By Sheikh Salman al-Oadah
Religion is human nature. Allah created religious awareness as a component of the human being. Our very natures recognize essential moral values. This is what makes those values universal. When a person acquires religious knowledge, he or she discovers something about his or her inner self, something that was always there.
As for taking things in an easygoing manner, this leaves people with fertile ground for their innate upright natures to grow and develop naturally. It gives people leave to conduct their own affairs as long as they do not transgress against the dictates of the Islamic faith or the rights of other people.
There is an ethical basis which all human beings share, and which Islam came to perfect and bring into sharper relief. Islam did not come to strip people of their innate ethical awareness or overturn it. Rather, it came to confirm and strengthen it.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) once mentioned to his followers a covenant that the Arabs had concluded which had brought peace to their clans. He said that if he were ever invited to enter into such a treaty, he would do so. The treaty he spoke about had taken place before the advent of Islam. It was a treaty which brought the people together at the same table to affirm their rights and their human dignity, and which put an end to the endemic warfare that they had been suffering from and that was consuming their lives and wealth. Though the treaty took place before Islam, it was nevertheless in accordance with the innate moral sentiments that all human beings acknowledge. We all know that it is better to learn from one another and prosper. We all agree that hatred, conflict, and rancor are hated by Allah and condemned by mankind.
Clemency and flexibility in religious matters restore to people a healthy outlook, allowing them to live their faith in a way that is genuine and that accords with the nature that Allah has placed within them. It makes religion easy on the people, the way Allah intended it to be.
Once, a desert-dweller came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) complaining that Mu`âdh prolonged the prayer too much. The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked the desert-dweller: “What do you say in prayer?”
He answered: “When I offer my tashahhud, I say: ‘O Allah! I ask You for Paradise and seek refuge with You from the Fire.’ As for me, I am not good at droning on the way you and Mu`âdh do.”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to him: “It is basically these things that we drone on about.” [Sunan Abû Dâwûd (22), and Musnad Ahmad (15333)]
We can see that the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not impose upon the man to memorize what was too difficult for him. He took into account the man’s abilities. Maybe he was an old man, or had a weak memory, or was poorly brought up.
It is significant that the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not interrogate the desert-dweller about his intentions. No doubt, the word the desert-dweller used to describe the prayer of Mu`âdh – and of the Prophet himself – was quite unflattering and could easily have been construed as an insult. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not take offence.
Instead, he accepted the desert-dweller’s coarse and simple statement: – “I am not good at droning on the way you and Mu`âdh do.” – and answered gently: “It is basically these things that we drone on about.” With this answer, he comforted the desert-dweller and reassured him that the simple words he was using in his prayers were essentially what Mu`âdh was saying – though maybe Mu`âdh was using words that the desert-dweller was unable to understand.
Indeed, the desert-dweller was essentially making the supplication of all the Prophets – a supplication for Paradise and to be spared from Hell.
Allah says: “Lo! They used to vie one with the other in good deeds, and they cried unto Us in longing and in fear, and were submissive unto Us.” [Sûrah al-Anbiyâ’: 90]
Clemency and an easygoing nature should be the spirit of our personal conduct and our social interactions. This attests to the truth that our innate, easygoing religious awareness is better than imposing difficulties in religion. It is also farther away from the dangers of pretentiousness, conceitedness, and showing-off.
We find that most of the people who preoccupy themselves with hair-splitting debates based in complex logic and semantic differences, they contribute nothing of consequence. They are like people fighting over possession of a dry well or scrambling to reach a mirage. They have left behind the life of normal people and turned their attentions to superficial disputes. They are the last people to bring benefit to others, but the first to criticize and cause disputations. This is indeed, blameworthy ostentation.