By Shaykh Usaamah Khayyaat – 7 Sha‘baan 1440AH
…Servants of Allaah, you must observe Taqwaa of Allaah. Make Taqwaa the provision you take as you proceed upon your path to Allaah. Remember that you will have to stand before Him and that your deeds will be presented to Him on a day from which none can escape. It will be a “day when no property or offspring will avail a person unless he comes to Allaah with a pure and submissive heart.” Servants of Allaah, among the most significant and profound distinguishing qualities of Islaam is that Allaah, the Most Exalted, relieved its followers of hardship. By Islaam, He relieved them of burdens that people bore in previous times. Thus, Islaam’s directives came with ease. They do not contain any sort of extremism or any deviation from moderation, whether by way of negligence or excessiveness. Its directives close off channels that lead to extremism so that people would not imprison themselves within the confines of things that were not permitted by Allaah or prescribed by His Messenger (may Allaah grant him commendation and protection). Were people to put themselves in such confines, they would needlessly restrict themselves and make matters difficult. In the Book of our Lord and the Sunnah of His Prophet (may Allaah grant him commendation and protection), there are many instances which demonstrate how restrictions and burdens have been removed from our Ummah, as well as how the directives prescribed by Islaam are ones of ease, and this serves to make the people who submit to Allaah in Islaam the ones who are most fortunate and most soundly guided. One instance can be found in the directives pertaining to purification from Hadath – both minor and major – and the permissibility of Tayammum when water is not available or cannot be used. This is an example of hardship being removed by providing a concession during difficult circumstances. Allaah, the Most Majestic, said,
“People of eemaan, when you want to perform prayers but are in a state of Hadath (Minor intangible impurity), you must first perform Wudoo’ by washing your faces, washing your forearms up to and including the elbows, passing your wet hands over your heads, and washing your feet up to and including the ankles. If you are in a state of Janaabah (Major intangible impurity), you must first perform Ghusl by washing your entire body. If you are ill and you fear your illness may worsen, or your recovery would be delayed; or if you are travelling, even while completely healthy; or if you are in a state of Hadath due to relieving yourselves; or if you are in a state of Janaabah due to intercourse; if you are faced with any of those circumstances and you cannot find water after having searched for it in order to use it for purification, then perform Tayammum to purify yourselves by placing your palms upon the surface of the Earth and then use what is on your palms to wipe over your faces and hands. Allaah does not want to put you through any difficulty by the directives He prescribed for you. On the contrary, He wants to purify you and complete His favours to you so that you would be duly grateful to Him.” [Soorah al-Maa’idah]
Furthermore, removal of difficulty applies to all the directives of Islaam, not just those pertaining to purification. Allaah, who is perfect in every way, said, “Allaah is the One who favoured you by guiding you to submit to Him in Islaam, and He did not put you through hardship by way of this religion He chose for you.” [Soorah al-Hajj] Servants of Allaah, the meanings of these passages from the Qur’aan should permeate a Muslim’s heart and cause him to recognize the magnitude of his Lord’s favour, kindness, and mercy towards His worshipping servants. Allaah did not make the path to happiness and success one of great hardship. Rather, He facilitated it for us and made it one of ease. This is contrary to the state of Banee Israa’eel. Some of the laws prescribed for them proved to be difficult and burdensome, such as the prohibition of using spoils of war, capital punishment in certain cases of repentance, and cutting tangible impurities off of garments that were soiled with them. Out of Allaah’s mercy to our Ummah, He did not prescribe such directives for us, and He made this Ummah the one that is best. Allaah, the Almighty, said, “Thus, We made you an Ummah that is ‘wasat’ in order for you to be fair witnesses over all people, and for the Messenger to be a witness over you3.” The esteemed scholar, ibn Katheer (may Allaah have mercy upon him), explained that the term “wasat” here refers to being the best. For instance, they would say that the tribe Quraysh had the lineage and location that were “wasat” among all other Arab tribes, meaning the best. Allaah’s Messenger (may Allaah grant him commendation and protection) was “wasat” among his people, meaning he had the best and most noble ancestry. The prayer called “al-wustaa” is the best prayer, and it refers to ‘Asr as established by the authentic Sunnah. Moreover, due to Allaah making this Ummah “wasat”, He granted it the exclusive blessings of having the most complete directives and clearest path.5 Servants of Allaah, the removal of hardship from this Ummah of Islaam goes along with its virtue, the moderation of its teachings, and the universality of its message which was brought by the last of Allaah’s Prophets. It also goes along with longevity and prominence, as Allaah said, “He is the One who sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth in order to make it prevail over all religions, even though that may be detestable to those who worship others besides Allaah.” It can be understood from this that Islaam is a comprehensive system prescribed by our Lord which is applicable for all of humanity no matter what their level of development happens to be. Islaam’s directives make up a clear path without any ambiguity or crookedness. Allaah made it easy for its followers to tread, and He clarified to them all of its landmarks.
