This ayah mentions two qualities so we will split them out. Amaanaat comes form the root word Aman, the same root as the word Iman as well. Aman means safety or security and the derived word amaanah means to place a trust with someone for safekeeping.
Ibn Kathir (rh) mentions this is broader than material trusts left with you by other people. Rather, it includes the rights of Allah(SWT). The hadith states a’dhamun naasi khiyaanatan man lam yutimma salaatauhu – the most severe in violating trust is that one doesn’t complete his prayers properly. Ibn Mas’ood (RA) said Awwala maa tafqidhoona min deenikum al amaanah and aakhiru maa tafqidhoona as-salaah the first thing to be lost from your deen is trustworthiness and the very last is the very basic performance of the prayer.
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Among the signs of a hypocrite are three, even if he fasts and prays and claims to be a Muslim: when he speaks he lies, when he gives a promise he breaks it, and when he is trusted he betrays.” [Bukhārī 33, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 59]
Amanah is a very broad term in Islam – everything that we have accepted to do is an amanah. Similarly, everything that has been placed in our care as a trust i.e. our own bodies, children, spouses, wealth. So taking care of them, nurturing them and keeping them in control is key. There are trusts related to the rights of Allah(SWT) and trusts for individuals and is defined in 3 parts:
- Fulfilling the trust in worshipping Allah(SWT) – obeying his commandments to the best of our ability.
- Fulfilling the trust with ones self – whatever blessing you have been given e.g. tongue used for remembrance, communicating well, safeguarding it from lying, ridicule etc. eyes looking at what is permissible.
- Fulfilling the trust with others – social interactions built on trust, working for others, taking care of our families
The mention of amaanah in ahadith shows us some of these rights:
- The one who gives advice to his brother in any matter despite knowing that rightness lies in some other thing, he has committed treachery against him [i.e. against his brother]. (Abu Dawood, 3657)
- The one amongst you whom we make ‘Aamil [in charge] of something and then he hides a needle or more than it from us, then it is also treachery and he will bring it [i.e. needle] on the Day of Judgement. (Sahih Muslim, 4743)
- Majalis [meetings] are Amanat [trust] except for three: (1) The Majlis in which plan has been prepared to murder someone unrightfully. (2) [The Majlis in which] plan for fornication has been prepared. (3) [The Majlis in which] plan has been prepared to take wealth unrightfully. (Abu Dawood, 4869)
- On the Day of Judgement, the biggest treachery in the sight of Allah (SWT) is that a man goes to his wife, wife comes to him and then he reveals his wife’s secret. (Sahih Muslim, 3543)
Narrated Hudhaifa (RA): Allah’s Messenger (SAW) related to us, two prophetic narrations one of which I have seen fulfilled and I am waiting for the fulfillment of the other. The Prophet (SAW) told us that the virtue of amaanah descended in the roots of men’s hearts (from Allah) and then they learned it from the Qur’an and then they learned it from the Sunna (the Prophet’s traditions). The Prophet (SAW) further told us how that honesty will be taken away: He said: “Man will go to sleep during which amaanah will be taken away from his heart and only its trace will remain in his heart like the trace of a dark spot; then man will go to sleep, during which honesty will decrease further still, so that its trace will resemble the trace of blister as when an ember is dropped on one’s foot which would make it swell, and one would see it swollen but there would be nothing inside. People would be carrying out their trade but hardly will there be a trustworthy person. It will be said, ‘in such-and-such tribe there is a trustworthy man,’ and later it will be said about some man, ‘What a wise, polite and strong man he is!’ Though he will not have faith equal even to a mustard seed in his heart.” No doubt, there came upon me a time when I did not mind dealing (bargaining) with anyone of you, for if he was a Muslim his Islam would compel him to pay me what is due to me, and if he was a Christian, the Muslim official would compel him to pay me what is due to me, but today I do not deal except with such-and-such person.
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The Muslim is the one from whose tongue and hand people are safe, and the believer is the one people trust with their lives and wealth.” ( Sunan al-Nasā’ī 4995)
Anas ibn Malik(rh) said the Prophet(SAW) did not publicly address the people except that he said : Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “There is no faith for one who cannot be trusted. There is no religion for one who cannot keep a promise.”(Musnad Aḥmad 11975).
In a beautiful summary of the qualities and distinguishing characteristics of the elite Sahaba the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said,
“The most merciful of my nation is Abu Bakr.
The strongest of them in the affair of Allah is Umar.
The most sincere of them in modesty is Uthman.
The best reciter of the Book of Allah among them is Ubay ibn Ka’b.
The best of them in the rules of inheritance is Zayd ibn Thabit.
