Does Religion Not Contain Hardship?

Answered by Ustadh Shuaib Ally

Question: As salam alaikum,

I have a question about Quranic verse 22:78 where it is said that there is no difficulty in the religion. How are we as Muslims supposed to understand the part of this verse about our religion not having any difficulty? I am a little confused because religion can seem difficult sometimes.

Answer: wa `alaykum assalam

The verse:

Strive hard for God as is His due: He has chosen you and placed no hardship in your religion, the faith of your forefather Abraham. God has called you Muslims – both in the past and in this [message] – so that the Messenger can bear witness about you and so that you can bear witness about other people. So keep up the prayer, give the prescribed alms, and seek refuge in God: He is your protector – an excellent protector and an excellent helper (22:78).

Does Religion not contain Hardship?

Commentators on the Qur’an have not understood the verse above to indicate that there is no hardship whatsoever involved in religious practice or dictates; making anything incumbent at all is in some way a form of hardship.

Rather, they have understood it to indicate that even though he has commanded humanity to strive hard in his way and has chosen them, he has nevertheless made things easy for them out of his infinite mercy and love. He thus hasn’t burdened them with what they are unable to bear or carry out.

Moreover, when something that contains hardship has been rendered obligatory, dispensations, or ways in which groups of people of varying capabilities can fulfill it, have also been provided.

Examples of Common Dispensations:

-Availability of repentance for any and all sins one has been afflicted with
-Shortening of prayer for travelers
-Performing prayer sitting for those unable to stand (or lying down, or with gestures)
-Removal of some of the strictures that had been placed upon previous nations like the Children of Israel
-Flexibility in the order of performing the rites of Hajj
-Forgiveness of error in starting or ending a calendar month with consequence, such as Ramadan, or standing in ‘Arafa on the wrong day

Similar Verses in the Qur’an

There are similar verses in the Qur’an that underline the general rule that religious dictates are not meant to make things difficult for people. These verses often come after the Qur’an has explained a way in which God has rendered something easier.

“God desires ease for you, and does not desire hardship for you” (2:185) comes amidst verses that describe various dispensations for those unable to carry out the overall difficult task of fasting during the month of Ramadan, such as travelers and the unwell.
“God does not desire to cause difficulty for you” (5:6) comes during a verse that describes how to perform ablution for prayer, as well as the dispensation available for those who have no water.

Sources: Tafsir al-Razi; Tafsir al-Qurtubi; Tafsir Sa’id Hawwa

Shuaib Ally