From the Foundations of Islam: There is No Obligation in the Face of (Legitimate) Weakness


by Dr. Ali Abdul Jabbar al-Sururi | Translated by Suhaib Webb

22907132_872e42b6f9_bThis principle was mentioned by Ibn al-Qayyim and it lends to the notion of a step by step outlook and gradual approach in one’s practice of Islam. When a Muslim finds himself in a situation where he does not have the capacity to observe certain obligations, then, under such circumstances, the obligation is removed due to his inability to perform it.

Sheikh al-Islam1 Ibn Taymiyyah wrote,2

‘On more than one occasion, God informed us that He “does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity” (2:286). And while ordering people to be dutiful to Him, he conditioned it to one’s ability saying, So fear Allah as much as you are able…”’ (64:16).

These texts indicate that He does not obligate a person with what is beyond his scope. Thus, the scholar who struggles to clarify the correct ruling on a manner, whether he is an imam, ruler, or mufti, if he labors to formulate an opinion based on evidences then he has succeeded in being dutiful to God according to his ability, performed what God has obligated upon him, obeyed Him and is eligible for His generous bounties and favors.

The same applies to a disbeliever residing in the lands of the non-Muslims who received the message of Prophet ﷺ, recognized him as God’s messenger, believed in him ﷺ and the revelation that accompanied him. Such a person has been dutiful to God according to his ability just like Najashi and others. Najashi was not able to migrate to Muslim lands, or perform all of the rites of Islam or openly profess his faith because his conditions would not allow it, and there was no one there to teach him his faith. However, he was a believer in God from the people of Paradise just as the believing man (who hid his faith) from the people of Pharaoh, Pharaoh’s wife and Prophet Yusuf, God’s peace be upon him, when he lived in Egypt. At that time the people of Egypt were disbelievers and it was not possible for Prophet Yusuf to practice amongst them everything he knew about his faith. He invited them to recognize God’s oneness and believe, but they did not answer his call. God says in the Qur’an,

“And Joseph had already come to you before with clear proofs, but you remained in doubt of that which he brought to you, until when he died, you said, ‘Never will Allah send a messenger after him’…” (40:34).

Najashi’s case was similar. Even though he was the king of the Christians, only a few people obeyed his orders and accepted Islam while the majority refused. For that reason, when he died, there was no one there to pray the Muslim funeral prayer for him. Thus, the Prophet ﷺ performed his funeral prayer in Madina with his ﷺ companions – may Allah be pleased with them – announcing to them, “A righteous brother of yours from the people of Ethiopia has died.” (al-Bukhari and Muslim). Najashi was unable to perform most of the rites of Islam such as hijrah (migration), jihad (sacred combat) and hajj (pilgrimage), because they were simply beyond his capacity.’

In summary, there is no difference amongst the jurists that one who lives in the lands of the non-Muslims is not obligated to perform what he does not have the ability to do because obligations are based on ability.

Majmu` al-Fatwa, vol. 19, pg. 216-220.


  1. The Sheikh of Islam.
  2. Majmu` al-Fatwa, vol. 19, pg. 216-220.
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6 Comments

  1. Umar says:

    Assalaamu `alaikum,

    Dear Imaam, can you please share with us the original words of Ibn Taymiyyah in Arabic? I referred back to my copy of Majmu` al-Fataawa, and found the section that you have made a reference to, but I do not see the last sentence that you have quoted:

    “In summary, there is no difference amongst the jurists that one who lives in the lands of the non-Muslims is not obligated to perform what he does not have the ability to do because obligations are based on ability.”

    I am wondering if there might have been a typo, and that this sentence is not part of the larger quote from Ibn Taymiyyah, but instead a comment from Dr. Sururi?

    Or perhaps there is something missing in my edition of the Fataawa?

    Jazaak Allaahu khairan.

  2. Suhaib Webb says:

    Asalamu alaykum,

    that is not Ibn taymiyyahs words, but the dr’s.

  3. Umar says:

    Assalaamu `alaikum,

    Jazaak Allaahu khairan Imam. In that case, I must contend that the closing sentence by Dr. Sururi does not accurately convey the meaning carried by the quoted passage of Ibn Taymiyyah.

