God is the absolute owner of all creation whether it is in the heavens or the earth including our actions, hidden or manifest and what our souls have earned. The Qur’an says that God will call us to account for all our actions including what is hidden: Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is God’s; and whether you manifest what is in your souls or hide it, God will call you to account for it, then He will forgive whom He pleases and chastise whom He pleases; and God is powerful over all things (2:284).
The above verse shows that the deeds are preserved, and it makes no difference to God whether the actions are manifest or hidden – all shall be accounted for. Based on the verse, what is in our souls and minds is part of what is in the heavens and belongs to God. Thus, whatever is found in our minds, whether it is manifested or remains hidden, belongs to God, and He will decide about it after calling us to account for it.
What does it mean by the expression “what is in your souls”? Al-Mizan says that based on common understanding of the language, it means “what has settled in your minds” and it refers to traits and characteristics whether good or bad. These traits may be manifest or hidden. They are manifested through the actions of the body, which may be perceived by others and which prove the existence of those traits in the doer. Conversely, these traits may remain hidden if one does not act upon them.
Allamah Tabataba’i also says that the two alternatives, ‘‘whether you manifest’’ and ‘‘hide it,’’ show that those characteristics are capable of being shown or hidden; it may be a well-ingrained trait or some appropriate psychological state. But it does not, and cannot, mean passing notions and transient ideas that invade one’s mind without one’s intention; for example, the mental image of a sin when one has no intention or inclination to do it. The words of the verse do not include such involuntary notions, because they are not ‘‘settled’’ in the mind, nor does any action emanate from them.
In short, the basis of one’s actions – whether good or bad – are the mental condition, the characteristics and traits settled in the mind, and God will call man to account for them. This in no way means that God imposes upon a soul a duty beyond its ability. God says: God does not impose upon any soul a duty but to the extent of its ability… (2:286).
Reference: Al-Mizan Eng. Vol. 4 (pub. by WOFIS)