21 Muharram 1441

MODERATION IN ISLAM

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Mar 21st, 2016
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Question: Can you briefly give us an idea of what is moderation in Islam?

Answer: The terminology of moderation can be translated into “Wasathiyyah” (the middle path). This is a universal trend. You always find the right wing and the left wing, which means that there is something in the middle. Allah azza wa jal has praised the Muslims by saying, “Wa kazalika ja’alnakum ummatan wasata” {Allah azza wa jal has made the followers of Muhammad salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, to be a nation on the middle path.} This also means that there are extremes. The extremes are the ends of the rods, something to the far right and something to the far left. The best of the three is the middle path. So moderation in Islam is the middle path.

I read something beautiful on the ayah that you have quoted for us. Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala said that He has made us in the middle so that we can be a witness to the rest of mankind. It is very interesting because the middle path does not take sides. If you are to be a witness for what mankind is doing and to bring justice to mankind, you have to be fair. It is a very beautiful ayah you quoted there.

Question: Many times in the west, where you can find (in many Muslim countries as well,) we have this concept of moderation in the wrong way. Muslims normally say that they want to be moderate Muslims. We do not need to take extremes. Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala tells us to be moderate. You find many Khatibs and many scholars saying we should be moderate in our views. In the west people ask, “Why do I have to pray five times a day? Why do I have to fast 30 days? This is not moderation. Let us fast in moderation. Let us fast 5 days of the month. Let us pray how we want to pray. Why do we have to pray in a specific way? This is not moderation.” What would you say to that?

Answer: If you look at the question as a question, we can answer it through two angles. Are we talking with Muslims? Or are we talking with Non-Muslims? If I watch CNN or FOX NEWS and listen to them talking about moderate Islam and moderate Muslims, I immediately, on the spot, tell you that this has nothing to do with Islam. They are talking about a version that is not related to Islam at all. Is this my concern? Let us analyze. Moderation or to be moderate or to be tolerant or to be in the middle is relative. It depends on where you look at it from. People say we (Saudis or Arabs, live in the Middle East.) How can it be the Middle East, except to those who think that they are in the right position? So they call the places “The far east, the middle east” and they think that they are THE centre of this whole universe. This tells you that their perspective is wrong. If I were to judge using my own logic and intellect, I would say that a woman from Saudi Arabia who wears full Niqab and covers her face is an extremist. If I go to other Muslim countries, where they do not cover the faces, they would look at Saudis as extreme, and they would think that uncovering the face is okay. If you go to little more ‘moderate’ countries, where women do not wear Hijab at all, they would look at these women who wear the Hijab but do not cover their faces to be extreme. If you go to the Muslims in the western countries, who do not have any boundaries in Islam, {they go clubbing, partying, mixing, social drinkers (people say, “Come on it is a celebration, let us have a glass of champagne, I am not going to be wasted with that.”)} They think that all the other Muslims are extreme, and they are moderate.

You cannot judge things without having the right parameters. I cannot judge the length of my IPad without having a ruler that gives me the right reading. What defines my readings? What is the thing that I can judge with? For the Non-Muslims, we tell them, “It is a different issue when we talk to you. You are not going to understand our language, so we have to talk to you in a language that you may understand.” But for the Muslims, who ask this question, we tell them, “I will ask you a question. Do you think that the Prophet Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam was moderate?” You cannot even blink and doubt that definitely he was THE moderate Muslim, because he is our benchmark. He is our role model. Whatever he did salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, was the right thing. There are no doubts at all in this. Now, you acknowledge this, (it is every Muslim’s conviction), though sometimes, we have veils that prevent us from admitting it. If you do not admit it, you are not a Muslim anymore. The Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam is THE role model; he is the benchmark for moderation. This is what we judge issues with.

Let us assume that a “sophisticated” person goes to a restaurant, orders big T-bone steak, well done, he uses the fork with his left and the knife with his right; he eats with his left hand. If I tell him, “This is Haraam; the Prophet Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam said, ‘The Shaitan eats with his left and drinks with his left.’ He looks at me and says, “Hah, what do you know? Everybody is eating with his left. What is wrong with it? Why did Allah create two hands for us? You imbecile! You are such an extremist. You are such a strict man. You are a fanatic. You are not moderate!” And I say, “Aaah, you say you are a Muslim? Let us see what the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam said, and then you tell me what you think.” If you look at things through this angle, you have no problem with being ‘moderate’, which is not the actual middle path.

So basically, moderation depends on which lens you are looking through. So if you are looking through the lens of the west, of course this is going to be a different culture, different society, different understanding of how to live your life. So our moderation should be taken from the Quran and Sunnah.

