The Excellent Features of Islam Part 2
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A Guide for New Muslim
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*(5) Ease and Absence of Hardship in the Law*

*One of the clearest aspects of Islamic Law is the goal of bringing about ease upon the humans and avoiding hardship for them while maintaining positive results for all. Hence, this is not a goal independent of all other goals. In other words, there are a myriad of goals, such as mercy, justice, equity, balance and so forth.*

*Within the context of meeting those goals, though, Allah, in His Mercy and Wisdom, has laid down a law for humans that provides ease for them and is free of any unwarranted hardships.[The words “unwarranted hardships” are used here because any obligatory act could be claimed to be a hardship. Thus, some have actually claimed that prayer five times a day is too much of a burden and a hardship. However, like any job or goal in life, one must undergo some effort to achieve one’s final goal.*

*This effort or “hardship” is justified and beneficial. This type of effort or “hardship” is not what is being described above. In fact, life cannot truly function without such “hardships.” The above is discussing hardship via which there is no true or overriding benefit or justification]*

*Numerous verses of the Quran point to this very important feature of Islam. For example, Allah says, “Allah only burdens a person with actions that he is able to do. Allah’s religion is based on ease and not difficulty. If any person does good, he will receive the reward for it in full. If any person does evil, he will receive the punishment for the sin he committed and no one will carry it for him. (2:286).*

*This is part of Allah’s great mercy, as no one could hold Allah responsible if He burdened humans with actions beyond their capacity. Allah also says, “Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you”(Allah intends ease, and not hardship, in what He decrees for you)*
(2:185).

*Allah also says, “Allah does not wish to make the laws difficult for you by forcing you to use water that may lead to harm or difficulty. He has therefore given you a substitute when this is not possible due to sickness or the lack of water. This is a completion of His favour on you, so that you give thanks for such favour and are not ungrateful.” (5:6).*

In yet another verse, Allah says, *“And strive in the path of Allah sincerely for His pleasure. He has selected you and made your religion a religion of kindness, in which there is no oppression and extremism. This tolerant creed is the creed of your forefather Abraham (peace be upon him).* *Allah has named you ‘Muslims’ in the previous books and in the Qur’an, so that the Messenger can be a witness against you in that he conveyed the message he was commanded to convey, and so that you yourselves can be witnesses against the previous nations in that their messengers also conveyed their messages respectively.*
*So show gratitude to Allah upon that by performing prayer as perfectly as possible, giving Zakat from your wealth, seeking refuge in Allah and relying upon Him in all your matters, for He is the best protector for those believers who seek His protection, and the best of helpers for those of them who seek His help. So seek His protection, He will protect you, and seek His help, He will help you.” (22:78).*

*Allah sent the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) as a mercy for all of mankind, as noted earlier. Part of his role was to relax some of the laws put on the previous peoples due to their recalcitrance or put on them by their own religious leaders and scholars.*

*Thus, Allah describes the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in the following fashion:“The ones just described are those who follow Muhammad (peace be upon him), the illiterate prophet who cannot read or write, and who is only inspired by His Lord. The name and description of the Prophet and what is revealed to him is to be found in the Torah, revealed to Moses (peace be upon him), and the Gospel, revealed to Jesus (peace be upon him).* *Muhammad instructed people to that which is good and right, and forbade those things that sound minds, those with a sound nature, know to be bad: allowing them the good food and drink and relationships which are not harmful, and making unlawful those things which are bad. He also removed the difficult commandments revealed as obligations to previous communities, such as having to kill the one who killed someone else accidentaly.*
*Those who believed in him from among the Israelites and others, respecting and honouring him and helping him against the disbelievers who were his enemies, following the Qur’an which was revealed to him, they are the successful ones who will attain what they desire and attain safety from what they fear.” (7:157).*

*Thus, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also said, “I have not been sent with Judaism or Christianity but I have been sent with the true monotheism and easy religion.”[Recorded by Ahmad]*

*This principle of ease and removing hardship is exhibited throughout many branches of Islamic law. Even becoming a Muslim requires no special indoctrination or ceremony. In fact, it does not even require anyone’s approval or supervision. With respect to the acts of worship, one finds numerous rules demonstrating this principle.*

