How many times have you heard someone say practising Islam or being a ‘religious’ Muslim is difficult? Reflect on the following. Imam al-Bukhari in his Sahih relates the following hadith (record of the words of the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, in the chapter On The Deen Being Ease.
It is related from Abu Hurayrah, RadhiAllahu Anhu, that the Messenger of Allah, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, said,
“The deen is ease. Whoever makes the deen too hard for himself will be overpowered, so direct yourselves to what is right, follow a middle course, accept the good news of the reward for right action, and seek help [to reach your goal by being constant in worshipping] in the morning, evening and some of the night.” (Hadith no. 39)
“The deen is ease.”
deen = Obedience, a state of abasement and submissiveness.
In the hadith, al-deen is referring to Islam as the means or the vehicle by which one is obedient and in a state of humble submission to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala (exalted is He). It is synonymous with shari`ah (law) and includes both Islam (i.e. practice) and Iman (faith).
yusr (ease / easy) = ease, facilitation without constriction.
Ibn Abi Jamrah in his commentary of the abridged Sahih of al-Bukhari, Bahjat al-Nufus, highlights a number of ways the statement ‘The deen is ease’ can be understood and demonstrated. Some of them are as follows.
1. Deen here can be understood as both Iman and Islam together. Iman (faith) is ‘easy’ in the sense that it is straightforward without any complexities. This is demonstrated in the hadith where the Prophet ﷺ tests the slave girl to see whether or not she is a Muslim. He was satisfied by her action of simply pointing to the sky to indicate that Allah (swt) is above his creation and by her attesting to the fact that he was the Messenger of Allah. As for the ease in Islam, the practice, this is demonstrated by the famous hadith where a person asks the Prophet ﷺ about the obligations of Islam and the Prophet ﷺ tells him about the five obligatory prayers, the obligatory fast of Ramadan and the obligatory zakat (charity). Each time the person asked if there was anything more than the obligatory prayer, fasting and zakat the Prophet ﷺ replied that there wasn’t unless he wanted to do something extra voluntarily. While the person was leaving he said to himself, by Allah I will not increase nor decrease from that. The Prophet ﷺ said he has succeeded if he is truthful.
2. The ease here could be referring to what you have been given as a deen compared to the previous nations and the fact that you have only been obligated with that which you have the capacity to do. Allah (swt) has removed the burdens that were in the shari`ah of the previous nations from this ummah (community). For instance, the process of repentance for this ummah is made by regret, giving up the sin and seeking forgiveness whereas for some previous nations repentance was through capital punishment (for some sins). Another example is that unlawful things for us have been made lawful in times of necessity whereas this was not the case for previous nations. Also the fact that Allah (swt) has only burdened us with obligations that we have the physical and intellectual capacity to fulfil, for if he did burden us with something beyond our capacity, it still would have been acceptable as He is all Wise and the Omnipotent whose decisions none can overturn. Therefore it is from His favour and bounty that He has forgiven us and only made us responsible according to our capacity. As He says in the Qur’an: Allah does not burden the soul beyond its capacity (2:286). Therefore the one who is made responsible for that which one had the capacity to bear then that is from ease and not from hardship.
3. The ease here could be that deen is easy for the one who has knowledge of the deen and it is difficult for the one that is ignorant of the deen.
4. The ease referred to here could be the fact that the legal texts that imply an obligation without any room for other interpretations are few in number. The vast majority of legal texts are open to different interpretations (that lead to more than one valid legal option) and therefore this is ease and flexibility from the Master to His servants.
5. The ease referred to here could be to shorten one’s hopes, because shortening one’s hopes is amongst the causes that assist one in the deen so that the deen becomes easy. This is due to the fact that when one’s hopes are shortened covetousness is reduced, zuhd (detachment from unnecessary things) becomes easy and performing good deeds becomes light. This is similar to what the Prophet ﷺ mentioned: “When one of you wakes up in the morning, do not expect (to live) till the evening and when one of you goes to sleep in the evening do not expect (to live) till the morning.”
6. The ease referred to here could be to perform good deeds in reverence to the rights due to Allah (swt) since the deen belongs completely to Allah. When one does this the deen becomes easy due to the sweetness of obedience, performing deeds become effortless, and in fact, one is nourished by the deeds performed for the sake of Allah (swt).