It is not only the lens of the west; even among us Muslims; we have extremists. In Islam, it is so clear and obvious. The Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam said, “I have left you on a clear and white sheet.” The night is obvious and the day is obvious; it is so clear. No one doubts that when the sun is in the middle of the sky saying, “Hmmm, it might be night.” So the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam told us that he has given us, he has taught us everything. However, when you have these extremists, whether from the far right or from the far left, Islam has the answer to them, because they have understood the Quran and the Sunnah, according to their desires and whims. So it is not only the west that has misconceptions about Islam and moderation, but also those who claim to be Muslims, however they are a minority, Alhamdulillah, bringing them back to the mainstream of Islam, is quite easy, because the Quran is in black and white, it is in Arabic language, and the Ahadith explain every detail of it.

Question: You said in your answer that there are two ways to look at it; one is for Muslims and the other if for Non-Muslims. Now let us get a little bit into this concept for Muslims. In Islam, we have what you said ‘Wasata’; the middle path; and then you have two extremes; one is extremism (which is any sort of terrorism or extremism and misinterpreting verses from the Quran), and on the other side you have Muslims who can also be considered extreme because they are not part of the middle path which means they leave everything which is part of Islam, part of the religion, part of the fundamentals of faith, such as prayer; this is a sort of extremism as well. How can we figure out what is not extremism on both ends, whether it be this harsh sort of terrorism type of extremism, or whether it be the exact opposite of this, which is you know how the people say, “Let us be moderate, let us leave everything, we don’t need to do all this.” How do we find that middle path?

Answer: The Prophet Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam has taught us everything. And he has set the foundations for having Islam last till the Day of Judgement. There is no religion after Islam, and there is no Messenger after the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam. Allah said, 14 centuries ago, “Today I have completed your religion.” So the religion is complete. No one can come and add things to it, or subtract things from it. Those who are extremists, they would probably take one or two evidences overlooking the rest of the evidences, because these evidences do not serve their whims and desires. Islam is a full package. We have to take the whole thing. Allah azza wa jal says, “O you who have believed! Enter in Islam wholeheartedly.” You have to take it as a package, not being selective.

We have extremists, in the sense that, we have people who go beyond what Allah has legislated. On the other side of the coin, we have people who do not take the full thing, and they say, “No! It is sufficient to do some part of it.” For example, in the issues of Aqeedah or the creed, you have Khawarij and you have Murji’a. Both of them are on the opposite sides of the equation. Yet they share the same concept when it comes to the definition of Imaan {Belief}. “Imaan,” they {extremists} say, “is a whole unit. Either it is there or it is not there at all. It cannot be divided into levels and grades!” So Khawarij say, “You are a believer? If you make a single major sin, you become a Kafir (a disbeliever).” On the other hand, the Murji’a say, “You are a believer? It is a whole thing. Do whatever you want. You are still a believer.” They say that Imaan cannot be increased or decreased!

However, the people of The middle path are the people of Ahla Sunnah wal Jama’ah, who say, “No! Imaan increases with good deeds, and decreases with bad deeds and sins.” So this is the middle path. Where did these people {khawarij} get their idea from? They got it from the Quran. Where did the other side {Murji’a} get their ideas from? They got it from the Quran as well! Therefore, Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “When you argue with the people of whims and desires, do not argue with them strictly with the Quran.” Because the Quran has many angles to look at from. “Argue with them, debate with them with the Sunnah. The Sunnah is clear cut and straight-forward.” So the way to answer these people of the extreme sides, is to answer them with the Quran and the Sunnah as well. Because as we know the Sunnah clarifies the Qur’an for us and tells us what Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala means in the Qur’an.

Question: Sheikh, I want to get into people exaggerating in their acts of worship. Now, earlier you spoke about the different people also taking their proofs from the Qur’an, taking bits and pieces from here and there and following their desires and interpreting them in ways that they want to rather than using the Sunnah to define what the Qur’an is telling us. And there are also people who take certain acts of worship, which are good, such as prayer, fasting and many other acts of worship and they exaggerate in these acts of worship. So, for example, a person might take the prayer and say, “Well, I am going to start praying 10 times a day” or he might take fasting and say, “I am going to fast all year long.” So, sometimes their intentions may be good, in a way, but they overburden themselves. And this is not what is prescribed for us. What would you say to this?

