[English Transcript] A Life of Ease – Nouman Ali Khan


Today’s khutbah is really actually about one ayah of the Qur’an and that’s in the middle, and so repeated twice by Allah (عز و جل). In suratul (اِنْشِرَحَ) also called suratul (شَرَحْ).

Allah says,

(فَإِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرً) (QS Al-Inshirah: 5)

(إِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرً) (QS Al-Inshirah: 6)

Commonly translated, “Then certainly with every difficulty,” or, “With difficulty comes ease,” or, “With every difficulty there is ease.” That’s an average translation of the ayah.

I wanted to give a little bit of background as to, you know, how to appreciate this short surah. A lot of you memorized it, your kids have memorized it, and it’s actually a really beautiful thing to learn about our religion and about life itself.

Some of the shorter surah of the Qur’an have some of the most profound teachings and actually it’s part of the wisdom of Allah that He made them short. So people can easily memorize them and remember some very powerful life lessons through those short surahs.

Allah (عز و جل) is describing a time when the Prophet (ﷺ) was going through tremendous difficulty. And as he was preaching the mission of Islam, the message of Islam, not many people were willing to listen.

It was not like our time now, and it was not like what happened after, you know, after Hudaibiyah where droves and droves of people were coming and accepting Islam.

Earlier on, in the mission, people were only making it harder and harder for him. And it seemed like anybody who accepted what he was saying, was labeled crazy, was labeled, you know, (سُفَهَاء), you know, fools, not very intelligent, or, you know, people that have been fooled by him etc, etc. So these were the kinds of things that were being hurled as accusations about anybody who would accept Islam.

And at that time, Allah (عز و جل) revealed to him this profound surah, telling him that Allah has been doing him favors all along. But in different places Allah has mentioned different kinds of favors.

Like in another surah He says,

(أاَلَمْ يَجِدْكَ يَتِيْمًا فَاٰوٰى) (QS Ad-Duhaa: 6)

“Then We find you an orphan.”

“And didn’t Allah find you an orphan and He gave you refuge.”

(وَوَجَدَكَ ضَاۤلًّا فَهَدٰى , وَوَجَدَكَ عَاۤىِٕلًا فَاَغْنٰى) (QS Ad-Duhaa: 7-8)

Allah says, “He saw you seeking and He guided you.”

And then He says, “You know, He found you bankrupt, and He made you wealthy.”

Meaning through the marriage to Khadija (رضي الله عنها), you weren’t financially dependent anymore.

But in this surah, Allah (عز و جل) mentions a different kind of favor, actually even more profound.

Allah (عز و جل) says,

(اَلَمْ نَشْرَحْ لَكَ صَدْرَكَ) (QS Al-Inshirah: 1)

“Didn’t We expand your chest for you.” (QS Al-Inshirah: 1)

The expansion of chest in the Arabic language means to be at peace and to be at calm.

The Prophet (ﷺ) was not in an easy situation. Everywhere around him either people were hurling accusations at him. Some were even ready to physically attack him. His own family was starting to cast him out. Nothing was easy, and yet Allah says, that the biggest favour in the middle of all of these troubles is that your chest has been expanded for you. You have been given comfort in the chest. You’re at peace. That you’re at peace.

And Allah (عز و جل) describes that peace from what?

(وَوَضَعْنَا عَنْكَ وِزْرَكَ) (QS Al-Inshirah: 2)

“We removed your burden from you.”

And the burden that’s being described here, has been talked about by many ulama. One aspect of it I’ll share with you in this khutbah. And that is… that the Prophet (ﷺ)… used to recuse himself. He used to get away from Makkah just to think before he became a prophet. Used to think about why there’s so much suffering in the world. And he used to stay many hours, days, sometimes nights in the cave of Hira. Just, just thinking. He would just separate himself from society and just think about why there’s so much suffering, and so much sadness in this life.

And Allah (عز و جل) gave him the answer to those questions through Allah’s own words. And when he received the answer from the word of Allah. Allah describes that as… Allah removing his burden from him.

