Who is the Accountable Person in Islam (Mukallaf) who is obligated to embrace Islam and work according to its rules (sharî`ah) ?
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيم
Praise be to God the Creator of the world, the One Who exists without beginning, without end, without location , without a “how” and Who does not depend on time. Nothing resembles Him in anyway and He hears and sees everything without organs. Whatever you imagine, God is different from that. May the elevation in degree and preservation of his community of what he fears for it, be granted to our master Muhammad Al-‘Amin, the Honest One, who called for following Islam, the religion of truth, the religion of all the Prophets: of the First, Adam, to the last Muḥammad
In Islam, the accountable person (mukallaf) is the one who is pubescent, sane, and has received the message of Islam, which is: “No one is God except Allâh, and Muḥammad is the Messenger of Allâh.”
Pubescence happens when one reaches the age of fifteen (15) lunar years, or otherwise. The sane person is the one who has not lost one’s mind.
The male becomes pubescent when one of two things occurs: seeing the maniyy (sperm) or reaching 15 lunar years of age. The female becomes pubescent when one of three things occurs: seeing the maniyy (sperm), menstrual bleeding or reaching 15 lunar years of age. Hence, the one who dies before becoming pubescent is not accountable. Also, the one whose insanity continues without interruption from the time before one is pubescent, until after that, and then dies as an insane is, hence not accountable. Moreover, if one did not hear the basis of the message that is, the rectification that no one is God except Allâh and Muḥammad is the messenger of Allâh, is then not accountable.
For one to be accountable (mukallaf), it is a condition that one receives the call of Islam. This means that if the person is pubescent and sane, he becomes mukallaf simply by receiving the message of Islam, which is: “No one is God except Allâh, and Muḥammad is the Messenger of Allâh.” The non-Muslim mukallaf, is obligated to embrace Islam and follow its teachings. He is also obligated to perform all the obligations and avoid all the sins.
From this, it is understood that the young child is not accountable until he reaches pubescence. Likewise, the insane person is not accountable. The pubescent one who did not receive the message of Islam is also not accountable.
Allâh, ta`âlâ, said in the Qur’ân:
﴿ وَمَا كُنَّا مُعَذِّبِينَ حَتَّى نَبْعَثَ رَسُولاً ﴾
(Wa mâ kunnâ mu`adhdhibîna Hattâ nab`atha rasûlâ)
Ayah 15 of surat al-Isrâ means: « Allâh does not torture those who do not receive the basic message of Islam ».
The Messenger of Allâh, Salla lLâhu `alayhi wa sallam, said:
« رُفِعَ الْقَلَمُ عَنْ ثَلاَثَةٍ: عَنِ الصَّبِيِّ حَتَّى يَبْلُغَ وَعَنِ النَّائِمِ حَتَّى يَسْتَيْقِظَ وَعَنِ الْمَجْنُونِ حَتَّى يُفِيقَ »
(Rufi`al qalamu `an thalâthah: `ani n-nâ'imi Hattâ yastayqidh, wa `ani S-Sabiyyi Hattâ yaHtalim, wa `ani l-majnûni Hattâ ya`qil)
Which means: « The pen has been lifted from [writing the deeds of] three: the one who is asleep until awakening, the young child until becoming pubescent, and the crazy person until becoming sane. » (Related by Abu Dawud)
In another version of this Hadîth narrated by Imam AHmad:
« رفع القلم عن ثلاثٍ عن النائم حتى يستيقظ، و عن الصبى حتى يحتلم، و عن المجنون حتى يعقل »
it means: The Pen has been lifted from writing the deeds of three: The one who is asleep until one wakes up, the child until he becomes pubescent and the crazy person until he becomes sane (narrated by Ahmad).
Note: During the season of Hajj when many of the Arab blasphemers used to assemble from different places in Makkah, the Prophet called them to Islam. They would hear from the Prophet the Two Testifications: « I bear witness that no one is God except Allâh and that Muḥammad is the Messenger of Allâh » The blasphemers came to the Ka`bah in keeping with the traditions of their Muslim ancestors.