Allah has Ordered What is Easy
The religious knowledge most people possess is based on what they have heard since their childhood. Because they haven't learned about religion from its real source, that is the Qur'an, they are a prey to many superstitions and foolish thoughts about religion. One of the most harmful of these beliefs is that it is hard to be religious: this is completely fallacious.
Those who have aimed at causing religion to deviate from its essence and tried to prevent religion from being practiced, have throughout history, attempted to add on many difficult practices and superstitions to it. With the practices they have invented, they have caused people to move away from religion, intentionally or unintentionally. However, the information set forth by Allah in the Qur'an and the traditions of our Prophet (saas) teach us that it is very easy for sincere people to practice religion.
First of all, we must aver that Allah has created humans from nothingness, as He has with everything else in the universe. Allah, Who knows human beings better than anyone else and Who is closer to them than their jugular veins, has created a religion appropriate to their characteristics. Allah states in the following verse that humans are called to the most appropriate religion, which is best suited to their character:
Therefore, stand firm in your devotion to the true Faith, as a pure natural believer, following Allah's natural pattern on which He made mankind. There is no changing Allah's Creation. That is surely the true Religion—but most people do not know it. (Surat ar-Rum: 30)
As a result of our Allah's compassion and kindness, all of the true religions sent down through the ages have possessed commandments which are easy to carry out, because, Allah has always wished ease for His devotees. The verse "… Allah desires your well-being" (Surat al-Baqara: 185) records this reality. One who obeys the limits specified by Allah is also one who lives in the most excellent way the life most suited to his characteristics.
Certain people who do not know these truths think that they will be able to lead a more comfortable life when the limits of religious morality are removed, for example, they think that they will be freer when they need not concern themselves with moral values. Or they presume that religion will engender particular restrictions that will make their lives more difficult. On the contrary, these are great errors into which people fall and are satan's deceptions, for it is extremely easy to live Allah's religion and fulfill His commands. The real difficulty is in living in a place where the inhabitants do not acknowledge Allah's limits. Such an experience brings about extremely dreadful consequences.
First of all, in communities where religious morality is not practiced or in the lives of unreligious people, there is always disorder, turmoil, anxiety, fear, unhappiness and stress. One who doesn't fear Allah can commit any sort of immoral acts, does not acknowledge any limit on any topic, and leads a degenerate life. In such a life, people don't show each other any spirit of sacrifice, any sort of love, or respect, and do not support each other spiritually or financially. For these reasons, such a life never brings anyone any happiness. When the boundaries of religion are taken away, the opposite of a peaceful atmosphere surfaces and a hell-like environment emerges, just as satan desires.
For example, the events that we have been experiencing very frequently in recent years, such as widespread drug use and dealing, prostitution, corruption, and deception are linked with being far from religion and hence from any spiritual values or beauty. In such circumstances, people assume that they have the license to act freely and as they wish. However, the spiritual and physical destruction brought about by this way of living without acknowledging any boundaries far outweighs any feelings of freedom they assume. Think about it. What can be the benefits of a person who is sick, has aged prematurely, whose hair and skin has lost its shine and vitality, who leads an exhausted and destitute life, all because of prostitution, drug and alcohol abuse? Really, not recognizing any boundaries, disregarding moral values, leading a life one assumes has no purpose and ends in nothingness, will bring about great physical and emotional damage to all concerned, without exception. Furthermore, these consequences are plain for all to see.
There may be people who think that the examples given here are very extreme. But the truth is that the more a person lives a life far from religious morality, flouting Allah's boundaries, the more that person will lead an unhappy and difficult life. And, just because a person doesn't live a life as extreme as in the given examples, it doesn't mean that he has an easy and happy life. Maybe he lives a more comfortable life than the ones we mentioned. But he can never find real happiness and peace. Moreover, as a result of distancing himself from Allah's commands, this person will face a Hereafter in which he will feel great remorse and where he will experience the greatest difficulties and pain.
