A recent episode of the popular Arabic show al-Sharia wa al-Haya (Law and Life), which airs weekly on Al Jazeera and features renowned Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, addressed the important yet little known Muslim concept of taysir (pronounced “tey-seer”).
Qaradawi, who is touted by the likes of John Esposito and CAIR as a “moderate” — even as he legitimizes suicide attacks against Israel (including by women) and death for apostates — explained that, according to fiqh al-taysir (the “jurisprudence of ease”), Islam (like Catholicism) offers Muslims dispensations, whenever needed: “For Allah desires ease for you, not hardship” (Koran 2:185; see also 5:6, 4:26-28, 2:286). For instance, Muslims traveling during the month of Ramadan or engaged in jihad need not observe the obligatory fast.
Qaradawi stressed that no one advocated taking the “easy way” as much as Muhammad himself. He offered several examples, including how Muhammad was angry with prayer leaders who tired the people with long prayers. (Another less flattering though applicable anecdote concerning Muhammad’s “leniency” comes to mind. When his followers thought they had to practice coitus interruptus while raping their captive women so as not to impregnate them, Muhammad told them: “There is no harm if you do not practice it, for it [the birth of the child] is something ordained [by Allah]”).
Lest it be abused, Qaradawi warned that taysir should only be used as needed, based on the vicissitudes of time and chance. In other words, Muslims should not actively seek the easy way, but rather, when uncontrollable circumstances create hardships, Muslims are free to opt for the easy way — as long as they recognize that the “hard way” (i.e., total implementation of Sharia) is the ideal way.
Qaradawi proudly contrasted taysir with the practices of Jews and Christians who “took things to the extreme, and thus were treated extremely.” After quoting the verse, “Ask not about matters which, if made known to you, may make things difficult for you” (Koran 5:105), Qaradawi said Allah made things difficult for the “anal” Jews because they always insisted on receiving specific details for his otherwise simple commandments. As for Christians, Qaradawi, in dismay, pointed to monks and anchorites, who, by shunning all female contact, and living in absolute solitude and austerity, also went to the extreme.
The most significant point of the program came when Qaradawi said that taysir is especially needed in “this era” and “especially for those Muslim minorities living in Europe and America.”