Moderateness and Temperance in Islam
By His Eminence Sheikh Saleh bin Homaid
All praise is due to Allah, and may His blessing s and peace be upon the Messenger of Allah, his family and companions.
Islam is all about moderateness and fairness for Allah, glorified be He, says, "And thus We have made you a middle nation to be witnesses over mankind, and (for) the Messenger to be a witness over you," (1 / 143). Hence, moderateness is the Islamic choice; the meeting point half ways between two extremities, i.e., extremism and remissness; excessiveness and disinclination where conditions inevitably belong to an extremity.
Therefore, Islam is the religion of moderateness. In general, we shall expound on this trait, then on the attitude adopted thereof by followers of the Prophetic Tradition and consensus, in particular. Undoubtedly, what we mention can not be Islamically set right save by a person grasping deep knowledge of such moderateness.
Islam's Moderateness Compared to Other Religions
Islam is placed on a middle point between, on one hand, the angered against (by Allah) such as the Jews who killed Allah's prophets and righteous persons, over-prohibited lawful items and prevented themselves from what were made lawful to them by Allah, and the erring ones, on the other, such as the Christians who deified prophets, worshipped their priests and monks rather than Allah, and over-allowed items to the extent that they said, "every thing is good for the good persons!"
The righteous persons, however, adopt the path of those blessed by Allah such as the prophets, the veracious, martyrs and the righteous.
Again, Islam proves moderate in terms of belief compared to the superstitious who tend to believe in every thing, cling to every thing and hold ungrounded and unproven beliefs to the extent of worshipping gods other than Allah, including cows, stones and idols; and omni-deniers who deny every thing but purely physical matters forgetting all about the naturally, mindfully and miraculously existing call for belief. Such two kinds of persons are addressed by the Ever-Glorious Qur'an as follows: "Say, "Offer your proof, in case you are sincere."" (1 / 111)
Expounding on moderateness in belief is a matter of urgency particularly in these days since one can simply find 'physical extremism' to the extent of denying the existence of Allah and adopting atheism. Yet, another feature of extremism is where some groups deified the Satan, i.e., out of spiritual void, which is a matter of extremism, they worship the Satan in this allegedly era of enlightenment. Regretfully, the Satan was worshipped in ancient times, but such enlightenment apparently could not put an end to such heresy among today's generations.
Yet, Islam's moderateness manifests itself in worshipping Allah alone, the One, as derived from the following verses: "… there is no god except He; All Extolment be to Him, (He is) above whatever they associate (with Him)," (9 / 31) and "He has not begotten and has not been begotten, And to Him none could be co-equal," (112 / 3, 4). So, every other thing in this universe is a helpless creature which guarantees nothing for itself in terms of benefit, harm, death, life, resurrection, etc.
Islam's Moderateness towards All Prophets
Islam adopts a moderate attitude between those who glorified, extolled and deified prophets to the extent of calling them gods or sons of God on one hand, and those who denied their divine missions, belied, humiliated, tortured and even killed them up to the current thought of calling them mere social reformers with effects confined to their times but incapable of extending help to today's problems, on the other!
Islam's Moderateness with the Mind
Similarly, Islam adopts a moderate stance in terms of dealing with and using human mind compared to extremists who recognize the mind as being the source of all physical and metaphysical knowledge and facts on one hand, and those who deny the benefits of such ability, put it to a permanent halt, and so grow sightless.
Unfortunately, all naturalists adopt natural and mindful thinking; whatever the human mind accepts, they would accept, but a matter strange or incomprehensible to the mind is rejected. To their contrary, a group denies any ability of the mind, clings to the supernatural powers and illusions. However, Islam rejects both attitudes since there are matters that belong to the 'unseen' and thus beyond human means of comprehension, while other matters are comprehensible by a human mind. This is why Allah has granted us minds and brains. He even made it the prerequisite for assuming one's duties.
Accordingly, we, the Muslims, enshrine moderateness; human mind is fully respected, even considered the prerequisite for duty assignment. Yet, we do not go beyond the limits to say that 'the unseen is unacceptable' since we are aware of the limited powers of our mind, just like every other power of human beings including those of hands, sight, hearing, etc. The difference is that we recognize the ability of the mind within such limited powers.
Our religion is a moderate one in terms of commands and worships too, i.e., commands are feasible, doable and within the limits of human abilities for Allah says, "Allah does not charge a self (anything) except its capacity…" (1 / 286). This is the case in prayer, poor-dues, fasting, performing pilgrimage as well as all other religious duties. Further, those who intended to push them selves to the extreme limits in terms of worship were strongly advised otherwise by the Prophet, may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him. By this I mean the story of the three persons who headed for the houses of the Prophet (PBUH) to ask about his acts of worship. Once told thereof they considered it to be just a few, yet said, 'we are far lagging behind the Prophet (PBUH), he is the one whose previous and potential faults are forgiven.' Accordingly, one of them said, 'I shall pray night-long for ever,' another said, 'I shall fast for ever,' while the third said, 'I shall do without women; I shall never get married." Thereupon the Prophet stepped in addressing them, "Are you the ones who said so and so… Surely I am the most fearful and pious to Allah among you, yet I do fast and break fasting, pray and sleep, and marry women. So whoever sheers from my tradition shall not be a follower of mine!"
Therefore, Islam is moderate in terms of religious duties. If an inhospitable condition arises, Allah requires those affected to follow a lighter line of duty-fulfilling. For example, during traveling, whether under extreme conditions or not, one is entitled to such alleviation.
Thus, Islamic religious duties are moderate and easy to follow. Therefore, persistence therein is ability-conditioned for the Prophet said, "It is your duty to perform acts of worship as long and as much as you can since Allah never feels bored unless you so feel," and "The most act of worship liked by Allah is the one kept up by the performer, even if it is few in number!" So, Ibn Al-Jawzy, may Allah have mercy on him, said about the idea of persistence, " Allah does like those of continuous acts of worship for two reasons: 1. A deserter, after action, is like a person dumping a good relation after starting it, thus becoming a target of blame. This explains the reason behind threatening a person who no longer memorizes a verse s/he once memorized. S/he was not obliged to memorize the same in the first place.
2. A regular performer of good deeds is a person of persistence in terms of work and reward. In other words, a 'persistent knocker' on Allah's door every day is nothing like a person who kept knocking on the door for a full day, but lacked the trait of persistence thereafter.