يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا عَلَيْكُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ
Yā ayyuhal-ladhīna āmanū ‘alaykum anfusakum
O you who believe, take care of your ownselves (Sūratul Mā’idah, No. 5, āyat 105)
This verse tells believers not to worry about others, but be concerned about their own selves, and their guidance and progress in the way of Allah. Human beings often are occupied with thoughts about others. How wrong people are; how unreasonable, thoughtless, misguided they are, etc. Sometimes it may be positive; how fortunate people are, how successful, how generous they are, etc. Positive or negative, thoughts and opinions about others use up much energy and time, precious commodities which can instead be used for self-analysis and improvement.
This verse does not mean that believers do not care for others, and are not ready to encourage good and discourage evil, two vital principles of the Islamic faith. Society cannot advance without them. Rather it means that everyone is answerable for himself or herself, and positive or negative qualities of others will not affect your own personal rank with God. It is also a reassurance that if efforts to enjoin good and forbid evil fail, especially to relatives and friends, you need not despair. Ultimately you are only answerable for yourself.
Tafsīr-e Nūr gives the following understandings of this verse:
– don’t worry if others are not with you on the right path.
– on the Day of Judgment you will give an account only of yourself.
– don’t search for the faults of others; look only for your own.
– first reform yourselves, then others.
– those who believe will not answer for those who disbelieved and rejected faith.
– don’t lose yourselves in the quest to save others.
– be such that the evil and negativity of those around you do not affect you.
– don’t blame others for your failures, you alone are responsible.
– don’t lose your spirit and enthusiasm due to the actions of others.
Mighty points for a short verse!
In Hadīth al-Qudsī, Allah the Mighty and Sublime says:
I wonder at a person who knows that he will die alone, enter into the grave alone, and will be required to give accounts (in the Hereafter) alone, but is still engrossed with people!
Aytaullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirazī (ed), Tafsīr Namūne;
Aghae Muhsin Qarati, Tafsīr-e Nūr;
S. Hasan al-Shirāzī, Kalimatullāh, (Beirut).