Those who fear Allah and who fulfill Allah's commands without any shortcomings are in a position of great advantage in this world and the next. Above all, they experience spiritual pleasure and have the clear conscience of obeying Allah. There are always glad tidings and beauty for them. Allah gives good news to those who seek His approval and who protect His boundaries:
Those who repent, those who worship, those who praise, those who fast, those who bow, those who prostrate themselves, those who enjoin the right, and forbid evil and, those who observe the commandments of Allah shall be richly rewarded. (Surat at-Tawba: 112)
Those, who are remiss in upholding Allah's constraints, contrary to their conscience, or who see faith as horrid and infidelity as good, will face hardships and difficulties in this life and in the Hereafter. Allah tells us in one of His verses:
… Those are Allah's limits, and anyone who oversteps Allah's limits has wronged himself… (Surat at-Talaq: 1)
Along with those who presume it is hard to be religious, there are those who represent being religious as a hardship, as we mentioned above. True are some, who have not grasped the essence of religion, who are prone to take religion to extremes. Just as some ignore the boundaries of religion in the name of freedom, others have the temerity to change the boundaries Allah has set and make religion harder, all in the name of piety. This is actually a trap of satan. By showing things that are not forbidden as being prohibited, such people think that it is their privilege to make up other prohibitions. What's more, they do not comply, as they should with the rules they lay down and so suffer because of their conscience. On this topic Allah gives the example of Christians, who altered Christianity after the Prophet Jesus (as):
Then We sent Our Messengers following in their footsteps and sent Jesus the son of Maryam after them, giving him the Gospel. We put compassion and mercy in the hearts of those who followed him. As for monasticism, they instituted it themselves—We did not prescribe it for them. (Surat al-Hadid: 27)
Allah, therefore, warns believers against this danger and declares in the Qur'an that those who go extremes in religion have strayed from the true religion:
Say: "People of the Book! Do not go to extremes in your religion, asserting other than the truth, and do not yield to the whims and desires of people who were misguided previously and have misguided many others, and have themselves strayed far from the right path." (Surat al-Ma'ida: 77)
The only rule that the individual has to follow is to carry out the commands set forth by Allah in the Qur'an and to abstain from whatever is prohibited. When Allah decrees everything to be easy to believers, those who try to make religion harder will have to account for their behavior on Judgment Day. As is true of all else, our Prophet 's (saas) life and practices are a good example for us. In one of his traditions, the Holy Prophet (saas) reminds believers not to abandon and at the same time not to exceed Allah's boundaries and states that religion is easy.
"Religion is easy. No one can be severe against religion. For he will be defeated. (That is to say, that one should conform to religion's ease. Whoever tries to be firm will be helpless). Straighten your line of conduct, be close to the boundary/end." (Ramuz al-Ahadith, Vol 1, p 98)
People should evaluate religion in the manner of the tradition of the Prophet (saas), as mentioned above. That is to say, it is a mistake to show what Allah has conveyed as easy and straightforward and that can be easily implemented as difficult and incomprehensible. In fact, Allah has made the commands He sets forth in the Qur'an, so easy that everyone in every situation and environment can easily comply with them. In the coming sections, the ease Allah gives people in His boundaries of permissible and forbidden things will be dealt with.
Leniency acknowledged in terms of food
Allah has given people many blessings as a means of sustenance. Colorful fruits, a variety of food, vegetables, meats, drinks, dried fruits and nuts… Each one has been presented as a service to human beings: "They will ask you what is lawful for them. Say: 'All good things are lawful for you…'" (Surat al- Ma'ida: 4) Allah informs us that all the food that has been declared as clean is permissible for people to eat.
The food Allah forbids people to eat are such as are harmful to people, namely, carcasses, blood, and pork. Allah states in one of His verses:
Say: 'I do not find, in what has been revealed to me, any food it is haram [forbidden] to eat except for carrion, flowing blood, and pork – for that is unclean – or some deviance consecrated to other than Allah. But if anyone is forced to eat it, without desiring to or going to excess in it, your Lord is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful.' (Surat al-An'am: 145)
There is great wisdom in the word "unclean" that is used for these forbidden foods, for pork really does have qualities that are pernicious to people's health.
