As Muslims and followers of the last Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), we have a lot to be thankful for. The greatest blessing on earth for any human being is, of course, Islam itself.
However, we should also thank Allah for making Islam a religion of ease, simplicity and universality. Because this was not the case with all the Divine scriptures and laws that Allah previously sent.
Allah says in the Quran that Prophet Muhammad was sent:
… to lift from them their burdens and the shackles that were upon them… (7:157)
He truly was sent as a mercy for humanity.
And Allah wants to lighten for you [your difficulties]; and mankind was created weak. (4:28)
For us Muslims, many things that were disallowed for followers of previous Divinely revealed religions, are permissible. For example we can pray anywhere on earth, as long as the prayer place is clean. This means that we can even pray on sand, stones, or grass.
Muslims can also eat, use, and trade in the fat of all halal animals. We can also rinse with water and reuse garments that get any excrement upon them.
Islam is a religion that can largely be followed anywhere around the world. The basics and pillars allow people from any race, ethnicity, bloodline, and culture to become Muslim. There are no cumbersome policies, prerequisites, or procedures required to embrace Islam.
A Prophet Always Concerned
It is endearing how the Prophet preferred many aspects of supererogatory worship and lifestyle habits for himself. Yet, he did not wish to burden his followers with them, lest they become obligatory.
By Allah, Who took away the Prophet. The Prophet never missed them (two rak`at) after the `Asr prayer till he met Allah. And he did not meet Allah till it became heavy for him to pray while standing, so he used to offer most of the prayers while sitting. (She meant the two rak`at after `Asr) He used to pray them in the house and never prayed them in the mosque lest it might be hard for his followers and he loved what was easy for them. (Sahih Al Bukhari)
The Prophet had a similar stance for using the tooth-stick or siwak. He used it so often during the day that it became hard for his companions to keep count. However, he did not wish to make this personal habit of his a burden for his followers. He said:
Were it not for the fact that I did not want to make things too hard for my ummah, I would have commanded them to use the siwaak at time of every prayer. (Sahih Muslim)
His attitude of leniency towards us, the followers of Islam, has garnered for us much ease, flexibility, and leeway in worship. We can choose to adopt his personal habits in most everyday matters in order to become closer to Allah.
However, it is not a must.
The Prophet’s Dislike of Questions and Disputes in Religious Matters
Prophet Muhammad’s preference for ease was also apparent whenever someone asked him too much about rituals of worship. He would become quiet, his face red with anger. (Sunan Al Nisai)
This was because he knew that answering many questions would cause difficulty for his followers. It would make them confused and demotivated from religious practice.
It was the habit of the Prophet to avoid arguments about religious matters. He knew that disputes undermined unity and made religion difficult to act upon.
By being brief in speech and more ardent in righteous action, Prophet Muhammad strategized great wisdom. By adopting a minimalistic approach towards speech, he gradually facilitated mankind to submit to Allah, willingly and wholeheartedly.
His Graduality in Establishing Islam
Finally, another aspect of how the Prophet chose ease for his followers, was his slow and gradual establishment of Islamic state laws. This is perhaps one of the most overlooked and undermined aspects of the Prophet’s strategy. That is, how he gave the foundation of belief in people’s hearts, enough time to take root.
Prophet Muhammad made Islam easy to accept for mankind by not using haste, coercion, or force. Rather, he motivated and inspired them to do the best they can. He focused on connecting them directly to Allah, and strengthening the faith in their hearts through wilful worship.
Abu Hurairah reported:
The Prophet said:
The religion (of Islam) is easy, and whoever makes the religion a rigor, it will overpower him. So, follow a middle course (in worship); if you can’t do this, do something near to it, and give glad tidings and seek help (of Allah) at morn and at dusk and some part of night. (Riyad Al Salihin)
Islam was revealed and established over a time period of over two decades. When it was first revealed, many habits and actions that were to later become haram in Islam, were deeply ingrained among the people.
However, the Prophet Muhammad showed tolerance and indifference towards them. He overlooked and ignored the negatives, and focused on instilling the seeds of belief.
When these had firmly taken root, he progressed towards the next phase of purification. Everything he did was gradual, step by step. Akin to climbing the rungs of a ladder.
Conclusion: Always Choose Ease Over Difficulty
As his followers, we should also try to emulate the Prophet’s example when we act upon as well as invite others towards Islam. We should facilitate Islam for people, and not make it difficult for them. Even if we prefer high standards of piety for ourselves, we should not enforce hardship upon others. This applies especially to newly reverted Muslims, born Muslims who have strayed, and children.
This does not mean that we allow or condone evil actions and sins. Rather, we should keep the bigger picture in mind, and inculcate forbearance in ourselves.
Like the Prophet, our goal should be to connect mankind unflinchingly to their Creator.