The Concept of “Ease and Alleviating Hardship” in the Sharee'ah

One of the great aspects of this Sharee’ah is that it comes with tayseer (ease) and aims to alleviate haraj (hardship). There are several texts in the Qur'an and Sunnah to prove this. Allah 'Azza wa Jall says:

1. “Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship, and wants for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that to which He has guided you, and perhaps you will be grateful.” [Al-Baqarah 2:185]

2. “And Allah wants to lighten for you your difficulties, and mankind was created weak.” [An-Nisaa 4:28]

3. “Allah does not intend to place you in difficulty, but He intends to purify you and complete His favour upon you that you may be grateful.” [Al-Ma'idah 5:6]

4. “And strive for Allah with the striving due to Him. He has chosen you and has not placed upon you in the religion any hardship.” [Hajj 22:78]

And from the Sunnah:

1. The Prophet (SAW) said: “The religion is very easy, and whoever overburdens himself in his religion it will outdo him.” [Bukhari]

2. The Prophet (SAW) said: “Allah did not send me to overburden nor to be rigid, rather he sent me as a teacher and to be easy.” [Muslim]

3. When the Prophet (SAW) sent Mu'adh and Abu Musa al-Ash'ari to Yemen he told them: “Be easy and do not be difficult, bring glad tidings and do not drive away, and consent to one another and do not differ with one another.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

So these are some examples showing that one of the objectives of our Sharee'ah is ease and alleviation of hardship. However, the question is how do we apply this concept? Is it to be applied wherever and whenever one feels the need for it? Or is it to be applied to only certain situations?

One of the main conditions for applying this concept of “ease and alleviating hardship” is that it conforms with the texts of the Qur'an and Sunnah. There must be evidence from either the Qur'an or Sunnah to prove that this concept is valid and can be applied with regards to a certain issue, or evidence preventing us from applying it. Hopefully the following examples can clarify that:

1. In acts of worship: The Sharee'ah has legislated certain rukhas (exemptions or dispensations), such as wiping over the socks, the option not to stand in the prayer, women not being obligated to prayer Jumu'ah, shortening the prayer when travelling, combining two prayers when there is the need for it, and other types of exemptions where the Sharee'ah intends to alleviate difficulty.

2. In dealings and transactions: The Sharee'ah has exempted certain types of trade which are exceptions to the general rules. An example of which would be salam, a type of trade where one trades with what one does not possess. It is permitted under specific principles and conditions, in the same way as divorce is permitted to terminate a marital contract for the purpose of averting unbearable hardships sustained from unpleasant marriages.

3. In daily life: The Sharee'ah has legislated the permissibility of enjoying tayyibat (that which is wholesome and good), but without waste or arrogance. Food, drink, clothing, riding animals, and other sources of benefit are all permitted by the Sharee'ah on the condition that there is no text from the Qur'an or Sunnah to deem it impermissible.

All of the aforementioned examples are derived from the Qur'an and Sunnah. They show us exactly how this concept of “ease and alleviating hardship” is to be applied. Then there are other texts from the Qur'an and Sunnah showing us where this concept is not to be applied. The following examples shed light upon that:

1. A man came to the Prophet (SAW) and mentioned to him that he does not have anyone to take him to the masjid. So he asked him if he could exempt him from praying in the masjid thereby allowing him to pray at home. So the Prophet (SAW) originally exempted him, however after he departed he called him back and asked him: “Do you hear the call to prayer?” He replied: “Yes.” So the Prophet (SAW) said: “Then respond to it (by coming to the masjid for prayer).” [Muslim]

2. A'isha (RA) narrates that there was a girl from the Ansar who was newly-wed. She soon became ill which caused her hair to fall out. So they intended to reconnect her hair, and so they approached the Prophet (SAW) to ask him. He replied saying: “May Allah curse the one who connects the hair and the one who requests it.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

3. Umm Salamah (RA) narrates that a woman came to the Prophet (SAW) and said: “O Messenger of Allah, my daughter's husband has passed away, and she has complained about her eyes (suffering from some sort of sickness), so can we use kohl on her eyes?” So the Prophet (SAW) said: “no,” two or three times. [Bukhari and Muslim]

In all three of these examples, the companions involved were seeking ease and alleviation of hardship in each of their particular situations. In the first example, the blind man found it difficult to walk to the masjid for prayer. In other narrations, he mentions that he goes through a great deal of hardship considering the difficult terrain that he has to cross in order to reach the masjid. Given his situation, the Prophet (SAW) still did not exempt him from praying in the masjid.

In the second example, the young girl fell into a sickness that caused her hair to fall out. Given that she had just recently been married and therefore needed to beautify herself for her husband, the Prophet (SAW) still did not permit her to connect her hair.

In the third example, the Prophet (SAW) prevented the woman from using kohl in her eyes as a cure because it is a means of beautifying the eyes, and considering that she is a woman who's husband passed away she is not allowed to beautify herself until her period of waiting has been completed (four months and ten days).

So these examples show that the concept of “ease and alleviating hardship” in the Sharee'ah is confined by certain rules and conditions, and that it is not a concept that is open for all to use when and where they feel like using it.

Unfortunately, we live in an era when many so-called “scholars” have opened the door of “ease and alleviating hardship” wide open, and have misused the concept to fulfill their own personal objectives. They search for the easiest opinions in everything, thereby disregarding clear cut evidences from the Qur'an and Sunnah. They've made their methodology of deriving rulings based upon “ease and alleviating hardship,” and not based upon the strongest supporting evidence from the Qur'an and Sunnah. Such must fear Allah and realize how minute their position before Him is, for it is feared that the one who enters this door of “ease and alleviating hardship” without considering its rules and conditions, that they would be from among those who “take the verses of Allah in jest.”

Ash-Shatibi says: So when the layman presents his case before the mufti, he is saying to him: “Release me from my hawa, and guide me to following the truth.” So given this situation, it is not possible for him to tell him: “Your question has two opinions, so choose for your shahwa (desires) whichever one you wish.” For this would mean that he is legislating by mere hawa and not the Shar' (legislation). [Al-Muwafaqat 5/97]

Madeenah, Saudi Arabia
2nd of Dhul-Hijjah 1429