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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
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
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
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 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
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
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.