No Soul Shall Bear the Burden for Another

Peace, one and all…

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As someone who became a Muslim in later life, I’ve always believed Islam’s emphasis on personal moral responsibility to be one of its most profound (and liberating) concepts.  The Quran is unequivocal in its vision of moral responsibility and accountability.

As such, the Quran says the following:

‘And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another.  And if a heavily laden soul calls [another] to [carry some of] its load, nothing of it will be carried, even if he should be a close relative.  You can only warn those who fear their Lord unseen and have established prayer.  And whoever purifies himself only purifies himself for [the benefit of] his soul.  And to God is the [final] destination’ (Surah Fatir 35:18)

And elsewhere, we read:

‘God does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity.  It will have [the consequence of] what [good] it has gained, and it will bear [the consequence of] what [evil] it has earned’ (Surah al-Baqarah 2:286)

I find this teaching profound for several reasons.  Firstly, I started this life with a clean slate.  That is, the concept of original sin is argued against most firmly within the Islamic tradition.  Although I am human and have indeed made mistakes (and God’s forgiveness is to be sought), I began my life on earth in innocence. 

Secondly, although custom, culture and tradition are valued in Islam (insofar as they do not contradict essential truths), I am not a mere prisoner of such things.  I have the ability to go beyond the limitations of my surroundings.  I am more than the clothes I wear.  I am more than a mere gendered thing.  I am more than the colour of my skin, and the historical entanglements of the culture and race into which I was born.

Thirdly, this beautiful concept reminds me of God’s deep justice.  I will be judged purely for my own sins, and not for the sins of others.  Of course, this is hard enough (and may God have mercy on each and every one of us).  But, and this is important, personal accountability is set as the cornerstone of growth.

Hidden within all this is a secret truth.  As a human being, I must let go of all that I have not done.  So many of us travel through this world in sorrow because they have not made the distinction between themselves and the actions of their parents.  The limitations of our parents have a deep impact on our lives, but the matter does not rest there.  The task of life is to come to God with a ‘sound heart’ (qalbun salim) and the process of making our hearts sound involves moving beyond the circumstances we initially find ourselves in.

We cannot bear the burdens of others, but we can help them to shoulder their own burdens.  This is the way of the Prophets, the righteous and the Friends of God.  Blessed indeed are all who tread this path.

Ma’as salama,
Abdur Rahman

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16 thoughts on “No Soul Shall Bear the Burden for Another

  1. “although custom, culture and tradition are valued in Islam (insofar as they do not contradict essential truths), I am not a mere prisoner of such things. I have the ability to go beyond the limitations of my surroundings.”

    -This kind of mind set is truly your safe wings to acquire the true teachings of Islam; to absolute freedom; towards the Beloved.

    Just to point out to typing error in verse 2:286; you have it “sould” where it should be “soul”

    May God bless

    Katib

  2. I agree ,

    no more burden on my heart ,

    bye to the virtual burdens ,

    i want to be real,

    akash

  3. As-Salaamu ‘alaikum

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    mosque’ based on incorrect and inciteful information. This shows the
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    http://radicalmuslim.blogsome.com/2007/05/30/the-mega-mosque/

    The mosque would provide a place of worship and show Britains
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    citizen to sign the counter-petition to BUILD the ‘Mega Mosque’.
    Please sign at the link below, forward email it to your friends, post
    it in forums you visit and promote this on your site/blog.

    http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/buildmosque/

    Allah Hafiz

  4. Salaams dearest Abdur, (hope the little angel is letting you get enough sleep past every three hours [mine never did]). Abdur, I simply had to share your good news on the silk path, and you and your family have a beautiful card signed by those journeying through.

    The new sight of the attraction of the earth and the sun in space on your website is quite impacting to look at! Very Beautiful!

    Everything you put down in words so eloquently expressed in this article is very wise Abdur. There is accountability for all actions, whether individual or collective, and there is a great responsibility in displaying respect in all circumstances.

    Blessings to yours,

    Barbara

  5. Salaams Barbara,

    Thank you. I’ve not been able to stop by the Tea House much of late, as you might expect. I’ll certainly sneak in for a quick cuppa, between feeds, insha Allah!

    I’ve always loved pictures of space. I’m a sci-fi fan at heart really! I’m glad you liked the picture. I found it in cyberspace.

    Respect in all circumstances is difficult. I know I’m not there yet (assuming I ever will be)! It is only with God’s grace that we move at all.

    Moral responsibility is the less popular twin of free will/choice. With freedom comes responsibility and the greater the freedom, the greater the responsibility.

    Ma’as salama,
    Abdur Rahman

  6. Salam, yes..we should travel light, let go of the burdens that we are not suppose to bear, be like the traveller, as advised by the Porphet s.a.w.

  7. Salams Norma

    Welcome to my virtual home. Ahlan wa sahlan.

    You’re right. I’d not thought of burdens in this sense here, but it is another worthy area for reflection.

    I look forward to sharing with you.

    Ma’as salama,
    Abdur Rahman

  8. Salaam,
    I think that ayah from the Quran about no soul bearing the burden of another is echoed in a line from a song by Jewel called, “Who Will Save Your Soul?” The line goes like this: “Who will save your soul if you won’t save your own?” It is the responsibility of each person to account for his or her own deeds.
    http://asad123.wordpress.com

  9. Salaams Asad,

    Welcome to my online home. Allah bless you always.

    I haven’t heard that song, though I had a look at the lyrics on your site – they look interesting.

  10. Assalaamu Alykum Brother Abdur Rahman

    Thank-you for this wonderful blog. Following a discussion with a friend on the verse you so beautifully analyse in this article, I was moved to contemplate its meaning and discovered your writings. I was very moved by your insights, particularly the matter of coming to God with “a sound heart”, and isn’t this process of “emptying oneself” as the Sufis say, to achieve this state, the point of our life journey on Earth.

    As you suggest it is profoundly empowering and affirming to come to the realisation that I alone am accountable for my choices and my deeds in this life.

    If I may, I would like to end by sharing with you the observation of this verse, that was shared with me by my friend: If you look at this verse in Arabic script, it appears as follows:

    وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَى

    = Wa la taziru waziratun wizra okhra = and no bearer of burdens shall be made to bear another’s burden.

    Most of the letters in the Arabic version are those that by convention are written separately from one another, ie they are not conjoined.

    So the visual form of the verse reflects it’s inner meaning in that each individual stands alone (as represented by the Arabic letters) when it comes to the consequences of their deeds.

    Isn’t that beautiful?

    With love and peace.

  11. Wa alaikum salam A Mohamed,

    Thank you for stopping by. God bless you. You’re right, the Arabic text does indeed convey that point beautifully too. I especially enjoy exploring things from unusual angles like this.

    Love and peace,
    Abdur Rahman

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