A Qur’anic principle of absolute justice and human capacity for great wrongdoing


Every soul earns only to its own account; and no soul, as bearer of burden, bears and is made to bear the burden of another (6:164).

This is a most just Qur’anic principle in personal, communal, and national politics and ways of action. However:

Man is indeed prone to doing great wrong and misjudging, and acting out of sheer ignorance (33:72).


The source of human capacity to do terrible wrong and injustice is this: unlike animals, humans are not restricted in creation in respect of their innate powers or inclinations. For this reason, unless they are guided and trained to do so, human beings do not encounter any limits to wrongdoing or egotism. When egotism, self-centeredness, selfishness, arrogance, and obstinacy are added to the human inclination to wrongdoing, humans invent such monstrous offenses and sins that they have not yet been able to name them all. As these are proofs for the necessity of Hell, their punishment can only be Hell. Consider the following:

A human being has numerous attributes or characteristics. If one of these attracts enmity, the first verse cited above requires that enmity should be restricted to only this characteristic or attribute. Having many other good attributes, that human being should only be pitied and not be a target of injustice or transgression.

However, out of untrained inclination toward wrongdoing and acting out of sheer ignorance, human beings extend enmity to all the attributes of that human being and indeed their very person. Not being content with this, they nurture enmity toward their relatives and even colleagues. However, since something may be the result of many reasons, the sinful or wrongdoing attribute deserving enmity may result from an external factor, not from the corruption of the heart. Therefore, even if this attribute is wrongful, or disbelieving, that person cannot be considered a wrongdoer.

Under the influence of vindictiveness or vindictive hostility, a greedy one forecast: “This Muslim state will disintegrate.” Just to see their ominous forecast realized and so gratify their egotism and arrogance, they desire the wretchedness of Muslims and the destruction of Islamic brotherhood and unity. They want to show the monstrous injustices of the enemy as justice through demagogic arguments.

We see that the present, modern civilization has given humankind such an unjust, pitiless principle that it reduces all its virtues to nothing, and explains the reason for the concern of the angels: “Will you set therein one who will cause disorder and corruption on it and shed blood?” (2:30)64

For example, this civilization permits the destruction of a village with all the innocents in it if a traitor has taken refuge there, or the annihilation of a whole community with all its innocents, children, women, and the elderly, if one rebel is among them, or the devastation of a sacred building of immeasurable worth, such as Ayasofya (Hagia Sofia), if one who does not obey the wrongful laws of this society seeks refuge there.

If a person is not accountable in the view of the Ultimate Truth for the sin of their brother, how can it be that thousands of innocent people are treated as responsible for the rebellion of one unruly person in a place where there may always be ill-disposed revolutionaries?

(From Sunuhat [“Occurrences to the Heart”])

Bediuzzaman Said Nursi

64  Said Nursi refers to the verse of the Qur’an 2:30: Remember (when) your Lord said to the angels: “I am setting on the earth a vicegerent.” The angels asked: “Will you set therein one who will cause disorder and corruption on it and shed blood, while we glorify You with Your praise (proclaiming that You are absolutely free from any defect and that all praise belongs to You exclusively,) and declare that You alone are all-holy and to be worshipped as God and Lord?” He said: “Surely I know what you do not know.” Also see the following verses 31–33. (Tr.)