The concept of responsibility in Islam covers all the aspects of human beings and considers different situations one may encounter in his/her life. Islam is not only a religion but also a life plan; a divine plan that addresses all the humans throughout the history of humankind. Since religion, as a plan deals with the daily life of humans, it has illustrated the tasks and responsibilities in Islam of humans.
These duties can be summarized in four items:
The rights that God has over humans;
The rights that one has over himself;
The responsibilities towards other humans;
And, the responsibilities towards other creatures in this world.
These four categories will be discussed under separate topics each considering one responsibility in Islam. Here the focus is on the humans’ responsibility in Islam towards God.
According to Imam Sajjad (AS), the rights that God has over human beings, which are the most important rights over everybody, are to know that we are His servants, to pray Him and not ascribe any partners to Him . This means that we have two main responsibilities in Islam towards God: first, to recognize and believe in God then, practically demonstrate it.
The first thing is to accept the existence of the one true God and to recognize all his divine attributes such as very powerful (Qadir), the provider (Razzaq), generous (Karim), etc.
By knowing these attributes and then believing that they are unique to God, one will be more successful in his duties responsibilities in Islam towards God [i]. For example, knowing that God is the only provider (Razzaq) in the universe, a true Muslim does not worry about livelihood, nor he\she will be greedy for more wealth. He\she knows that if he\she works adequately according to his\her capacities, he\she will be provided with the sustenance that God has reserved for him\her.
Imam Ali (AS) has advised his son Imam Hassan (AS) to recognize God since it is a duty over every human being: “He is One Allah whom we should all recognize and worship” .
Then, Imam (AS) enumerates some of the attributes of God that a Muslim should believe in :
“Nobody is a partner to Him in His Domain”;
“He is Eternal, has always been and shall always be”;
“He existed even before the Universe came into being, but there is no beginning to His Existence”;
“He shall remain when every other thing shall vanish, and there shall be no end to His Existence”;
“His Glory and His Existence is so supreme, pre-eminent, transcendent, incomparable and excellent that it is beyond the grasp of intellects”;
“No one can understand or visualize Him.“ .
To recognize God and to believe in Him deeply in the heart are not enough; one should also say that he\she believes in God; otherwise, no one will be aware of his\her belief if it is not declared. That is why one should pronounce two testimonies (Shahadatain) to become Muslim.
In Surah Fatir, it is said that “To Him ascends good speech” (35:10), which means that the verbal admission to God is appreciated and is surely beneficial. But, it should be accompanied with good deeds and obedience to God to be more valuable: “and righteous work raises it.” (35:10).
Indeed, demonstrating the belief in God in practice is as important as believing in Him. If a child loves his\her parents but ignores their expectations and advice, he\she, in fact, does not respect them and the parents will not believe the his\her claim of having affection for them.
The same happens between a Muslim and God. A Muslim who ignores God’s commands, which are beneficial to him\her, does not truly believe in Him. Otherwise, he\she knew that everything that God has ordered to is to help him\her to live a better life, to improve and to reach the perfection that he\she merits.
According to Imam Ali (AS) , after accepting the facts mentioned above about God, a Muslim’s behavior should be like that of a person who realizes God’s superior status and power. He\she should try to gain His blessing through prayers and obedience, fear His wrath as well as His Punishments and feel him\herself absolutely in need of His help and protection .
In the Quran, it is stated that humans are created to worship God (51:56). Prayer and worship of God are duties over every Muslim as they remind him\her of the his\her creator and the fact that there is a reason to be in this world.
Another practical duty is to obey God’s commands that are mentioned in the Quran or explained in the narrations from prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and Imams (AS). Simply said: to do what is obligatory (Wajib) or advised to (talk pleasantly to others (2:83); to do good to others (16:90); to fast (2:183) and pray (4:103); etc.) and to leave what is Forbidden (Haram) (talking behind back of others (49:12); wasting water and nutrition (7:31))2.
Briefly, there are three main duties over every Muslim about God: to recognize Him, to declare the admission to Him, and to obey and worship Him. Duties of a Muslim towards him\herself and his responsibility in Islam, other people, and other creatures will be discussed in the next parts of the article.
[i] Recognition and belief are two different concepts. The recognition of God means to accept His existence and all His divine attributes, while the belief in God means to have faith in Him.