*[The ritual acts of worship have to do with what the scholars have termed the “rights of Allah,” as opposed to what can be termed the rights of individuals or of humans. In order not to cause undue harm to other individuals, the laws related to the ritual acts of worship are many times more flexible than the laws related to the rights of others]*

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*For example, an individual is not required to perform the pilgrimage to Makkah if he does not have the means to do so—in other words, if it would be too much of a financial burden.*

*The traveler is allowed to shorten and combine his prayers in order to lessen his burden—but he still must perform the prayer as that effort is definitely beneficial for him. With respect to the fast of Ramadan, those who are traveling or ill can delay their fasts and make up those days after the month is finished. Those facing starvation are allowed to eat foods, such as pork, that are normally forbidden. Of great importance is the issue of repentance. In Islam, repentance never requires one to go to a priest and beg forgiveness for one’s sins. It is simply a matter of faithfully returning to Allah and attempting to redress any wrong one has done.*

*For the new Muslim, it is important to realize that the relaxation in the laws under certain circumstances does not open the door to them to relax any law for themselves in the name of the fact that the religion desires ease. Such laws must be based on the Quran and Sunnah and will be known to those who are knowledgeable.*

*Furthermore, as mentioned in a footnote earlier, it is referring to unwarranted hardship or effort. The effort or “hardship” required to perform prayers five times a day, fast for a month, and so on, are, in general within the means of most humans and the great benefits they should produce are well worth their effort.*

*(6) A Strong Relationship between the Creator and the Created*

*The goals and the teachings of Islam go well beyond any legal issues in this world. Islam seeks to create a certain type of individual, an individual who has a strong and proper relationship with Allah. There are a number of important points related to this feature.*

*First, in Islam, the Muslim has a direct relationship with Allah.*

*Allah says, “If they ask you, O Prophet, about how close Allah is and about His answering of prayers, Allah is close to them and knows everything about them. He hears their prayer, and they do not need intermediaries or to raise their voices. Allah responds to the call of whoever calls Him sincerely, praying to Him; so, let them be devoted to Him and His sacred law, firm in their faith, as that is the best route to Allah’s response perhaps in that way they might be rightly guided in worldly and sacred matters.” (2:186).*

*Allah also says, “O people, your Lord said: “Call upon Me alone and worship Me alone, and do not associate any partner with Me. Those who are too arrogant in worshipping Me alone will enter the fire on the Day of Judgment, low and disgraced”. (40:60).*

*Thus, there is no priestly class in Islam. The individual prays directly to God without going through an intermediary. When a Muslim seeks forgiveness, he seeks it directly from God with no human having the authority to tell him if his repentance is sufficient or accepted by God.*

*When a Muslim is in need, he turns directly to God, without having to put his trust and reliance in anyone other than God. When a Muslim wants to read the revelation and guidance from God, he goes directly to the Quran and Sunnah, being able to read them directly by himself.*

*[For centuries in various parts of the Christian world, the masses were not allowed to read the Bible. That privilege was restricted to the clergy]*

*There are no demigods or clergy that he has to go through. Everything is actually between the individual and his Lord. This direct relationship with Allah is very empowering and reassuring. There is none other than Allah that he is worshipping and there is none who can interfere with his worship of Allah. Under all circumstances, Allah is available to him and he can turn to Him at any time to ask for help, guidance and forgiveness.*

*This direct relationship with Allah extends to all of an individual’s deeds. The Muslim knows that Allah not only sees his outward actions but that Allah is also fully aware of every intention and feeling that is in his heart. Thus, due to his direct relationship with Allah, the Muslim attempts to perform every deed with the intention of pleasing God. In this way, even the most mundane activity can become an act pleasing to God, if done with the right conditions in the heart.*

*The Muslim sets upon his day, via his close relationship with his Lord, by ensuring that he performs acts that are permissible in the sight of his Lord. That is the Muslim’s goal and intention and as he is conscious of this goal, he is pleasing Allah by the simplest of deeds.*

*Thus, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Everything you spend for the sake of Allah will be rewarded, even if it were a morsel you put in your wife’s mouth.”[Recorded by al-Bukhari]*

