Islam: The Middle and the Moderate Path
Khutbah at ISOC - Dhul Qi’dah 11, 1422/ January 25, 2002
Thus have We made of you a Middle Ummah, that you might be witnesses over the people, and the Messenger a witness over yourselves… (al-Baqarah 2:143)
Say: “O People of the Book! Make no excess in your religion, trespassing beyond the truth, nor follow the vain desires of people who went wrong in times gone by, who misled many, and strayed (themselves) from the even Way. (al-Ma’idah 5:77)
Muslims are called Ummatan Wasatan. The commentators of the Qur’an explain the word “wasat” as “justly balanced”, “the best (khiyar or khayr)”. (see al-Tabari, al-Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir etc.) Yusuf Ali says: “The essence of Islam is to avoid all extravagances on either side. It is a sober, practical religion.” (note 143 on 2:143)
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has made this Ummah a moderate Ummah. Muslims have to follow the middle path, the path that has no extremes or excesses.
It is a path that brings together in a harmonious balance:
Revelation and Reason (Wahy and ‘Aql)
Individual and Community (Fard and Mujtama’)
Religion and World (Din and Dunya)
This World and the Other World (Dunya and ‘Akhirah)
Islam teaches gentleness and softness (rifq) in everything. Harshness and hardness (ghilzah) is not accepted in Islam. Islam is the religion of peace and mercy (salam and rahmah). (The Qur’an tells the believers to show “ghilzah” only in the battlefield (see al-Tawbah 9:73; 123; al-Tahrim 66:9). Also it says that do not ignore or avoid Allah’s Hudud out of compassion to the criminals. (al-Nur 24:2) Otherwise it always speaks about gentleness and kindness.)
Islam has middle position in:
Acts of worship (‘Ibadah)
Morals and manners (Akhlaq)
Let us look briefly on these four areas in Islamic teachings:
- Belief about Allah’s being (dhat):
- Neither atheism nor polytheism - meaning that God does not exist or there are many gods
- Neither monism nor pantheism - meaning that only God exists and nothing else exists or that everything is God.
- Neither anthropomorphism or incarnationism nor nihilism -meaning that God is like human beings or God becomes a human being or to say that God is abstract as an energy and power.
- Islam teaches Tawhid - There is only one God with beautiful names and attributes. He exists and He has given existence to everything. There is nothing like Him, but He hears and sees everything.
- Belief about Allah’s nature (sifat):
- He is neither so loving that He does not care about the right and wrong, nor is He so harsh that he cannot forgive and He must punish for every sin and mistake. He is both loving, kind and compassionate but He is also a judge. His justice is so much that he would not do wrong to any one, but his love is so much that when there is sincere faith and repentance He is ready to forgive.
- He is neither too transcendent that He become remote and unapproachable not He is so accessible that humans can manipulate Him, make Him to suffer and even kill him. He is very close to us. He loves us and hears our prayers, but He is above and beyond. The eyes cannot catch Him, but He catches the eyes.
- He is neither so powerful that we have no freedom. Nor is He so helpless that He does not even know what we are doing and cannot stop us from wrong or help us when we need Him. We believe that He has power over everything. Nothing moves without His permission. He knows the past, present and future, but He out of His grace has given freedom to human being to think, move and work. He will judge them in the things in which He has given freedom to them.
- Belief about Human Beings:
- Neither animals nor angels. We believe that they are a special and honored creation of Allah. They have the possibility to go higher and higher and they can become the lowest of the low.
- Neither born in sin nor perfect. They can succumb to temptations, but they are not helpless before the powers of evil.
- Neither absolutely helpless and powerless and not free to do anything, nor absolutely free to do whatever they wish or become fully autonomous. They have a lot of freedom, but they must follow the basic rules of God and must live in obedience to Him.
- Belief about the Prophets of Allah:
- They were great human beings, but they were not God, the incarnation of God or the sons of God. We must respect them, honor them and follow their way but we must not deify them or worship them.
- Prophets were chosen by God. They did not become prophets by their own achievements. They did perform miracles occasionally by the permission of God, but most of the time they had to go through the same pains, trials as other human beings go through.
