Indeed, the religion of Islam seeks not to cause any hardship to its adherents or burden them beyond their capabilities. Easiness and facilitation are of the main characteristics of Islam. Almighty Allah says: (Allah would not place a burden on you, but He would purify you and would perfect His grace upon you, that ye may give thanks.) (Al-Ma’idah 5: 6)
This concept of facilitation and easiness in Islam is clearly manifest in its simple and flexible legislations. In taking into consideration different conditions facing people, Islam
facilitates its rulings in a way that such diversity comes to term with the application of the Shari`ah rulings, without being divorced from the reality whatsoever.
The eminent Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, states the following: One of the priorities that should be taken into consideration in the fields of fatwa, and da`wah (call to Islam) is the adoption of a lenient and easy approach, far from severity and sternness. The provisions of the Qur’an and the Sunnah indicate that making things easy and lenient is favored more by Allah and His Messenger. Allah says, (Allah desireth for you ease; He desireth not hardship for you.” (Al-Baqarah 2: 185) He also says, (Allah would make the burden light for you, for man was created weak.) (An-Nisaa’ 4: 28) In another verse He, the Almighty also says, (Allah would not place a burden on you.) (Al-Ma’idah 5: 6)
Similarly, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said: “The best parts of your religion are the easiest ones.” In another hadith, he says “The most cherished religion to Allah is al-Hanifia as-Samha’ (the easy and lenient).” Further, `A’ishah, the wife of Allah’s Messenger said, “Whenever the Prophet had to choose between two things he adopted the easier one, provided it was not a sin. If it was a sin, he would be the farthest one from it.”
Ibn `Umar also reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said “Allah likes His legal concessions to be undertaken, in the same way as He dislikes the acts of disobedience to be undertaken.”
this lenient approach gains more weight in cases requiring ease, such as in the cases of weakness, illness, agedness, extreme difficulty and so forth. Jabir Ibn `Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him), reported that in the course of a journey, Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) saw a man. People were crowding around him and providing him with shade. Upon this he said: “What is the matter with him?” They said: “He is a person observing fast.”
Whereupon the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), said: “It is not righteousness that you fast on a journey.”
If travel does not entail such difficulty, one is permitted to fast. `A’ishah reported that Hamzah Ibn `Amr Al-Aslami asked the Messenger of Allah about fasting on a journey. The Prophet said: “Fast if you like and break it if you like.”
Commenting on the subject of fasting while traveling, and the disagreement of the scholars regarding its ruling, the rightly guided Caliph `Umar Ibn `Abdul-Aziz said, “The easier choice is the more excellent.” This is an acceptable view, given the fact that some people find fasting with people easier than performing fast alone in later days when the people are not fasting. On the other hand, some people may opt to delay the fast. Thus, the easier the better.
Moreover, in pursuit of easing the fast, the Prophet called on Muslims to hasten to break the fast once the time is due, and to delay the meal of suhur (early morning meal).
Besides, while dealing with controversial rulings, many scholars prefer those that are easier for people, especially in the fields of dealings and transactions. One of their oft-repeated phrases is: “This ruling is easier for people.”
thanks to Allah, I actually adopt the approach of easiness in fatwa, and leniency in da`wah in conformity with the attitude of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). In his advice to Abu Musa and Mu`adh before dispatching them to Yemen, the Prophet said: “Show leniency (to the people); don’t be hard upon them; give them glad tidings (of Divine favors in this world and the Hereafter); and do not create aversion. Work in collaboration and don’t be divided.” In another hadith, `Anas narrates that the Prophet said: “Give glad tidings (to the people); do not create (in their minds) aversion (towards religion); show them leniency and do not be hard upon them.”
answering a question addressed to me after one of my lectures, I said that if I came across two opinions with equal or almost equal strength and weight, I would prefer the easier of them. One of the attendants asked, what is the evidence supporting such preference? I answered, my evidence is the guidance of the Prophet, (peace and blessings be upon him), who used to choose the easier options. He also ordered imams (the leaders in congregational prayers) to shorten their prayer, since some of the worshippers would be weak, aged, or in need to leave.