Answer: Again, burdening yourself and burning yourself to the ground with good deeds is dependent on the Shari’ah, i.e. the Qur’an and the Sunnah. So if the Prophet salla Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam tells us to do zikr and he gives us particular azkar to recite a 100 times, this may be a lot to some. If the Prophet salla Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam recited in every Friday’s Fajr prayer Surat as-Sajdah and Surat al-Insan, which amounts to about 5 pages, many Muslims would feel that this is too extreme if the Imam does it now. Actually, this is the Sunnah of the Prophet salla Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, this is the benchmark. Meaning, this would not be extreme {you’re just too lazy!}. Hence, in order for us to comment, we have to go back to the Sunnah. It is human nature to want to excel. When people look at Paradise and at what Allah ‘azza wa jal has prepared for the righteous and they compare this with their short lifespan (60-70 years), they come to the conclusion that there is no comparison. So they decide to work really hard to strive for the Hereafter. However, sometimes this may become the biggest gate for Satan to enter from. This is why the Prophet salla Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam always reiterated on always taking the middle path. For example, we know that in Hajj or Pilgrimage, we stone the three Jamarat (some people call them the Great Devil, the Middle Devil and the Small Devil-this is all baseless, there are no devils in there. Sometimes you find some people throwing big rocks at the pillars and cursing the Shaitan for making them do evil things. Some of them even go there with their shoes, hitting the pillars. This is all nonsense.) Anyway, the Prophet salla Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said about this beautiful ritual, “Stone with seven stones.” And he instructed one of his Companions to collect the stones for him and he said, “Choose something like this”, which is bigger in size than a lentil and smaller than peas. So something that is really small. And you just throw it normally. You don’t harm people. So the Prophet salla Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam was telling them not to go to extremes and not select something that is big. Even in Hajj, when you are travelling from one area to the other, he told us to be in a state of tranquility. Don’t think that righteousness is by speeding ahead and by overtaking people. All of this is to tell us that Islam is a religion of moderation.

The Prophet salla Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam once went into one of his houses and saw a rope dangling from the ceiling. When he asked about it, he was told that this was for one of his wives. Whenever she used to pray night prayer and used to feel tired and couldn’t stand anymore, she used to force herself and hang on to the rope so that she could stand. Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam said, “You should not burden yourself like this!” You should take from the deeds what you can tolerate and bear. Not only that, incidents like this were reported twice. Once with Abu Dard’a and Salman al Farisi, may Allah be pleased with them. And once with Abdullah ibn Amr ibn Al-Aas and the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam himself. In both cases, Abu Dard’a and Abdullah ibn Amr ibn Al-Aas, both were so extreme in their forms of worship to the extent that they fasted every single day. And they prayed night prayer every single night. So they did not have any desire for their spouses, which reached to the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam. The incident of Abdullah ibn Amr reached Salman al Farisi, who was a brother of Abu Dard’a, (as in the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam made them brothers.) They both said the same thing. The Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam as well as Salman al Farisi said it and the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam approved what Salman said. The advice was, “Your Lord has rights over you. Your spouse has rights over you. Your guest has rights over you, and your body or your health has rights over you. So give each one its due right.” This is the balance; this is moderation.

Therefore, we should not go to the extremes; for example: thinking that I can be the best athlete. This would compromise my religious duties, my social obligations, and it would compromise my financial status (unless I am a soccer player, then I would get paid really good!). I could be the best businessperson, who makes a lot of money, but I would compromise the other rights. I can be the greatest monk, and scholar of Islam, spending my time in a Masjid 24/7. But I would not see my family and children, I would not spend any quality time with them, I would not be able to earn money, and then I start begging from people, and I would not take good care of my health. I could get high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure and diabetes, etc. the whole 90 yards.

So Islam gave us the equation of being balanced, being moderate. And the happiest man on earth, in my opinion, is the one who strikes this balance.

And just from the hadith that you quoted about giving each individual their rights, we can take so many benefits, you know you have people always wondering, “Well I do not have time to pray because I have to give time to my wife,” or “I have to give time to my work.” But Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala wants us to give each thing its due rights. And another really interesting thing is that many times we say that Islam is not just worship, but it is a way of life. And this is commonly quoted and this is one beautiful way of expressing it. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has His Rights, you give Him His Rights, which is worshipping Him. But that is not the only way you worship, Islamic worship is not through ritualistic things only. I mean when you give your wife her rights, when you give your neighbor their rights, when give your kids their rights, this is worshipping Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, and this is conducting your way of life. That is why Islam is ‘The Way Of Life’, it is not just an act of worship.

Question: Another thing I wanted to find out was, how can we achieve this moderation? Why would I not be trapped in this same situation as these people who are selecting and choosing. If I open the Qur’an and I don’t understand it, how can I find this moderation. How will I look for the moderation that the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam spoke about, who do I listen to? There are people quoting ayahs here and there, how do I know which one is the moderate one?