- God sent the prophets in the past, but He made Prophet Muhammad as His last Prophet. There is no new Prophet who will come after him. Thus we believe in the continuation of prophecy but after him there is no prophecy, only inspiration and illumination. Prophets were infallible teachers, but there is no one after them who has this protection. People are allowed to make interpretation but no one other than prophets can claim absolute authority for his/her interpretation.
- Belief about the world:
- Not a bad place, the place of suffering and pain but also not a heaven or a permanent place. Allah has created this world and it is a good place, but Hereafter is better.
- Take your share of this world but do not forget the Hereafter. Do not neglect this world, rather you should try to build, improve, cultivate and plan in this world. Whatever good you do here you shall receive the reward in the hereafter. This is a place of your test.
- You are not the master of this world or its slave, but you are Allah’s Khalifah in this world. Everything is a trust and your are given this trust (amanah). Use the resources of this world carefully. Take care of the environment. Do not waste or be extravagant.
- Acts of Worship:
- Concept of Worship:
- Islam gives us some special acts of worship: Salat, Siyam, Zakat and Hajj. These are the main acts of worship.
- But worship is not some rituals only, it is the whole life. Whatever a person does in obedience to Allah is worship. Even the most worldly and mundane activities are worship.
- Acts of worship (‘Ibadat) are specified and not left to people’s own experiments. This brings unity and harmony.
- Methods of Worship:
- Islam emphasizes both the individual Ibadah as well as collective ‘Ibadah.
- Acts of worship include time, space and money. There are Ibadat Zamaniya (related to time), ‘Ibadat Makaniyah (related to space) and Ibadat Maliyah (related to wealth). Salat and Siyam are ‘Ibadat Zamaniyah. Hajj is ‘Ibadah Zamaniyah and Makaniyah both, while ‘Umrah is ‘Ibadah Makaniyah. Zakat and Sadaqat are ‘Ibadat Maliyah.
- In all ‘Ibadat there is a balance between the obligatory and the voluntary aspects. Minimum is made obligatory and Nawafil are left to the individual’s choice.
- In prayer especially, there is a harmony and balance between the physical, verbal, mental and spiritual aspects.
- In fasting there are timings. One is not asked to fast for too long, but it is also not left to one’s choice to choose whenever and whatever one wants to fast from.
- Laws (Shari’ah) The Law in Islam is Universal and comprehensive. It Promotes human dignity, equality and honor. Its basic principles are permanent and it has flexibility according to the conditions of the people and their needs. The basic philosophy of Law in Islam:
- No obligation beyond capacity (taklif ma la yutaq).
- All good things are permissible and all bad things are forbidden.
- The basic purpose in obligations is honor and purification, not putting burden or humiliation. (al-isr and al-aghlal).
- Recognition of extreme necessity (idtirar)
- Morals and Manners (Akhlaq) Islam gives very high place to ethics and morality. It says that a person who has no character has no religion. The basic nature of Islamic teachings on ethics and morality are:
- Universal Values - not promoting any specific culture, race or country.
- Positive and life affirming - it teaches that you can enjoy the good things of this life.
- Not ascetic, monastic, morbid or moribund in nature. Islam wants people to be happy, healthy, optimistic and forward looking.
- Practical - take into account human needs, emotions, desires, and aspirations and provides opportunities for their growth.
- Egalitarian - There are no double standards - one for religious class and other for laity.
There are some Muslims who do not know Islam and there are some who do not practice Islam in the right way. It is important that we learn Islam and we should learn it in the right way. Islam is neither harsh nor difficult. There is nothing in Islam that is not practical or impossible. The Prophet -peace be upon him- said:
“The religion is easy and whosoever will deal with religion harshly, it will defeat him. So be straight, follow the middle course, give good news and seek help by moving in the morning or the evening or part of the night.” (Al-Bukhari 38)
In order to follow Islam you must make an effort and be serious. Learn your faith and pay some attention to it. Do not take your religion casually. Islam is not just a social and cultural thing. Islam is the religion of Allah and it is the most moderate, balanced, beautiful and perfect religion.
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