The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement
presenting Islam as peaceful, tolerant, rational, inspiring
1. Islam

Articles and booklets

Lessons in the Quran

Lesson 51

2. Publications
3. Activities
4. Ahmadiyya Movement
5. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
6. Non-English material

Discussion forums
Site Statistics
Contact us
Search the website


Previous Lesson | Next Lesson

Lesson - 51


"Allah imposes not on any soul a duty beyond its scope. For it is that which it earns (of good) and against it that which it works (of evil). Our Lord, punish us not if we forget or make a mistake. Our Lord, do not lay on us a burden as Thou didst lay on those before us. Our Lord, impose not on us (afflictions) which we have not the strength to bear. And pardon us! And grant us protection! And have mercy on us! Thou art our Patron, so grant us victory over the disbelieving people." Ch. 2:286

In the preceding lesson I mentioned that Allah lays down two burdens upon mankind. These are the injunctions of religious law and the burden laid down in accordance with the Divine law of measure, such as illness, death, grief, hunger, the loss of wealth, and failure after a hard struggle. Both these burdens are such that Allah lays them down in proportion to the capacity, and strength of a person. The third burden, which we shall discuss in this lesson, is the burden of man's own sins, and the chastisement that results. This burden is a punishment from Allah, the Most High, and since it is based on man's own misdeeds, it can exceed his capacity to bear if the burden of sin is too great.

Limitations in religious law not to exceed those of Allah and His Prophet

I discussed the burden of religious law (shariat) in my previous lesson. Allah has granted all kinds of facilities to fulfill these requirements, so that the burden may not become excessive. For example, in the injunctions about fasting, a sick person, or a wayfarer is allowed to forego fasting during the prescribed period and to meet the requirement at a later time. If the health of the sick person does not permit even that , redemption can be offered by feeding a poor man. These facilities have been granted by Allah and His Prophet without any limitation about the length of the journey, or the nature of a person's sickness, and hence it is not proper for any person to curtail these concessions by imposing restrictions. Similarly if water is not available to perform ablution, the Holy Quran has allowed an alternative by stating:

"betake yourselves (tayamamu) to pure earth, and wipe your faces and your hands therewith" (5:6).
It is ludicrous to put a restriction, as some have done, to conduct search for water for twenty four miles in all directions, before availing oneself of this facility. If this condition was to be fulfilled seriously, the time for the prayer would be long gone before the search was over, and such attempts would be a serious distraction in completing the journey. In interpreting the religious law, one should remember that:

"Allah desires ease for you, and He desires not hardship for you."
That is why the Reformer (Mujaddid) of this age Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmed stated that the religious law (shariat) is based upon facility, and not harshness.

Burdens in accordance with the Law of Divine Measure

Now I will discuss the other burdens put down upon mankind by Allah, the Most High. They are mentioned in another place in the Holy Quran as follows:

"And We shall certainly try you with something of fear and hunger and loss of property and lives and fruits. And give good news to the patient" (2:155).
Further on it is stated:

"Who, when a misfortune befalls them say: "Surely we are Allah's and to Him we shall return. Those are they on whom are blessings and mercy from their Lord; and those are the followers of the right course."
These are burdens which come in accordance with the law of Divine measure, and sometimes these tribulations appear unbearable. Out of fear and anxiety, some people faint, bang their heads against a wall, become mentally deranged, or even commit suicide. One should, however, always remember that there can be no burden in accordance with the law of Divine measure which is beyond human forbearance. Such burdens should be borne with patience and assent, and those who do so, are given the spiritual rewards and blessings mentioned by the Holy Quran. In fact Allah, the Most High, eventually makes such difficulties tolerable for them, or totally eliminates them.

Burden laid down to increase the capacity of the soul

The two burdens imposed by Allah, the Most High, are those of religious law, and the difficulties that arise as a result of the Divine law of measure. Both these burdens are never beyond the level of human endurance. There is another interpretation of this verse, as well. It states that Allah never puts down a burden upon the soul of man except to increase its capacity i.e., advance it in spiritual terms. I like this interpretation a lot. The Creator of the soul is the only One aware of its capacity, which is unknown to man himself. By subjecting it to the burden of religious law, Allah intends to advance the capacity of that soul to its maximum potential. In accordance with this interpretation, Hazrat Imam Raghib, the famous lexicologist, states that the paradise, whose extent the Holy Quran says is similar to the extent of the heavens and the earth, is created within the soul of a man, only when its capacity becomes akin to that of the heavens and the earth. This capability is developed by bearing the burdens of religious law and the law of Divine measure. At this level of spiritual development Allah, Who cannot be contained within the heavens and the earth, manifests Himself in the heart of such a person. Because of the spiritual benefits that accrue from bearing these two burdens, even the prophets were not exempted from bearing these burdens. In fact, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) states that the prophets encounter trials and tribulations of a degree not faced by other humans. About himself, the Holy Prophet, who possesses the greatest degree of excellence from amongst the messengers, said:

"I have been tormented more than any other prophet."

Let us now examine the words of the Holy Quran:

"For it, is that which it earns (of good) and against it that which it works (of evil)."
This means that while facing the burdens of religious law, or those of the law of Divine measure, if someone does a good deed, or sets a good example, it is for his own benefit. On the other hand, if someone sets a bad example, or commits an evil deed, he will be the one to suffer its evil consequences. These burdens are imposed for the spiritual benefit of mankind, and those who do not take advantage by bearing them patiently will surely incur a loss upon themselves. We can give the analogy of two students who are both administered an exam. One of the students passes his exam is successful in the world and satisfied. He is akin to the person who bears his burdens patiently. The other student keeps failing, remains unsuccessful, and spends the rest of his life in an abject and disappointed state. Such is the person who does not benefit from the Divine burdens imposed upon him.

