Question to Shaikh Ṣāliḥ Al-Fawzān, May Allāh Protect Him
What is the meaning of the verse:
إِنَّا عَرَضْنَا الْأَمَانَةَ عَلَى السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَالْجِبَالِ فَأَبَيْنَ أَنْ يَحْمِلْنَهَا وَأَشْفَقْنَ مِنْهَا وَحَمَلَهَا الْإِنْسَانُ ۖ إِنَّهُ كَانَ ظَلُومًا جَهُولًا
We did indeed present the Trust to the Heavens, the Earth, and the Mountains, and they declined to take it upon themselves and were afraid they would be unable to fulfill it, [but] Man took it upon himself; indeed, he was great in wrongdoing against himself, terrible in ignorance. (Al-Aḥzāb, 72)
Its meaning is that Allāh, be He glorified in His perfection, presented the Trust, which is all Sharīʿah obligations—the commands, prohibitions, acts of obedience—to the Heavens and the Earth, presenting [it] as an option, not presenting [it] as something binding [without option]. He gave them a choice to take it upon themselves and be rewarded, or to not take it upon themselves and be safe from bearing responsibility for it. So they preferred to stay safe [from any chance of punishment].
And Man took it upon himself. The whole race of Man—Ādam and his offspring—the whole race of Man took it upon himself; he took this Trust upon himself; he chose the prize, the payment, the reward, so he took it upon himself.
From [mankind] are those who took [the Trust] upon themselves outwardly and inwardly, and they’re the believers. And from them are those that refused to take it upon themselves outwardly and inwardly, and they are the disbelievers. And from them are those who took it upon themselves outwardly while squandering it inwardly, and they’re the hypocrites. And for this reason, [Allāh] says after [this verse]:
لِيُعَذِّبَ اللّهُ الْمُنَافِقِينَ وَالْمُنَافِقَاتِ وَالْمُشْرِكِينَ وَالْمُشْرِكَاتِ وَيَتُوبَ اللّهُ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ ۗ وَكَانَ اللّهُ غَفُورًا رَحِيمًا
For it to end with Allāh’s punishing the men and women [among] the hypocrites and the men and women [among] those who worship others besides Allāh, and for Allāh to guide the men and women [among] the believers to repentance and accept that from them; Allāh is Ever-Forgiving, Ever-Caring and Merciful. (Al-Aḥzāb, 72)