It is noticeable that while Islam has narrowed the range of what is prohibited, it is, at the same time, very strict in seeing that its prohibitions are observed. Accordingly, it has blocked the ways, apparent or hidden, leading to what is prohibited.
At the same time, Islam is not oblivious to the exigencies of life, to their magnitude, nor to human weakness and capacity to face them. It relaxes the rulings for the Muslim under the compulsion of necessity and permits him what was otherwise unlawful, but this is to be restricted only to what removes the necessity and need.
Dr. Monzer Kahf, a prominent economist and counselor, states: “Theoretically, a necessity is anything that is indispensable to maintain the five things for whose protection and promotion religion is sent down; and if you put it in the negative form, it is anything the lack of which brings substantial damage to any of these five. These five things are: life, religion, mind or reason, posterity and property. These five things are derived from a complete survey of all the rulings of Shari’ah that came in the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Next to necessities come the conveniences; these are matters that remove any substantial inconvenience or bring substantial ease to any of these five matters. Then come the improvements; they add beauty and joy to any of these five basic things.
While extreme values of each of these three classes of actions are very obvious — such as life threatening for the first, missing the time of a prayer because of traffic or praying without full sujud and ruku` in a plane for the second, or covering the `awrah for the third — the values at the limits or boundaries between them are not easy to determine. From a practical point of view, the limits and boundary points are very subjective because the degrees of tolerance and perseverance of people are different, and they vary for the same person from time to time. That is where the advice of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) comes that we should make the best or optimum compromises at each time. He said: “…but make effort to hit targets or to come close to them.”
Another thing that needs to be mentioned to complete the picture: When a convenience applies to a large group or a class of people, it is treated the same as necessities. An example is taxi drivers in a crowded city who can hardly maintain the time of prayers; then for them praying whenever they can after the beginning of the time becomes permissible, although theoretically they can always stop and pray on the side of the street.
Lastly, in implementing any relaxation of a ruling on the basis of necessity or a convenience that covers a class of persons, one must always remember that one deals with Allah, the Most Knowing, Who cannot be cheated by untrue necessity or false intolerability. Please notice that the obligations of Shari`ah — all of them — require certain effort, tolerance and sacrifice; they are not without cost!”