(وَوَضَعْنَا عَنْكَ وِزْرَكَ) (QS Al-Inshirah: 2)

So for us, yes life comes with a lot of burdens, but Allah describes His words as relief from those burdens, as removing those burdens.

(الَّذِيْٓ اَنْقَضَ ظَهْرَكَ. وَرَفَعْنَا لَكَ ذِكْرَكَ) (QS Al-Inshirah: 3-4)

“That the burdens that were breaking your back.”

“And we elevated your mention for you.”

But then, the teaching that Allah gives in the surah, that’s not specific to Rasulullah (ﷺ). It’s actually for all human beings.

Focus of the Sentence is “Ease”

(فَاِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا) (QS Al-Inshirah: 5)

“With every difficulty,” a bad translation.

“With every difficulty comes ease.”

And I want to spend some time this khutbah, just talking about this ayah, and what it can mean for you and me.

The first thing we draw from this ayah, from the Arabic of this ayah is actually that… for those of you that are familiar with “nahwu”, a little bit grammar, a little bit. It’s (يُسْر) that’s the (مُبْتَدَأ). Meaning the start of the sentence, grammatically is actually “ease”.

When we translate this in English, we say, “With every difficulty comes ease.”

But actually, the closer to the meaning is… “Great ease comes with difficulty.”

Actually the focus of the sentence is actually “ease” not “difficulty”. That’s the (مُبْتَدَأ) That’s the starting point, grammatically speaking.

Why is that important? Because Allah is putting our attention on ease. Not on difficulty. And the ease may be coming later on. The relief may be coming later on, but Allah wants you and me to focus on what is coming, instead of what you’re in right now. That Allah (عز و جل) will see you through, whatever it is that you’re going through, and ease is definitely coming on its way.

The second thing to note here is the word (يُسْر) is what’s called (نَكِرَةٌ). Meaning it’s, (أعمّ، و أشمل وأعظم وآكد). Meaning difficulty.

Everybody knows what difficulty is. Maybe it’s financial difficulty, health difficulty, maybe it’s psychological difficulty, emotional difficulty, maybe or difficulty sitting next to you right now. I don’t know. Everybody has some kind of difficulty in life. But those difficulties are very well known and it’s very specific. You know exactly what the problem is.

But Allah says the ease is much bigger than the difficulty. It’s broader than the difficulty. It’s also less known than the difficulty. Meaning some ease will come but you don’t know how to recognize that ease.

Everybody recognizes the problem but not everybody will be able to recognize the solution. When Allah will give ease to you, you may not even see it as ease. Allah may bring relief to you and you may not even recognize that Allah is bringing relief to you. And He will bring relief to you in ways that you know about. And then relief to you in ways that you didn’t even think about, that you don’t even know about. That’s happening in the invisible world. That’s happening in the “ghaib”.

So, (الْعُسْرِ… اِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ… الْعُسْرِ) “The difficulty” meaning it’s known. (بُسْرً), it’s (نَكِرَة), it’s not known.

So it’s a mystery to us and that’s an important thing because a lot of times, people can focus on what they see and what they see is the problem. And they cannot pay attention to what they cannot see. And Allah is telling you and me, that there’s always an invisible ease. That’s coming our way, that’s always there.

And so… from there you find that the word (اِنَّ) in Arabic, which is translated “certainly”, or “for sure”. Actually (اِنَّ) is used by, you know, it’s described by people of the language as, you know, (حَرْفُ لِاِذَالَةِ الشَّك). It’s there to remove doubt.

Let me put it, put it to you in a simple example. If you’re having trouble of any kind. If you’re having trouble at work. Okay? Or if you’re having trouble with family, then somebody comes and tells you,

“Man, that’s not a real problem.”

And you say, “No, definitely that’s a big problem.”

“I’m going through a really big problem for sure.”

“There’s a problem.”

You have no doubts about the problem. But, you know what you have doubts about?

