Human beings are not like machines controlled by a mechanical system, nor are they like animals governed by their instincts. Human beings enjoy freedom. They make decisions about the actions of their own free will. Now the question arises as to how to keep a man on the right course and make him consistently disciplined in his behaviour. History shows the ineffectiveness of all worldly measures in this connection, whether social pressures, enforcement of the law of the land, or reformers’ appeals.
To attain disciplined behaviour, one needs to be convinced of the existence of power far superior to himself, a Being Who is aware of man’s activities at every moment, who can reward and punish man, and from whom it is impossible to escape.
There can be only one being of this nature: God. Belief in God functions at two levels at the same time. On the one hand, man finds in God a guardian who is aware of all his activities and has unlimited power to chastise him. Man cannot escape God’s chastisement. Belief in God compels man to faithfully adopt a proper attitude in all situations, privately and publicly. Only then can he save himself from the wrath of God.
Accountability comes from the monotheistic concept of God. This belief instils the fact in people's minds that their freedom is not absolute and that God will take account of everyone's words and deeds on the Day of Judgement. God is continuously watching every person. God watches all of us constantly.
It is this understanding that makes a person God-fearing. When an aggregate of such people come together, they form a righteous society. Conversely, a society without accountability to God will fall prey to total anarchy.
Belief in God is necessary for the proper conduct of human life. Man repeatedly falls prey to temptations that cause him to give in to injustice and oppression. Only a living belief in God's omniscience can be a firm check on that tendency. It is only belief in God that can genuinely discipline him.
The necessity of belief in God for an individual and society is definite proof of God's existence. The fact that the proper conduct of human life is impossible without belief in God itself proves that God exists and that each person is accountable to Him.
Belief in God gives man certainty. It disciplines his life. It gives him the confidence and assurance that if he abstains from evil in his daily life and follows the path of virtue, he will simultaneously obtain benefits. First, he will be saved from God's chastisement. Second, he will earn an eternal reward for righteous living in eternal Paradise from God.
The belief in accountability to God is a belief in human progress. It acts as a powerful incentive for the perfection of humanity. This belief puts human life on the path of Truth so that it will never stop until the journey ends.
The formula given in the Quran for social reform and social betterment is simply that everyone is accountable to God. Accountability, indeed, is the bedrock of Islam: it is the ideal solution to the problem of anarchy in society and the misuse of freedom. Freedom has to be accepted as being necessary for development. If there is no freedom, there can be no development. Without freedom, there is no progress. But we cannot afford unlimited freedom.
The formula given in the Quran for social reform and social betterment is simply that everyone is accountable to God.
There is a very interesting story in American history. When America became free, an American citizen ran out into the street and, in jubilation, started swinging his arms as he walked along. Quite by accident, he hit a passer-by on the nose. The man who was hit, an elderly person, asked him why he had hit him. He replied that now he was free to exercise his freedom.’ The elderly person retorted, ‘Your freedom ends where my nose begins!’ The Christian, as well as the Islamic formula, goes thus: We may exercise our freedom, but we are not free to hit other people on the nose.
Source: Spirit of Islam March 2013
We enjoy freedom. We make decisions and take action of our own free will. The question is how to make sure we make the right decisions and take the right action. How can we make ourselves accountable?
History shows the ineffectiveness of all worldly measures in this connection—whether social pressure, law enforcement, or reformation. It is not possible for people on their own to bind themselves to moral values or to adhere to justice. This is possible only when they are convinced that they are under a super-power—a living and powerful God who is perfect, and just.
The concept of a living and powerful God is necessarily accompanied by the concept of accountability. God is just, and everyone will answer to Him for their actions. We will answer to Him for our actions. This guarantees that we think right, and do right. And this gives us the conviction that we will receive God’s eternal reward if we always think right, and do right.
Source: Spirit of Islam January 2013