The Concept of Moderation In Islam

Today, the word ‘moderation’ has become very common, and is used by people for many things. Sometimes, it is used for that which is good, and at times, it is used for that which is bad. For example, you may hear a doctor saying I a patient: ‘If you are to consume intoxicants, then do so in moderation’. You may also hear listen to one saying to another: ‘You should not smoke. However, if you wish to do so, then smoke in moderation’. What is strange in both these statements (which we often hear) is that though these vices are harmful and destructive to one’s health, yet, the word moderation is used to imply something that is good (which in reality is not so).
In contrast to this, we have many instances where the word (moderation) is used in the correct places and brings about a good message. For example, we often hear that one must be more moderate in eating, sleeping, exercising and even working. There are many other examples which show that the usage of the word moderation brings about a good meaning and message.
With this brief explanation, the question that comes to mind is, how does Islam view the concept of moderation? Is it accommodated in Islam? And if it is accepted, then the question is: what does ‘being moderate’ mean in Islam?
To get a clear understanding of this, we must first know that moderation basically means ‘to avoid the extreme’. So, when one keeps away from going to the extreme, then it will be said that he has adopted moderation. Extreme here means the act of going beyond the normal or acceptable limit. It brings about an action which is done in a manner that one departs from the usual and traditional teachings.
Based on this understanding, it will be clearly seen that Islam is in favour of moderation. It does not only accept it, but it encourages its followers to adopt the moderate path. While doing so, it discourages, and at times, prohibits one from going to the extreme, in words, thoughts or actions. Even while speaking about the Ummah (nation) of the Muslims in the Holy Qur’an, Allaah says: “And thus We have made you a moderate Ummah, so that you should be witnesses over the people and the Messenger a witness over you”. (Suratul Baqarah verse: 143)
Here, the Muslim Ummah has been characterized with the quality of being ‘moderate’ or ‘justly balanced’. Highlighting this outstanding distinction of the Muslim nation, means that the followers of Islam must strive to adopt the path of ‘moderation’, so that this quality can always be seen in them. But what does it mean to be moderate? Does it mean that one can go against the teachings of the Holy Qur’an (which he finds too difficult) and say that he is being moderate? Does it mean that one can go against the teachings of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W) (thinking that these are outdated) and say that he is being a moderate Muslim?
No! Obviously not. In fact no sensible, true and sincere Muslim would think of adopting such methods in trying to be moderate. Moderation does not mean to go against the teachings of Islam in the name of Modernism. It also does not mean to give a new interpretation to the laws of Islam in order to satisfy one’s desires. It does not mean to practice Islam conveniently, and leave it out when one thinks that it does not suit his time and place.
Instead, moderation means to follow all the teachings of Islam, and to practice them in accordance to the way it was given, without going beyond the limits which have been set by Allaah and his Messenger (S.A.W). A Muslim believes that Islam is complete and perfect in all its teachings. The laws given in the Holy Qur’an are exactly what Allaah wanted for the believers. In a similar manner, the teachings of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W) are in accordance to what has been endorsed by Allaah and made as part of the teachings of Islam. It is in this regard, Allaah has ordered all Muslims to obey and follow the Prophet (S.A.W).
The completion and perfection of Islam means that what is in it is exactly what a Muslim is required to do, as part of his duty to Allaah. Violation of these laws and teachings amount to sins and transgression, and does not amount to’moderation’. Hence, with respect to the laws of Salaah, Fasting, Zakaat and Hajj, one must obey these as they have been given without compromise. Similarly, with respect to the laws of dress and social interaction which tell a Muslim about hijab and purdah, and the avoidance of intermingling of the sexes, are teachings which must be followed, since they have been clearly given in the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (S.A.W). Violation of these (teachings) under the guise of ‘moderation’ is nothing but folly.
In this way, a Muslim is required to be fully obedient to Allaah and His Messenger (S.A.W), and must abstain from disobedience. About this Allaah says: “O you who believe! Obey Allaah and His Messenger, and turn not away from him while you are hearing. And be not like those who say: “We have heard”, but they hear nit. Verily, the worst living creatures in the sight of Allaah are the deaf and the dumb, who understand not”. (Suratul Anfaal (ch: 8) verse: 20)
Like this, there are countless verses in which Muslims are repeatedly commanded to obey Allaah and His Messenger, and have been strictly prohibited from disobedience to them. It is imperative that we understand that the commandments of Allaah and the teachings of the Prophet (S.A.W) are not only connected to our ritual acts of worship and purification. But they are also connected to every aspect of our lives. In matters regarding marriage, divorce, custody of children, maintenance, birth, death, commerce and labour— Islam has given comprehensive teachings. In a similar manner, sufficient teachings have been given with respect to the manner of our speech, conduct, dress, interaction with others, treatment to family members and relatives, kindness to neighbours and strangers and helping the poor and needy. These teachings have been given to us so that we may have a complete and perfect way of life.
