Moderate Islam

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By Mohammed Tanveer Zahaque

Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, pledged on 24th October 2017 that he will bring back the moderate Islam that has existed in the Middle East in the pre-1979 era.

The word ‘moderate’ Islam has caused huge hue and cry among Muslims across the globe because the Western media has misinterpreted the term ‘moderate Islam’, and this term has been widely misunderstood.

According to the Western media, moderate Islam means that a Muslim can drink alcohol, go to clubs, dance, and basically do whatever he/she wants, and at the same time claims to be a Muslim. In the Western media, a regular, peaceful practicing Muslim man who prays 5 times a day and grows a beard, or a regular Muslim woman who wears the hijab is looked at as an extremist.

The Western standards for extremism and moderation do not apply to our standards.

The Islamic traditional definitions of extremism and moderation have existed for long in the Islamic history. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) explicitly warned Muslims against extremism and he called towards moderation.

Islam is indeed a moderate faith as it calls towards moderation in every aspect. For instance, monasticism is practiced in other faiths, but Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) prohibited his followers to practice it, as it deprives family and worldly rights of others.

Human rights activists in Madhya Pradesh protested against the couple who abandoned their 3-years old daughter and 100-crores property to attain Jain monasticism. Such extreme practices are prohibited in Islam.

Celibacy is seen as holy in some faiths, but it’s seen as deviation in Islam as it leads to corruption in the society.

While dealing with the status of Jesus Christ, Muslims stay moderate by calling Jesus Christ as one of the mightiest and most revered Prophets of Allah. Muslims do not degrade his position as Israelis do nor do they exaggerate it as some Christians do, claiming that Prophet Jesus is a God or son of God.

Coming back to Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s statement, he alluded to the extremist movements that are instigating violence and terrorism; it is these movements which he hopes to stamp out. They changed the course of thought processes in the Middle East through the advocacy towards revolutions, protests, coups, and overthrowing authorities, that has resulted in the loss of innocent lives and an absolute catastrophe in the Middle East.

In fact, Allah refers to the Muslim community as the ‘moderate’ and just community in the world.

(And thus we have made you a moderate community that you will be witnesses over the people and the Messenger will be a witness over you.) – Quran 2:143

The Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) ordered his companions to never go near extremism.

It was narrated that Abu Al-Aliyah said: “Ibn Abbas said: “On the morning of Al-Aqabah, while he was on his mount, the Messenger of Allah said to me: “Pick up (some pebbles) for me.” So I picked up some pebbles for him that were the size of date stones or fingertips, and when I placed them in his hand he said: “Like these. And beware of going to extremes in religious matters, for those who came before you were destroyed because of going to extremes in religious matters.” (An-Nisai)

The companions of Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) describe his actions and religiosity to be moderate.

Jabir ibn Samurah said, “I was praying with the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), and his prayer was of moderate length and his sermon was of moderate length.” (Sahih Muslim)

Abdullah ibn Amr reported, “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said to me, “O Abdullah, I am told you fast all day and pray all night.” I said, “Of course, O Messenger of Allah.” The Prophet said, “Do not do so. Fast and break your fast, pray in the night and sleep. Verily, your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you, and your wife has a right over you. (Sahih Bukhari)

The above Hadith is an indication that the Prophet (peace be upon him) taught moderation and practicality in terms of worldly matters and religious actions.

The scholars have many explanations for what is meant by extremism and those who go to extreme. It may be summed up as overburdening oneself and being too strict in matters where strictness is inappropriate.

The scholar, Wahb ibn Munnabih, said, “Verily, everything has two ends and a middle. If you hold one of the ends, the other will be skewed. If you hold the middle, the two ends will be balanced. You must seek the middle ground in all things.”

Moderation in Islam means following the footsteps of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Extremism means trying to do more than he did, and negligence means not reaching that level.

Scholars have aptly described moderation, extremism, and negligence with a befitting example:

Three men are faced with an immoral man. One of them says, “I will not greet this immoral man and I will boycott him, keep away from him and not speak to him.”

The second one says, “I will go with this immoral man, greet him and smile at him. I will invite him to my place and accept his invitation. He is just like any righteous man to me.”

The third one says, “I hate this immoral man for his immoral actions, but I love him for his faith. I will not boycott him unless doing so is in his best interests. If there is nothing to be gained by boycotting him, and if that will only increase him in his immorality, then I will not boycott him.”

We say that the first man is going to extremes, the second is negligent, and the third is moderate.

The same applies to all other acts of worship and dealings with others. People vary between extremism, negligence, and moderation.

Imam An-Nawawi said that going to extremes in worship leads to excessive hardship. Islam does not enjoin anything but that in which there is ease and tolerance. It forbids excessive strictness in religion.

The Mother of the Believers, the Prophet’s wife, A’isha, said, “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was never given the choice between two things but he would choose the easier of the two, so long as it was not a sin; if it was a sin he would be the furthest of the people from it. (Sahih Bukhari)

It is obvious and apparent that Islamic teachings have never been the source of extremism and terrorism; Islam calls towards mercy, tolerance, moderation, fairness, and justice. For this very reason, it won the hearts of millions of people in South-East Asia who accepted Islam through the passive call of Arab merchants and through observing their honest and noble character.

It is important to learn the Islamic traditional definitions of extremism and moderation and it is incumbent upon Muslims to practice moderation and teach it to non-Muslims.


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