The Value of Simplicity
Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties. (AL-BAQARA: 185)
He has chosen you, and has imposed no difficulties on you in religion; it is the cult of your father Abraham. (AL-HAJJ: 78)
And let not thy hand be chained to thy neck nor open it with a complete opening, lest thou sit down rebuked, denuded. (AL-ISRA’: 29)
What can Allah gain by your punishment, if ye are grateful and ye believe? Nay, it is Allah that recogniseth (all good), and knoweth all things. (AL-NISA’: 147)
Nor kill (or destroy) yourselves: for verily Allah hath been to you Most Merciful! (AL-NISA’: 29)
-The Concept of Simplicity:
Practicing simplicity, as a moral value, entails staying in harmony with the nature imparted to mankind by God. To practice simplicity means to set about getting one’s needs met gracefully and with poise, not stubbornly refusing to attempt to fulfill legitimate needs which are part and parcel of man’s God -given nature.
The Simplicity of the Prophet ’slifestyle:
Aisha said, regarding the simplicity of his home and its furnishings, “His bed was made of/consisted of a vessel filled with hay.”
She also said, “The pillow upon which the Messenger of God slept during the night was no more than a vessel filled with hay.”
This is illustrative of the simplicity of the Messenger of God ’s lifestyle and the ways in which He made use of items plentiful in the environment. It is reflective of his humility and demonstrative of the degree to which he was content, when it came to worldly matters, with but little. This facet of the Prophet ’s lifestyle serves as a lesson in spiritual discipline complete with drills and exercises embodied in a practical example. That is, the Messenger of God did not order his companions to make use of simple items in their day to day lives. Rather, He exemplified what it means to lead a simple existence.
The construction of great civilizations always begins with the acquisition of tools and mastery of raw materials, making good use there-of to improve life, slowly but steadily working towards the refinement and development of novel uses for both the tools and the raw materials at their disposal. It is worth pointing out that making use, in our daily live, of the refinements which we obtained ready-made, but which were actually invented by other cultures, does not render us masters of culture. Indeed, it is quite conceivable that we are as captives to those imported items, thoughtlessly grinding to a halt, neither contemplating the creativity and work which went into their production nor attempting to come up with comparable innovations, nor even to attempt to understand the mechanisms by which they work.
Simplicity, then, entails making good use of such natural resources as are actually present and at our disposal. Implicit therein is the duty to not wastefully exhaust our land and the natural resources found there upon. It is our duty to respect these basic resources, whether water, top-soil, or trees. Ibn Abbas tells us, “Somebody made a charitable donation, a she-goat, to one of Maymoona’s clients. Then, it was found to be dead (Clarification from translator: That is, it died in a manner which rendered eating its flesh unlawful according to Shariah law, rendering it carrion. Eating carrion, unless circumstances are dire and it is the only thing available to sustain human life, is prohibited). The Messenger of God came across it and said, ‘Why have you not made use of her gift and derived some benefits therefrom?’ They responded, ‘Because it is dead, of course.’ He responded, ‘Only eating it is prohibited.’”
As regards the simplicity of his food and drink, Aisha tells us, “We, the family of Muhammad would go for a month without lighting a fire; all we had to eat were dates and water.
By way of Abu Huraira, who said, “The Prophet never once expressed disdain for any sort of food. If he had an appetite for it, he would eat it; if he did not like it, he simply left if alone.”
By way of Jabir Ibn Abdullah we learn that the Prophet asked his family for some sauce. They replied, “We have nothing but vinegar,” whereupon he asked that it be brought, then began to eat with it, saying, “And a fine sauce it is, vinegar; a fine sauce it is, vinegar.”
In Hind Ibn Abu Hala’s speech, wherein he describes the comprehensive goodness of the Prophet ’s attributes, he says, “He was mild-mannered, neither harsh nor insulting. He held each blessing in the highest regard, no matter how humble, never disparaging anything about worldly matters, neither disparaging nor praising such as partook thereof.” In another rendition we hear, “He was not the sort to be picky nor to lavish praise, and nothing related to this world and what is in it could anger him. Nobody who dared to be negligent in fulfilling his obligations could expect him to come to his aid. He never, out of anger, came to the assistance of anybody, nor did he ever become angry on his own behalf, nor did he ever seek revenge for himself.”
