By Prof. Muhammad Ibn Abdullah Alsoheem
What Is Moderation?
According to Arabic dictionaries, the word “middle” means the balance between two things. (Lisan Al-Arab dictionary, “wasat” entry, 7/430, 427. )
Ibn Manzhur (one of the Arabic linguists) said:
“The middle of something is the center between its two ends, and middle sometimes means the fairest point between two extremes. Additionally, when using this word to describe the attitude of a man, it means moderation.”
In his vocabulary explanation, Ibn Manzhur said:
“The middle of something is the point that divides it into two equal parts” (Ibn Manzhur vocabularies, page 522)
So “middle” indicates what is fair and what is good, which, in our case, is the center between two extremes, without extravagance and unreasonable excess, and also without negligence or excessive leniency.
This true religion (Islam) is balanced and fair; since this value is so important that security and stability of nations and individuals depend on it.
Moderation in Islam
Islam orders its followers to be fair, and urges them to stick to moderation. It also indicated that extreme loss is the consequence of abandoning moderation, whether by adopting extremism or negligence.
Allah the Almighty described the Islamic nation as fair and moderate. As He says:
Thus have We made you a justly balanced nation, that you might be witnesses over the nations, and the Prophet a witness over yourselves. (Al-Baqarah 2:143)
In his interpretation of this verse, Ibn Jarir said:
“Allah the Almighty described the Islamic nation as middle due to its moderation regarding all religious affairs. The Muslims aren’t extremists like the Christians, who exaggerated in religion by inventing monasticism and attributing to Jesus what they believe in now, nor are the Muslims like the Jews, who changed the words of their holy book , killed their prophets and lied against their Lord and denied Him. Allah the Almighty likes fairness and moderation in all things, so He, the Almighty Lord, attributed these characteristics to Muslims, as they are ordered to be moderate and fair in all matters.” (Jami` Albayan 2/6)
Allah has made this moderate religion (Islam) a straight way which leads humans to what Allah the Almighty has created them for and enables them to achieve their most lofty goals.
Allah, to whom belongs might and majesty, says:
Verily, this is my way leading straight: follow it; do not follow (other) paths: they will scatter you about from His (great) path; thus does He command you, that you may be righteous. (Al-An`am 6:153)
Islam enables mankind to achieve both worldly objectives and security, safety, and victory in the afterlife. Allah says:
Then those who believe in Allah, and hold fast to Him, soon will He admit them to mercy and grace from Himself, and guide them to Himself by a straight way. (An-Nisa’ 4:175)
So they have mercy in this life and the Hereafter, as they are promised to receive mercy and bliss in the afterlife.
Examples of Islamic Moderation
An example for Islamic moderation is that Muslims are ordered not to exaggerate in their worship beyond what Allah has legislated, lest they fall into innovation and heresy, and so as not to overburden themselves.
Imam Al-Bukhari narrated on the authority of Hamid Ibn Abi Hamid At-Taweel that he heard Anas Ibn Malik saying:
“A group of three men came to the houses of the wives of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) asking how he worshipped (Allah).
When they were informed about his worship, they considered their worship insufficient, and they said, ‘Where are we from the Prophet, as his past and future sins have been forgiven.’
Then one of them said, ‘I will offer the prayer throughout the night forever.’
The other said, ‘I will fast throughout the year and will not break my fast.’
The third said, ‘I will keep away from women and will never marry.’”
Allah’s Prophet came to them and asked, ‘Are you the same people who said so-and-so? By Allah, I am more submissive to Allah and more afraid of Him than you; yet I fast and break my fast; I do sleep and pray; and I also marry women.
Therefore, the one who does not follow my tradition in religion is not from me (not one of my followers)’” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
In another narration, Prophet Muhammad once entered the mosque and saw a rope hanging in between its two pillars. He inquired, “What is this rope?” The people said, “This rope is for Zainab who, when she feels tired, holds it (to keep standing for the prayer).” The Prophet said, “Remove the rope. You should pray as long as you feel active, and when you get tired, sit down.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Another example for Islam’s moderation is that it enables its followers to combine between worshipping and worldly desires in a balanced way, so that a Muslim should not devote himself only to worship, depending on others for his sustenance and neglecting the rights of his dependents (wife, parents, and children).
Similarly, he also should not indulge in worldly desires to the extent that he neglects his religion, devoting himself to earning money, forgetting about his Lord, and not repenting for his sins.
