Translation of the Text of the Hadith (as Literally as Possible)
BUKHÂRI NARRATED IN his book Ṣaḥîḥ Al-Bukhâri on the authority of Abû Hurayrah that the Prophet ﷺ said:
Indeed the Religion is easy. And none tries to overtake it except that it overcomes him. So try to hit the mark and seek to come close and receive glad tidings. And use the early morning, the afternoon, and part of nightfall.
Sentence-by-Sentence Translation with Brief Commentary and Explanation
“Inn al-dîn yusr”
Translation: Indeed the Religion [of Islam] is an easy [religion]; or, Indeed the religion [of Islam] is ease.
Meaning: Ease is such an important part of Allah’s religion that it is as if Islam is ease personified.
Allah, Glorious and Most High, lifted from this ummah the burdens and yokes that were on the communities that came before it, whether those burdens which were placed by Allah as punishment, such as strict eating prohibitions, or burdens that came as a result of human perversion of divine law, such as the obligation to perform pilgrimage in a state of nakedness.
“Wa lan yushâd al-dîn ahadun illa ghalabah”
Translation: And none seeks to overtake the Religion except that he [himself] is overcome.
This means that no one person pushes himself hard in his worship and other aspects of Religion except that he is unable to continue in that way and collapses, ending up far worse than someone who does not try to push himself even a little in the Religion. In this statement is also a sign of the prophethood of Muhammad ﷺ because the type of people mentioned in this ḥadîth have appeared. Without searching for an example from the textbooks, it is probable that the reader can remember such an example from his own personal experiences—and if not in matters of religion, then in any matter in general. It is not meant by this that a person should not strive to achieve a higher level of worship and the like; rather it is meant that one should not push himself to the point where he burns out, or push himself in something that is voluntary to the point that he is unable to perform an obligation. An example of this is like one who prays all night and then misses the mandatory Fajr prayer.
Translation: And try to hit the mark.
When a person is aiming at a target for practice, the mark he tries to hit is centered—neither too much to the right or left, nor too high or low. Similarly, a person who is trying to accomplish a goal should be centered and balanced in how much work he does, neither pushing too hard nor being too lax. And in Religion we should seek balance and avoid extremism, whether in one way or another.
Translation: And seek to come close [to what you are aspiring to].
If you want to do something but are unable, then do not abandon it completely; rather try to come as close to your goal as possible and build yourself up, step-by-step, in a consistent manner.
Translation: And receive glad tidings.
The Prophet ﷺ is giving glad tidings of a full reward to those who follow this ḥadîth because they tried in a balanced way—even if they are unable to reach the completion of what they are seeking in their works. This statement teaches us that when we are trying to do something—even if we are not quite reaching what we want—we should still be motivated, positive, and happy because we are striving as best we can; Allah will reward us based on our sincere efforts even if we fall short. In fact, we are sure to fall short because we are human and perfection is for the Divine!
“Wastaʿînû bil ghadwa wa rowḥa wa shay’in min al-dhulja”
Translation: And use the early morning, the afternoon, and little portion of nightfall.
This prophetic advice shows how to make best use of the day in order to reach large goals. This statement is also somewhat metaphorical because it is as if the person who is trying to reach a goal is a traveler trying to reach a destination. If the traveler tries to walk all day he will become too tired to continue, but if he paces himself then, over time, he can reach the farthest lands. This is a befitting metaphor because this world is nothing but a journey to the next. These are also the times of day when the body and mind are most active so it is best to make use of them so as to get the most achieved without having to put in too much time or over-strain yourself. So break up the day and night instead of dealing with it like a nine-to-five workday. Work hard in the early morning, then you can relax in the middle of the day; work again in the afternoon, then stop; and work again during a brief portion of the night. And be in tune with the day and night by using the prayers as anchors, because that is what affects how alert or tired a person is, not the numbers that are read on the clock.