In the trials of life that fall to the share of man by the will of Allah lies the success or failure, and the happiness or sorrow of not only this life, but also of the everlasting life after death. The realization of one's own weaknesses and shortcomings, on the one hand and the momentous nature of the struggle that has to be waged to bear the Divinely imposed burdens on the other, man's soul cries out spontaneously:

"Our Lord, punish us not if we forget or make a mistake. Our Lord, do not lay on us a burden as Thou didst lay on those before us."
The burden refer to here is the same one that I mentioned earlier, i.e., the burden imposed in accordance to the Law of Divine Measure. This prayer is totally in accordance with the nature of man which desires to shun difficulties that are likely to arise from the Law of Divine Measure, and desires relief as and when they do arise.

Burden of man's own sins

"Our Lord, impose not on us (afflictions) which we have not the strength to bear."

Allah does not impose a burden upon man that he does not have the strength to bear. Such a burden that is unbearable for man, therefore cannot be a burden of religious law, or one that is in accordance with the law of Divine measure. It is the burden of man's own misdeeds that he has himself earned, and the punishment of Allah as a consequence of such evil actions which is referred to in this part of the verse. The laws in accordance with which such punishment is meted out are made by Allah, the Most High, that is why Allah refers to the consequences of such actions to be from Him. The Reformer of this age Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmed has explained the use of this language form with a very good example. If there is only one window in a room, and the person residing in the room closes it, then Allah will describe it thus, "This person shut the window and We turned his room dark." Allah ascribes the consequences of man's actions to Himself, because the laws which bring about those consequences are laid down by Him. In short, the burdens that can break a man's back, or lead to his demise are the burdens of his own sins. Man, therefore cries out to Allah, knowing that the burden of his own sins are such that they could crush him, but hoping that the most Merciful Who does not impose unbearable burdens under the laws of religion and measure will extend the same mercy to the burdens of his sins. Hence, he pleads to Almighty to save him from such burdens, or their consequences, which he does not have the strength to bear.

How appropriate are, therefore the words that follow:

"And pardon us!"
Man, even when he does evil to someone else is actually being iniquitous to his own soul, because he commits a sin against Allah Who gave him that soul to fulfill a higher purpose, and not to waste it. As I mentioned in the first lesson of this section, the spirit which has come from Allah is a trust from Him within man. Whoever pollutes this spirit, or does not guide it properly, betrays the trust of Allah, and thus commits a crime against Him.

"And grant us protection!"
so that we do not commit any further misdeeds. This is so when man has committed evil once, it becomes easier to commit it the second time around. For example, if a person accepts a bribe once, his inhibition is broken and it becomes easier for him to accept bribes in the future. Therefore, after asking for forgiveness of previous sins, protection is sought from their commission in the future.

"And have mercy on us!"
In the Holy Quran the mercy of Allah signifies spiritual blessings. Therefore, asking for Allah's mercy means asking Him to give back to us through His mercy the spiritual blessings we have lost as a consequence of our misdeeds.

"Thou art our Patron,"
our Helper our Friend, who can we beseech besides Thee?

"So grant us victory over the disbelieving people."
The leader of the disbelievers is the devil himself, who was the first of the disbelievers, and about whom the Holy Quran tells us:

"And he is one of the disbelievers." (2:34).
Those who fall to his temptation become his helpers. These helpers are from amongst one's friends as well as enemies. Man faces a lot of grief because of the devil, and his helpers as we learn from the prayer of Prophet Job:

"When he cried to his Lord: The devil has afflicted me with toil and torment" (38:41).
The true believer cannot succeed against the devil and his friends without the assistance of Allah Almighty.

Another interpretation is also possible. This verse started out with the mention of man's self. Man has to strive with his self in order to bear the burdens of the religious law, and those of Divine measure. The other striving (jihad) of the true believer is externally against disbelief. Allah's help is asked for in both these forms of striving. We can observe that a prophet, or a reformer first strives against his own self by means of worship, devotion and guarding against evil. Subsequently, when they are appointed for the reformation of other souls, they face a storm of mighty opposition and they have to strive against it. They receive Divine help, which they ask for, in carrying out both these struggles. We stand in great debt of the Reformer of this age for emphasizing that we need to strive against our self by means of guarding against evil (taqwa), and also that we need to strive against disbelief by means of propagation of Islam. He asked us to contribute a portion of our income monthly for this purpose. By doing this, we can fulfill both forms of striving at the same time; against the self, by giving in the way of Allah what we could have spent on the self, and also against disbelief.

The Prayer of one lost in the love of God

There can be yet another interpretation of this verse, which is of my own rendering, and which I like very much. In this prayer, the one who is in love with Allah, beseeches Him thus:

"O Allah do not punish me for my mistakes, or shortcomings, and do not impose upon me the burdens imposed upon those before me. If, however, You do impose upon me a burden like that imposed upon those before me, I will be able to bear it. There is one burden, however, which I cannot bear, and that is the burden of your displeasure. If you have to chastise me, go ahead and do so, but do not be displeased with me for that I cannot bear. You have been forgiving me all my life, please do so once again. You have always kept me under your protection, do not deprive me of it now. You have always had mercy on me and I have become used to it. Now have mercy on this weakness of mine that I only know your mercy. I do not know your wrath. You have always been my Patron, and I cannot be saved without you. Therefore, please help me against the devil, and his companions, for they will try to destroy me when they observe me to be your servant. If Your help is with me, I will be able to overpower the devil and his helpers."
When the Imam recites this prayer of Al-Baqarah, the congregation should say ameen (be it so) in a loud voice.
Previous Lesson | Next Lesson
Website created and published by: Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha`at Islam Lahore Inc. U.S.A.
Contact us.