Whether or not this problem will ever go away? Whether there’s going to be any ease coming? Any solution coming? So human beings have certainty when it comes to the problem. But they have doubts when it comes to the solution. Easily we become hopeless. Easily we start thinking,

“Man, this is always gonna be this bad.”

“It’s never gonna get any better.”

“It’s just never gonna get any easier, is it?”

We tell ourselves this, so we are convinced far more of the negative and far less of the positive.

What does Allah do in the ayah? (اِنَّ), the word that removes doubt. For sure there is no doubt about it, that ease comes with difficulty. Allah puts certainty not with difficulty. Allah put certainty with the ease. He put the emphasis on the ease.

As if a believer that reads this ayah should know, I can actually even have doubts about the difficulty. Maybe I’m so sure that this is a hard. This is a terrible thing. But maybe it’s not as bad as I’ve made it to be in my head. But to ease that Allah will bring is way bigger and it’s absolutely coming. It’s absolutely going to be there.

You know what, also it puts us, puts into doubt, whether something bad is actually something bad. Sometimes things are a lot bad, a lot worse to us in our mind, and in our thoughts, and in our feelings than they actually are in reality.

Some people start living in their head, and their problem starts getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and bigger until it’s out of control. And sometimes you have people in your life, the ones you talk to, instead of making the problem smaller, talking to them makes the problem even bigger. It just gets bigger and bigger. And so in your mind sometimes the negative is way bigger than in reality. And the ease that Allah is bringing is actually right there but you’re too blind to see it because you’re so engrossed in your imaginary view of the difficulty.

So Allah (عز و جل) says have certainty about the ease. Be absolutely sure that Allah is bringing ease.

But the final lesson that I want to share with this ayah before we go on, to how to complete this.

This surah and how the last parts of the surah are tied to it is that Allah did not say after difficulty ease comes. He doesn’t use the word “after”. He used the word “with”.

(اِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ … يُسْرً) (QS Al-Inshirah: 5-6)

(وَلَمْ يَقُلْ – اِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرً)

(فَ وَ لَكَ فَرْق بَيْنَ كَلِمَت “مَعَ” وَ كَلِمَت “بَعْد” ؟)

There’s a big difference between saying, “With difficulty there is ease.” And saying, “After difficulty there is ease.” It’s a big difference.

At least two differences in this khutbah I want to share with you.

One difference is… maybe as you are going through a difficulty, that difficulty came with some other ease, that you didn’t even realize, at the same time. Maybe as hard as this is, the alternative would have been much-much harder. Maybe one problem where one door closed was the only reason five other doors opened up.

You see that you didn’t see it that way but Allah (عز و جل) designs, sometimes that one problem, actually creates twenty other solutions. Countless other solutions. So this had to happen for those easiest to come. For those easiest to come. So this is part of Allah’s design. We can’t recognize it, but it’s always there.

In other words my mindset is, “Yes I’m going through this problem, but with this problem Allah is creating ease in my life, for sure and I have to find where it is.”

“The problem I can see.”

“The solution I have to look and discover where it is?”

But every experience you and I have, that some of the most terrible experiences, you and I will have in this life. Where you will start asking yourself,

“Why am I being put through this?”

“Why is this happening to me?”

“What did I do to deserve this?”

“What good can come out of this?”

Every one of those experiences has some ease, some relief, some good that comes with it, that we are becoming blind to see what Allah says, “It’s there, it’s right, it’s…”

Now you don’t have to wait for it afterwards. It’s right there at the same time.

(اِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا) (QS Al-Inshirah: 6)

But even beyond that, when you use the word “with”. What Allah is saying is that ease has been put with difficulty. Ease has been put with difficulty.

Like He put the night with the day, like He put the… you know, like He put the cloud with the rain. There are things that He put together.

And in this life what Allah decided to do is if you and I want to experience ease, He designed it in a way that you first have to go through difficulty. And only by going through difficulty with it will come the ease. And that’s how He made all of life.