Answer: Before I go into this, you said a sentence in the beginning but you rectified it, which is good. You said Islam is not only worship; it is a way of life. And this is wrong. Because Allah says, “I have not created the Jinn and the Ins (Humans) except to worship Me.” So the sole purpose of our creation is to worship Allah azza wa jal. However, our understanding of worship is wrong. Because as you have rectified it, people think that worshipping Allah is only in praying and fasting. And I say, “No! Worshipping Allah azza wa jal is in everything we do.” It is in your politics, it is in your finance, it is in your arts, it is in your social life. It IS a way of life but it is under the umbrella of worship. So even if I drink a cup of coffee, if my intention is to get stronger and to wake up so I can pray night prayer, then this drinking of the cup of coffee becomes worship. If I am having intimacy with my wife, this is a form of worship, because if I do it with other than my wife, I will be sinful for that and I will go to Hell. So Allah azza wa jal is even rewarding us on permissible things, things that we desire, depending on the mindset we are in. Now to the question of how we should reach this moderation or what are the means of doing it, this requires a long time to know how to select the scholar to follow. The observation you made is totally correct. Nowadays, I open the internet, and there is an endless ocean of information. This is a problem. It is a blessing and a menace at the same time. It is a blessing for those who can utilize this technology into serving Islam. In so many places and times, if I need to find a piece of information or evidence for an issue, I can find it in a jiffy. Because Alhamdulillah, I know, I have studied it, I have knowledge. Those who do not know will be confused. This is, again, a smaller gate for Shaitan to enter from. Because then he comes to individuals and says, “Alhamdulillah, there are fifteen different opinions. So pick and choose. Let us do what they call cherry picking!”

Moderation is reached only through knowledge. And this is why Allah azza wa jal isolated the fear of Allah in those who are knowledgeable. “Verily, only the scholars truly fear Allah.” So the real scholars’ knowledge gives them fear of Allah. It gives them righteousness. It gives them piety. But if you do not have knowledge, then the sky is the limit, to go astray. And this is why Ali ibn Abi Talib said, “There are two groups that have gone astray in me. Those who are extremists in my love (referring to the Shi’a), and those who are extremists in my hatred (referring to Khawarij, who eventually killed him, assassinated him.)” So these two things show you that without knowledge, you are in the middle of New York City without Google Maps. You will be lost, it is a jungle out there. You need your knowledge, your GPS to guide you to Paradise. And your GPS (in common contemporary language), is the Qur’an and the Sunnah. These are the guides; these are the lights that guide you to moderation.

It is very interesting how everything in Islam is connected. You have mentioned that knowledge is what gives you that moderation, and there is a hadith where the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam says that it is compulsory for everyone to seek knowledge, and obviously the scholars have said that this hadith means they should seek enough knowledge for what they need. So if a person is a business man, he should know how to conduct his business Islamically {besides his basic knowledge of the obligatory acts of worship like prayer, fasting etc}. Everything that he needs to know about Islam, he has to learn and it is compulsory for him to do so.

Umar radi Allahu anhu used to go to the market with a stick, and this was when he was the Caliph, he was the ruler, and he would kick out of the souk anyone who did not have knowledge about transaction. He said, “Do not corrupt our souk. You do not know about Riba, you do not know about Zulm, you do not know about Gharar, and you come and sell and buy? Without Knowledge? All the transaction will be Haraam.”

To reach this moderation, we need to seek knowledge, we need to educate ourselves about how the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam conducted moderation and how he established moderation. And the only way we can do it is we need to leave our own views, sometimes we are stuck in this view like if I am from the West I have this view of “Okay, this is moderation.” this is because I am looking through that lens that you mentioned. Each place has its own lens. So just like the West thinks the far East is Japan and China, I mean Japan and China do not call themselves the far East. So we need to detach this sort of understanding that we already have and try to look at the Qur’an and Sunnah from the view of the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, how his companions viewed it, how the early Salaf viewed it, and how they used this moderation.

Again, to reach the level of moderation, and to know whether you are moderate or not, you have to display all of your life, your actions through the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Three of the Prophet’s companions went to the houses of the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, asking his wives about the forms of worship that the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam offered. And when they told them, they said, “What we do is too little. The Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam has been forgiving all of his sins and still look at how he performs his acts of worship!” One said, “I, personally, am going to pray all night without sleeping.” The other one said, “I will fast the whole year without breaking my fast.” The third one said, “I will not get close to women.” All of this as forms of worship to Allah azza wa jal. The Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam was outraged when he heard this. And he said, “I pray and I sleep, I fast and I break my fast, and I marry women. Whoever seeks other than my Sunnah, other than my way is not from me.”

The Quotations from the Qur’an and Hadiths in this Article are a rough translation of the meanings of the original text!

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