We are excited to announce the release of a new series by our Tarbiyah Editor Sh Ali Hammuda, called ‘Sacred Truths’.
This article and video series will take you on a journey of universal principles from the Qur’an relating to the the trials and circumstances we face in our everyday lives.
Stay tuned for the release of episodes throughout the month—sign up here to get them sent straight to your inbox!
This Qur’anic principle  is a refutation of the ‘perfectionist fallacy’, the idea that a “perfect solution” exists and that you should keep searching for it before taking action. More importantly, it’s a totally illogical hindrance to your happiness and success. Instead, the Qur’an reminds man that perfection is a Divine quality, and that no matter how hard one may try, he can never give his Lord his full dues, saying:
كَلَّا لَمَّا يَقْضِ مَا أَمَرَهُ
“No, man has not yet accomplished God’s commands.” 
The Prophet ﷺ would stress the exact same meaning, saying:
فَإِذَا نَهَيْتُكُمْ عَنْ شَيْء فَاجْتَنِبُوهُ، وَإِذَا أمَرْتُكُمْ بِأمْرٍ فَأْتُوا مِنْهُ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُمْ
“If I prohibit you from something, then stay away from it, and when I command you to do something, do as much as you can from it.” 
Due to these evidences and others, the scholars of Islam have deduced maxims, like
الضرورات تبيح المحظورات
“Necessities permit the impermissible”
ما لا يمكن التحرز منه يكون عفوا
“Whatever cannot be avoided is pardoned”
لا واجب مع العجز ولا حرام مع الضرورة
“There is no obligation with inability, just as there is no impermissibility with necessity.”
Naturally, the applications of these maxims are not left for to the judgement of the average Muslim. The point of sharing them is to display the compassionate and fluid nature of the Islamic religion, one that is sympathetic to our weak nature. Examples of them in action include the following:
- Wuḍū’ is carried out with water. If doing so is not possible, then one can turn to tayammum (dry ablution using clean soil).
- The obligatory ṣalāh is to be carried out in a standing posture. If this is not possible, then one can pray sitting down, and – if need be – lying down.
- Fasting is an obligation in Ramadan, those who are ill however can break their fast and make them up on other days., those who are chronically ill feed a poor person for each missed day of fasting.
- Hajj is an obligation upon every Muslim. Should one however be compromised physically or financially, the obligation of Hajj drops till one’s circumstances change. Evil is challenged physically, or verbally for those not in authority, or internally for those who cannot achieve either of the first two.
The principle of “fear Allah as much as you can” is not only useful in fiqhi (legal) discussions, but also in the day-to-day struggles of Muslims.
- It gives solace to the newly practicing. You will encounter huge amounts of information, and instructions to do and abstain from so many things. This principle tells you to slow down, take it one step at a time, limit your sources of information for now, and “fear Allah as much as you can”.
- It gives solace to the activists who feel like they want to do it all and dip into every Islamic project that comes their way. This principle inspires one to be focused, well defined, and to set yourself targets that are both ambitious but realistic.
- It gives solace to the student of knowledge who feels overwhelmed by the mission ahead. This principle reminds him that a premature dive in the deep end will drown him, and that knowledge has an endless shore, so “fear Allah as much as you can”.
- It gives solace to the callers to Islam to not be dissuaded from their path due to the prevalence and variety of sins. This principle reminds them that even prophets did not uproot every iota of evil. What they did do, however, was “fear Allah as much as they could”.
- It gives solace to those unable to practice every aspect of their religion for whatever socio-political reason. This principle reassures such people to veer away from the tendency of dropping it all, for what cannot be attained in its entirety should not be dropped in its entirety.
Past and present examples of
“doing what you can”
When imprisoned, Prophet Yusuf found himself unable to discharge his duty of inviting his whole community to Islam, he feared Allah as much as he could and, within the confines of prison, invited his cellmates to Islam.
This noble act of worship has been outlawed in places of the world. Seeing that relocation is not possible for some, and day to day necessitates means that avoiding the public sphere is difficult, such women would be advised to dress as near as they can to the ḥijāb, and above all, to fear Allah as much as they can.
When al-Buwaytī, a famous Shafi’ī jurist, was imprisoned, on every Friday he would bathe, apply fragrances, and when hearing the call to the Friday prayer, would walk towards the prison door. The prison guard would ask him, “Where are you going?” to which he would respond, “To respond to the caller of Allah”. The guard would say to him, “Go back”. So, al-Buwaytī would walk back to his cell, saying:
اللهم إني أجبت داعيك فمنعوني
“O Allah, I responded to your caller but they have prevented me.”
He did this every Friday, despite knowing the outcome, but wanting to show Allah this principle in action.
Many assume that being in a position of power means that reformation is as simple as the click of a button. This of course could not be further from the truth. Even those in power are governed by the same rule: “fear Allah as much as you can”. A fine example of this is, again, Prophet Yusuf who was appointed as treasurer of Egypt, a country whose king and community were non-Muslims.
Commenting on this, Imām Ibn Taymiyya said:
Then he concluded:
وهذا كله داخل في قوله: فاتَّقوا اللهَ ما اسْتَطَعْتُمْ
“All of this comes under the umbrella of ‘fear Allah as much as you can.’” 
Another prime example is al-Najāshi, the Negus of Abyssinia, who embraced Islam secretly at the time of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, but found himself unable to govern according to the dictates of Islam. Commenting on this, Imām Ibn Taymiyya said:
والنجاشي ما كان يمكنه أن يحكم بحكم القرآن . فإن قومه لا يقرونه على ذلك .وكثيرا ما يتولى الرجل بين المسلمين والتتار قاضياً، بل وإماماً ، وفي نفسه أمور من العدل يريد أن يعمل بها ؛ فلا يمكنه ذلك .بل هناك من يمنعه ذلك ، ولا يكلف الله نفساً إلا وسعها
“Al-Najāshi was not able to govern according to the Qur’an for his people would have disapproved. It often happened when a person would act as a judge between the Muslims and the Tatars, or even as an Imam, his desire being to uphold particular elements of justice but is not able to. In fact, he is prevented from doing so. Allah, however, does not burden a person beyond his scope.”
He then said:
فَالنَّجَاشِيُّ وَأَمْثَالُهُ سُعَدَاءُ فِي الْجَنَّةِ وَإِنْ كَانُوا لَمْ يَلْتَزِمُوا مِنْ شَرَائِعِ الْإِسْلَامِ مَا لَا يَقْدِرُونَ عَلَى الْتِزَامِهِ بَلْ كَانُوا يَحْكُمُونَ بِالْأَحْكَامِ الَّتِي يُمْكِنُهُمْ الْحُكْمُ بِهَا
“Al-Najāshi and his likes are blissful people in Paradise, despite the fact that there were laws of Islam which they were not able to apply. Instead they would govern by these to the extent they were able to.” 
In reality, the manifestations of this principle are infinite which displays beyond doubt the immensely compassionate and pragmatic nature of Islam. Whilst it does not expect perfection, it does expect human effort towards it, whilst acknowledging that we will never reach it, as the Prophet ﷺ said:
اسْتَقِيمُوا وَلَنْ تُحْصُوا
Powerful obsessions, like perfectionism, can stop us from starting, stop us from progressing, and, equally, important — stop us from finishing. The reality is, we cannot pursue an endeavour without some form of imperfection, and so when your perfectionist tendencies begin to surge, tame them with this principle.