Many of you are students. You have to go through the difficulty of studying before you experience the ease of graduation, the relief of getting to the next grade. You have to work hard at your work before the ease of a bonus comes, before a promotion comes. Without difficulty, that’s not going to happen.

You have to go through the difficulty of fixing your diet and eating better before you experience the ease of better health. A patient has to go through the difficulty, maybe of surgery, before they experience the ease of healing. That’s just how Allah made life. You have to go through tough experiences in order to experience relief. That’s Allah’s design. That’s just what it is.

When in Difficulties, Keep Yourself Busy

Now as soon as you hear all of that. You tell yourself,

“Well with difficulty comes ease.”

“So I’m going through a tough time right now, so I guess eases coming, I’m gonna relax and wait for it to come.”

NO! Allah is telling us something more profound.

He’s saying you have to exhaust yourself through the difficulty. Fight through the difficulty. You can’t just sit back and say Allah will bring ease.

“He promised He’ll bring ease.”

“So I’m just gonna wait for that and cry until then.”

NO!

That’s why He told the Prophet (ﷺ) in the next ayah.

He says, (فَاِذَا فَرَغْتَ فَانْصَبْ) (QS Al-Insyirah: 7).

Very powerful words.

When you find yourself free, exhaust yourself. When you find yourself free, exhaust yourself. And what in the world does that have to do with… ease and difficulty?

Allah does not want you and me sitting idle. When we are in difficulty, Allah actually wants us to exhaust ourselves.

You see other people when they find themselves in difficulty. They sit back and start giving up. They get depressed, they get anxious, they start quitting, they take a backseat.

But the believer because of these ayah, “Oh, you’re in difficulty.”

Well the moment you find yourself having free time, of any kind. Exhaust yourself, put yourself to work, make yourself productive.

The ulama would comment exhaustively on this ayah. When you free yourself from da’wah, busy yourself with, you know, ‘ibadah. When you free yourself from ‘ibadah, busy yourself with da’wah. Like the Prophets (ﷺ), every time he’s exhausted from one task. He needs to busy himself with the other tasks.

The question is how much free time do you and I spend, thinking about how terrible life is, sitting there doing nothing, letting our mind take us around in circles. While we sit there, completely unproductive, completely paralyzed.

And Allah says, you have way too much free time on your hands and you’re not exhausting yourself. When you’re not exhausting yourself, you are allowing the difficulty to win.

And if you don’t, the ayah starts with a (ف). Which is called (فَ – اَلسَّبَبِيَّة).

“Therefore.”

“Because you want ease to come.”

“You better exhaust yourself.”

As a result of learning this, you better put yourself to work. So you and I have to actually live meaningful productive lives.

Sometimes it is easy to become overwhelmed with the experiences that we’re having. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with sadness, or grief, or nervousness, or anxiety. It’s okay to do that, but we have to learn to fight through that, through Allah’s words. Find the strength to actually put ourselves to work and busy ourselves with something.

Do Something for the Sake of Allah or Help Others

Everything the Prophet (ﷺ) did that kept him busy. There’s two kinds of things and please remember this. There’s two kinds of things that can keep you busy. Either, and I’ll add even a third for us. The Prophet (ﷺ) is either busy doing something that makes Allah happy or he’s busy doing something that helps one of Allah’s creations. That’s it. Either he’s doing something just for the sake of Allah, like he’s praying, like he’s remembering Allah, like he’s doing dzikr. That’s just for the sake of Allah (عز و جل) or he’s helping someone else, he’s guiding someone else, he’s teaching someone else, he’s actually even helping someone else earn a living. He’s doing all kinds of help to somebody else.

You have to ask yourselves, what are the two things we are doing? Exhausting ourselves. Are we doing something that makes Allah happy or be doing something that that brings relief to somebody else.

And that’s actually what Allah told the Prophets (ﷺ) in different surahs too.