The Simplicity of Faith and Belief:
The Prophet set down the best moral example for his companions as to how to achieve simplicity in worship and maintain moderation in worldly matters.
Aisha tells us, “Never was the Prophet confronted with two choices except that he chose the easier of the two, so long as he could make that choice without sinning. If they were sinful, he would put both of them far away from him. And, by God, he never took revenge regarding a personal matter which had been visited upon him until and unless the limits set by God were transgressed, at which point he would take revenge for the sake of God. ”
By way of Anis Ibn Malik, who said, “Three young men came to the houses of the wives of the Messenger of God, asking about the worship practices of the Prophet s. When they were informed as to what type of worship he engaged in, they said, ‘And where do we stand as compared to the Prophet , whose sins, both past and future, have been forgiven?’ One of them said, ‘As for myself, I will pray all night, every night.’ Then, another said, ‘I will constantly fast, not breaking it for even a single day.’ Then, another said, ‘I shall swear off women, and never shall I marry.’ Then, the Messenger of God went to them and said, ‘Are you the ones who said such and such? As far as myself, by God, I swear that I am more fearful of and careful to seek protection from God than any of you, yet, I fast and break my fast, I pray as well as sleep, and I take wives. Whoever turns away from my ways, such a person is not of me.’”
Aisha said, “The Prophet did something in a simple and easy manner which was at odds with the more complicated and difficult way that the people, in general, performed that action, and the people thought themselves to be superior because they had chosen more stringent parameters. When the Prophet caught wind of what they were saying he praised God, declaring His greatness, then said, ‘What are people thinking, acting as though they are above doing a thing which I do? By God, of all of them, I am undisputedly the most well informed as regards God, just as I am the most fearful among them of Him.’”
Anis Ibn Malik said, “I never offered prayers behind a single Imam who was possessed of greater poise nor any who was more comprehensive in his manner of conducting the prayer than was the Prophet s. If ever he heard the sound of a young child crying he would make his prayer yet lighter out of fear that the child’s mother might be distraught and unable to concentrate on her prayer.”
Abu Qutada said, “The Prophet came to us carrying Umama Bint Abu Al Aas on his person. Heproceeded to pray, setting her down as he bowed and picking her up once more as he stood.”
By way of Shaddad Ibn Al Had, who said, “The Messenger of God came to us during one of the two evening prayers carrying either Hassan or Hussain. Then, the Messenger of God made his way to the front and set him down. Then, he initiated and began the prayer, at one point during the prayer making an unusually long prostration.” My father said, “So, I raised my head up ever so slightly and noticed that the young boy was perched atop the Messenger of God ’sback as he was positioned in prostration. I, myself, then returned to the position of prostration. When the Messenger of God finished the prayer the people asked, ‘Oh Messenger of God, during the prayer you engaged in a prostration which was so long that we wondered if something might have happened or if, perhaps, you were receiving a divine revelation.’ He replied, ‘No; it was nothing of that nature which transpired. What happened was merely that my boy climbed atop me and I disliked the idea of rushing him, so, I allowed him to continue until he was satisfied.’”
Indeed, the Prophet made a point of keeping an eye on the devotional aspects of his companions’ behavior, thereby evaluating the paradigm upon which they were constructing an understanding of how philanthropy and charity are expressed in acts of worship. Along the same lines, Hemade it clear that the strengthening of spirituality is achieved through following his example in such a way as is neither pretentious nor militant. Thus did he clarify for them that incorporating religion into one’s daily life is a means of bringing about ease. It is essential that we seek to be easy-going both in how we undertake acts of worship as well as in how we live our daily lives. It is imperative that we demonstrate the simplicity and ease of our religion to mankind as a whole.