The most knowledgeable of them in lawful and unlawful is Mu’adh ibn Jabal.
No doubt, every nation has a trustee and the trustee of this nation is Abu ‘Ubayda ibn al-Jarrah.”
In another narration, the Prophet said, “The best of them in judgment is Ali ibn Abi Talib.”
[Sunan al-Tirmidhī 3791]
So who was Abu ‘Ubayda(RA) that he was specifically distinguished by his trustworthiness? He had accepted Islam at the hands of Abu Bakr (ra) at the dawn of Islam, before the Prophet (pbuh) had entered Dar Al-Arqam. He was among the ten blessed companions who were given the glad tidings of Paradise. He participated in the battles of Badr, Uhud and the other great battles.
In Badr, he was faced with the serious task of facing his own father in the battlefield and despite trying to avoid him, his father was adamant he would take his life for leaving their faith. Both father and son exchanged blows. Abu ‘Ubaidah (RA) had no choice but to defend his faith and life. So, he killed his father. He was distraught after this, thinking he had committed a major sin, but Allah(SWT) revealed:
You will never find a people who ˹truly˺ believe in Allah and the Last Day loyal to those who defy Allah and His Messenger, even if they were their parents, children, siblings, or extended family. For those ˹believers˺, Allah has instilled faith in their hearts and strengthened them with a spirit from Him.1 He will admit them into Gardens under which rivers flow, to stay there forever. Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him. They are the party of Allah. Indeed, Allah’s party is bound to succeed. [Surah al Mujadila 58:22]
When the Prophet(SAW) was injured in Uhud, it was Abu Ubaidah who hastened to the aid of the Prophet (pbuh) and took out the pieces from his face very carefully with his teeth. In the process he lost two of his teeth.
When the Christians of Najran from Yemen had accepted Islam, they requested a man be sent to them who would teach them the Quran. The Prophet (pbuh) asked them to come at the time of afternoon prayer and he would give them the most trustworthy man of his nation. Having heard this, Umar (ra) narrates he got very excited about it and like all the sahabis he too wanted to be this man, whom the Prophet (pbuh) declared to be the most trustworthy man of this nation. Umar (ra) thus narrates, I have never craved command in my life except on that day, in hope that I would be the man whom the Prophet (pbuh) held in such a high esteem. Therefore, I went in intense heat to perform my Dhuhr prayer. When the Prophet (pbuh) finished leading the prayer, he looked to his right, then to his left. I stood on my toes to draw his attention to me, yet he kept on looking round until he saw Abu Ubaidah ibn Al-Jarrah and ordered him, ”Go with them and judge in truth between them in the matters in which they dispute.”
During the time of Umar’s caliphate, he was assigned as the commander-in-chief in Syria. His army was the mightiest and the best equipped among the Muslim armies. One day, Umar (ra) visited Syria and asked those who received him, ”Where is my brother?” They asked, ”Who do you mean?” He answered, ”Abu Ubaidah Ibn Al-Jarrah.” Soon the latter arrived and hugged him and then took him to his house. Umar (ra) was surprised at the bare minimum Abu Ubaidah’s house boasted of. It had no furniture at all, just a sword, a shield and a saddle bag. Umar asked him, smiling, ”Why don’t you furnish your house as people do?” Abu Ubaidah readily answered, ”O Commander of the Faithful, as you see, I have a room to sleep in and that is enough for me.” Umar(RA) asked him not to be so hard on himself. When he asked for some food, Abu ‘Ubaidah brought him a ba sket of some dry and rough bread. ‘Umar’s tears roll down on his cheeks. He addressed Abu ‘Ubaidah (RA) saying: “We all have changed, except you.”
As Abu ‘Ubaidah and his soldiers were marching through Syria and surrounding lands, they were inflicted with plague. ‘Umar bin Al- Khattab felt sad for Abu ‘Ubaidah (RA) and requested him to come back to Al Madinah immediately. However, Abu ‘Ubaidah refused to return to Al-Madinah and told the messenger that he would never escape from the act of Allah. He wrote a letter to ‘Umar saying: “O Commander of the believers, I know that you need me. However, I am with some Muslim soldiers whom I do not like to leave alone. So, I would like to ask you to leave me with my soldiers.” Abu ‘Ubaidah became very sick and bedridden. He said to those around him: “Pass my greetings to the Commander of the believers and tell him that I have fulfilled all my obligations.” He(RA) passed away in Jordan.
Ibn al-Mubarak reported: Umar ibn al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “Do not let yourselves be impressed by the roar of a man. Rather, if he fulfills the trust and restrains himself from harming the honor of people, he will truly be a man.” [al-Zuhd wal-Raqā’iq 681]