    For anyone who refers back to the passage cited in Majmoo` al-Fataawa, it is clear that Ibn Taymiyyah is exclusively speaking in the context of someone who is unable to emigrate from the land of non-Muslims. Only in that scenario, one “is not obligated to perform what he does not have the ability to do because obligations are based on ability.”

    As for the those who have the ability to migrate, this passage does not apply to them. It is agreed upon (as pointed out by Shaykh Abdullaah ibn Bayyah in Sinaa`atul Fatwa and elsewhere, and others) that if one is unable to practice one’s Deen in the land of non-Muslims (such as performing prayer, paying zakat, etc.), it is obligatory to emigrate to a place where one can practice one’s Deen freely and openly. As Allah says, “Was not land of Allah vast enough for you to migrate?” (Qur’an, 4:97).

    And Allah knows best.

  4. Suhaib Webb says:

    Asalamu alaykum,

    It would appear that the Dr. has mixed two quotes together. Here’s the original:

    وَبِالْجُمْلَةِ لَا خِلَافَ بَيْنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ أَنَّ مَنْ كَانَ فِي دَارِ الْكُفْرِ وَقَدْ آمَنَ وَهُوَ عَاجِزٌ عَنْ الْهِجْرَةِ لَا يَجِبُ عَلَيْهِ مِنْ الشَّرَائِعِ مَا يَعْجِزُ عَنْهَا بَلْ الْوُجُوبُ بِحَسَبِ الْإِمْكَانِ وَكَذَلِكَ مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ حُكْمَهُ فَلَوْ لَمْ يَعْلَمْ أَنَّ الصَّلَاةَ وَاجِبَةٌ عَلَيْهِ وَبَقِيَ مُدَّةً لَمْ يُصَلِّ لَمْ يَجِبْ عَلَيْهِ الْقَضَاءُ فِي أَظْهَرِ قَوْلَيْ الْعُلَمَاءِ وَهَذَا مَذْهَبُ أَبِي حَنِيفَةَ وَأَهْلِ الظَّاهِرِ وَهُوَ أَحَدُ الْوَجْهَيْنِ فِي مَذْهَبِ أَحْمَد . وَكَذَلِكَ سَائِرُ الْوَاجِبَاتِ مِنْ صَوْمِ شَهْرِ رَمَضَانَ وَأَدَاءِ الزَّكَاةِ وَغَيْرِ ذَلِكَ . وَلَوْ لَمْ يَعْلَمْ تَحْرِيمَ الْخَمْرِ فَشَرِبَهَا لَمْ يُحَدَّ بِاتِّفَاقِ الْمُسْلِمِينَ وَإِنَّمَا

    from the Majm’o al-Fatawa as mentioned above.

    Shukran for the heads up, dear brothers. As for hijra, I would lean towards the opinion that it must be reviewed in the light of the maqasid and the over all benefits to Muslims in the Hereafter and this life. I do not agree the simply quoting classical texts, born out of a time when the world was very different than it is today, especially in Political and Nation State issues, are going to have those answer entirely. As Sh. al-Qaradawi said, “If Ibn Taymiyyah were alive today, I would guess that he would change many of his opinions.”

    SDW

  5. Suhaib Webb says:

    “As for the those who have the ability to migrate, this passage does not apply to them. It is agreed upon (as pointed out by Shaykh Abdullaah ibn Bayyah in Sinaa`atul Fatwa and elsewhere, and others) that if one is unable to practice one’s Deen in the land of non-Muslims (such as performing prayer, paying zakat, etc.), it is obligatory to emigrate to a place where one can practice one’s Deen freely and openly. As Allah says, “Was not land of Allah vast enough for you to migrate?” (Qur’an, 4:97).’

    I know of no difference on this. However, what happens when the case is inverted: A Muslim can practice his din better in the land of the non-Muslims?

    SDW

  6. raheem says:

    Salaams to all. Imam Suhaib, can you give an example of what should be left, that is obligatory, because we “live in the lands of the non-Muslims is not obligated to perform what he does not have the ability to do because obligations are based on ability”. Would that apply to salah in certain situation. Sorry if the question sound simple, I am not trying to insult or be stupid, love your site and the articles and lectures. Ja za Kallah. And by the way, you have any plans to come to Florida? Salaams

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