By way of Abu Juhaifa, who said, “The Prophet forged the bond of brotherhood between Salman and Abu Al Darda’. Then, Salman visited Abu Darda’ and saw that Um Al Darda’ seemed not to be well groomed, whereupon he said to her, ‘What is your story?’ She responded, ‘Your brother Abu Al Darda’ has no worldly needs.’ Then, Abu Al Darda’ came and prepared a meal for him, saying, ‘Eat.’ Then he said, ‘The thing is, I am fasting,’ to which Salman responded, ‘I am not going to eat until you eat.’ He said, ‘Then, he ate. When night was fully upon us Abu Al Darda’ set about to undertake supererogatory prayers,’ He then said, ‘Sleep,’ so he slept for a bit, after which he got up as if to undertake prayer, but Salman said, ‘Sleep.’ Then, when the last portion of the night had drawn near, Salman said, ‘Now, rise.’ Then the twain prayed together, after which Salman said to Abu Al Darda’, ‘There is no question that your Lord has rights which it is incumbent upon you to honor, as does your soul have rights which you must honor, as does your wife have rights which you must honor. Therefore, as regards those who have rights upon you, bestow upon each one of them such rights as are his due from you.’ Then he went to the Prophet and told him what had transpired, whereupon the Prophet stated, ‘Salman has spoken truthfully.’”
This constitutes evidence of the simplicity and ease characteristic of worship as well as the responsibility we each bear to fulfill both our own rights as well as the rights of others. It is a straightforward paradigm for understanding this religion. It contains approbation from the Prophet s, whose responsibility it was to inculcate character discipline, towards Salman’s actions, as well as hisacknowledgement of the correctness of what he had said, which, together, served to encourage Salman for having offered sincere advice while simultaneously praising him for correctly understanding what it means to practice Ihsan in acts of worship.
By way of Anis Ibn Malik, who said, “The Prophet came in and was taken aback at the sight of a rope stretched out between two pillars, whereupon he inquired, ‘What is this rope for?’ The people responded, ‘This rope is for Zaynab; she steadies herself with it when she is out of energy.’ The Prophet then remarked, ‘No. Take it down. How much each of you stands during his prayers is determined by his level of endurance. If any of you finds himself exhausted, he ought, then, to sit down.’”
By way of Anis we hear that the Prophet caught sight of an elderly man who, between his two sons, was struggling to make his way. He inquired, “What is he doing?” The group responded, “He vowed to walk,” to which the Messenger of God replied, ‘I tell you, God has no use for the self-inflicted torture in which he is engaging,’ whereupon He commanded him to ride.”
By way of Abu Huraira we hear that the Prophet said, “The truth of the matter is that religion is easy, and never does a person complicate it without, in the end, being overwhelmed thereby. Therefore, mend relations, draw nigh to one another, give glad tidings, and make the most out of each leg of your journey, whether it be that you are just setting out, in its midst, or nearing its end.”
By way of Abu Musa, who said, “The Messenger of God, each time he sent out one of his companions as an emissary, would tell them, ‘Give glad tidings and do not push people away; facilitate matters and do not obstruct solutions.’”
By way of Aisha we hear that the Prophet said, “This religion is comprehensive in scope, so, convey it in a gentle manner and do not cause God's worshippers to hate the worship of God. Truly, those whose journey is interrupted by the breakage of the conveyance upon which they were relying are neither able to move forward in their journeys nor find that they have anything to fall back upon.’”
By way of Jabir Ibn Abdullah, who reported that “Mu’aath Ibn Jabal used to pray with the Prophet s, then go to his own people and lead them in prayer, reciting therein Surat Al Baqara.” He continued, “Then, a man stepped away in order to quickly pray on his own. This news reached Mu’aath, who declared that the man was a hypocrite. That news, in turn, reached the man, who went to the Prophet and said, “Oh Messenger of God, we are a community of manual laborers who earn our keep by the sweat of our brows. Mu’aath came to lead us in prayer and, when I saw that he was reading Surat Al Baqarah, I excused myself, which led Mu’aath to proclaim that I am a hypocrite.” Then the Prophet said, “Oh Mu’aath, do you seek to be a cause of temptation?” After saying that thrice he said, “Recite Surat Al Shams and Surat Al ‘Ala and the likes thereof.”
