Imam Al-Nawawi's Riyad-us-Saliheen
Chapter 14
Moderation in Worship

Allah, the Exalted, says:

"Ta-Ha. We have not sent down the Qur'an unto you (O Muhammad (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam)) to cause you distress". (20:1,2)

"Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you". (2:185)

142.  Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) reported: The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) came in when a woman was sitting beside me. He asked me, "Who is she?'' I said: "She is the one whose performance of Salat (prayer) has become the talk of the town.'' Addressing her, he (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "(What is this!) You are required to take upon yourselves only what you can carry out easily. By Allah, Allah does not withhold His Mercy and forgiveness of you until you neglect and give up (good works). Allah likes the deeds best which a worshipper can carry out constantly".
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Commentary:
1. This Hadith prohibits `Ibadah (
worship) beyond one's capacity lest one gets tired and stops it altogether. One should be, therefore, moderate in this respect.

2.  Allah likes that good action which is done regularly, even if it is a small one. Any good deed which is done continuously, will also have an everlasting reward. On the contrary, a good deed which is done for a short period will have a short return.

143.  Anas (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Three men came to the houses of the wives of the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) to inquire about the worship of the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam). When they were informed, they considered their worship insignificant and said: "Where are we in comparison with the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) while Allah has forgiven his past sins and future sins". One of them said: "As for me, I shall offer Salat all night long.'' Another said: "I shall observe Saum (fasting) continuously and shall not break it". Another said: "I shall abstain from women and shall never marry". The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) came to them and said, "Are you the people who said such and such things? By Allah, I fear Allah more than you do, and I am most obedient and dutiful among you to Him, but still I observe fast and break it; perform Salat and sleep at night and take wives. So whoever turns away from my Sunnah does not belong to me".
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Commentary:
1. This Hadith deals with the following five points:

a)  Moderation in worship.

b)  Obligation to marry.

c)  Inducement for following in the Prophet's footsteps.

d)  Prohibition from observing Saum (fasts) all the time.

e)  Prohibition of keeping awake all the night for Nawafil prayers.

2. There is neither virtue nor reward for making innovations in religion. All the blessings and rewards lie only in the obedience and following the conduct of the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam).

144.  Ibn Mas`ud (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "Ruined are those who insist on hardship in matters of the Faith.'' He repeated this three times.
[Muslim]

Commentary:  This Hadith shows disgust against exercises which many Sufis have introduced in religion which deviate from the conduct of the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) and encourage self-violence. Similarly, such people who are hypocritical and make unnecessary probe into religious matters also fall in this category and are usually far from the teachings and practice of the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam).

145. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "The religion (of Islam) is easy, and whoever makes the religion a rigour, it will overpower him. So, follow a middle course (in worship); if you can't do this, do something near to it and give glad tidings and seek help (of Allah) at morn and at dusk and some part of night".
[Al-Bukhari].

Commentary:  Besides moderation in worship, this Hadith enjoins that such times should be fixed for worship when one is fresh so that one feels pleasure in performing it. But this principle is for optional and voluntary prayers only. Obligatory Salat are to be performed at the prescribed times only.

146.  Anas (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) came into the mosque and noticed a rope stretched between two poles. He enquired, "What is this rope for?'' He was told: "This is Zainab's rope. When during her voluntary prayer, she begins to feel tired, she grasps it for support". The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "Untie it. You should perform prayers so long as you feel active. When you feel tired, you should go to sleep".
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Commentary:  This Hadith deals with the following three points:

1. It forbids undue strictness and taking support of anything in the course of Salat.

2. If wrong can be corrected by hand, it must be stopped immediately.

3. One should be moderate in `Ibadah and select such times for optional and voluntary prayers when one feels real pleasure in them.

147.  `Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) reported: Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "When one of you feels drowsy during prayer, let him lie down till drowsiness goes away from him, because when one of you performs prayers while feeling sleepy, he does not know whether he seeks forgiveness or abuses himself".
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

148.  Jabir bin Samurah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I used to perform prayer with the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) and his Salat was of a moderate length and his Khutbah too was moderate in length.
[Muslim].

Commentary: This Hadith tells us that Imam should neither lengthen the Salat nor give a long Khutbah in the congregational Salat because both of these things are not according to the practice of the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam).