Allah the Almighty guides us to understand how to strike a balance between the two sides, as He says:
But seek, with the (wealth) which Allah has bestowed on thee, the abode of the Hereafter, but don’t forget your portion in this world; but do good, as Allah has been good to you, and seek not (occasions for) mischief in the land, for Allah does not love those who do mischief. (Al-Qasas 28:77)
Ibn Jarir said:
“Allah the Almighty tells us about the advice Qarun received from his people. They told Qarun not to act insolently towards them, deceived by the abundance of wealth, and to seek with the (wealth) which Allah had bestowed on him, the abode of the Hereafter by obeying Allah in this life.
Ibn Jarir then quoted the interpretation of Al-Hasan for what is meant by “but don’t forget your portion in this world.” Al-Hasan said: “What Allah permits you to have in this life is quite enough and sufficient for you.” (Jami` Al-Bayan 20:111-112)
Allah the Almighty Lord says:
In houses, which Allah has permitted to be raised and to mention His Name. In them He is glorified in the mornings and in the evenings, (again and again), by men whom neither business nor merchandise can divert from the remembrance of Allah, or from the establishment of regular prayer, nor from the practice of giving charity. Their (only) fear is for the day when hearts and eyes will be transformed (in a world wholly new), that Allah may reward them according to the best of their deeds, and add even more for them out of His grace, for Allah provides for whom He will, without measure. (An-Nur 24:36-38)
Such people don’t let their business divert them from establishing regular prayers and or prevent them from giving charity.
In his explanation to this verse, Qatada said:
“People were trading and doing their regular business, but when it was time to establish one of Allah’s ordinances, they didn’t let their business or merchandise divert them from it.” (Al-Bukhari)
Ibn Kathir said:
“It means that they didn’t let the beauty of life and its fancies, and the profit of trading distract them from the remembrance of Allah, Who created them and provides sustenance to them. They are sure that His reward is much better than they already have because what they have must vanish, and what is with Allah will remain.” (Tafsir Al-Quran Al Azhim 3/296)
As Allah ordered us to maintain this balance, He also permitted us to enjoy the comforts of this life of wearing nice garments and eating delicious food. He, the Almighty Lord, also ordered us to wear our best clothes when going to the mosque. He says:
O Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer. Eat and drink, but waste not by excess, for Allah does not love not the wasters. Say: ‘Who has forbidden the beautiful (gifts) of Allah, which He has produced for His servants, and the things, clean and pure, (which He has provided) for sustenance?’ Say: ‘They are, in the life of this world, for those who believe, (and) solely for them on the Day of Judgment.’ Thus do We explain the signs in detail for those who understand. (Al-A`raf 7:31-32)
Prophet Muhammad used to observe his companions, and if he noticed that someone was breaking this balance, he used to deliver advice and guide him to the right way.
Abu Alahwas narrated on the authority of his father that the Prophet saw him (his father) wearing torn garments and looking poor. The Prophet asked him: “Do you have property?” He answered: “Yes, I do.” Then the Prophet asked: “What kind of property?” He answered: “From all kinds, I have money; I have horses, camels, and servants.” The Prophet said: “As Allah granted you such wealth, it should be seen on you.” (An-Nasa’i)
The Prophet used to tell his companions that Allah likes to see the effect of His bounties upon His worshippers.
Amr ibn Shua`yb narrated from his father, who narrated from his father, that the Prophet said: “Enjoy your food and your drink, and give charity without excess and without showing off. Allah, the Almighty Lord, likes to see the effect of His bounties upon His worshipers”
Abdullaah Ibn Masud narrated that the Prophet said, “No one will enter Paradise who has an atom’s weight of pride in his heart.” A man said, “What if a man likes his clothes to look good and his shoes to look good?” The Prophet said, “Allah is beautiful and loves beauty. Pride means denying the truth and looking down on people.” (Muslim)
Balance between Material and Spiritual Needs
Islam came to strike a balance between material and spiritual needs; it isn’t just spiritual like idolatrous eastern religions including Zoroastrianism and Confucianism, nor is it materialistic and extravagant in fulfilling bodily needs like capitalism.
Rather, Islam, as I mentioned before, is a moderate approach, which satisfies the human being’s needs, and at the same time makes Allah pleased with them in the way that brings them happiness in this life and in the Hereafter.
Source: Taken from the author’s Cultural Values in the Message of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), published by King Saud University.