Herein we observe that the Prophet supervised the actions of his companions and corrected them when necessary by redirecting them towards a sound methodology of moral discipline, thereby pointing out to them the proper course of action which was in alignment with the forgiving nature of this religion and its simplicity.
By way of Abdullah Ibn Masood, who said, “The Messenger of God said, “Destroyed are those who unnecessarily load upon themselves words and actions which are extreme in nature." He repeated it thrice.
This embodies a prohibition against exaggerated and inflexible stands, whether regarding worship or other matters. It is as if the Messenger of God is calling down destruction upon those who make things difficult, or, announcing that they shall be destroyed. In this passage we see the Prophet making use of repetition, saying it three times, in order to stress the issue and drive it home with the listener.
The Simplicity of Salvation and Sincerity in this World and the Hereafter:
By means of ‘Aday Ibn Hatim we hear that the Prophet mentioned the Fire in such a way that his turning away there-from in conjunction with the expression on his face indicated the fearsomeness thereof, even as he sought refuge in God from the Fire. He mentioned the Fire in such a way that his turning away there-from in conjunction with the expression on his face indicated the fearsomeness thereof, even as he sought refuge in God from the Fire. Then, he said, “Protect yourselves from the Fire, even if you can do so with as little as half of a date. As for he who finds not even that to offer, let him protect himself from the Fire with a kindly word.”
This exemplifies the simplicity of giving as well as the simplicity of being saved from the Fire. The Prophet made use of descriptive expressions in order to warn against a tragic ending. Then, he followed that up with instructions as to how to traverse a path which will protect you and the simplicity of bestowing upon others. Thus did the Prophet set forth various means and levels of giving, reinforcing the value of cooperating with and assisting others, even if what you can contribute is but a token indicative of love and solidarity.
In point of fact, the Prophet regarded the value of kind words to be sufficient as a means of being spared the penalty of the Fire. Therefore, let whoever is unable to provide physical assistance, let him provide verbal assistance in the form of a beautiful saying. That is one way for him to protect himself from the Fire. God u struck a parable of the goodly word in the Qur’an when He stated, ” Seest thou not how Allah sets forth a parable? - A goodly word like a goodly tree, whose root is firmly fixed, and its branches (reach) to the heavens,- of its Lord. So Allah sets forth parables for men, in order that they may receive admonition. It brings forth its fruit at all times, by the leave of its Lord. So Allah sets forth parables for men, in order that they may receive admonition. And the parable of an evil Word is that of an evil tree: It is torn up by the root from the surface of the earth: it has no stability.”
By way of Abdullah Ibn Masood, who said, “The Messenger of God stated, ‘Shall I not inform you as to those, male and female, whom the Fire is prohibited from touching? All such as are near at hand, of unpresuming dispositions, gentle, and easy going.’”
Simplicity and a Gentle Manner when Imparting Knowledge or Teaching Principles:
The Prophet s, in dealing with the mistakes of others, made good use such traits as patience, indulgence, forgiveness, and simplicity, all of which tended to magnify his worth in their hearts and make them ever more ready to accept his commands and teachings.
By way of Muaawiyya Ibn Al Hakam Al Sulaimy, who said, “Once, as I was praying with the Messenger of God, I heard someone sneeze and took it upon myself to say, ‘God bless you.’ The people shot glares at me, so I said, ‘What is up with you? How dare you stare at me like that?’ There-upon they began to slap their thighs with their hands, and I realized that they wanted to force me to remain silent. Even so, I chose to keep my peace. Presently the Messenger of God finished praying, and -this I swear upon his father and my mother- never have I, before or since, met a more effective teacher. By God, neither did he pounce on me, nor did he strike me, nor did he shame me. All he said was, ‘The fact is, this is prayer, and prayer is not a suitable venue for human speech of any sort. Rather, it is a venue meant for glorifying the magnificence of God and reciting the Qur’an.’”
