability, trustworthiness or trust is a characteristic of the believer. As is known, one of Prophet Muhammad's nicknames was al-amin. Even before he began his apostleship, he had become famous for his trustworthiness, his adherence to the truth, his justice and equity. The Meccans had called him "Muhammadu'l Amin". When it is taken into consideration that during the Meccan period of his prophecy, although they were opposed to him in respect to ideas and belief, many idolaters entrusted him with various goods due to their trust in him, it is easier to understand the degree of trust and confidence people felt towards him. However, a believer's being trustworthy is not limited to being reliable to other human beings. This quality expresses obedience to an order that includes being trustworthy to other humans and being a part of that order. A Muslim's trustworthiness dominates every aspect of his life and is apparent in every action. As much as his relations with other people, this attribute disciplines his relationship with himself, his environment and, most importantly, with his Lord and God, the creator of the whole world including himself.

The attribute of trustworthiness is manifested in every aspect of a believer's life. With this trait, a Muslim puts everything in order in his life and looks at the whole of life from the perspective of Allah's sunnah (pattern). Sunnatullah is the name given to the divine law or order that Allah put in the universe including man. Except for man, all creatures are completely in harmony with this order. They continue their existence in full obedience to Allah, who put this order in place. However, man, who carries divine responsibility and who exists within a system of punishment and reward, is characterized by individual will rather than unconditional, absolute will. In this respect, man was taught what is good and evil, right and wrong, and what should and should not be done. He was reminded of them again and again and informed that he is responsible for every action he takes. As a characteristic that separates a believing person who has submitted his will and an unbelieving, rebellious person, the trait of trustworthiness shows that man is living his life in accordance with divine will.

The trait of trustworthiness manifests in a believer's life, first of all, by his awareness of Hududullah (Allah's laws). This means observing the limits Allah laid down and continuing his life within these limits. These limits first of all give order to a person's relationship with himself. This enables a person to shape his feelings and thoughts and every kind of desire in accordance with divine will. By this means, a believer chooses surrender to Allah instead of idleness, helping others and generosity instead of egoism and self-interest, thankfulness and gratitude instead of avarice and greed, patience and perseverance instead of maintaining the status quo and self-seeking, chastity instead of prostitution, and piety and humility instead of pride and hypocrisy. Hududullah also give order to our relations with others, by instilling the principles of justice, truthfulness, honesty, and mutual trust and loyalty to relationships among people.

The principle of loving for Allah's sake and disliking for Allah's sake is given precedence. Thus, when approaching others, the believer's criterion is the principle of "commanding good and forbidding evil." Finally, the limits Allah put also give order and discipline to a person's relationship with the environment he lives in. A believer is not one who destroys and spoils his environment. He has to be one who rehabilitates, lives in harmony with and protects the environment. Contrary to non-believers who can harm, damage, and destroy the environment for the sake of passing interests, profits, and desires, a believer protects nature which is, like himself, a part of the universe that is the work of Allah's power and will. He continues his existence in unison with his environment like a cog in harmony with a clock.

Thus, a believer perceives life in the form of divine will, faith and surrender. Faith is a person's acknowledgment of the divine responsibility and trust that Allah bestowed upon him, that is, that he agrees to avoid every kind of idolatry and denial and that he accepts the duty of serving only Allah. Surrender is practicing what serving only Allah requires. 

 

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Şinasi Gündüz

Professor Şinasi Gündüz, the head of the Religious History department at the Faculty of Theology, Istanbul University, graduated from the Faculty of Theology, Ankara University in 1984. In 1991 he completed his doctorate at the Middle East Research Department, Manchester University. In 1995 he received his associate professorship from Ondokuz Mayıs University, Faculty of Theology, and he became a professor in 2003 at Istanbul University, Faculty of Theology. Still head of the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department at Istanbul University, Faculty of Theology, Şinasi Gündüz is a member of the Executive Board of the Faculty of Theology, Istanbul University and is a member of the Senate of Istanbul University; Professor Gündüz has published a large number of international articles. He has written sections for international publications and presented articles in a number of refereed journals and at international academic conferences, making great contributions to the field of religious history. In 2004 Professor Gündüz was seen worthy of the Successful Researcher Award by the Istanbul University Rector's Office and in 2005 by the Istanbul University Academic Research Projects Institute.

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