There are numerous examples throughout Islaam’s teachings which demonstrate the ease they contain, such as the permissibility of Tayammum when water is unavailable, or cannot be used due to illness or other similar reasons; the permissibility to perform prayer sitting in the case of those unable to stand; the permissibility of making up obligatory fasts at a later time in the case of those travelling, ill, pregnant, or nursing; the permissibility of shortening a four-rak‘ah prayer and of combining certain prayers in the case of travellers; exemption from prayers in the case of women experiencing menses or post-natal bleeding; exemption from the obligation of Hajj in the case of those unable to find the means; and the permissibility of eating meat not sacrificed as prescribed in the case of life-threatening necessity. These and other examples show that Islaam’s teachings seek to facilitate matters. They are concessions which Allaah has granted His servants so as to remove hardship from them. This is a comprehensive foundational principle that has numerous subsidiary branches in the realms of both worship and interactions. All of those teachings fall under the ease that Allaah wants for His worshipping servants, and the facilitation that He prescribed and is pleased with for them. “Allaah wants ease for you in what He prescribes, and He does not want to put you through hardship.”
In addition, Allaah’s Prophet of mercy (may Allaah grant him commendation and protection) directed his Ummah to follow him by saying, “Make matters easy, not difficult. Convey glad tidings, and do not chase people away.” This was collected by al-Bukhaaree and Muslim from Anas ibn Maalik (may Allaah be pleased with him). The Prophet (may Allaah grant him commendation and protection) followed the course of ease regarding any situation he faced so long as doing that did not involve anything sinful. In the Two Saheeh collections, ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) stated that Allaah’s Messenger (may Allaah grant him commendation and protection) was never given a choice between any two matters except that he chose the easier of them, so long as that did not involve any sort of sin. If doing so would have involved anything sinful, he was the furthest of people away from it. In addition, the Prophet (may Allaah grant him commendation and protection) told us about the ease that Allaah blessed us with by way of Islaam’s teachings since they do not contain hardship or restriction. On the contrary, they are teachings that facilitate matters for Allaah’s servants. The Prophet (may Allaah grant him commendation and protection) said, “This religion is one of ease. If anyone tries to contend with the religion, he will be overcome by it.”