By way of Aisha, who said, “The speech of the Messenger of God was a graceful and exceptional sort of speech, comprehensible to all who heard it.”
By way of Anis, who stated that the Prophet s, when he greeted with peace, would repeat the greeting thrice. Also, when he said a thing, he would repeat it three times.
By way of Ibn Masood, who said, “It was the Prophet ’spractice to frequently gather together and follow up with us, issuing reminders and warnings during the days, fearing where boredom might lead us.”
This combines the concepts of taking a break, gradually inculcating doctrines, and encouraging moral and mannerly actions. Also, this style allows the student a chance to put concepts into action, practicing and perfecting his manner of implementation.
Simplicity in Establishing Marital Bonds and the Foundations of a Stable Family:
By way of Sahl Ibn Saad we hear that a woman came to the Messenger of God saying, “Oh Messenger of God. I have come here intent upon making a gift of myself to you.” The Messenger of God looked upon her, taking her in from head to toe, then, he lowered his head. When the woman realized that he did not want anything of her, she sat down, whereupon another man from among hiscompanions stood up, saying, “Oh Messenger of God, if it be that you are in no need of her, then, marry her to me.” Heinquired, “Have you any possession?” and he responded, “No, by God, Oh Messenger of God. ” He responded, “Then go to your family and see if you can find anything there.” So, he went and then returned, saying, “By God, Oh Messenger of God, I was unable to find a single thing.” Headvised him, “Find something, even if it is no more than an iron ring.” The man then departed and returned, whereupon he said, “No, Oh Messenger of God ; I was unable to find an iron ring, however, I do have this, my garment.” Sahl said, “He has no cloak.” Then the man said, “She shall have half of it.” At this, the Messenger of God remarked, “What is this that you propose to do with your one garment? If you wear it, no part of it will be upon her, and, if she wears it, no part of it will be upon you.”
The man then sat down until, when he had been sitting there for quite some time, he arose. Then he saw the Messenger of God turn, and he ordered that the man be summoned. When he arrived, Hesaid, “How much of the Qur’an do you know?” He said, “I know such-and-such a surah, and such-and-such a surah, and such-and-such a surah. He counted them and inquired, “Do you know them by heart?” He responded, “Yes,” and the Prophet said, “Go, for I have married you to her on the basis of the amount of Qur’an that you know.”
Here we can see the simplicity of marriage and the forging of a lawful bond between a man and a woman. The Prophet made a woman’s dowry a mere iron ring, or, the learning of a surah from the Qur’an. It also shows how society can assist men and women to form families by an approved route which ensures that the lawful rights and responsibilities towards wives and children are upheld.
Simplicity in Welcoming and Honoring Guests:
By way of Salman we hear, “The Messenger of God commanded us not to, for the sake of guests, do things which we would not ordinarily do, telling us that we should set before them such items as were already in our possession.”
By way of Anis, who said, “We were with Umar when he said, ‘We have been forbidden to engage in affectations.’”
Engaging in affectation is exhausting, and it causes the host to feel that the very paradigm set up for hosting others is, in and of itself, a difficult endeavor and hard to accomplish properly. That, in turn, causes him to run away, thereafter, from the responsibility to fulfill his duties. For that reason, the Prophet laid down guidelines which require that one keep things simple as regards honoring guests. That Hedid in order to regulate that right and to preserve the human relationships. Thus did he limit hospitality and honoring one’s guest to one day and one night.
The guest has the right to stay for up to three days, after which it is unlawful for him to remain. That, in order that he not bring upon his host any kind of embarrassment. Concerning that, Abu Surayj Al Kaabi tells us that the Messenger of God said, “Whoever among you believes in God and the Final Day, let him honor his guest. He is to be honored for one day and one night. Hosting a house-guest is a matter which is obligatory for three days. Whatever is beyond that is considered charity, and it is not lawful for a guest to remain with his host until such time as his host expels him.”
These sorts of manners are what allowed hosting guests to play a major social role in Islam, allowing the spirit of cooperation, mutual assistance, and love to flourish among its adherents.