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In the Qur’an, God says:
We offered the trust (amānah) to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, but they feared it and refused it. But mankind took it; he was unjust, foolish. So Allah will punish the hypocrites, male and female, as well as the men and women who associate partners with Allah. And Allah will turn towards the male and female believers. And Allah has always been forgiving, merciful. (33:72-73)
The basic meaning of a trust is something which is entrusted to someone with the intent that he should be faithful to it and then return it to the original owner.
In order to find the meaning of the trust mentioned in verse 33:72, we need to carefully examine the following verse (33:73). The verse shows that the said trust is related to hypocrisy, polytheism and faith and those who are entrusted with it are divided into three groups:
It is also important to note that verse 33:72 has used the following metaphors (or figures of speech) in a beautiful way:
Question: Why did the heavens, the earth and the mountains reject the trust?
Reply: Because when they weighed the offer, they feared and despite their expansiveness, they lacked the inherent capability to bear it.
From the above we can deduce that man accepted the trust because he has the capability to bear it and as a result, he is held liable and face the consequences of not being faithful to it.
Question: Why would man have the capability to bear the trust if he is described as unjust and ignorant in verse 33:72?
Reply: Being unjust and ignorant are generally considered to be negative traits but as a matter of fact they are what allows man to bear the trust.
Exegetes have offered varying explanations to the question, “what is the trust?”
Allamah Tabataba’i defines the trust in verse 33:72 as follows:
The trust is something relating to true beliefs, righteous acts, and treading the path of perfection by ascending from the depths of materiality to the pinnacle of sincerity of faith in God alone.– Allamah Tabataba’i (English vol. 32)
This definition actually explains why the negative traits of ignorance and injustice mentioned in the verse is the very reason man is in a position to bear the trust.
Allamah further adds:
To put it more succinctly, it is because the human being is innately void of justice and knowledge but capable of accepting something that will develop these traits in himself that he can ascend from the depths of injustice and ignorance to the heights of justice and knowledge. This only possible through the divine wilayah. Therefore, the trust is the divine wilayah.– Allamah Tabataba’i (English vol. 32)
This shows that unfaithfulness or ungratefulness to the divine wilayah leads human beings to become hypocrites or polytheists and being faithful to it leads them to become true believers!