It may be acceptable for a scholar to issue a strict fatwa for those who are strong and staunch in their faith. However, the public need to be addressed with lenient and easy fatwas.
In fact, the lenient approach is needed more and more in our contemporary age, especially in dealing with new converts to Islam and those who have recently repented. Actually, this attitude is crystal clear in the Prophet’s way of teaching Islam to new converts. He never overburdened them with many duties, orders, or prohibitions. When the new converts asked him about the teachings of Islam, he only informed them about the basic duties of Islam, without overwhelming them with many (supererogatory) acts.
even, we see that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) vehemently criticized those who make things difficult for people without considering their circumstances. This is demonstrated in his attitude towards some of the companions who used to prolong the prayer when leading people, which resulted in some complaints from people. When he was informed that Mu`adh prolonged the prayer, he reproached him saying: “Are you a tempter?” He said it thrice. Also, a man came to the Prophet and said, “O Allah’s messenger! I keep away from the morning prayer because so-and-so (the imam) prolongs it too much.” Allah’s Messenger became furious, and I never saw him more furious than he was on that day. The Prophet said, “O people! Some of you make others dislike the prayer, so whoever becomes an Imam he should shorten the prayer, as behind him are the weak, the old, and those who need to leave for a certain purpose.”
Some narrations reported that the leader who prolonged the prayer in the former incident was Ubay ibn Ka`b, one of the accomplished and knowledgeable companions. However, this did not spare him from the Prophet’s criticism. The Prophet also disapproved of the act of Mu`adh, though he was one of his beloved and appreciated companions.
Anas, the Prophet’s servant and companion, states: “I never prayed behind any imam a prayer lighter and more perfect than that of the Prophet, and he used to shorten the prayer whenever he heard the cries of a child lest he should put the child’s mother to trial.” The Prophet himself said: “When I start the prayer I intend to prolong it, but on hearing the cries of a child, I shorten the prayer because I know that the cries of the child will incite his mother’s passions.” In another hadith, Abu Hurayrah narrates that the Prophet said: “If any of you leads the people in prayer, he should shorten it for amongst them are the weak, the sick and the old; and if anyone among you prays alone then he may prolong (the prayer) as much as he wishes.”
the Prophet’s disapproval of severity reached its peak when he felt that it would form an orientation that would be adopted, not only by individuals, but by a group of Muslims. This is noticeable in his vehement disapproval of the act of the three companions who intended to follow a way of worship different from his way, though they meant only to perform good deeds and draw nearer to Allah. Anas narrates that a group of three men came to the houses of the wives of the Prophet asking how the Prophet worshipped (Allah), and when they were informed about that, they seemed to consider it insufficient and said, “Where are we from the Prophet, as his past and future sins have been forgiven?” Then one of them said, “I will offer the prayer throughout the night forever.” The other said, “I will fast throughout the year and will not break my fast.” The third said, “I will keep away from women and will not marry forever.” Allah’s Messenger came to them and said, “Are you the same people who said so-and-so? By Allah, I am more submissive to Allah and more afraid of Him than you; yet I fast and break my fast, I do sleep and I also marry women. So he who does not follow my Sunnah in religion, is not from me (not one of my followers).”
In this context, Ibn Mas`ud narrates that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Ruined were those who indulged in hair-splitting. He repeated this thrice.” In this hadith, al-mutanate`un means those who indulge in hair-splitting issues, and seek unnecessary difficulties.
Furthermore, Abu Hurayrah narrates that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said, “Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So be moderate and try to be near to perfection, and receive the good tidings (that you will be rewarded); and gain strength by worshipping in the early hours of the mornings, the afternoon hours, and some part of the nights.” The narration of Al-Bukhari goes as following “Do good deeds properly and moderately, and worship Allah in the forenoon and in the afternoon and during a part of the night, and always adopt a middle, moderate, regular course whereby you will reach your target (Paradise).”
Thus, the Prophet tells us that whoever intends to overburden himself with religious duties will fail, since the religious branches are numerous. So, he taught us to choose times that are more suitable for offering acts of worship, that is times when the heart feels comfortable and the body is not exhausted, so that one would feel the delicious taste of worship and not feel boredom.