Responsibility is Dependant on Ability

Abu Hurayrah (radi Allahu anhu) said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) saying: “That which I have forbidden you from, abstain from it. That which I have ordered you with, do as much of it as you are able. It was only their excessive questioning and disagreeing with their Prophets that destroyed those before you.”

[Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim]

Commentary:

“That which” in his statement “That which I have forbidden you from” is meticulous, meaning that which I have forbidden you from, abstain from it entirely and do not enact any of it. This is because abstaining is easier than action, and all people are able to achieve that. As for the commandments, then he said, “That which I have ordered you with, do as much of it as you are able.” This is because the commandments are actions and it may become difficult upon a person and due to this, the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) stipulated it by his saying ” do as much of it as you are able.”

And from the Benefits of this hadith:

  1. The obligation of abstaining from what the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) prohibited. Likewise, what Allah prohibited is even more substantial, and this does not prove that the prohibition is for discouragement [i.e. a Makrooh act, rather it is Haram (impermissible)].
  2. It is not permissible to do some of the prohibitions. Rather, it is obligatory to abstain from them entirely. Its correct setting is that (it is prohibited) so long as there is no necessity that permits the action.
  3. The obligation of enacting what he ordered. Its correct setting is that (it is obligatory) so long as there is no evidence that would make the command highly recommended (i.e. Mustahab).
  4. It is not incumbent on a person to do more than he is able.
  5. The ease and convenience of the religion of lslam since it does not obligate on a person something he is not able.
  6. lf someone is incapable of doing some of the commandments, then it is sufficient for him to do what he is able. If he is not able to pray standing then he prays sitting. If he is not able to pray sitting then he prays on his side. Whoever is able to bow then he bows. If he is not able then he signals and indicates that he is bowing. Likewise is the remainder of worship. A person does what he is able.
  7. It is not appropriate for a person to ask excessive questions since excessive questioning – especially during the time of revelation – may obligate the prohibition of something that was not prohibited, or it may obligate something that was not obligatory. A person should only ask about his need.
  8. Excessive questioning and disagreeing with the Prophets are from the causes of destruction, just as those before us were destroyed.
  9. A precaution of excessive questioning and differing since it destroyed those who came before us. If we do it, then it is likely that we will be destroyed, just as they were destroyed.

And Allah Knows Best!

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