This was collected by al-Imaam al-Bukhaaree (may Allaah have mercy upon him) from Aboo Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him). Ibn Hajar (may Allaah have mercy upon him) explained that contending with the religion here means trying to overdo matters of religion, abandoning an approach of ease, and then being overcome by the inability to continue. It does not mean that one should avoid trying to do what is best and most complete when it comes to acts of worship. Striving to do what is most complete is praiseworthy. The foregoing Hadeeth is referring to excessiveness which produces fatigue, or overdoing optional acts to an extent which leads to forsaking what is most complete or delaying obligatory deeds beyond their prescribed time. An example of this is someone who prays all night and fights off sleep, but it eventually overcomes him at the end of the night. As a result, he ends up sleeping and either missing Fajr in congregation, praying it after its preferred time, or praying it after sunrise, beyond its prescribed time. It can be understood from the preceding that it is better to use the concessions that Islaam provides. Striving to use the default when a concession is granted can be a form of excessiveness, such as in the case of someone who foregoes the concession of Tayammum although he is in a state where he should not use water, and he then ends up harming himself. When discussing the extent of difficulty that allows for ease in certain rulings, we must also keep in mind that there are guidelines in Islaam which define that extent. The concept of difficulty allowing for ease does not apply to every single thing that people may find difficult based on their own standards. Not every illness permits one to make up an obligatory fast at another time, and not every instance of hunger permits one to consume meat that has not been sacrificed as prescribed. Difficulty is of two types: The first type of difficulty is one which people experience under normal circumstances and it is not customarily considered to be something unbearable.
Examples include a worker feeling tired during the day while fasting, having a passing illness which is bearable, and a temporary period of hunger due to a reason, as opposed to being at the brink of death due to starvation. Those and other such examples are not considered as hardships that must be removed, and this is why Islaam’s directives do not make it a point to remove difficulties that are part of normal human experience. Everyday, tasks which are necessities of life all involve some extent of difficulty, even things like eating, drinking, and others. The second type of difficulty is that which goes beyond what is bearable under normal circumstances, can lead to distress and complete exhaustion, can have detrimental effects upon a person’s self or property, or perhaps even prevents a person from many beneficial acts. This is the type of difficulty which Allaah blessed this Ummah by removing, and it is the one referred to in the texts of the Qur’aan and Sunnah. Servants of Allaah, this entire topic of having hardships removed revolves around Allaah’s care for His servants. It is care which gives consideration to the feelings of the person who submits to Allaah in Islaam, and it directs such a person to his Lord who is the Most High, Most Kind, and Most Merciful. Our Lord nurtures all of His worshipping servants by way of the directives He prescribes for them just as He nurtures them by way of the blessings He grants them. He prescribed many directives containing numerous instances of ease and the removal of difficulty. This is something which should ingrain within us love for Him, His religion, His Book, and His Messenger (may Allaah grant him commendation and protection). That is the love which allows us to have complete humility and penitence towards our Lord. It also enables us to have complete reverence for His commands and prohibitions, acceptance of His rulings, and continuous motivation to obey Him by mentioning Him, being grateful to Him, and worshipping Him in the best way. Dear Muslims, removal of hardship is one of the most evident virtuous and defining qualities of Islaam, as well as one of its most important aims.
Therefore, if any individual seeks to call others to goodness, carry guidance to them, uphold the truth, and be among the inheritors of the Prophets, it is only fitting for him to devote much concern and care to explaining this concept to people, whether Muslims or not. Doing that is part of the duty which Allaah has entrusted to those who have knowledge of Islaam, and it also serves to defend the religion’s teachings. Fulfilling those roles would allow for the religion to be as Allaah wants: a source of light by which people can see through darkness, and a guide so they can find the correct path if they become lost. Thus, taking hold of the religion would remove hardship and manifest the ease of its teachings. Allaah indeed spoke the truth when He said, “You must strive for Allaah as He rightfully deserves. He is the One who favoured you by guiding you to submit to Him in Islaam, and He did not place any hardship upon you by way of this religion He chose for you. This was the religion of your forefather, Ibraaheem. Therefore, you must adhere to it. Allaah is the One who named you Muslims before and in this Qur’aan as well, so that the Messenger would be a witness over you, and you would be witnesses over humankind. So establish prayers as prescribed, give in charity, and place your full trust in Allaah. He is the best guardian and the best supporter.” May Allaah allow us all to glean benefit from His Book and the Sunnah of His Prophet (may Allaah grant him commendation and protection). I say this much, and I ask Allaah, the Most Great and Majestic, to forgive me, you, and all Muslims for every misdeed. Therefore, ask Allaah’s forgiveness, as He is truly the Continually Forgiving.