Imam Zijad’s Corner: Moderation in Islam: Is such a balance possible?

Moderation in Islam:  Is such a balance possible? Islam calls upon Muslims to choose a middle ground between those who sanctify the literal texts and traditions of Islam and those who opt for rational thinking and Ijtihad (the art and skill of independent analytical explanation and reasoning) in reading, comprehending and understanding the verses of the Qur’an and the sayings or recorded wisdom of the Messenger Muhammad (S). Moderation or balance is not merely a general characteristic of Islam – it is in fact Islam’s fundamental mark of identity; its key distinguishing feature, which makes true balance possible. The Qur’an affirms that God Almighty described the Muslim community as one of moderation: “Thus, We have made you an Ummah (a nation) justly balanced (moderate).”  {Al Baqarah 143} Islam thus comprises a holistic approach to life which originated in the recommendation to seek moderation and balance in all fields of human endeavour: in worship, conduct, legislation, personal interaction, and so on. It might surprise many today (Muslims and non-Muslims alike) that Islam does not agree with any extreme: rightist or leftist. It upholds the path of the golden median – the only normal and balanced way; however, the most challenging at the same time. In compliance with Islamic intellectual traditions, most Muslims do adopt the Qur’anic concept describing the Muslim Ummah as “Ummatan Wasata” – the community that is “just,” “balanced,” “temperate,” and firmly adhered to the “mid-ground.” So “Ummatan Wasata” could be then translated to mean: a just community, a moderate nation, a justly balanced nation and a temperate people. In all of this, Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah (S) is our role model, for his life was shaped and directed wholly by the Qur’an. His words and actions are evidence of this middle path. Let us look into three of his sayings and judge ourselves where he stood in this regard. Once he said: “The religion of Islam is indeed easy. Whoever makes it tough is a loser. Hence, follow it with moderation; be close (to it), and give glad tidings.” (Bukhari) The Messenger of Allah Muhammad (S) cautioned believers: “Beware of excessiveness in religion. People before you have perished as a result of such excessiveness.” {Ahmad, Ibn Majah, Nasai in their Sunan} The Prophet also informed us of the importance of dealing with matters of daily life in a moderate way: “The best of all the dealings is the one which is moderate.” {Baihaqi}

Therefore, it is made very clear that the Muslim community ought to be a community of balance, moderation and justice in all its affairs. Islamic formative principles – the Qur’an and the Sunnah – call upon Muslims to exercise moderation and to reject and oppose all kinds of extremism: guluww (excessiveness), tanattu’ (making a religion hard and tough), or tashdid (strictness and rigidity).