149.  Abu Juhaifah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) made a bond of brotherhood between Salman and Abud-Darda'. Salman paid a visit to Abud-Darda' and found Umm Darda' (his wife) dressed in shabby clothes and asked her why she was in that state. She replied: "Your brother Abud-Darda' is not interested in (the luxuries of) this world. In the meantime Abud-Darda' came in and prepared a meal for Salman. Salman requested Abud-Darda' to eat (with him) but Abud-Darda' said: "I am fasting.'' Salman said: "I am not going to eat unless you eat.'' So, Abud-Darda' ate (with Salman). When it was night and (a part of the night passed), Abud-Darda' got up (to offer the night prayer) but Salman asked him to sleep and Abud-Darda' slept. After some time Abud-Darda' again got up but Salman asked him to sleep. When it was the last hours of the night, Salman asked him to get up and both of them offered (Tahajjud) prayer. Then Salman told Abud-Darda': "You owe a duty to your Rubb, you owe a duty to your body; you owe a duty to your family; so you should give to every one his due. Abud-Darda' came to the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) and reported the whole story. Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "Salman is right".
[Al-Bukhari].

Commentary: This Hadith highlights the following points:

1.  Although the performance of voluntary prayers (Nawafil) is highly meritorious, it should not be done at the cost of obligations for, in this case, they loose their merits and are disliked by Allah.

2. The right time for Tahajjud (optional prayers at night) is the last third part of the night. The reason being that in the first two portions of the night, one should take rest and perform his conjugal duties.

3. Voluntary fasting can be broken (for valid reasons) without any expiation.

4. It is permissible to establish fraternity on the basis of Deen, and when this is established, the families so affiliated can associate with each other.

5. Muslims must provide right guidance to each other.

6. In case of need, it is permissible to speak to an unknown woman while observing the teachings of the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) in this regard, such as lowering the gaze and be as brief as possible.

150.  `Abdullah bin `Amr bin Al-`as (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) was informed that I said that I would perform prayers the whole night and observe fasting every day as long as I live. Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "Is it you who said this?'' I said to him, "O Messenger of Allah! I ransom you with my parents, it is I who said that.'' Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "You will not be able to do that. Observe fast and break it; sleep and get up for prayer, and observe fast for three days during the month; for every good is multiplied ten times and that will be equal to fasting the whole year.'' I said, "O Messenger of Allah! I can do more than that.'' He said, "Observe fast one day and leave off the next two days.'' I said, "O Messenger of Allah! I have strength to do more than that.'' Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "Observe fast every other day, and that is the fasting of Dawud (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) and that is the most moderate fasting".

According to another narration: Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "That is the best fasting.'' I said, "But I am capable of doing more than this". Thereupon, Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "There is nothing better than this.'' `Abdullah bin `Amr (May Allah be pleased with them) said (when he grew old): "Had I accepted the three days (fasting during every month) as the Messenger of Allah had said, it would have been dearer to me than my family and my property".

In another narration `Abdullah is reported to have said: Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said to me, "O `Abdullah! Have I not been informed that you observe fast during the day and offer prayer all the night.'' I replied, "Yes, O Messenger of Allah!'' Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "Don't do that. Observe fast for few days and then leave off for few days, perform prayers and also sleep at night, as your body has a right upon you, and your eyes have a right upon you; and your wife has a right upon you; your visitors have a right upon you. It is sufficient for you to observe fast three days in a month, as the reward of good deeds is multiplied ten times, so it will be like fasting the whole year.'' I insisted (on fasting) and so I was given a hard instruction. I said, "O Messenger of Allah! I have strength.'' Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "Observe fast like the fasting of Prophet Dawud (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam); and do not fast more than that.'' I said: "How was the fasting of Prophet Dawud?'' He (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "Half of the year (i.e., he used to fast on every alternate day).''

Afterwards when `Abdullah (May Allah be pleased with him) grew old, he used to say: "Would that I had availed myself of the concession granted to me by Messenger of Allah.''

In another narration `Abdullah is reported to have said: Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "I have been informed that you observe fast continuously and recite (the whole of the Qur'an) every night.'' I said, "Messenger of Allah! It is right, but I covet thereby nothing but good,'' whereupon he (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "Then observe fasts like the fasting of Prophet Dawud (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) as he was the most ardent worshipper of Allah; recite the Qur'an once every month.'' I said, "O Prophet of Allah! I am capable of doing more than that.'' He said, "Then recite it (the complete Qur'an) in every twenty days.'' I said, "O Prophet of Allah I am capable of reciting more than that.'' He said, "Then recite it once in every ten days.'' I said, "O Prophet of Allah! I am capable of reciting more than that.'' He said, "Then recite it once in every seven days, but not recite more than that.'' The Prophet of Allah also said to me, "You do not know, you may have a longer life". When I grew old I wished I had availed myself of the concession (granted to me by) the Prophet of Allah.

