One of the terms used by the Qur’an during the early Makkan period to describe Islam was Al-Yusraa, or ‘The Easy Way’. This is simply because Islam was, and is the natural way of life. Indeed, whatever is natural for human beings should be easy for them in every way, hence cause them to gravitate towards it easily, and consequently bring harmony, peace and tranquility to their lives. Since the Quran is the book upon which the Islamic way of life is built, then the Quran has to be easy to understand and follow-it is ‘The Easy Way’.
This view that Islam is easy to understand and practice, is one which is derived from the primary sources of Islam. In the Quran, Allah comforts us by continuously reassuring us that He desires for us ease not hardship, despite the seemingly formidable trials and tribulations that we may sometimes face. He says:
‘God desires ease for you, and desires not hardship’ (2:185);
‘Truly with hardship comes ease’ (94: 6);
‘God will assuredly appoint, after difficulty; easiness’ (65:7);
‘Whoso fears God, God will appoint for him, of His command, easiness’ (65:4);
‘We shall speak to him, of our command, easiness’ (18:88);
‘God desires to lighten things for you, for the human being has been created weak'(94:28).
In addition to the Quran, the Hadith literature is also replete with references exhorting us to adopt a balanced and simple approach to life. Prophet Muhammad has advised us: ‘This Deen or way of life is easy But if anyone overdoes it, it gets the better of him. So keep to the right course, approximate to perfection, rejoice, and ask for help in the mornings, the evenings, and some of the latter part of the night’ (Bukhari). The Prophet (saw) has also praised those who adopt a moderate approach to ‘ibadah or worship. Ibadab, he said, should be done with freshness of heart, not an exhausting routine carried out in spite of fatigue.
‘Do those deeds which you can do easily, as Allah will not get tired [of giving rewards] till you get bored and tired [of performing good deeds! … and the most beloved deed to Allah is the one which is done regularly even if it is little’ (Bukhari).
Islam is not Complex
Islam is not a way of life that is complex or difficult. Rather it is the human being who practices Islam who often makes it difficult-and then, complexity overtakes him so that eventually he is unable to cope with even the simplest of tasks. That it is possible for every person to understand and practice Islam is assured by the following three principles:
Firstly, the basic beliefs contain no mystery and are therefore easy to comprehend. Every tenet in Islam is subject to analysis and inquiry. Moreover,Islam does not present stumbling blocks to the mind. Islam does not present concepts or ideas which the intellect cannot grasp. Even the simplest of minds can understand its basic beliefs. It is therefore not surprising that its beliefs are universal.
Secondly, the most important and stringent obligations ordained upon Muslims are easy to undertake. That is, the duties and obligations laid down by Allah have been graded. And, it is the wisdom of Allah that the greater the importance He has attached to any act, the easier it is for everyone to accomplish it. Thus, for example, the five daily Salat (Prayers) and Sawm (fasting) during the month of Ramadan are compulsory upon everyone, since they are within every-one 5 reach to accomplish. Zakat (almsgiving) and Hajj (pilgrimage), on the other hand, though fundamental pillars of Islam, are not compulsory upon everyone. If it were made compulsory upon everyone, then those who did not possess the financial means would be unable to carry out these duties. In such cases, it would not have been possible for everyone to practice Islam in all its facets. Therefore, these duties are obligatory only upon those who have the means to do so.
Thirdly, there are provisions for derogation when it is genuinely not possible for someone to fulfill an obligation. For instance, if a person is genuinely unable to stand up and pray, then he is permitted to sit down or even lie down and pray. Similarly, if there is no water available to perform the wudu or ablution before prayer, then one can make tayammum, which is a simple dry ablution performed by using clean earth or dust. Therefore, even when there appear to be difficulties, if one looks closely at the Shari’ah or Islamic legal code as a whole, one will find so many rules relating to derogation that enable one to practice Islam very easily-and this is the case regardless of the problem: political, economic or simply personal. Indeed, throughout the Quran various provisions have been made to ease things for travelers, for the sick, for pregnant or nursing women, for the old and for the poor, for on no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear (7: 42)and ‘He has chosen you, and has imposed no difficulties on you in religion’ (22: 78).
Therefore, as long as one possesses the basic tools-a sound knowledge of what is stated in the Shari’ah regarding a particular matter and an awareness of the responsibility for ones own actions-a person may decide for himself when to derogate from the standard. Thus, although according to the Shari’ah it is haram (or unlawful) to eat pork, if someone is on the brink of starvation and the only food available is this pork, then one can decide for oneself whether and when to consume this haram meat in order to survive, and thereby derogate from the standard. Of course, this does not make the pork halal or lawful, but neither will one be punished for committing a haram or prohibited act, so long as it is necessary for one’s essential well being as a Muslim.
Allah tells us: ‘We have made you a nation justly balanced’ (2:143). Additionally, when the Quranic verse ‘As to monasticism which they themselves invented, We did not prescribe any of it for them’ (57: 27) was revealed, the Prophet Muhammad commented: ‘Do not overburden yourselves, lest you perish. People [before you] overburdened themselves and perished. Their remains are found in hermitages and monasteries’ (Musnad of Abu Ya’la). In other words, excesses may eventually develop into large problems and even become a threat to the well being and security of the Muslim community.
Indeed, the Prophet always resisted any tendency towards religious excessiveness. He once said to his close Companion Abdullah ibn ‘Amr: ‘Have I heard tight that you fast everyday and stand in prayer all night?’ Abdullah replied, ‘Yes, 0 Messenger of God: The Prophet said, ‘Do not do that. Fast, as well as, eat and drink. Stand in prayer, as well as, sleep. This is because your body has a right upon you, your eyes have a right upon you, your wife has a right upon you, and your guest has a right upon you (Bukhari, Muslim). Abiding by the will of Allah requires that we seek and maintain a delicate balance between the various obligations that demand our attention; between our obligations to Allah, our obligations towards others and our obligations towards ourselves. Moreover, whenever the Prophet had to choose between two options, he always chose the easier, unless it was explicitly forbidden (Bukhari).
Maintaining a Joyful Disposition
Allah wants us to enjoy ourselves not only in the Hereafter but also in this world. Allah tells us in the Quran to pray for both ‘the good in this world and the good in the Hereafter’ (2:201).
‘O children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer Eat and drink but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not wasters. Say: ‘who has forbidden the beautiful gifts of Allah which He has produced for His servants and the things clean and pure which He has provided for sustenance’ (7:30-301).
‘O you who believe! Make not unlawful the good things Allah has made lawful to you. But commit no excess, for Allah does not like those given to excess. Eat of the things which Allah has provided you, lawful and good, but fear Allah, in whom you believe’ (4: 86-88).