وَقِفُوهُمْ ۖ إِنَّهُمْ مَسْئُولُونَ
Waqifūhum innahum mas’ūlūn
[But first] stop them! For they must be questioned.
(Sūrat al-Saffāt, No.37, Āyat 24)
Accountability is an important part of the life of a believer. All of us are responsible to Allah ‘azza wa-jall and will be questioned on the Day of Judgement. To remember that fact alone is enough to keep us focused and help us refrain from distractions. A sense of accountability increases productivity in life and gives meaning to the struggles of life.
The verse above talks about how those who rejected God will be taken towards Hell on the Day of Judgment. At that time a voice will call out and they will be stopped. They need to answer some questions. The translator, Ali Quli Qarai, above has appropriately added ‘but first’ in parentheses before the actual translation of the verse. There are different things they will be asked about: their lives and how they spent it, their beliefs, their obligations, their wealth and property and host of other question. They deserve punishment based on the wrongdoing which will manifest in the answers to the questions.
Many Hadith talk about how questioning on that Day will also include the question of Wilāyah of Amīrul Mu’minīn Imam Ali (a). Tafsīr Nūr al-Thaqalayn quotes from al-Āmālī of Tūsī that the Holy Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi said: On the Day of Judgment when the bridge (sirāt) is placed on Hell, no-one will be able to pass it except the one who has the pass which includes Wilayah of Ali bin Abi Talib (a), and that is referred to in the verse, ‘stop them, for they must be questioned’.
Wilayah of Imam Ali ‘alayhis salām is a continuation of guidance for humanity after the death of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s) and is one of the biggest blessings for a believer. To appreciate that blessing and use it responsibly will be taken into account, and will be part of the questioning on the Day of Judgment. Shayk al-Tūsī quotes in Tahdhīb al-Ahkām a Du‘ā recited by Imam al-Sādiq (a) after the salāt of the Day of Ghadīr: O Allah, it is worthy of You, O He Who keeps His word, O He Who does not break promises, Who is in new splendor every day, that You favor us with the Wilayah of Your loved ones about which Your servants will be questioned. For you have said, and Your word is the Truth, ‘then, on that day, you will surely be questioned concerning the Blessing’ (Q 102:8) and You have said; ‘stop them, for they must be questioned’ (Q 37:24). (Tafsir Nur al-Tahaqalayn)
Questioning will be for everyone on that day. All will have to cross the Bridge over Hell and be questioned at each station. The Holy Prophet (s) has said in tafsīr of the above verse: No foot of a servant (of Allah) will move on the Resurrection Day before being asked about four things: his years and how he spent them, his body and how he used it, his wealth and how he earned and spent it, and about his love towards us, the Ahlul Bayt (a) (Nūr al-Thaqalany from ‘Ilal al-Sharā‘i)
This verse is a powerful reminder of the need to be responsible and prepare for the Day of Judgment. Imagine the voice calling out, hear it with the ears of your heart. That is the true meaning of conviction. It will create an urgency to work hard and be ready with answers for that day.
Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; ‘Abd Ali b. Jumu’a al-‘Arusī al-Huwayzī, Tafsīr Nūr al-Thaqalayn.