Difficulty or Ease?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/misterpain/3616483028/Difficulty 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?

In Islam we derive our understandings from two primary sources: The Qur’an and the Sunnah (tradition) of the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him). There are secondary sources, of course, but these articles will focus exclusively on the primary sources, as that should be sufficient.

This series is intended to be an easy read. Islam is not an academic discipline. Yes, it can be studied academically, but Islam is more than that.

Also, the sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ is to use easy, short and understandable words.

During my studies of Shariah (Islamic Law), my usul (jurisprudence) teacher would impress upon us that we must look at as many of the relevant sources within a context as possible before making a ruling.

This isn’t just the case for fiqh (jurisprudence), but for aqeeda (creed) and every other discipline—Islamic or otherwise.

Don’t just look at one verse and give a ruling. That would skew your perceptions and understanding. It’s like looking at a jigsaw piece and claiming that you know what the bigger picture is. You might fluke and guess it correctly, but the chances are very small.

I’ll be presenting different verses (ayat) of the Qur’an and different ahadith (narrations) about the Prophet ﷺ and looking at what each of them tells us, as each is a piece forming the final picture.


The Prophet ﷺ was brought up as an orphan. As he grew up, he experienced trial upon trial upon trial; he didn’t know his father, his mother passed away while he was young, and his grandfather also passed away years later.

How do you expect a man who experienced all of this difficulty to be?

How about a boy who is thrown into a well by his brothers, those whom he trusted the most… left to rot and die?

Imagine being in the depth of that well, hearing voices and then seeing a rope and basket. You cling onto this rope for dear life thinking that you’re not going to die!

You experience a sense of overwhelming joy.

But just then you are bound and gagged, taken into slavery! How cruel!

That moment of ecstasy extinguished suddenly. You experience days and weeks of being tied and gagged en-route to an unknown land.

Nevertheless, you are sold to a man who treats you well, so you experience a ray of light in your dark tunnel. However, the mistress of the house tries to seduce you, leading you to commit sin. But you resist and refrain.

But then the mistress brings her friends and creates an even bigger temptation, you resist but because of HER you get sent to prison. Innocently. The accusation being a crime that you did not commit.

Are these not hardships? This was Prophet Yusuf alayhi as-salaam (peace be upon him).

Statistically speaking, what would you expect of someone who had experienced these hardships?

You would expect a bitter man in search of revenge. A man out to harm society, most likely a serial killer!

But we know that he was different.

With Hardship There is Ease

The first piece of evidence that I display before you is the verse:

“So, Verily with the hardship there is ease. Verily with the hardship there is ease.” (Surah Ash-Sharh 94:5-6) [Emphasis added.]

People take these verses alone as proof of whatever they’d like to believe.

Using just the above verse, some claim that hardship should be our goal because it brings with it ease. In other words, that we should create hardship for it brings with it ease.

Others claim that these verses remind us of ease and that hardship is a passing phase. That ease is the goal that one should strive for.

Let’s look at what this verse teaches us.

The use of the term ‘the hardship’ in this verse implies only one hardship.

Allah does not define ease or confine it by a number; this means that for every hardship there are two eases.

If there were just one instance of hardship and one of ease, they would neutralize each other. But this isn’t the case.

The reality is that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala (exalted is He) mentions ease at a ratio of 2:1. Ease should therefore flush out hardship!

So based on these verses, relatively speaking, there is no hardship because there is twice as much ease as there is hardship!

So actually these verses don’t tell us what to focus on as much as they tell us that there exists (at least) twice as much ease as there is hardship.

Some (mis)understand the verse as if it had said: in the hardship… as opposed to with the hardship. That would stipulate that ease was nested in hardship… almost that you needed hardship in order to have ease.

The verse of course doesn’t say “in hardship” and instead says “with hardship” so hardship is not needed in order to have ease.

Let’s take the beginning ayaat of the same surah, Surah Ash-Sharh:

Have We not expanded your breast?

And removed from you your burden

That which did blister you back?

And raised high the esteem (in which) though (art held)?

(Qur’an 94:1-4)

Here it is obvious that ease is a bounty from Allah that can come after hardship. The verses don’t in and of themselves stipulate that ease only comes after hardship.

These verses describe perfectly what happens when a burden is removed. The chest is un-clogged. The constriction is removed. The weight that was burdening one’s shoulders and back is alleviated.

The way in which Allah asks, “Have We not expanded your breast and removed from you your burden” suggests that ease is a bounty and that it is more favorable than difficulty.

The next articles will discuss:

  • Wondrous Are The Believers’ Affairs
  • Seek Help Through Patience
  • He Always Chose The Easiest of Two Matters
  • Allah Wants Ease For You
  • Allah Wants To Alleviate The Burden

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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  1. anthony says:

    A chain of events is but one
    Equal links of prophet hood
    One baton passed by the hands of time
    The scroll of one message to behold

    Stormy weather entrenched in snow
    Waistline deep in thought
    Yet mercy by each flake
    Surrounds me so

    Muslim tongue immersed in contour
    It’s runway touched a snowflake
    My lips now closed
    Embed with Islam composed

  2. Dini says:

    Thank you very much for this great reminder artcicle :) May Allah SWT rewards your kindness, aamiin yaa Rabb …

  3. Said Hasan says:

    JazakAllah Khayr Brother.

  4. saba says:

    simply superb…well elaborated, enjoyed the commentary .i hadn’t seen this ayah through this angle..

  5. Uzma says:

    So True. We often get so overwhelmed by difficulty that we cease to truly see the ease. May we be guided to see the Glory and Kindness, in abundance, all around us.

  6. Steve Henshaw says:

    You seem to be confused on one small matter.

    Surah 94 Ayat 1: You have translated as ‘Have We not expanded your breast?’

    This is an Arab figure of speech. To expand your breast, means to sigh with relief.

    Allah (swt) is asking, ‘Do you not see how We have made you sigh with relief?’

    It doesn’t mean anything about unclogging one’s chest, in my opinion. I don’t even know what that means. I hope my words may dispel some confusion. I think it dovetails better with the point you seek to make. Allah knows best.

    • AbdelRahman says:

      Assalamu Alaykom wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh,

      The figure of speech is as it is because of
      how it explains what happens.

      Sigh with relief and notice how more expanded your chest feels.

  7. O H says:

    Jazak Allaahu Khair. Is this the first article of the series?

  8. sarah says:

    Great article. Looking forward to all the articles in the series. May Allah reward you immensely for this. :)
    Could you please correct the spellings of “Subhanahu wa ta’ala” where you have explained ease at a ratio of 2:1.
    Jazak Allah khair. :)

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