Two salient and established characteristics of the Shari’ah are flexibility and simplicity. These two qualities help the Muslim in his worship and dealings.
(And that it is He [Allah] Who makes [whom He wills] laugh, and makes [whom He wills] weep) (Quran 53: 43)
The Messenger of Allah (bpuh) would both laugh and joke, but he would speak nothing but truth. He ran races against ‘Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) and he explicitly forbade affectation, artificiality, and rigidity. He (bpuh) informed us that, when a person makes the religion too stringent and harsh, it will overwhelm him. In another hadith, we are informed that the Religion is solid and that we should delve into it gently. We are also informed that every worshipper has a level of vitality and that a person who is too harsh will inevitably and eventually snap. He snaps because he only looks at present circumstances and is blind to the different situations that he might find himself to be in at a future time. He forgets about the long-term effects of his attitude and about the boredom caused by over rigidity.
Wiser is he who has a minimum level of deeds that he performs continually no matter what the circumstance. lf he happens to be more enthusiastic on any given day, he does more. But if he weakens, he at least still performs those deeds that are a part of his daily routine. Perhaps this is the meaning of the saying that is attributed to some of the Companions:
"The soul comes forth at times and draws back at other times. Take advantage of the times that it draws forth and leave it alone when it draws back."
I have seen many people who had good intentions when they performed an inordinate amount of voluntary prayers and when they went to extremes in their application of the Religion. Eventually, however, they returned to a weaker state than the one they were in prior to the surge of enthusiasm they experienced.
What many overlook is that the Religion primarily came to bring prosperity and happiness to people.
(We have not sent down the Qur’an unto you [O’ Muhammad] to cause you distress.) (Qur’an 20: 2)
Allah reproached those who overtaxed themselves by doing more than they were capable of ---- those. Who as a result of withdrawing themselves from the real world, ended up reneging on their previously made commitments.
(But the Monasticism which they invented for themselves, we did not prescribe for them, but [they sought it] only to please Allah therewith, but that they did not observe it with the right observance) (Qur’an 57: 27)
Islam distinguishes itself from other religions by being moderate, by being easy to follow, by caring for the soul and the body, by catering for this life and the Hereafter, by consisting of beliefs that are innately acceptable to all.
(That is the right religion...) (Quran 9: 36)
Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) related the following:
"A Desert Arab came to the Messenger of Allah (bpuh) and asked, ‘O’ Messenger of Allah, who from the people is best?’
‘The believer who struggles with his self and his wealth in the way of Allah. Next is the man who isolates himself in a valley in order to worship his Lord."’
In another narration, he (bpuh) said:
"The one who fears Allah and leaves people to be safe from his harm."
Abu Sa’eed (may Allah be pleased with him) also narrated the following hadith:
"The time is near when the most valuable property of the Muslim will be sheep, with which he will follow pastures in mountains and places of rain; he will be fleeing with his religion from trials." (Bukhari)
‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
“Take your fair share of isolation."
And in the well-put words of Al-Junayd:
"Enduring isolation is easier than enduring the whims and flattery involved in mixing with others."
"If isolation only meant being safe from backbiting and away from seeing evil that is beyond your ability to change, then it would still be something that had great benefits."
This last saying is similar in meaning to the hadith found in Al- Haakim, narrated by Abu Dhar (may Allah be pleased with him):
"Seclusion is better than sitting with someone who is a bad influence” This hadith has a good chain.
Al-Khattabi explained that, in our Religion, the ruling for seclusion and socializing depends upon the circumstances. From revealed texts, we are encouraged to mix and gather with others for specific purposes: to follow the people of knowledge and to unite with the community for religious matters. As for other gatherings, then the person who is self-sufficient in preserving his religion and in earning his wealth is better off by mixing with others only when necessary or when good deeds are involved. Nevertheless, he must still fulfill his obligations, such as praying with the community, returning greetings of peace, visiting the sick, attending funerals, and so on. What is required, then, is to not socialize to an excessive degree, since doing so results in wasting time and neglecting more important matters. Mixing with others is akin to the body’s need for food and drink. In both cases, one should limit his intake to only what is needed. This is purer for the body and the heart; and Allah knows best.
In his dissertation on the topic of isolation, Al-Qushayree said that the one who seeks seclusion should feel that he is doing so in order to protect people from his evil and not the opposite. This is because the former breeds a modest opinion of one’s self, which is required in the Religion. The latter thinking, however, means that one is attesting to one’s superiority over others, which is not acceptable in the character of a believer.
In this matter people can be classified into three groups: two of them are opposites while the third is at a middle point between them. The first group isolates itself from people to the extent of not attending Friday prayers, congregational prayers, and gatherings that spread goodness. The people from this group have obviously erred.
Those from the second group are social to the point that they even participate in evil or wasteful gatherings, wherein falsehood, rumors, and wastage of time prevail: they too have erred. Those from the middle group associate with others in matters of worship that must be carried out in congregation. They participate with others in spreading righteousness, in earning rewards, and more generally, in pleasing Allah. They avoid those gatherings that are dominated by evil, falsehood, and extravagance.
(Thus we have made [true believers], a just (and the best) nation) (Qur’an 2: 143)