Moderateness of Islam in Ethics and Enjoying Adornment
By His Eminence Sheikh Saleh bin Homaid
All praise is due to Allah, and may His blessings and peace be upon the Messenger of Allah, his family and companions.
Moderateness in Ethics
The Faith of Allah is divinely placed somewhere between the extremity of holding man in a utopian position, on one hand, with a view to introducing this creature as the flawless and sinless king of this world which is an attitude entailing unrealizable combined values and ethics even by infallible persons; and, on the other hand, the other extremity of brutish man where man is not held guilty for behaving as vicious as the mind would wildly imagine. Unfortunately, today's world is but a good example of such brutism.
Islam's stance on ethics, however, is intermediate between utopia and reality, i.e., Islam undoubtedly offers us perfect examples and urges us earnestly to follow them, but never without indifference to our reality as weak human beings. Allah Almighty says, "… and He has known that there is weakness in you," (8 / 66), and "Allah wills to lighten (things) for you, and man was created a weakling," (4 / 28). Further, Jihad was initially enforced for a single Muslim to fight ten disbelievers, but this command was rendered lighter later as Allah Almighty says, "Now Allah has lightened it for you, and He has known that there is weakness in you." (8 / 88)
Consequently, Islam is the middle point between unrealizable utopia and the regretful reality. For example, the Qur'anic verse "Surely Allah commands to justice and fairness ..." (16 / 90); justice is a process of recovering a right and delivering one; thus affordable by everyone. Yet, fairness (Ihsan) is a higher degree where virtuous persons vie for better actions. Another verse reads, "So whoever transgresses against you, then transgress against him in like (manner) as he transgressed against you…" (2 / 194), but in another verse Allah says, "… and indeed in case you endure patiently, indeed it is more charitable for the patient." (16 / 126) So, we have "… So whoever transgresses against you, then transgress against him in like (manner) as he transgressed against you…" which a realistically pragmatic command, and "… and indeed in case you endure patiently, indeed it is more charitable for the patient," which is a perfect stance.
Therefore, our religion is a moderate one in terms of truthfulness and ethics. Islam does not want us to be as the Christians who say, "But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also"; absolutely not! This is but servility. Rather, the real point is to give a right and take another. Honor is manifested in Ihsan, but what is prohibited is transgression and oppression. This is even the case at war as Allah Almighty says, "And fight in the way of Allah the ones who fight you, but do not transgress," (2 / 190) even in the middle of war which is a fight for the sake of upholding righteousness. Yet, transgression is prohibited; no mutilation, ear / nose cutting, etc.
Islam is all about moderateness that realizes the reality of human beings, so it commands giving and taking rights, and thus enshrines human perfection.
Islam's Moderateness in Terms of Enjoying Adornment
The issue of enjoying adornment is surely another distinctive feature of Islamic moderateness. Allah has made it lawful for us to use adornments, even reminds us of such blessing, "And the cattle-He created them for you; in them is warmth and (various) uses and of them you eat. And wherein is comely (service) for while you are bringing them home and while you are driving them to pasture. And they carry your heavy (burdens) to land you could not have reached excepting with arduous (effort). Surely your Lord is indeed Ever-Compassionate, Ever-Merciful. And horses and mules and asses for you to ride, and as an adornment; and He creates what you do not know." (16 / 5, 8)
This is the moderate way of life in Islam; it does not disapprove or prevent us form practicing our inherent love for and enjoying adornment, i.e., unlike those who placed tough curbs on themselves as the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) says, "The remnants of them are in hermitages". Nor do we follow the lines of some human-made religions such as Hinduism and such other engrossing spiritual practices.
Adornment is lawful for us to enjoy as can be derived form Allah's words, "And the cattle-He created them for you; in them is warmth and (various) uses and of them you eat. And wherein is comely (service) …" (16 / 5, 6); the first three traits are fundamental functions of cattle, yet Allah reminds us of his blessings thereby.
Dear brothers and sisters, if you contemplate the meaning of recognizing the comely service and beauty in cattle, which are camels, cows and sheep and goats or otherwise according to geographic differences, you can realize that such beauty of cattle is not recognized by every one save those interested. You, for example, do not place an interesting eye on cattle nor do you think about them. Yet, some people are fond of goats and / or camels to the extent of buying a camel for hundreds of thousands. So, beauty is strongly present in such creatures even if not recognized by us. By analogy, young people nowadays recognize beauty in cars, their models and colors.
Anyway, the point here is that there is no restriction to such enjoying as long as it is within relevant limits. Enjoying or even owning beauty is not a problem in itself since the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) says, for example, about horses, "They are a guard for a man", i.e., you may enjoy these properties to the extent of giving the same their rights. The same applies to all creatures of Allah, including donkeys "And horses and mules and asses for you ride, and as an adornment…" (16 / 8), i.e., they may be used for other uses other than riding, such as adornment. So, the verse makes this lawful as long as the practice is within limits set by Shari'ah. Additionally, you may read Allah's words, "Is not He the (Most Charitable) Who created the heavens and the earth and sent down for you from the heaven water? So We caused to grow therewith enclosed orchards, full of delight." (27/60) What is the meaning of "full of delight"? It means that we are entitled to feel delight in the colors, odors and forms of flowers since Allah has not versed "full of delight" except as a way of reminding us of such a blessing. Surely, Allah would not remind us of an unlawful matter!
Therefore, it is a matter subject to controls and limits. To lawfully enjoy and feel the delight therein, by smelling for example, is permitted. The Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) said, "Form your world it has been made after my heart to wear perfume." Perfume is a form of delight, a luxury one may say. Yet, the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) used to take care of himself, his appearance and beauty within the limits of his own reach. He even used to wear nice clothes to meet his guests. Fridays had a special garment, Feasts had their special garment too, and receiving guests was in likewise. By garment here I mean a full dress, i.e., a full clothing of a loincloth and a gown, or a shirt and a trouser, as the habit goes for every country. The point is that our religion is a moderate one in terms of clothing. Allah Almighty says, "O Seeds of Adam! Take your adornment at every mosque…" and "Say, "Who has prohibited the adornment of Allah, which He has brought out for His bondmen…?" (7 / 31, 32) However, no extremism, extravagance or over-luxury is allowed. Rather, the practice of enjoying such blessings has it own limits.