(فَاَمَّا الْيَتِيْمَ فَلَا تَقْهَرْ

وَاَمَّا السَّاۤىِٕلَ فَلَا تَنْهَرْ)

(وَاَمَّا بِنِعْمَةِ رَبِّكَ فَحَدِّثْ) (QS Ad-Duhaa: 9-11)

Why did He tell him all of that?

He said, “Well you used to be an orphan.”

“Now go take care of orphans.”

“You used to be in a bankrupt situation.”

“Now make sure you help others that are in bankrupt situation.”

“Go help them.”

So we have to exhaust ourselves. Either doing something that draws us closer to Allah or gives relief to others.

When you become concerned with Allah and when you become concerned with giving ease to others. Allah becomes concerned with giving ease to you.

When you start keep thinking about how bad your problems are. How terrible your life is. How everything is going the wrong way. Nothing is ever going to get fixed. Then you are too absorbed in yourself. You’re too lost in yourself. And when you’re lost in yourself, then Allah’s help doesn’t come that way. That’s not how Allah’s help comes.

So He says,

(وَاِلٰى رَبِّكَ فَارْغَبْ) (QS Al-Inshirah: 8)

Exhaust yourself and focus yourself towards your Master.

You see, these problems that you and I are having, today, they’re huge. All you can think about is this problem. But go a little further and you realize, all of us are on a journey and every single day we’re making progress on that journey. And the conclusion of that journey is meeting with Allah.

(وَاَنَّ اِلٰى رَبِّكَ الْمُنْتَهٰ) (QS An-Najm: 42)

If you forget the fact that you’re on a train, or you’re on a road, and you’re heading towards Allah, whether you realize it or not, and whether you like it or not. You’re not standing still. This problem that you’re going through did not bring a stop to your life. It’s still moving on, and you and I are still going to be meeting with Allah (عز و جل).

When you realize that no matter what I’m going through, that journey still continues then it becomes easier for you to focus on your destination. And lose sight of the fact that whatever I’m going through, whatever area I’m going through right now. I’m gonna pass through it. I’m gonna keep going because this is not my destination. My destination is Allah.

Think of it, visualize it like that when you’re going through a road. You know you’re going through a road, and you pass by an area that smells very bad. If you keep on moving the smells not gonna stay with you is it? It’s not gonna be there forever. You can pass through it and you’re gonna be in a better location. You might be going through an area that’s dangerous. Well it’s not gonna be dangerous forever if you keep on moving. You’re gonna be in a safer place. That’s how life is! We have to pass through these experiences.

And Allah (عز و جل) says, every journey you pass through had some intended plan from Allah. You and I just have to see, ask ourselves, are we people that exhaust ourselves or not? What are we doing at the end of the day?

You know, the third thing I was going to ask is… you know, I told you the Prophet (ﷺ) is… either doing something that makes Allah happy or helps His creation in some way. But for us, most of our day is spent doing something for ourselves.

And of course we have our needs. Food is a need, clothing is a need, work is a need. We’re doing that for ourselves, but what that free time, because the ayah wasn’t about your 24/7. It was about when you are free.

(فَاِذَا فَرَغْتَ) (QS Al-Inshirah: 7)

When you’re (not) free, okay fine you don’t have a choice. You got to get up at 5:00 in the morning. You got to get to your job at 6:00 in the morning. You’re working until 6:00 in the evening. Fine. You’re stuck in traffic until 7:30. No problem. You didn’t have a choice. You were not free.

But what do you do with your time, when you are free. What are you doing with it, when you’re not free and what you’re doing with it when you’re free. Will determine whether or not Allah will bring ease in your life. That’s going to determine that.

So you and I have to ask ourselves, what are we doing with our free time and what are we teaching our kids to do with their free time. The moment they have a free second, video games. The moment they have the free second, TV is on. We’re not doing things. We’re not doing productive things. We’re not folk exhausting ourselves in being something more than just self-serving, or self entertaining, or self-consuming.