[ii] The two other categories of acts according to Islamic jurisprudence are: Recommended (Mustahab) acts and Detestable or abominable (Makruh) acts. Recommended (Mustahab) acts are those practices which are not compulsory in Islam, but a believer prefers to do it for God’s satisfaction. Detestable or abominable (Makruh) actions are not subject to punishment, but a believer abstains from them for God’s satisfaction.
- Imam Sajjad (AS), Treatise On Rights (Risalat al-Huquq).
- Nahj al balagha, Letter 31.
The month of Ramadan is one of the essential occasions in the Islamic calendar. It’s the month in which the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), it’s the month in which the most important nights of the Islamic year, the Qadr nights, or the nights of ordainment, are. It’s the month in which Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) used to pray a lot. It’s the month in which practicing Muslims fast, keeping themselves from sins, evil acts, and their worldly desires. But why this month has a significant role in the Islamic calendar, and how does it play a role in the life of Muslims? Here, we are going to discuss this matter.
Fasting is not a thing just belonging to Islam. It’s been in the former religions, and it’s been referred to in other holy books. The Quran refers to the time when Allah ordered Mary not to speak to anyone, as a form of fast:
Eat, drink, and be comforted. Then if you see any human, say, ‘‘Indeed I have vowed a fast to the All-beneficent, so I will not speak to any human today. (19:26)
“Muslims are asked to be fasting in the month of Ramadan: O you who have faith! Prescribed for you is fasting as it was prescribed for those who were before you, so that you may be God-wary.” (2:183)
Also, Allah promises a great reward for both men and women who fast:
“Indeed, the Muslim men and the Muslim women, the faithful men and the faithful women… the men who fast and the women who fast, the men who guard their private parts and the women who guard, the men who remember Allah greatly and the women who remember [Allah greatly]—Allah holds in store for them forgiveness and a great reward.”(33:35)
As a result, the month of Ramadan is when Muslims begin to have a close relation with Allah and practice preserving themselves from evil acts, temptations, human passions, etc. In response, Allah promises to reward those who do so, with the best rewards.
As Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) said, “The Month of Ramadan starts with mercy, goes on with forgiveness and ends with redemption.”  Therefore, this month is a chance for Muslims to ponder on their deeds, find where they have gone wrong, and ask Allah’s help and forgiveness to fix those mistakes and become a better version of themselves. Allah’s mercy includes everyone, at any time and anywhere. Yet, the month of Ramadan is when He pours down His blessings upon His creatures more than ever and is an excellent opportunity for the ones who are willing to benefit from it.
Qadr Night or the Night of Ordainment is highly sacred in Islam. On 19th, 21st, 23rd or 27th of Ramadan, Allah inspired the holy Quran to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), and it refers to this fact:
Indeed We sent it down on the Night of Ordainment. And what will show you what is the Night of Ordainment? The Night of Ordainment is better than a thousand months. In it, the angels and the Spirit descend, by the leave of their Lord, with every command. It is peaceful until the rising of the dawn. (97:1-5)
So, one of the significances of this night is the inspiration of the Holy Quran to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP).
The other significance of this night, according to the Imams (AS), is being known as the night of destiny. Imam Sadiq (AS) calls it the heart of Ramadan . He also says that in the night of ordainment, everything, from death to life, is predestined. So Muslims usually stay awake during that night, praying to Allah to excuse their sins, and they pray for their earthly and unearthly wishes. That is the night in which Allah has said He does listen to the prayers of His servants. That is the night when one can change his/her fate for better, praying and asking Allah to do so.
The month of Ramadan is a chance for anyone who wants to be closer to Allah, a better person, and a guided human being. There are many divine purposes for this holy month, and especially the ritual of fasting, which will be discussed in another article.
- Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 93, p.342.
- Bihar al Anvaar, vol 58, p 376.
We already wrote an article on the concept of freedom of thought and freedom of expression in Islam. We argued that Islam encourages people to think about their actions and choices. And even when it comes to accepting Islam, Allah wants people to think and choose their path in life with reason and knowledge.
But the question that sounds a little contrary to freedom of thought is that if people are free to think, and then make their choices based on their knowledge and understanding, then why if a Muslim chooses to leave Islam, in some specific cases he is sentenced to death? Is it even true that leaving Islam is always followed by execution?
