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Should We Take Advantage of Leniency in Islam?

17 May, 2017
Q As salamu alaikum, I am quite confused about the difference between leniency in Islam and taking advantage of some grey areas of Islam. I view Islam as something very rigid and a 'bearing no nonsense' type of a belief-action system and whenever someone tries to show me some leniency in it, I think that they are just bending the laws of Allah for their own convenience and gain (and usually people really do so). Though this perspective has helped me to discipline myself and gain quite some success, I have also been depressed and have failed in creating inter-personal relationships, since I think that everyone is trying to pry me out of my iman and succumb to cultural Islam (and they are) (being a Desi Muslim, people heavily confuse culture and Islam around me). Also, there are certain people or organizations who use the ayat’s of Quran to convince people of their own ideologies and that leaves me in doubt regarding the right interpretation of Islam. All this confusion and hardship had led me to the verge of giving up on my Deen very recently. But I want to return to Allah, I just don't understand how I am supposed to interpret Islam so that I stay rightly guided. Also, does showing leniency in religion eventually lead to deviation (bid’ah)? Please, I am in great need of help. Jazak Allah Khair for your efforts.


Wa Alaykum Assalam Anam,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

I’d like to commend you on the chain of thoughts that has led you to ask us this intelligent question. It shows a sharp mind that is on guard against the insinuations of Shaitan and keenness to avoid even a slight deviation from the Right Path.

May Allah protect your faith and grant you steadfastness upon higher levels of righteousness. Ameen.

You have mentioned two key aspects and important points about the practice of Islam in your question, and they are both correct; depending on how, when, in what context, and with what intentions they are applied to specific situations in practical life.

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The first is, as you pointed out, the recommendation of taking the easy path and adopting an approach and attitude of leniency when practicing Islam. There are some narrations attributed to the Prophet (peace be upon him) that prove this:

Gladden people and do not scare them; make things easy and do not make them difficult.” (Sunan Abi Dawood)

However, on the other end is that part of Islam that recommends struggling against the nafs and constantly striving higher in the path of Allah, in order to adopt a loftier level of faith and righteous deeds:

{O you who have attained to faith! Remain conscious of God, and seek to come closer unto Him, and strive hard in His cause, so that you might attain to a happy state.} (Quran 5:35)

This superlative, “striving-hard” level of Islamic practice involves going above obeying just the obligations of Islam, by also trying to acquire higher levels of righteous actions, at the level of ihsan, so that a Muslim is able to remain unflinchingly upon the Straight Path in the life of this world and attain the ultimate success in the Hereafter.

So how does a Muslim reconcile between the above two aspects of Islam?

One that asks us to make ease for ourselves, for others, and to avoid making things unduly difficult. And the other tells us to strive hard with ourselves and our resources in the path of Allah, so that we may achieve success and salvation in the Hereafter.

Finding the right answer to this question involves striking the optimum balance that allows us to dwell successfully in this world and to also become successful in the next one.

When it comes to one’s own self, one should always keep striving for higher and higher standards of righteous actions, which also includes, as you mentioned, letting go of strict adherence to all those cultural aspects that have no basis in Islam.

The more one strives, the more one will be able to let go of all unnecessary burdens, time-wasters, and obstacles that come between them and the pleasure of Allah.

As a Muslim strives for this level of ihsan on a personal level, he or she begins to feel closer to Allah, and also begins to adopt the sunnah (tradition) of Allah’s messenger (peace be upon him) – by being humble, approachable, and well-liked by other people.

However, this latter outcome does not seem to be happening in your case, as you have admitted to feeling as if you are failing at interpersonal relationships.

And you, as you say, are also on the verge of giving up on your deen, because you feel that people want you to take advantage of the aspects of leniency afforded by Islam, in order to make you drift away from the Right Path and towards the path of misguidance and innovation.

This confusion and hardship is not meant to be the desired result of striving to tread on the path of Allah at a superlative personal level.

I suggest you do two things:

(i) Continue to gain knowledge of Islam at an in-depth level, starting from the two core sources: the Quran and ahadith.

Study these two authentic sources under a moderate scholar (even if it is online in video or from books, but in person is best), and it is hoped that the Divine knowledge you’ll gain from them, will help you develop the desired criterion (al-furqaan) that will allow you to achieve the optimum balance between choosing ease and striving hard.

Confusion is the result of doubt and darkness, and nothing chases away doubts better than the light of knowledge.

(ii) Secondly, avoid isolating yourself. But by that I don’t mean that you should keep bad company. Rather, solitude is better than bad company (of misguided people).

What I mean is, that you should seek to be around righteous people who are involved in good deeds on a community level.

Even if it is only once or twice a week, you should try to go out and get involved in any kind of activity or work related to the propagation of Islam that comes easily and naturally to you e.g. either in the field of teaching/education, or charity/social welfare.

Meeting and interacting occasionally with all kinds of people is necessary for a person to remain humble, positive, and well-rounded. However, the need for seeking out righteous company takes the cake.

Even after you get involved in such a kind of work, try to remain politely firm when need be, to prevent others from manipulating you for their own benefit.

This will keep you involved and tied in with positive community projects and activities in the path of Allah, without being swayed away from the Right Path, insha’Allah, which is what is called for in your current situation.

I ask Allah to grant you steadfastness upon righteous actions, and the wisdom to be able to tell the truth apart from falsehood that leads people astray. Ameen.

And Allah knows best.

I hope this helps answer your question.

Salam and please keep in touch.

This response is from About Islam’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

3 Dimensions of Moderation in Quran

Islam Is Easy – Don’t Make It Difficult