In another narration `Abdullah is reported to have said: Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "The best fasting with Allah is that of (Prophet) Dawud, and the best prayer with Allah is that of Dawud (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) for he would sleep half of the night and stand for prayer for the third of it and (then) would sleep sixth part of it; he observed fast one day and leave off the other. He would not flee on meeting the enemy".

In another narration `Abdullah is reported to have said: My father helped me marry a noble woman and he used to inquire of his daughter-in-law regarding her husband. She would say: "He is, indeed, a fine man. Since I have come to him, he has neither stepped on my bed nor he has had sexual intercourse with me". When this state of affairs lasted for some time, my father mentioned the matter to Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) who directed my father saying, "Send him to me". I went to him accordingly. He asked me, "How often do you observe fast?'' I replied; "Daily". He asked me, "How long do you take in reading the Noble Qur'an completely.'' I said, "Once every night". Then he narrated the whole story. He (in his old age) would recite one seventh of his nightly recitation to some members of his family during the day to lighten his task at night. Whenever he wished to have a relief from his fast on alternate days, he would give up fasting for a few days and make up deficiency later by observing the number of fasts he had missed. He would not give up the number of fasts altogether because he did not like to abandon what he had settled with Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam).

Commentary: This Hadith brings the following two things into focus:

1.  Besides mentioning the continence and ardour for worship of the Companions of the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam), it tells us of the teachings of the Prophet of Allah to adopt moderation and fulfill the lawful needs of life as well as religion.

2.  It also presents a model of the chastity, modesty and bashfulness of the Sahabiyat (women who embraced Islam and saw the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam)). It tells how patiently they bore the indifference of their husbands. In the instance quoted in the above mentioned Hadith, the politeness with which the wife of Abdullah bin `Amr bin Al-`as (May Allah be pleased with them) answered her father-in-law when he inquired her about the treatment of her husband is a model of decency and modesty.

151.  Hanzalah Al-Usayyidi (May Allah be pleased with him) who was one of the scribes of Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam), reported: I met Abu Bakr (May Allah be pleased with him) he said: "How are you O Hanzalah?'' I said, "Hanzalah has become a hypocrite". He said, "Far removed is Allah from every imperfection, what are you saying?'' I said, "When we are in the company of Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) and he reminds us of Hell-fire and Jannah, we feel as if we are seeing them with our very eyes, and when we are away from Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam), we attend to our wives, our children, our business, most of these things (pertaining to life hereafter) slip out of our minds.'' Abu Bakr (May Allah be pleased with him) said, "By Allah, I also experience the same thing". So Abu Bakr (May Allah be pleased with him) and I went to Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) and I said to him, "O Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam), Hanzalah has turned hypocrite.'' Thereupon Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "What has happened to you?'' I said, "O Messenger of Allah, when we are in your company, and are reminded of Hell-fire and Jannah, we feel as if we are seeing them with our own eyes, but when we go away from you and attend to our wives, children and business, much of these things go out of our minds.'' Thereupon Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "By Him in Whose Hand is my life if your state of mind remains the same as it is in my presence and you are always busy in remembrance (of Allah), the angels will shake hands with you in your beds and in your roads; but Hanzalah, time should be devoted (to the worldly affairs) and time should be devoted (to prayer)". He (the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam)) said this thrice.
[Muslim].

Commentary:  This Hadith also tells us about the continence and piety of the Companions of the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) with reference to the natural instinct of man to think differently in different situations. This condition has nothing to do with Nifaq (hypocrisy). Islam is the Deen of Fitrah (pure nature) and takes the middle course in everything, and combines the benefits of this world and those of the Hereafter. It also satisfies the needs of the body as well as that of the soul.

152.  Ibn `Abbas (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: While the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) was delivering Khutbah (religious talk), he noticed a man who was standing, so he asked about him and was told that he was Abu Israel who had taken a vow to remain standing and not sit, or go into the shade, or speak while observing fasting. Thereupon Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "Tell him to speak, to go into the shade, to sit and to complete his fast''.
[Al-Bukhari].

Commentary:
1. This Hadith makes it abundantly clear that one cannot attain the Pleasure of Allah by means of self-invented methods. It can only be achieved by ways and means prescribed in the Qur'an and Sunnah.

2. One should never vow for anything which is smeared with sin or which is not permitted by Deen. An instance of this is quoted in the above mentioned Hadith.

3. The majority of 'Ulama' (scholars) who do not think the expiation of such vows necessary, quote this Hadith in support of their view. They argue that the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) has not prescribed expiation in such cases as is evident from this Hadith.