The only thoughts are what are we going to eat for lunch, what are we gonna eat for dinner which movie we’re gonna watch. You want to watch something, want to play something, just entertain yourself, feed yourself, and lose yourself, in you know, in these distractions. That’s all it’s become.

How is this (فَانْصَبْ)?

You know, this is not (فَانْصَبْ)?

(فَاِذَا فَرَغْتَ فَانْصَبْ) (QS Al-Inshirah: 7)

Where did that go? What is the guarantee a person can, you know, lose themselves in games, and play, and entertainment? And you know what those things will do? They will only bring about more difficulty.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t play games and entertainment. I know it’s summer, kids want to have a good time. That’s fine. But they also need to be taught, how to make good use of their time, how to make good of… And they can’t learn that if they don’t learn that from you and me.

When the moment we have free time, we start wasting it, we start squandering it away, and we don’t do something productive with it. Then that’s the habit that they’re learning in their own way. We’re leading by example. We’re modeling our behavior to them. It’s an important thing that we… you and I live this.

And when they say,

“Why are you always doing something?”

“Why are we always helping someone?”

“Why are we always going to the masjid?”

“Why are we always learning this?”

“Why are we…”

“Why are we… never having enough free time?”

We will you remind them.

(فَاِذَا فَرَغْتَ فَانْصَبْ. وَاِلٰى رَبِّكَ فَارْغَبْ) (QS Al-Inshirah: 7-8)

Why do we do that?

Because we want a lot of make our lives easier.

(فَاِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا. اِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا) (QS Al-Inshirah: 5-6)

(فَاِذَا فَرَغْتَ فَانْصَبْ. وَاِلٰى رَبِّكَ فَارْغَبْ) (QS Al-Inshirah: 7-8)

This is the legacy left behind for the Messenger (ﷺ). This was the advice that he was given. This is the focus that he was given, (ﷺ). So we have to bring that into our lives, if we want our lives to get any better, if we want ease to touch our lives.

The Hardest Problem & the First Ease is on the Inside

Every one of us has problems. There’s not one of us that doesn’t have problems. And you know what the hardest problems are? The hardest problems are not on the outside. The hardest problems are happening inside the chest. The hardest problems are what you’re feeling. The hardest problems are your thoughts. That are more paralyzing than anything happening on the outside. And that look at this surah.

The first ease Allah gave the Prophet (ﷺ) is…

(اَلَمْ نَشْرَحْ لَكَ صَدْرَكَ) (QS Al-Inshirah: 1)

“Which we opened up your chest for you.”

We gave you calm.

By the end of it, a person when he hears that Allah gave His Messenger calms, (ﷺ).

In the middle of the worst problems, a human being could have. He’s calm. Why is he at peace? And Allah describes that at the end.

(فَاِذَا فَرَغْتَ فَانْصَبْ. وَاِلٰى رَبِّكَ فَارْغَبْ) (QS Al-Inshirah: 7-8)

If you can do that. It doesn’t matter what people are saying to you. It doesn’t matter what problems you’re facing on the outside. You will have the greatest ease of all and that’s your chest will be at ease. Your heart will be at ease. You will be calm.

Everybody else is crying, nervous, afraid. They’re going through all kinds of emotional turbulence. And you find yourself more and more in a state of peace and in a state of calm because you’re living by this profound truth.

May Allah (عز و جل) give calm to all of our hearts. May Allah (عز و جل) makes us of people that find (شَرْحُ الصَّدْر), that our hearts are opened up and our chests are expanded by the mercy of Allah.

I pray that Allah makes us a people of stronger will, that we make better use of our free time. And that Allah (عز و جل) gives us more and more and more and ease. Much bigger than any of the difficulties that we ever have to face in our lives.

(بَارَكَ اللهُ لِيْ وَلَكُمْ فِي الْقُرْآنِ الْحَكِيْم)

(وَنَفَعَنِيْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ بِ اْلآيَاتِ وَالذِّكْرِ الْحَكِيْمِ)

One thought on “[English Transcript] A Life of Ease – Nouman Ali Khan

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