Ramadan lecture by Nouman Ali Khan – Qur’an 2:286 – Trials in Life

In this short lecture, one of my favorite speakers, Nouman Ali Khan talks about Qur’an 2:286.

(I’m summarizing his speech here for reference, so any mistakes are mine alone.  Any quotation marks signify things that Nouman said unless I’m using quotes for Arabic-English translation of words or phrases.  The link to the video is at the bottom.)

Nouman Ali Khan always really makes you think!!  And this lecture is no different.  😀

2:286 is the last ayah (verse) of Surah Al-Baqarah.  The first part of the ayah (the part he talks about) says:

La yukallifu Allahu nafsaan        لاَ يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسا

‘illa wus’aha                                 إِلاَّ وُسْعَهَا

laha ma kasabat                         لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ

wa ‘alayha ma iktasabat             وَعَلَيْهَا مَا اكْتَسَبَتْ

It means:      Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope (capacity).

He gets reward (consequences) for that (good) which he has earned,

and he is punished (gets consequences) for that (evil) which he has earned.


“La yukallifu” = He does not burden.  “Takleef” in Arabic means to be burdened with something.  Sometimes the word also refers to “the burden of duty.”

So Allah will not burden any individual…  ” ‘illa wus’aha” = except to that person’s capacity.

” ‘Illa” = except

“wus’a” = capacity, all something can contain, “-ha” = pronoun referring to the person

“Any trials you go through in life are custom tailored to our ability to manage them.  What somebody else is going through might not be something I can handle, and vice versa.  The gifts that we enjoy and the hardships & trials we suffer are tailored to our individual personalities.”

“There are things that all of us are equally responsible for.  There are commandments in Islam where you can’t say: “I know you can do it, but it’s not my personality.”  Take the five prayers, for example.  You can’t say, “MashaAllah you can do it.  And I can do in Ramadan, but usually it’s like, impossible for me.”  You can’t make that excuse.  These are a few of the commandments of Allah that He puts on every nafs.  (“nafs” usually translated as “soul” or “self” in the Qur’an, sometimes as “life”.)  He put it on every individual, that you have to be able to do it, like universal laws.”

“The major things that are forbidden and the major things that are obligatory [are] for all Muslims.  You cannot make the excuse that Allah, for example, understands that I’m not exactly a morning person, so I can’t really do fajr.  That’s not going to be the case.”

“Allah “burdened” us with these responsibilities, knowing that every single human being is actually capable of praying five times.  Every Muslim is capable of staying away from haram [things] and of doing these things.”

*** “So when you tell yourself that you can’t, and convince yourself that you can’t, you’re actually denying something about you that Allah said that you can.  And Allah would never have given these things to you, for you and me to do, if you weren’t capable of doing them.  It’s a really honest-to-yourself question that you and I have to ask ourselves.”


Allah says, “laha ma kasabat wa ‘alayha ma iktasabat”:

“A person will benefit from whatever they earned, they’ll have for themselves whatever they earned.  And whatever they earned in terms of sin will go against them.  So some things you earn go for you, and other things you earn go against you.”

“laha” = for it, for (the person)

” ‘alayha” = against it, against (the person)

“ma” = what

“The Arabic “kasaba(t)”, or “easier”, is used for good deeds – what works for you.  And “iktasaba(t)”, or “harder to earn”, was used for bad deeds.  Which is weird:  Aren’t sins easier to do and good deeds are harder?  But Allah is telling us a secret in this ayah.”

“Sins may be easy to earn in the short term, but what you pay for them in the long term brings about so much difficulty.  What you’ve earned in terms of problems and difficulties in your life is so much hardship because of that disobedience to Allah that it actually doesn’t count as something easy.”

“For example, stealing may be easy.  But doing time in jail may be hard.  So what you did as an act of stupidity may have been really easy on you at the time, but the price you pay for it made it a very difficult and bad thing that you did for yourself.  And getting a job and working and earning money the right way may be really hard, but the hardship you save yourself, compared to that, is pretty easy.”

“That’s the view Allah wants us to have of good deeds and bad deeds:  Good deeds may require a lot more work, but Allah will make them easy.  And bad deeds may be much easier to do, but you’ll pay the price and you’ll realize how much difficulty they put you in in your life.”

“So don’t underestimate the burden that Allah has put on you as far as responsibilities.  And don’t underestimate the weight of sin and the troubles it’ll bring you when you and I stand in front of Allah.”

link to video of lecture


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