For example, pork is very fatty and, when eaten, this fat passes into the blood stream. This excessive fat in the blood causes the veins to harden, the blood pressure to go up, and finally a heart attack. Furthermore, in the case of the poisonous chemicals found in pork fat,—"toxins"—the lymph nodes have to work harder than usual to get rid of them. This condition especially occurs in children as lymph node infections and swelling. In addition to this, pork contains sulphur in great quantities. The excess sulphur taken in by the body accumulates in cartilages, muscles, and nerves, and causes illnesses such as infections, calcification, and lumbar hernia. Along with all of these, it brings about various types of serious skin diseases and trichina (trichina is only transmitted by pigs and is life-threatening for humans). (Only a few of the known harmful qualities of pork are mentioned here).
As can be seen, it is beneficial to and protective of health for certain foods which are harmful to humans to be forbidden.
However, another point is worth mentioning here. Of course, it is by Allah's command that things are either permissible or forbidden. And people are only held accountable for their actions according to Allah's law. It is a matter of Allah's will whether to show us the reasons behind forbidding a certain food or not. But, to make things easier for people and to make people's hearts rest content, as the example we gave previously demonstrated, Allah reveals the reasons behind things at many points.
When Allah states the forbidden foods in the Qur'an, He also clarifies how people should react to all sorts of situations they may be faced with. Any confusion people experience when they face an unexpected situation is thereby prevented. Some of the verses on this subject are as follows:
So eat from what Allah has provided for you, halal [lawful] and good, and be thankful for the blessing of Allah if it is Him you worship. He has forbidden you carrion, blood and pork and anything consecrated to other than Allah. But if someone is forced to eat it, without desiring to or going to excess in it, your Lord is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Surat an-Nahl: 114-115)
The reminder at the end of these verses of Allah's forgiveness and protectiveness brings good news and comfort to believers, human beings, having been created weak creatures, they can make mistakes, forget, be absorbed, or act without volition. But, when they repent sincerely, Allah will forgive and protect them.
The ease granted to those who pray
Five times prayer in a day is a duty Muslims are obliged to perform at certain times, which Allah has determined, throughout their lives without neglecting it. Those who do not carry out their religious duties, usually defer prayer till their old age. Yet, prayer is extremely easy to perform, as with all the other acts of worship.
It should be noted that whatever Allah has decreed as obligatory it is the responsibility of each individual to carry it out as his obligation to Allah. In return for this, he may hope for Allah's approval, mercy, and Heaven. Allah's making the obligatory forms of worship easy is an indicator of His mercy and compassion. Those who do not, in spite of this, abide by Allah's commands will not be able to say they didn't have enough strength, or that it was hard for them to pray, as an excuse. (Except those mentioned by Allah in the Qur'an as not having any responsibilities).
For example, to perform ablutions has been made very straightforward. In fact, in case a person cannot find any water to wash himself with, Allah has given tayammum — the substitution of sand, stone, or snow for water—as an alternative, and tayammum can be easily done in any type of situation. For those who cannot find water, Allah informs us in one of His verses how to perform tayammum:
... If you are in a state of major impurity, then purify yourselves. But if you are ill or on a journey, or have come from the lavatory, or have touched women, and cannot find any water, then do tayammum with pure sand, and wipe your faces and your hands with it. Allah does not want to make things difficult for you, but He does want to purify you and to perfect His blessing upon you so that hopefully you will be thankful. (Surat al-Ma'ida: 6)
As Allah tells us in His verse, He does not want to make things demanding for people. Allah has simplified all the things stated in the Qur'an. The acts of worship Allah has commanded are extremely easy for those who have faith. Allah, in His mercy and compassion, has commanded the easiest and most wonderful forms of worship and lifestyle and has given the good news of His approval, mercy and Heaven to those who abide by these.
Shortening prayer in times of war
In the Qur'an, forms of respite have been laid down for certain periods. For example, at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (saas), when believers were in dire conflict with the deniers, Allah was lenient towards the believers in the carrying out of their worship at that time. It has been laid down that, in times of war believers may shorten their prayers when it is imperative:
When you are travelling in the land, there is nothing wrong in your shortening your prayer if you fear that those who do not believe may harass you. The unbelievers are your inveterate cut enemies. (Surat an-Nisa': 101)
As can be understood from this verse, every one of Allah's decrees and commands is full of benefits and wisdom for each and every one of the believers. Allah does not want hardship for His subjects. Allah is the believers' real friend and sole protector.
