One of the important teachings of Islam is the concept of accountability. According to the Qur’an, life is a very serious business, for which reason everyone ought to be imbued with a total sense of accountability. In the chapter Al-Isra’ (The Night Journey) of the Qur’an, this concept is gone into in detail: Give full measure, when you measure and weigh with accurate scales. That is fair, and better in the end. Do not follow what you do not know; for the ear and the eye and the heart shall all be called to account. (17:35-36)
Everything we say is inevitably based on information that we gather from outside. Basically, there are three sources: what we hear, what we see, and what we think. These three senses give us what may be called data, but in each case, there is the possibility of misunderstanding or miscalculation, so we have to be very careful to be precise in all of our utterances. The expressions in the above verse concerning weights and measures are used symbolically. Here, measuring or weighing means intellectual measuring or intellectual weighing. We should be very accurate when we speak about anyone or about any issue. Our behavior must be as precise as a scientific scale. Right thinking and precise speaking are moral requirements: neglect of these matters can have very serious consequences.
Since everything is known to God Almighty, everyone will be punished or rewarded according to how he speaks and behaves. This being so, every man or woman must of necessity be very serious. In the firm belief that one day he will be presented before the all-knowing God, everyone must conduct himself with a deep sense of responsibility. Everyone will face an unavoidable judgment issued by God Almighty. This Qur’anic teaching is very important, for it provides a great incentive to the building of a person as a righteous and healthy member of society. Experience shows that sermons alone cannot suffice. No sermon, however powerful, can change people; every good sermon needs one more thing: fear of punishment. It is only fear of punishment that guarantees that people will develop the right kind of character. Right thinking and precise speaking are moral requirements: neglect of these matters can have very serious consequences.
If you deliver sermons, people will find some excuse not to follow their teachings. It is only the fear of punishment that will make the content of those sermons of immediate personal interest. Such fear inculcates the right spirit. Even if you have a good excuse for wrong behavior, don’t use it. Because if you use it, you shall have to pay a heavy price and the law is the law: it brooks no excuses. Living in fear of punishment is not a negative feeling. It is a completely positive feeling. It turns you into a responsible person; it inculcates the spirit of self-discipline. It makes you an honest person, building into your personality welcome predictability. And it saves you from all kinds of deviation. A sense of accountability makes you manage your affairs in the best possible way. It compels you to make the best use of your time, energy, and resources.