*When one understands this concept of his close relationship to God and the ability to the transform even mundane activities into acts that are pleasing to God, his whole outlook and behavior completely change. He begins to perform each act differently, realizing that he is doing it for the sake of God. Unfortunately, there are many in this world who are completely negligent of this point*
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*In Madaarij al-Saalikeen, ibn al-Qayyim stated, “The most exclusive [group of] people who get close to Allah are those who change the nature of their permissible deeds into acts of obedience to Allah.”*

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*He also said, “The customary-mundane deeds of those people who truly know Allah are acts of worship [for them] while the ritual acts of worship are customary deeds for the masses.”*

[Quoted in Saalih al-Alayuwi, Mabaahith fi al-Niyyah (no publication information given), p. 15]

*What he said is very true. Unfortunately, many among the masses of Muslims approach the prayers, fasting and other deeds as common daily practices that they must perform simply because it is part of the culture or way of life. They have no strong intention in their hearts or feeling of doing the act for the sake of Allah. If the quality of the act is poor, it does not matter much to them because they are doing it just to finish.*

*Hence, these important rites of worship become simply customary with no meaning or effect to them. The one who truly knows Allah is at the opposite extreme. Even the “mundane” deeds he performs are filled with purpose and intent.*

*Hence, they become acts of worship that are pleasing to Allah. Thus, for example, even when a person goes to sleep he does so with the intention of reviving himself such that he can work again for the sake of Allah. Thereby, his sleep even becomes an act of worship of Allah.*

*Actually, one can take this discussion even one step further. Allah says in the Quran, “Every moment He has a matter to bring forth”(Every day he brings about a matter from the affairs of His servants such as giving life, death, provision etc)*
(55:29).

*In other words, at every moment, Allah is creating, distributing, providing, bringing forth life and death and so on. However, in general nowadays, the individual does not see Allah behind all of these actions around him.*

*The individual today has become desensitized and thinks that all of these things simply occur on their own due to some independent laws of nature. In reality, that is not true. These “laws of nature” are nothing more than Allah’s activity at every second and moment. In numerous places in the Quran, Allah asks humans to observe the cosmos around them.,

*For example, Allah brings the reader’s attention to the tiny bee or the movement of the shadows.[For example, Allah says, “Have you – O Messenger – not seen how your Lord extends the shade on the surface of the earth. If He had willed to make it stand still without moving He could have done so. Then I made the sun an indicator for it, becoming long and short in accordance to it.” (25:45)]*

*For the new Muslim, this may be a completely new way of looking at the world and may take some adjustment. Many non-Muslims do not see God’s involvement in this world and therefore they do not feel any direct relationship with God. As the new Muslim ponders over the Quran, this feeling may develop within him. He will see Allah’s working in everything around him. This will remind him of Allah and he will no longer be negligent of Allah and his duty toward Him. He will be then, God willing, leading his life in a manner very different from before his conversion to Islam.*

*(7) Ordering Good and Eradicating Evil.*

*Islam is not a religion in which one purifies one’s own soul while ignoring or not helping others as well along the path of purification. As discussed later in this work, Islam stresses the proper relationship between different individuals of society. One of the most important interactions between individuals is that of ordering or encouraging what is good while prohibiting or preventing that which is evil. It is part of true brotherhood that one wants to assist others to do what is right.*

*It is also definitely part of true brotherhood that when one sees another Muslim doing something displeasing to Allah, that he would want to correct and advise his brother or sister in Islam. Thus, in the Quran, Allah relates the concept of being true brethren, friends and helpers to one another directly to the concept of ordering good and preventing evil.*

*Allah says, “The believers, men and women, are helpers to one another, because of the faith that unites them. They command good – which is everything loved by Allah, represented by the various forms of obedience, such as accepting His Oneness and the ritual prayer – and they prohibit evil – which is everything hated by Allah, and includes sins such as disbelief and dealing in usury in financial transactions.” (9:71).*

*Allah also says, “Help one another, O believers, to do what you have been instructed and to leave what you have been prohibited from. Fear Allah by holding on to His obedience and avoiding His disobedience. Allah’s punishment for the one who disobeys Him is severe, so be careful of it.*
(5:2)

