We know striving in the path of Allah is a source of reward. For example; it is hard to offer the fajr prayer or wear hijab etc. We must therefore strive to work hard. Facing the hardship and remaining steadfast on deen is a basic part of Muslims life. Narrated Abu Qatada bin Rib'i Al-Ansari: A funeral procession passed by Allah's Apostle who said: Relieved or relieving?
The people asked: O Allah's Apostle! What is relieved and relieving?
He said: A believer is relieved (by death) from the troubles and hardships of the world and leaves for the Mercy of Allah.
The hadith indicates that the life of a believer is full of hardship and as we know there are other ahadith that also indicate this. Then what is the meaning of verse: And He has not laid upon you in religion any hardship? (22:78)
Why does the verse say in the religion there is no hardship? Yet we know from our life that there are a lot of difficulties and hardships that we face due to being Muslims. The hadith also explains that there are hardships. Please comment on the apparent contradiction.
In order to properly understand the purpose of the verse under consideration we need to have a look at the context in which it occurs. I would request you kindly to read the verses preceding and following this one for a full picture. This verse has been explained as follows by Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi the author of Tadabbur-e Qur'an:
The implication is that God, who is commanding you to fight in His way, is the Lord who has chosen you for the task of bearing this great trust, the religion of God, expecting from you to deliver it to the rest of the world. He has suspended the Jews from this great position due to their failure to fulfill this noble task properly. This entails that you discharge this duty in the best manner and honor the trust of God. Fulfill this responsibility of religious leadership (imamat) with full vigor, great care and full conviction. Wama ja'ala alaykum fiddeeni min haraj implies there are no severe prohibitions and strict laws in this religion as were imposed on the Jews earlier. God has made this religious corresponding to the fitra (nature) of humans. This makes it easy for them to follow. The implication is that there is no doubt that the duty is so great and onerous but it is not that difficult that it cannot be carried out by you if you have conviction." Tadabbur-e Qur'an volume 5 page 288)
I hope it is clear now that the word haraj (translated as hardships by you) does not mean any form of difficulty in this context. Here the difficult nature and great responsibilities have been acknowledged. The only thing that has been negated is that the religion corresponds to fitrah and does not include some of the strict laws and prohibitions which were imposed on the Jews as penalty. The message is not that an unbearable burden.