Islam seeks not to cause any hardship to its adherents or burden them beyond their capabilities. Easiness and facilitation are among 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: 6) “Allah tasketh not a soul beyond its scope.” (Al-Baqarah: 286). The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way.”
These concepts of facilitation and easiness in Islam are clearly manifest in its simple and flexible legislations that cater for all the different conditions of people as well as the various situations. Thus it facilitates its rulings in order that it may not burden people with tasks beyond their abilities and that they face no hardship when abiding by Shari`ah precepts. The question in point, serves as an example of how Islam seeks facilitation and easiness in its legislations. Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states: If you are new to Islam and you haven’t memorized anything yet, you may pray while reading from a book or written paper. But you should discontinue this practice as soon as you have learned the basic minimum elements required for fard (obligatory) Prayer.
The basic minimum required reading in salah consists of Surat al-Fatihah and some short surahs, such as the three last surahs of the Qur’an, in addition to what is listed below:
1. Subhana rabbiya al-`azeem (glory be to my Lord, the Great) three times in ruku` (while bowing)
2. Sami`a Allahu liman hamidah (Allah hears those who praise Him) while rising from ruku`
3. Rabbana laka al-hamdu (Our Lord, all praise is Yours) after rising from ruku`
4. Subhana rabbiya al-a`la (Glory be to my Lord, the Most High) while in < i>sujud (prostration)
5. At-tahhiyyat or tashahhud while sitting after two rak`ahs or in the final rak`ah before salam, (which one can read from a book)
If you find yourself unable to say these except by looking in a book, you can do so until such time that you are able to recite them from memory. It is important for us to know that Allah does not burden us with tasks which are beyond our abilities.
As for the sunnah and nafl (optional) prayers, you may look in the book if you wish occasionally to read longer surahs. We have precedents for this in the practice of the early generations; we learn from the sources that `A’ishah, the beloved wife of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) commissioned someone to lead her and other women in Tarawih Prayer during the month of Ramadan by looking in the Mushaf (copy of the Qur’an). If it had been haram to do so, she would not have done it.