*In fact, Allah makes it clear that encouraging good and preventing evil should be one of the overriding qualities of the Muslim Nation as a whole: “You are, O Community of Muhammad (peace be upon him), the best of all communities that Allah has produced for humanity – in your faith and actions – and the most beneficial for other people: instructing what is right according to the sacred law and what you know to be right, and forbidding what is wrong according to the sacred law and what you know to be wrong; and having certain faith in Allah, so that it shows in your actions. If the People of the Scripture, the Jews and the Christians, had faith in Muhammad it would be better for them in this world and in the Afterlife. Only few of the People of the Scripture believe in what Muhammad (peace be upon him) came with and most of them do not stay within the sacred way of life and sacred law of Allah.(3:110).*

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*This is not an “optional way” to behave. It is a necessary part of one’s faith and attitude. This is part and parcel of what it means to belong to a community. An individual has rights upon others as well as obligations towards others. Looking out for one another and assisting one another is essential, especially for those in positions of authority or whose voices are listened to.*

*Thus, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has informed the Muslims, “By the One in whose hand is my soul, you must order good and forbid evil or Allah will soon send upon you a punishment from Himself and then you will supplicate to Him and He will not respond to you.”*

[Recorded by Ahmad and al-Tirmidhi. According to al-Albaani, it is hasan. See al-Albaani, Saheeh al-Jaami, vol. 2, p. 1189]

*In a beautiful parable recorded by al-Bukhari, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) demonstrated the importance of this practice for society as a whole: “The similitude of the one who fulfills Allah’s command [by eradicating evil] and the one who falls into what Allah forbids is like a people who drew lots for places on a boat. Some of them got the upper level of the boat while others were on the lower level. Whenever the people on the lower level wanted water, they had to go to the people on the upper level. Therefore, they said, ‘If we were to make a hole in our portion we would not have to bother the people above us [to get water].’ If they [the people on the upper level] leave them to what they want to do, all of them would be destroyed. If, instead, they take them by their hands [and stop them from what they plan on doing], they will be saved and they will save all of them.”*

*Many times people would like to stay away from evil but they need help in doing so. They need true friends around them who can act like a support group. Some individuals simply do not have the strength to remain away from activities that they know are wrong or that they themselves do not like, especially if there is peer pressure on them. With the help of others who understand what he is going through and who recognize that he truly wants to do what is right, he is able to muster up the courage to say no to wrong activities. Similarly, others are simply lazy or lack the motivation to do the actions they should perform. Again, with the sincere help or encouragement from those around him, the individual finds the strength to do what is right.*

*If people were individualistic and only concerned about their own selves, not lending hands to others, it would be disastrous for society. Those who do evil would dominate and harass others. In fact, many neighborhoods in the messengers., for example, have recognized this fact. The neighbors realized that they had to get together to encourage good things and remove evil things, as otherwise their neighborhoods were being destroyed by hoodlums. In the same way, true believers come together and assist one another promoting all good things and blocking all evil things.*

*Obviously, no one is going to be free from sin and therefore this principle of encouraging good and preventing evil does not mean that one has to be perfect before he can speak to others about their behavior. However, the encouraging of good and preventing of evil, logically, should begin with one’s own self. One should make oneself do what is good and prevent oneself from doing evil. In this way, one sets an example for others and such a person will more likely be listened to when he advises others. At the same time, though, even if a person has some shortcomings, he should still encourage others to do good and try to keep them from evil.*

*It must be noted that there are some conditions for the practice of encouraging good and preventing evil. One condition, for example, is that one has knowledge of what is good and what is evil according to Quran and Sunnah. It is possible that someone, due to ignorance, may encourage another not to do an act while that act is actually from the Sunnah.*

*For the new Muslim, in particular, he may find himself repeatedly on the end of being told what to do or what not to do. Many times this advice comes from other Muslims who may seem overzealous or who do not have the proper tack when speaking to a new Muslim.*

*Many times language difficulties magnify the manner in which the new Muslim is being spoken to. It is important for the new Muslim to realize that, in general, his fellow Muslim means him no harm or humiliation. Instead, he may be simply acting on the basis of trying to encourage him to do what is right and teaching others about Islam. If the new Muslim sometimes feels frustrated about such occurrences, he should remind himself that the others are acting out of love and want only what is good for their new brother in Islam.*

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