In this article, we will examine possible conflicts between freedom of thought and expression, and apostasy. We will also clarify if everyone who leaves Islam should be afraid of Muslims who want to kill him?!
There are so many verses in the holy Quran that show Allah does not want people to be forced to accept Islam. The most famous verse is when Allah clarifies that “There is no compulsion in religion; truly the right way has become distinct from error” (2:256).
He explains that the truth has been explained by the Lord and whoever is willing can believe, and whoever is not willing is free to disbelieve. Nevertheless, He also mentions the consequences of being a disbeliever in the hereafter (18: 29). He emphasizes that it wasn’t a hard job for Him to make all the creation believe in Him, but He didn’t, and He tells His prophet: “will you then force men till they become believers?” (10: 99), while God has created human with free will and the capability to choose.
Freedom of thought is encouraged in Islam as long as it does not lead people and society toward divorcement. “The objective of speech and expression according to Islam is to build up love, tolerance, social harmony, and understanding among members to ensure a peaceful coexistence.”  Therefore, freedom of thought is permitted in Islam as long as it does not harm the society.
There is a fundamental rule in Islam, to which other rulings must not be contrary. A Muslim should neither be harmed nor should he harm anyone else. When thoughts are harmful to people in the society, Islam limits freedom in expressing the thoughts that may create social disorder, since one point that is important in Islam, is to provide people with efficient rulings and ideologies to prevent them from bewilderment.
If one believes in any other religion or ideology rather than Islam and lives with his belief, no one can force him to convert to Islam. Nor can anyone condemn him for not being a Muslim, because accepting Islam is a personal and rational issue and people cannot be followers of others in this regard.
But if a person who was born a Muslim or was converted to Islam freely and after personal investigations, leaves Islam, he is among apostates in Islam. However, not everyone who leaves Islam is sentenced to execution. An apostate who is sentenced to execution is the one who “renounces a religious or political belief or principle, not a person who is doubtful about principles of religion.” 
There are some main beliefs that denying them will make a person an apostate based on Islamic jurisprudence:
1. Denying God,
2. Denying monotheism,
3. Denying prophet-hood of the prophet,
4. Denying the prophet himself,
5. Denying the necessities of religion after knowing their necessity, such as prayer, fasting, almsgiving, etc.
6. Enmity with or humiliating the religion and its sacred places or books or beliefs.
Allah (SWT) says in the Quran; “He who disbelieves in Allah after his having believed, not he who is compelled while his heart is at rest on account of faith, but he who opens (his) breast to disbelief-- on these is the wrath of Allah, and they shall have a grievous chastisement.” (16: 106)
In the above verse and other verses that talk about apostasy, there is no ruling about an execution sentence for the apostate. But in all the verses Allah warns them of a huge punishment in this world and the hereafter. 
Therefore, according to Most Muslim Jurists, if Muslims leave Islam because of their misconceptions about Islamic principles, they are not to face a death penalty, but even they have to be supported by other Muslims and Muslim scholars to continue their investigations until they find the right path in their life. 
But if an apostate leaves Islam, while he knows that Islam is the real truth, and expresses his ideas against Islam overtly and extensively, in a way that he misguides other people from this faith, then under some conditions he is sentenced to execution.
According to Mutahhari, the death penalty for an apostate is applicable only in the realm of the Islamic government for the interest of the Islamic society. 
Also based on the ruling of Ayatullah Khomeini with regards to Salman Rushdie’s book against Islam and the Prophet of Islam, if someone who lives outside the realm of the Islamic government, commits acts by which he would insult the sacred beliefs of Muslims, or threaten the interests of Islamic government, He is ruled to be sentenced to execution.
As the rulings on the execution sentence for apostates in Islam is based on different aspects that can be realized by the jurists and may vary from time to time, based on the conditions of the time, there is no exact definition for the apostate who is sentenced to death. And if the death penalty applies to an apostate, it will be notified by the Muslim jurists.
- Bhat AM (2014) Freedom Of Expression From Islamic Perspective. Journal of Media and Communication Studies 6: 69-77.
- apostasy in Islam
- the Quran: [2: 217] & [5: 54]
- Hilli, Hassan bin Yusuf, Tahrir Al-Ahkam, vol.2, p. 336
- Makarem Shirazi, N. Maktab e Esalam, year 24, No. 6