Each Muslim is required to accept these teachings whole heartedly, without ant reservation or hesitancy. Allaah commands the Muslims in the Holy Qur’an by saying: “O you who believe! Enter into Islam whole heartedly, and follow not the footsteps of satan. Verily, he is to you an open enemy”. (Suratul Baqarah verse: 208)
In this verse, all Muslims have been ordered by Allaah to enter Islam completely, They have been strictly prohibited from following the promptings of satan, since he is the one who incites a Muslim to compromise and ‘leave-out’ the teachings of Islam. While explaining this verse of the Holy Qur’an, the commentators have stated, “No Muslim shall be deserving of calling himself a Muslim, unless he accepts all Islamic injunctions truly and sincerely, from the deep recesses of his heart, irrespective of the department of life they belong to, irrespective of whether they concern the outward physique of the body or the heart and the mind.
This verse holds a stern warning to those who have got Islam all tied up with masjid and Ibaadah (mosque and the performance of acts of prescribed prayer), while they neglect injunctions relating to social life, business and personal dealings, as if they were no part of Islam”. (Ma’ariful Qur’an vol: 1 pg: 516).
The gist of the above verse (and its explanation) is that every Muslim is required to turn to Islam whole heartedly, with full submission and compliance. There should not be an iota of doubt or wavering in the heart of any believer regarding the truth, soundness and authenticity of all the teachings of Islam which have reached us through the process of continuous transmission from the time of the Prophet (S.A.W) until today. There must be total acceptance, and the sincere willingness to adhere to these teachings. There is no room for compromise, non-acceptance, uncertainty or challenge in this regard.
As for moderation in Islam, this simply means that one must not be extreme in the teachings which Allaah has given in Islam. He must not go beyond that which he is required to do, causing harm to himself and others. (As for that which a Muslim must do, then he/she must do it since it is a requirement in Islam). For example, in the Holy Qur’an, Allaah has exhorted and encouraged the believers to spend their wealth in His cause. At the same time, one should not give away all his wealth to the extent that he does not have anything to live on. This however, does not mean that one becomes a miser or a stingy person. While establishing the perfect balance of moderation in this respect, Allaah revealed the following verse: “And let not your hand be tied (like a miser) to your neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach (like a spendthrift), so that you become blameworthy and in severe poverty”. (Suratul Isra (ch: 17) verse: 29)
This is a wonderful verse that explains the concept of moderation in Islam. It tells us that although Allaah wants a person to spend in His cause, He does not want him to spend everything to the extent that he falls in poverty. Similarly, He does not want a person to become stingy by not spending at all. So the moderate way is to spend some (wealth) in good causes, and keep some for one’s needs and necessities. Allaah does not want a person to go to the extreme of spending everything, nor does He want a person to go to the opposite extreme of keeping everything (on account of stinginess).
Similar to this is the case of the companion of the Prophet (S.A.W), Sa’ad bin Abi Waqqas (R.A). When he was about to die, he wanted to give all his money in charity for the sake of Allaah. The Prophet (S.A.W) however, stopped him from doing so, and requested him to give some of it in charity while leaving some in inheritance for his family members. On this occasion, the Prophet (S.A.W) said to him: “It is better that you leave your family members in sufficiency than you leave them in want, begging from others”. (Bhukhari)
Here, the Prophet (S.A.W) taught him the middle course of moderation, so that he will be well-balanced in his spending. On one hand, he should not spend everything in charity while depriving his family members, and on the other hand, he should not give everything to his family members while depriving himself from the blessings of charity. Giving some here, and some there, was the ideal way. It is safe from the two extremes, and this is moderation.
In this way, there are many other examples which can be quoted from the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (S.A.W) to show how the teaching of moderation was implemented and practiced. Therefore, the moderation which some Muslims seek has already been given in Islam. In fact, the beautiful teachings of Islam have already incorporated the aspect of moderation, and so, there is no need to look outside the teachings of Islam for moderation.
Whatever is out of Islam is indeed ‘out of Islam’, and hence, practicing upon it would not amount to practicing Islam. Instead, it will be considered as practicing on one’s opinions, carnal desires and fancies. Islam is one, it is the religion of Allaah and so, it will never be adulterated and adjusted to suit the likings of people.