Al-Amāna Verse (Arabic: آیة الأمانة) or the Verse of the Trust is the verse 72 of Qur'an 33 (Sura al-Ahzab). It refers to a Trust (al-Amana) which was offered to the sky and the Earth, but they refused to bear it, but the human carried or assumed it. According to Shiite exegeses of the Qur'an, the Trust in this verse is the religion, divine wilaya, and the imamate of Imam 'Ali (a). Most of the exegetes interpret the verse as reproaching those who betray this Trust.
اِنّا عَرَضْنَا الْاَمانَةَ عَلَی السَّموات وَ الْاَرْض وَ الْجِبال فَاَبَین اَن یحْمِلْنَها وَ اَشْفَقْن مِنْها وَ حَمَلَهَا الاِنْسان اِنَّه کان ظَلوماً جَهولاً
We did indeed offer the Trust to the Heavens and the Earth and the Mountains; but they refused to bear it, being afraid thereof, but man undertook it; He was indeed unjust and ignorant
|— Quran 33:72|
What is the Offering?
There are different exegetical views about what is meant by the offering of the Trust to the heavens and the Earth:
- "To offer" is used here in a metaphorical way. Thus, the verse is just an analogical concept and should not be taken literally.
- The "offering" is used here in order to compare the weight of the Trust with that of the heavens and the Earth. The verse implies that the Trust turns out to be heavier than the heavens, the Earth and the mountains, because they cannot bear it.
- The "offering" is used literally. Thus, the Trust has literally been offered to the heavens, the Earth and the mountains, but it was only the human being who undertook it.
Mystical exegetes of the Qur'an believe that the "offering" is used literally in the verse, and since the Qur'an takes all the beings to possess consciousness, it is not improbable for the heavens and Earth to speak in their own language about not being able to bear the Trust. Thus, God's communication with the heavens and the Earth and His offering the Trust to them and their expression of their fear from bearing the Trust is evidence of panpsychism, that is, the view that everything in the world is conscious.
The verse seems to imply that the heavens and the Earth refused to bear the Trust because of their fear. According to some hadiths, when the Trust was offered to them, they told God: "O the Lord! We can bear the Trust if there is no reward or punishment; otherwise we cannot bear it." According to Nahj al-balagha, "they refused to bear the Trust, because they feared its consequences; to their minds occurred something which did not occur to the human mind, which is weaker than theirs, because the human being was unjust and ignorant".
What is the Trust?
Most of the exegetes of the Qur'an agree that the Divine Trust was very precious and valuable, but there are disagreements about its notion and the human position with respect to bearing it.
Some scholars have interpreted the Trust in this verse in historical-mythological terms by reference to the story of Cain and Abel. They believe that when Adam (a) was ordered by God to circumambulate around the Ka'ba, he wanted to leave his family and son (Abel) as a trust to the heavens and the Earth, but they refused to undertake it. Thus, he had to trust Cain. Cain betrayed the Trust by killing Abel, and thus he is called unjust and ignorant.
Interpretation of Sunni Exegetes
Sunni exegetes have interpreted the Trust as referring to the religion, divine rulings, obligations, orders, and prohibitions, because as it is obligatory to return a trust, it is obligatory to comply with divine rulings, and thus, they count as divine trusts. Al-Tabrisi, a Shi'a exegete, has the same view in his Majma' al-bayan. Thus, God offered the religion to the heavens and the Earth, but they could not bear it. God offered them then to the human being. The human asked God about the Trust and its advantages. God replied: "you shall be rewarded for handing it back, and be punished by betraying it". Thus, the human accepted to undertake the Trust. However, he betrayed the Trust and turned out to be unjust and ignorant—unjust to himself and ignorant of divine rulings. Some people have interpreted the Trust as prayer, zakat, fast, and hajj, because it is an obligation to fulfill them and a betrayal to ignore them. Others have taken the Trust to refer to nuances of obeying God and religious rulings, because laypeople are not aware of them. All these interpretations fall under the general interpretation of the Trust in terms of the religious and its rulings.
Shi'a exegetes, theologians, and scholars of hadiths have for long interpreted the Trust in terms of wilaya and imamate and the Islamic caliphate. Thus, they take it to refer to the wilaya of Imam 'Ali (a) as well as the imamate of other Imams. This interpretation appeals to hadiths by the Imams (a) according to which "owners of Trusts" in the verse, ( إِنَّ اللَّـهَ یأْمُرُكُمْ أَن تُؤَدُّوا الْأَمَانَاتِ إِلَیٰ أَهْلِهَا) "Allah commands you to hand back the Trusts to their owners", are the Imams, and the Trust is the imamate, which is handed by each Imam to his subsequent Imam.
In his Tafsir al-mizan, 'Allama Tabataba'i takes the undertaking of the Trust to be the acceptance of the wilaya of God, and takes the Trust to be a perfection which is gained by right beliefs and righteous deeds. God favors the human who undertakes such a Trust for Himself and undertakes his affairs. No beings, not the sky and not the Earth, share such a perfection with human beings. Thus, the verse implies that if you compare the divine wilaya with the condition of the heavens and the Earth, you will see that they cannot bear it; it is only the human being who can undertake it. This means that the human being has the capacity and potentiality to undertake the Trust, but the heavens and the Earth do not. 'Allama Tabataba'i takes the wilaya of Ahl al-Bayt (a), as mentioned in some hadiths, to be an instance of this Divine wilaya.
The Mystical Interpretation
The mystics have interpreted the Trust in terms of the reason, free will, and divine knowledge. Some of them take the Trust to be the "Secret of Monotheism" or "Divine Secrets" or the "Muhammadi Light". These interpretations can be reconciled with non-mystical interpretations as well.
Praise or Reproach?
There is a disagreement as to whether the verse intends to praise the human being for undertaking the Trust or to reproach him for doing so:
- Most of the exegetes believe that the verse intends to praise a group of human beings and reproach another group. A person who undertakes the Trust might be trustworthy or turns out as an unjust, ignorant betrayer. Thus, a human being who undertakes the Divine Trust is praised, except if he is unjust and ignorant. This interpretation is supported by the next verse according to which the Trust is intended to distinguish believers from hypocrites and polytheists.
- According to some exegetes, the verse seeks to praise the human being, his magnificence, and his distinctive characteristics in comparison with other beings. Thus, even the properties of "unjust" and "ignorant" are used in order to praise the human being: the human being is unjust, because he exceeds all the limits, and is "ignorant", because he is negligent of everything except God.
- Some exegetes take the verse to reproach the human being in general, because of his characteristic venture to commit sins (and betray the Trust). They take the assumption of the Trust to amount to betrayal.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from آیه امانت in Farsi Wikishia.