Difficulty or Ease? Part II


http://www.flickr.com/photos/79821649@N00/5013193707/in/photolist-8CZVQg-acgWvy-8YwDhz-8kp8dX-ax28GV-bUGdcf-9bQwAw-7VkzMA-7Tm6VT-7YYKb8-8P5yE6-8xwBwp-8HrZZu-9cEM3x-i4BYX6-86Hq5F-91kB1q-8mZ8ju-87GoqP-7MvNw9-7BbRNF-aF9g8w-93tqf9-9a9PBL-gDMv31-82b3kH-9dfbyU-91FJwh-8hnG6H-9eCWt8-9qeSKa-9rA16H-7zXmgp-9u6c2F-9a5w1e-b6G2mV-9qW1cSDifficulty or Ease Series: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI

By AbdelRahman Mussa

This small series of articles aims to explore the following questions:

  • Does Islam promote ease or difficulty?
  • Does Islam state that the path to Allah is that of difficulty?

Previously we looked at the first piece of evidence – the verse:

“So, Verily with THE hardship there is ease. Verily with THE hardship there is ease.” (Qur’an 94:5-6)

In this article, we will look at 5 more evidences:

Wondrous Are The Believers’ Affairs

The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) said,

“Wondrous are the believers’ affairs.

For him there is good in all his affairs, and this is so only for the believer.

When something pleasing happens to him, he is grateful, and that is good for him; and when something displeasing happens to him, he is patient, and that is good for him.” (Muslim; 7138)

What is the Prophet ﷺ referring to when he says the final words of the above hadith, “…and that is good for him”?

Is ‘it’ referring to ‘hardship’ or is ‘it’ referring to ‘ease’?

The hardship is not what is good for the believer and the ease is not what is good for the believer, but how they react to each: with patience or gratitude.

Patience and/or gratitude are/is what is referred to in the statement “is good for him”.

Understand that hardship in and of itself is not necessarily beneficial. Nor is ease. In medical terms, hardship alone leads to exhaustion and ease alone leads to atrophy. Both in and of themselves are not necessarily good or bad.

Should we chase after hardship or ease?

Neither.

The hadith says, if  it (hardship/ease) befalls him. The believer is passive with respect to what befalls him in this narration.

Seek Help Through Patience

“And seek you help through patience and prayer; and most surely it is a hard thing, save for those with khushoo`.”

(Qur’an 2:45)

So Allah is commanding us to seek refuge (i.e. from difficulty) with patience and prayer. This suggests that patience and prayer are a form of ease. This falls in line with what we understand of the Prophet ﷺ, commanding Bilal to bring rest with prayer.

But then, Allah says that doing this is difficult for those without khushoo`.

So is prayer easy or difficult?

It’s clear that patience and prayer can be easy for some and can be difficult for others.

Difficulty is therefore subjective and as such it shouldn’t be our yardstick. Difficulty cannot be the yardstick if it is subjective. It would be like having moving goal posts!

The same is true of ease, except that Allah asks us to take refuge from difficulty with patience and prayer (implying that they’re easy—for those with khushoo’).

Difficulty isn’t something that we go after because it’s subjective. Ease is also subjective so it shouldn’t be our goal either; instead, the verse suggests that we should employ what brings us ease when faced with difficulty, not as a goal in and of itself, but as a relief from difficulty.

As a side note, tazkiyah (purification) is the process through which something difficult or disliked can be turned into something easy and liked.

If you loop this ayah (verse) on itself, then for those that find patience and prayer difficult, you can use (seek refuge in) patience and prayer to make patience and prayer easy!

He Always Chose The Easiest of Two Matters

Aysha (ra) narrates,

“The Prophet of Allah, upon him be peace, always chose the easiest of two matters, so long as it was not sinful” (Bukhari).

If we are to understand the previous hadith mentioned in evidence #3 to mean that difficulty is the path to heaven, was the Prophet ﷺ choosing the path opposite to heaven?

(Evidence #3: “Hell is surrounded by worldly desire, while Heaven is surrounded by difficulty and hardship.”)

The Prophet ﷺ chose the path of ease. He is one of our primary sources of derivation and he was on the path to Allah, so by following him we are by default also on the path of/to Allah.

So ease is something that we need to choose when given the choice, not difficulty. This is the sunnah (way) of the Prophet ﷺ.

But again, there is a sense that the choosing of ease was reactive or secondary to something else. She (ra) says that the Prophet ﷺ chose ease when presented with two matters to choose from.

So again, the evidence till now has suggested that ease isn’t a goal that we should seek and nor is difficulty.

Allah Wants Ease For You

There are verses of the Qur’an that favor ease over difficulty.

“Allah wants ease for you and does not want difficulty for you.” (Qur’an 2: 185)

This verse comes in the context of obligatory fasting – which for most is not easy.

Fasting in the beginning of Ramadan is difficult since you’re not used to it. But as you approach the end, it becomes easy and maybe you promise yourself to continue fasting after Ramadan, but you don’t. Once Ramadan finishes, you miss fasting for a while, until you forget about it.

Again, difficulty is subjective as may relate with the example of fasting in Ramadan—how something that was hard can turn into something that is easy.

So Allah wants ease for us, not difficulty. This reaffirms that the path to Allah is not the path of difficulty. Alone it doesn’t prove that the path to Allah is ease either.

Yet, the next ayah (verse) brings another factor to our attention. I’ll mention what it is with the next evidence.

Allah Wants To Alleviate The Burden

“Allah wants to alleviate the burden from you.” (Qur’an 4: 28)

The new factor brought to our attention in the last verse is also brought to our attention here: the factor that Allah should be our goal. It’s an implied factor.

I mentioned previously that difficulty is not a goal and that ease is not a goal either. This ayah tells us that Allah is the goal. He ‘wants’ from us something, meaning that He is in a position to be obeyed.

Does He want ease from us?

Not necessarily and again this doesn’t mean that He wants difficulty from us either. However,  He does want ease for (not from)us.

So how are we to understand ease? I have to put the answer to this question on hold for now.

The next article will discuss:

  • We Shall Test You With Something of Fear
  • Hell is Surrounded By Worldly Desire
  • When Is The Help Of Allah Due?

AbdelRahman Mussa, a graduate of sharia and a therapist, is the founder of ipersonalenrichment.com, a site specializing in practical tazkiyah (purification of the heart). To receive his free newsletter about tazkiyah, please visit the ipersonalenrichment.com website.

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2 Comments

  1. Said Hasan says:

    JazakAllah khayr.
    I subscribed to your newsletter following your first article on this topic.
    I am really enjoying reading the emails. It is interesting and beneficial.

  2. AbdelRahman says:

    BarakAllah feek, remember your brother in your duas :-)

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