Being Harsh upon the People

 

by

 

 Abd Al-Rahman Ibn Mualla Luwayhiq

 

 

Taken from Religious Extremism in the Lives of Contemporary Muslims, pp. 410-418

 

 

This religion is built upon ease and removing hardship. The evidence for that is substantial. An examination of the evidences of the Shareeah will conclude that Allah made this religion a mercy for mankind, with simplicity and ease. The foundation of the Messenger's mission is that of compassion and mercy for the people and the removing of the chains and fetters that a group of mankind was suffering under.

 

Allah says,

 

"Now has come unto you a Messenger from among yourselves. It grieves him that you should perish. Ardently anxious is he over you, to the Believers is he most kind and merciful" (al-Taubah 128).

 

 

Allah also says,

 

"We sent you not save as a mercy for the worlds" (al-Anbiyaa 107).

 

 

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) himself said,

 

 

"Allah did not send me as someone causing hardship [for the people] or one who seeks out their mistakes, but Allah has sent me as a teacher and one who brings ease [to the people]." [1]

 

 

From the most noticeable characteristics of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is:

 

"He allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them from what is bad (and impure); he releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them" (al-Araaf 157).

 

Indeed, for that reason, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would sometimes abandon some actions or matters out of fear that they would be a hardship for his Nation. In the narration concerning Salaat al-Taraweeh [the voluntary late night prayers during the month of Ramadhan], it is stated that when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) prayed, some people also prayed with him. On the next night, even more people prayed with him. When the third or fourth night came, a number of people had gathered waiting for him but he did not go out [and pray]. In the morning, he said to them,

 

 

"I saw what you did. Nothing prevented me from coming out to you except that I feared that it would be made obligatory upon you."

 

 

In one narration [from al-Bukhari and Muslim], it [explicitly] states,

 

 

"And you would not be able to do it.' [2]

 

 

Abu Hurairah also narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

 

 

"If it were not to be a hardship upon my Nation, I would order them to use            the tooth stick (siwaak) for every prayer." [3]

 

 

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would order his Companions to be easy upon the people. He told Muaadh ibn Jabal and Abu Musa al-Ashari when sending them to Yemen,

 

 

"Be making things easy and not making things hard. Be giving good tidings to the people and not making them flee.," [4]

 

 

A person with respect to his own self may take a path that is sanctioned and more difficult. For example, he may perform long prayers [when praying by himself]. However, he is not allowed to force others to perform the same types of acts. For that reason, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would perform the longest prayers of anyone when he prayed by himself but he would lighten the prayers when praying with the people, taking their various circumstances into consideration.

 

 

In describing the Prophet's prayer, Anas ibn Maalik stated,

 

 

"The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would be easy on the people in the prayer while still making it complete.' [5]

 

 

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would order his Companions to be easy on the people with respect to the prayer. One night, Muaadh ibn Jabal led his people in prayer by starting with soorah al-Baqarah. One of the followers left the prayer, made the salutations, prayed by himself and then left.

 

 

They said to him,

 

 

"Have you become a hypocrite, O so and so?" He replied, "No, by Allah. I shall certainly go to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and inform him of it."

 

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) came and he told him,

 

"O Messenger of Allah, we are people who work tending to the camels used for watering during the day. Muaadh prayed with you the Ishaa (Night) Prayer and then he came to us and began with soorah al-Baqarah."

 

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) then turned to Muaadh and said,

 

"O Muaadh, are you one who puts people to trials? Recite such and such, recite such and such." In a narration in Sahih ai-Bukhari, he repeated that three times. In one narration, it states that he said, "Read 'By the sun and its (glorious) splendor' [soorah al-Shams], 'By the glorious morning light, and by the night when it is still' [soorah al-Dhuha] and 'Exalt the name of the Guardian-Lord Most High' [soorah al-Ala]." [6]

 

 

His statement to Muaadh, "O Muaadh, are you one who puts people to trials?" means, "One who makes people flee from the religion and prevents them from it." [7]

 

 

Abu Masood al-Ansari said,

 

 

"A man said, 'O Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), we refrain from the Fajr [Morning] Prayer because so and so makes it very long.' The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) got upset and I have never seen him more upset than on that day. He then said,

 

'O people, there are among you some who drive others away. For whoever is an Imam for the people, let him lighten [the burden on the people] for behind him are the weak, the aged and the ones with needs to attend to."' [8]

 

 

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) explicitly stated the order to lighten the burden on the people while at the same time he left the door open for an individual [by himself] to follow a stricter course as long as he did not go beyond the limits of the Shareeah. [9]

 

 

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,

 

 

"If one of you leads the people in prayer, he should lighten [its burden] for among them are the weak, the ill and the elderly. If a person is praying by himself, he may make it as long as he Wills." [10]

 

 

Insisting that the people adhere to what Allah has sanctioned does not fall under the scope of being harsh on the people. Instead, being harsh on the people is making the people adhere to something that Allah has not sanctioned. This is of two categories:

 

 

(1) Matters which were never originally sanctioned.

(2) Matters which were sanctioned in essence but extremism has occurred with respect to their characteristics or amounts.

 

 

Here is an explanation of these two points.

 

 

First, binding the people with what Allah never bound them by: Allah has completed and perfected this religion. By this, He has granted this Nation a great bounty. Hence, Allah says,

 

 

"This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion" (al-Maaidah 3).

 

 

Therefore, any ruling that is introduced after the time of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) for which there is no evidence in the texts of the Shareeah or in its general principles is rejected rom its doer. Aishah, the Mother of the Believers, narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,

 

 

""Whoever introduces anything into this matter of ours that is not from it shall have it rejected." [11]

 

 

Another narration states,

 

 

"Whoever does an act that is not in accord with our matter will have it rejected.', [12]

 

 

In blaming the polytheists for ascribing partners to Allah who bound them by things that Allah did not bind them and who made for them a religion that Allah did not permit.

