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I was wondering if the following two verses can be reconciled; on a literal basis they appear to be contradictory.

Quran 16:25 That they may bear their own burdens in full on the Day of Resurrection and some of the burdens of those whom they misguide without knowledge. Unquestionably, evil is that which they bear.

Quran 35:18 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 Allah is the [final] destination.

Thanks.

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I think the easiest way to think of this is that the burdens 16:25 refer to are additive, whereas 35:18 is talking about removing burdens. This concept is a bit more clear if you also read Surat Al-`Ankubat 12-13:

[29:12] And those who disbelieve say to those who believe, "Follow our way, and we will carry your sins." But they will not carry anything of their sins. Indeed, they are liars.

[29:13] But they will surely carry their [own] burdens and [other] burdens along with their burdens, and they will surely be questioned on the Day of Resurrection about what they used to invent.

There is also a hadith in Sahih Muslim, narrated by Abu Hurayrah which applies here:

He who called (people) to righteousness, there would be reward (assured) for him like the rewards of those who adhered to it, without their rewards being diminished in any respect. And he who called (people) to error, he shall have to carry (the burden) of its sin, like those who committed it, without their sins being diminished in any respect.

In other words, 35:18 explains the fact that no matter how many sins one has accumulated, they are responsible for those and nobody else can shoulder that burden for (i.e. instead of) them. 16:25 doesn't counter that, it just explains that the sin of misguiding others is a double-whammy: Those who misguided others bear the burden not only of misguiding others (i.e. lying and/or speaking without knowledge), but when that misguidance makes those others sin they are responsible for that as well, and thereby carry more burden. Meanwhile, those who followed that misguidance and sinned thereby still have to account for their own sins.

Or to put it another way, just because two people are bearing the same burden, that doesn't mean that the same burden is distributed over two people (i.e. that each only bears half), or that the burden is taken from one and given to the other: If two people are bearing the same burden, they both have to bear it in full.

  • Nice answer, but I don't fully understand. 16:25 doesn't say that the additional burdens would be placed due to the (direct and indirect) consequences of their sin (misguiding others). Instead, it states that source of additional burdens would be from others that were misguided. Is an implied meaning going over my head? – Adam Mar 27 '18 at 22:56
  • @Adam I have expanded my answer; is it more clear now? – goldPseudo Mar 27 '18 at 23:25
  • Excellent. I now understand what you meant about the difference between adding and subtracting burdens. Thanks! – Adam Mar 28 '18 at 0:17
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This is just a simple example of a general vs. specific ayah. It is not a contradiction, but rather one is making a general statement and the other is looking at a specific case exception.

For example, if I say the following two statements:

  • The wall is red

  • One of the bricks is grey

It is not necessarily a contradiction. In the first I am saying a general statement about the wall, and in the second I am looking at a specific part of it. Likewise when Allah says:

  • Souls don't bear other's burdens

  • Souls that cause other souls to sin do bear their burdens

This is not a contradiction. In the first, Allah is saying a general statement which is true. No one will be punished for the sins of another. But, there is an exception, where people do get punished for another's sins if they were responsible for causing them to do it.

There is another example of a similar case in the Quran:

But whoever kills a believer intentionally - his recompense is Hell, wherein he will abide eternally, and Allah has become angry with him and has cursed him and has prepared for him a great punishment. (4:93)

and

Because of that We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or (and) to spread mischief in the land - it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind. And indeed, there came to them Our Messengers with clear proofs, evidences, and signs, even then after that many of them continued to exceed the limits (e.g. by doing oppression unjustly and exceeding beyond the limits set by Allah by committing the major sins) in the land!.

In the first ayah, Allah makes a general statement that killing a Muslim is a thing that you will be punished in Hell for. But, in the second ayah an exception is given (murder and corruption). One is a general statement and the other is a specific case exception.

  • I like the differentiation made between general and specific cases - that's a good analogy. However, it seems different verses say that the particular brick is "differently-colored". For example, 29:12 And those who disbelieve say to those who believe, "Follow our way, and we will carry your sins." But they will not carry anything of their sins. Indeed, they are liars." The same scenario is present in 16:25, but the distribution of burden (or lack thereof) varies between these two verses. – Adam Mar 27 '18 at 23:54
  • @Adam . You should read the verse right after that one. Where it says "But they will surely carry their [own] burdens and [other] burdens along with their burdens..." – The Z Mar 27 '18 at 23:59
  • In the ayah you quoted, it seems to be talking not about just bearing the sins but taking their sins away from them. Allah is saying that they will carry the sins but it will not help the people who it is being carried from because their sins will not be any lighter. – The Z Mar 28 '18 at 0:03
  • I just saw goldPseudo's recent edit (which mentions both 29:12 and 29:13). When considering both of those verses, the two specific cases presented in (16:25) and (29:12, 29:13) are not contradictory. Thanks :D – Adam Mar 28 '18 at 0:13

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