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The Concern for Accountability

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A freed slave of ‘Uthmaan (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) narrates the following:

I was once with ‘Uthmaan (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) in ‘Aaliyah on a hot summer’s day, seeing to some of his affairs, when we caught sight of a man who was herding two young camels before him. The heat on that day was so intense that it seemed to form a thick layer that blanketed the earth. Seeing this man herding the camels in the extreme heat, ‘Uthmaan (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) exclaimed, “Why did he not remain in Madeenah Munawwarah until it became cooler? He could have emerged after the heat subsided!” ‘Uthmaan (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) next instructed me to find out who this man was. When I looked at him, I saw a man whose head was covered with a shawl. Shortly thereafter, the man drew nearer and ‘Uthmaan (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) repeated his instruction. I therefore looked at the man again and informed ‘Uthmaan (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) that it was none other than Ameerul Mu’mineen, ‘Umar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu)! 

On hearing this, ‘Uthmaan (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) was surprised and extended his head from the opening of his tent. As soon as his head emerged into the open, however, it was enveloped by a gust of hot air, causing him to hastily withdraw into the shelter of the tent. When ‘Umar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) finally came in line with ‘Uthmaan (radhiyallahu ‘anhu), he asked ‘Umar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu), “Why have you come out at this hour?” ‘Umar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) replied, “Two young camels from the animals of zakaat lingered behind and got separated from the rest of the herd. I fear that they will be harmed due to which Allah Ta‘ala will question me and hold me responsible. I am therefore trying to get them to the pasture safely.” Hearing this, ‘Uthmaan (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) said, “O Ameerul Mu’mineen! Come and drink some water and rest in the shade. My slave will see to the camels for you!” However, ‘Umar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) refused to accept the offer and replied, “Return to your shade!” When ‘Uthmaan (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) offered for the second time, ‘Umar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) again refused and continued walking on in the heat, herding the camels before him. On that occasion, ‘Uthmaan (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) remarked, “The one who wishes to see a person who is capable (of fulfilling the duty) and completely trustworthy should look no further than ‘Umar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu)!” (making reference to the verse of the Quraan Majeed which explains that the best employee is the one who possesses these two qualities). (Usdul Ghaabah, vol. 3 pg. 337)  

Lessons:

1. It was only the concern of standing before Allah Ta‘ala and being held responsible for the affairs entrusted to him that urged ‘Umar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) to emerge into the intense summer heat of the desert when everyone else was resting in shade. Similarly, we need to cultivate the concept of accountability in our own hearts so that we will be able to ignore the heat of our urging nafs and passions and ensure that we please Allah Ta‘ala.

2. When a person is entrusted with an item and is responsible for its safekeeping then it is he alone who will be held answerable regarding the item. In the same way, it is us alone who will be held answerable regarding the upbringing of our children on the Day of Qiyaamah. We should thus make a concerted effort to play an active role in their upbringing and ensure that we are instilling Islamic values within them by displaying true Islam to them, both in and out of the home. 

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