 

 

Allah says,

 

 

"What! Have they partners (in godhead), who have established for them some religion without the permission of Allah? Had it nt been for the decree of judgment, the matter would have been decided between them (at once). But verily the wrongdoers will have a grievous penalty" (al-Shoora 21).

 

 

Similarly, in censuring the Christians for making themselves abide by monasticism, that they did not even live up to, Allah say,

 

 

"And We ordained in the hearts of those who followed him compassion and mercy. But the monasticism that they invented for themselves, We did not prescribe for them. (We commanded) only the seeking for the Good Pleasure of Allah; but that they did not foster as they should have done. Yet We bestowed, on those among them who believed, their (due) reward, but many of them are rebellious transgressors" (al-Hadeed 27).

 

 

Ibn Katheer notes,

 

 

"This is a censure of them in two ways: First, they invented in the religion what they were not ordered to do. Second, they failed to abide by what they claimed was a way of getting closer to Allah." [13]

 

 

In this religion, which Allah completed as a bounty and of which He is pleased for this Nation, all of the responsibilities are within the capabilities and means of the servants.

 

 

Allah says,

 

 

"On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear" (al-Baqarah 286).

 

 

While describing the deeds of the believers, Allah also says,

 

 

"Verily those who live in awe for fear of their Lord, those who believe in the signs of their Lord, those who join not (in worship) partners with their Lord, and those who dispense their charity with their hearts full of fear because they will return to their Lord: It is these who hasten in every good work, and these who are foremost in them. On no soul do We place a burden greater than it can bear" (al-Muminoon 57-62).

 

 

In commenting on this last verse, al-Tabari noted,

 

 

"Allah says, 'On no soul do We place a burden greater than it can bear,' and what is proper for them in matters of worship.

 

Therefore, We have burdened them with some responsibilities such as knowing the oneness of Allah and We have sanctioned for them what We have of the laws." [14]

 

 

Al-Shaatibi said,

 

 

"It is confirmed in legal theory that a condition of responsibility or a cause for it is the existence of the ability by the responsible party to perform the act. Concerning anything that a person has not the ability to perform, from a Shareeah perspective, it is not valid that such a responsibility be put upon him." [15]

 

 

Based on all of this, it is not valid for anyone" regardless of who he may be, to require of anyone else something that Allah has not required of him. In this type of responsibility, there is a burdening and hardship that will lead the person so burdened to discontinue that act, as was the case with the Christians. Such has occurred in contemporary times. The group of Shukri required of people that which Allah did not require of them. It required them all to join their jamaah and established that as the greatest of the obligatory deeds. They made abandoning that jamaah a form of kufr in Allah. They also obliged the people to make ijtihaad to know the laws of the Shareeah although Allah never obliged all the people to do such. All of this is a type of extremism in the religion that Allah never permitted. Since these two aspects were elaborated upon earlier, there is no need to repeat that discussion here.

 

Second, being harsh upon the people by equalizing laws of different legal value: The laws of the Shareeah are of different legal value. There are some deeds that are obligatory and some that are recommended. Even the obligatory deeds are of varying degrees. Believing in Allah and His Messenger, which is the first of all obligations, is not like maintaining one's family or child.

 

 

Ibn Taimiyyah stated,

 

 

"The majority of the jurists opine that there are varying levels among what is obligatory and what is forbidden. They state that the obligatory 'nature of one deed may be greater than that of another obligatory deed. Similarly, the forbidden nature of one deed may be greater than the forbidden nature of another forbidden deed. One is a greater obligation and the other is a greater prohibition." [16]

 

 

It is a form of being too harsh upon the people to reckon their deeds as if they were all of the same level, treating a recommended act as if it were an obligatory act or a lesser obligatory act like a greater obligatory act, making them all equal. In contemporary times, this trend was seen very clearly in Maahir Bakri who stated in Kitaab al-Hijrah,

 

 

"The word 'disobedient sinner' is one of the names for the disbeliever and it is completely equivalent to 'disbeliever." [17]

 

 

Declaring people disbelievers due to sins they commit is a type of equating acts of different legal values as they have made disobedience of any kind to be equivalent to kufr.

 

 

 

 

 

1) Recorded by Muslim.

2) This story is recorded in a number of different sources. The narrations above are from al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood and al-Nasaa' ee.

3) Recorded by al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood, al-Tirmidhi and al-Nasaa'ee.

4) Recorded by al-Bukhari.

5) Recorded by al-Bukhari, Muslim, al-Tirmidhi, al-Nasaa' ee, ibn Maajah and Ahmad.

6) Recorded by al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood, al-Nasaa'ee, ibn Maajah and Ahmad.

7) Al-Nawawi, Sharh Saheeh Muslim, vol. 4, p. 182.

8) Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

9) There is a discussion of extremism with respect to being harsh or strict on oneself in the coming chapter.

10) Recorded by al-Bukhari, Muslim, al-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood, al-Nasaa'ee and Ahmad.

11) Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

12) Recorded by al-Bukhari without its complete chain (see Taghleeq al-Taleeq, vol. 3, pp. 396-398) and recorded by Muslim.

13) Ibn Katheer, Tafseer, vol. 4, p. 315.

14) Jaami al-Bayaan, vol. 18, p. 35.

15) Al-Shaatibi, al-Muwaafaqaat, vol. 2, p. 107.

16) Ibn Taimiyyah, al-Fataawa, vol. 17, p. 59.

17) Kitaab al-Hijrah, p. 72.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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