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?
Previously we discussed:
- With Hardship There is Ease
- 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
- We Shall Test You With Something of Fear
- Hell is Surrounded By Worldly Desire
- When Is The Help Of Allah Due?
In this article we will discuss 3 additional evidences.
Allah Tests What Is In Your Breasts
There is a pair of verses that come separately from one another but within close proximity that can also be misunderstood to favor difficulty as a path to Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He). These verses use the term: “li yumahisa” which literally means “to purify.”
“And that Allah may purify the believers [through trials] and destroy the disbelievers.” (Qur’an, 3:141)
“[It was] so that Allah might test what is in your breasts and purify what is in your hearts. And Allah is Knowing of that within the breasts.” (Qur’an, 3:154)
When reading the Qur’an, you have to read before and after the particular verse to see if there’s a specific context that the verses are referring to. In this case, the verses surrounding these two verses are talking about fighting and Jihad.
In verse 141, the meaning of “purify the believers” is very closely related to “eliminate the disbelievers.” In other words, Allah is purifying the believers BY eliminating the power of those who hold onto impurity (the disbelievers). When truth overpowers falsehood, it cleanses it. What is left is only truth (purity) or that falsehood is so weakened, such that it’s as if there is only truth.
You see the same meaning in verse 154.
So That They Might Return To Allah
The following piece of evidence can’t really be used as evidence for the claim that difficulty is the path to Allah, but I heard it quoted by a speaker. So in the interest of covering all bases:
“And We sent to no city a prophet [who was denied] except that We seized its people with poverty and hardship that they might humble themselves [to Allah].”(Qur’an, 7:94)
It’s very clear from the verses before and after this one that Allah is only talking about towns that turned away from the truth, towns that were arrogant.
It’s very clear that Allah doesn’t send with his messengers affliction, courtesy of the truth!
The Misunderstood Hadith
Let us narrate one of the most misunderstood occurrences and Hadiths of the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him).
The Prophet ﷺ is looking for a tribe or city to accept Islam and to protect him ﷺ so he goes to Ta’if. It’s a town where his maternal relatives reside and he ﷺ invites them to the path of Allah.
They reject him and set their slaves, the downtrodden, and the children of their town to humiliate and stone the Prophet ﷺ. His injuries were such that his blessed body was flowing with blood and by the time he sat down to rest after fleeing, his slippers were stuck to his feet because of the extent of his wounds.
Was this an easy experience? No; This is the definition of difficulty.
What does the Prophet ﷺ do? He raises his hands to make du`a’ (supplication):
“O my Lord, to you I complain of my weakness of strength and my lack of resourcefulness (that I couldn’t attain what I set out to get.) O most Merciful… If you are not angry with me, then I don’t care! [i.e.: If the stoning that I received was because of your anger, then I care. However if it wasn’t, then I am content]… Except that I would prefer that you would make things smoother/more-open.”
Many misunderstand this hadith to show that the Prophet ﷺ was feeling sorry for himself. Re-read the prayer he makes to Allah and ask yourself: Is this a man wallowing in sorrow and self pity?
“O my Lord, to you I complain of my weakness of strength and my lack of resourcefulness (that I couldn’t attain what I set out to get). O most Merciful.”
When you complain of your weakness, you are asking for more strength. A person wallowing in self-pity wouldn’t ask for that. A person pursuing difficulty would not ask for strength either; He/she would ask for weakness, for weakness would increase the difficulty.
“…If you are not angry with me, then I don’t care!”
Understand this literally. The Prophet ﷺ actually doesn’t care about what happened; It’s as if it didn’t happen, so long as it wasn’t a sign of Allah’s Wrath upon him ﷺ.
“…Except that I would prefer that you would make things smoother.”
I don’t think that these can ever be the words of a broken man. I don’t think that these can ever be the words of a man wallowing in self-pity nor are they the words of one who would prefer hardship over ease! In fact, verbatim, the Prophet ﷺ says that he doesn’t care so long as this isn’t indicative of Allah’s Wrath upon him. This isn’t a man broken.
I heard a speaker once say that this hadith teaches us that Allah gives us difficulty to break us so that we turn back to Him. How does this hadith teach us that?
In fact, saying that implies that the Prophet ﷺ was looking away from Allah to start with! Find me one occurrence in his blessed life where he strayed from Allah. The only reason this happened to him was because he went to Ta’if on the path of da`wah, calling to Allah! From the words of the Prophet ﷺ, it’s clear that difficulty wasn’t even on his RADAR!
Allah and the angels cared that this occurred to the Prophet ﷺ, so Allah gave him the power to avenge this tribe. Allah sent the angel of the mountains:
“…If you wish I will bring down the two mountains surrounding the people of Ta’if upon them.”
But Messenger of Allah ﷺ responded:
“No, I hope that Allah will raise from amongst their descendants people that will worship Allah the One, and will not ascribe partners to Him (in worship).” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
This story illustrates many lessons:
To the untrained eye, it would seem that the Prophet ﷺ went through a harrowing experience. But his words refute this.
How is it that the Prophet ﷺ can say that he doesn’t care?
Simply put: Allah is His only goal. Not ease and not difficulty. And with such a huge goal, one doesn’t feel the nuances of pain or difficulty.
For example, if you paper-cut your finger whilst being bored then you will instantly feel the pain. However if you obtain a paper-cut doing something fascinating, you will only realize later that you sustained this injury. Why?
The goal nullifies the pain! If you keep in mind why you are doing something, then the so-called difficulties that you come across will seem totally insignificant. If you feel difficulty, it’s because you are chasing after ease or chasing after difficulty. Make your goal Allah so that you will not feel difficulty. Realize that the bigger goal, the greater the nullification of pain and difficulty!
The bigger your goal, the more insignificant the challenges. There is nothing bigger than Allah. We say Allahu Akbar – Allah is Greater (than anything).
Yusuf `alayhi assalam (peace be upon him) did not feel bitter in prison as people asked him for advice! Had he focused on his ‘hardships’ and ‘difficulties,’ he would never have interpreted the dreams for the fellow prisoners. His bigger goal nullified any pain, challenge or difficulty faced by him in his life – of which there were many!
The next article will discuss:
- Difficulty or Ease or Something Else?
- A Word on Sacrifice
AbdelRahman Mussa, a graduate of sharia and a therapist, is the founder of ipersonalenrichment.com, a site specializing in practical tazkiyah (
JazakAllahu Khair! came across this article at the right time!
Jazak Allaahu Khair for the insightful article and great series.
SubhanAllah ….Brilliant article!
May Allah continue to bless you with deep wisdom, knowledge and understanding and may each one of us benefit from it thru you articles…InshaAllah
BarakAllah feekum for your kind words.
May Allah (swt) elevate us all in this world and the next.
Thank you so much. Even though I know this, in the struggle I’m facing, I constantly find myself looking away from Allah and begin to get anxious. I tend to chase after ease. I appreciate being reminded that I’ve forgot to look at the right place. If I look at the right target, then I won’t really notice or become obsessed with how difficult the path looks.
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