The statement of some people that ‘the reward is in proportion to the hardship’ is not correct at all, just as the sects have concluded upon the types of monasticisms and innovated acts of worship which Allah and His Messenger did not legislate – from the kind of prohibited things to the polytheists and others that Allah exonerated from the pure things – for example the excessiveness and exaggeration, which the Prophet, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, ensured when he said, “The excessive ones are destroyed” (Muslim 7) And he said: “If the month was made longer for me, truly I would perform such an uninterrupted fast that the exaggerators would abandon their exaggeration.” (Abreviated from Bukhari 7241)
Like the hunger or excessive thirst which harms the mind and body and prevents the performance of obligations and recommended acts more beneficial than it. This is like the bare-footedness, nudity and walking which harms the person without benefit, for example in the narration of Abu Israil, may Allah be pleased with him, who swore an oath to fast and stand in prayer continuously and to not sit, take shade, or speak. This the Prophet, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, said: “Command him to sit, take shade, speak and complete his fast.” (Abu Dawud 3300) This is an a expansive topic.
As for the reward being in proportion to the amount of obedience, then obedience to Allah and His Messenger in an easy act is like what Allah has made easy for the people of Islam in the ‘Two Statements’, ‘There is no god except Allah’, and ‘Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah’; and they are the most superior of deeds. Due to that the Prophet, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, said: “Two light statements upon the tongue are two heavy things in the Balance, both beloved to the Most Merciful – ‘Glory be to Allah, and by His praise’, and ‘Glory be to Allah, the Almighty’.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
And if it said that the reward is according to the amount of benefit and good in the act, truly the first description would be correct with respect to its connection with the command; and the second with respect to the description itself. The benefit and good of an act can be from the perspective of the command alone at times, at times from the perspective of the description itself and times from both of the two areas. So with respect to the first, it is divided into obedience and disobedience, and the second is divided into good and evil; obedience and disobedience are terms based on the perspective of commands while good and evil are terms based on the perspective itself… Even though the majority of people do not affirm but the first, like the Asharis and a group of jurists among our companions and others hold.
Among the people are those who do not affirm but the second, like the Mutazilah and a group of jurists among our companions and others. The correct view is to affirm both perspectives just as is demonstrated by the texts of the Imams, words of the Salaf, the majority of scholars and others.
As for it being a hardship, then it is not the cause for the virtue and superiority of an act, rather the virtuous acts can be hardship, this its virtue is due not to the significance of the hardship. Patience in spite of it increases its recompense and reward. So the reward increases with hardship just a person’s distance from home in the course of the major and minor pilgrimage to Makkah increases, and his reward is greater than the one who lives nearby, as the Prophet, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, said: “The one proficient in the Qur’an is with the noble and dutiful angels or Safarah; and he who recites it and falters and it is difficult for him, has two rewards.” (Muslim 244)
Frequently the recompense increases in proportion to hardship and difficulty, not because the difficulty and hardship are the goal of the act, rather because the act entails hardship and difficulty. In our law, this is through which burdens and shackles are removed from us, no harm is placed on us and no difficulty is intended. With regards to the law before our time (i.e. of past nations), then indeed hardship was intended for them. A majority of slaves see the issue of hardship, pain and difficulty as a demand to draw near to Allah due to what it entails of the self fleeing from the delights and reliance on the wordily life and stopping the heart from being solely connected to the body. This is a type of asceticism practiced by the Sabians, Hindus and others.
Due to this you find these people, along with those who resemble them from the monastics, dealing with extremely difficult and strenuous acts among the various forms of worship and ascetic practices despite there being no benefit, advantage or good in them except in insignificant amount that will not stand up to the severe punishment which they will encounter.
Seeing this corrupt foundation, some of the ignoramuses praise it saying: ‘So-and-so has not married or slaughtered (meat for food).’ And this is a form of praise of the monastics who do not marry or slaughter, while as for those who truly turn away from falsehood in the world, the Prophet, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, said: “Rather I fast and break the fast, I marry woman and I eat meat, therefore whoever disinclines from my way is not from me.” (Bukhari 5063)
These things are from a corrupt in the religion and are just as objectionable as having tranquility and contentedness towards worldly life.
Garden of Purification by Ibn Taymiyyah Pages 103-107