The leniency granted in fasting
Allah has commanded Muslims to fast during the month of Ramadan. However, Allah also states the exceptional cases, such as illnesses and travelling, and with this He once again declares that He wishes us ease rather than hardship:
The month of Ramadan is the one in which the Qur'an was sent down as guidance for mankind, with Clear Signs containing guidance on distinguishing between right and wrong. Therefore, any of you who are present in that month let him fast. But any of you who are ill or on a journey should fast a similar number of days later on. Allah desires your well-being, not your discomfort. He desires you to fast the whole month so that you may proclaim Allah's greatness for the guidance He has given you and so that hopefully you will be thankful. (Surat al-Baqara: 185)
That Allah wishes us ease in the verses concerning His commands shows us that we should think of and comprehend the easiness of religion too. Those who run away from carrying out their religious obligations because they think that they will experience difficulties have no proper knowledge of religion and are thus in a state of error.
Those not held responsible by Allah
As another manifestation of Allah's compassion, people who are incapacitated are not burdened with the same responsibilities as others. Allah tells us this in one of His verses:
There is no constraint on the blind, nor on the lame, nor on the sick. We will admit all who obey Allah and His Messenger into Gardens with rivers flowing under them. But We will punish with a painful punishment anyone who turns his back. (Surat al-Fath: 17)
By relieving disabled people of the responsibilities of worship, Allah displays another proof of His mercy and infinite compassion. In the following verse, it is stated that Allah does not bring about difficulties for people and this is a manifestation of His compassion and kindness:
... If Allah had wanted, He could have been hard on you. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise. (Surat al-Baqara: 220)
Leniency shown for the breaking of oaths inadvertently made
Making oaths is a common occurrence, often entered into out of sheer habit, especially when promises are being made. Allegiance to oaths, and the fulfilling of promises are attributes of a believer, as Allah commands in the Qur'an. However, human beings are forgetful creatures; in some situations they can absent-mindedly forget what they were supposed to do what their promise was. This is a very natural mistake, resulting from human weakness. So, in these circumstances, Allah does not hold people accountable for the oaths they make haphazardly, absent-mindedly or out of habit; He removes this accountability from the believers. The due fulfillments of oaths made will be asked about on Judgment Day, but with the exception of oaths made randomly or aimlessly. Allah informs us of this in one of His verses:
Allah will not call you to account task for inadvertent statements in your oaths, but He will take you to task for that which is intended in your hearts. Allah is Ever-Forgiving and All-Forbearing. (Surat al-Baqara: 225)
There is another concession Allah has bestowed concerning the issue of oaths. He shows leniency towards those who make an oath in His name with a purpose, but who later wish to break it, by adjuring penitence:
Allah has given you absolution from such oaths. (Surat at-Tahrim: 2)
… But He will take you to task for the oaths you make intentionally. The expiation in that case is to feed ten poor people with the average amount you feed your family, or clothe them, or free a slave. Anyone without the means to do so should fast for three days. That is the expiation for breaking the oaths which you have sworn. Keep your oaths. In this way Allah makes His Signs clear to you, so that hopefully you will be thankful. (Surat al-Ma'ida: 89)
As can be understood from the verses, Allah provides an easy way for people to act according to religion in both situations. What is best and right is, of course, to honor oaths. However, a person can forget his promise or situations can change from the time he gave his word and he may be unable to keep it. In desiring everyone's well-being, Allah informs us of the conditions that will compensate for not fulfilling promises and has shown a way out for everyone.
Also, the rule for compensating for breaking an oath is designed to ease the oath-taker's conscience. Because the person breaking the oath will be faced with compensating for his action, he will think twice about whether he really has to break his oath or if he can still fulfill it. And, at the end, he will arrive at the most conscientious and best decision.
Allah has decreed that His religion be very easy. The religion of Islam is a religion of ease at all times and, in every respect. When a person intends to be a sincere believer and to be thankful in return for the blessings Allah has given us, he will not experience any difficulties whatsoever in practicing his religious morality.