“And thus we have made you a just (moderate) community that you will be witnesses over the people and the Messenger will be a witness over you. And We did not make the qiblah which you used to face except that We might make evident who would follow the Messenger from who would turn back on his heels. And indeed, it is difficult except for those whom Allah has guided. And never would Allah have caused you to lose your faith. Indeed Allah is, to the people, Kind and Merciful.” (2:143)
The Arabic word ‘wasat’ has two meanings: 1) to be in the middle/centre/away from both extremes (an example given in the Qur’an is that of guarding the middle prayer – ‘salaat al-wusta’) 2) the best of creation/just (an example given in the Qur’an is found in Surah al-Qalam with the story of the garden and Allah (SWT) uses the word ‘awsat’).
So how can we apply this and pursue the middle way?
- Islam teaches us that our religion is both rational and with belief in the unseen (angels and jinns). We do not have beliefs found in groups such as Scientism, who only believing in intellect – this is an extreme. We also do not blindly follow our ancestors and believe in myths. Muslims should be in middle; we have imaan bil ghayb (belief in the unseen) and ponder over the signs Allah (SWT) has given us and think. We can’t always use aql (intellect) and we can’t have complete blind faith. Other religions promote blind faith and not questioning these beliefs. If this was correct, all religions would assume correctness as they would hide behind using blind following. And we also can’t be empiricist as we can’t comprehend the intellect of He who created our intellect. We cannot rationalise why we do certain things, such as praying 5 times a day, we simply do as we are told. We are told to think about the Prophet (SAW) and his message, the Qur’an, and then submit and obey.
- Islam encompasses a mix between theology (creed, imaan) and law (actions, a’mal). Other Abrahamic religions are on extremes: Judaism which concentrates on law, little theology; Christianity which concentrates on theology, no law. Islam is the middle path. We have belief and we follow up this belief with actions – ‘aamanu wa ‘amilus saalihaat’.
- Islam has the perfect blend of spirituality and rituals. There is no spirituality without rituality. When we pray, this is not just a ritual act as the primary reason is to establish salaah in order to remember Allah – spirituality. Other religions are on one extreme or the other. Their actions have no meanings, or their meanings have no actions.
- Islam blends both deen and dunya. We aim for the hereafter but we don’t forget this world completely. Living according to our deen is a part of our day-to-day lives, e.g. when giving in charity, give in moderation, according to means, don’t give everything and don’t be stingy. We are allowed to live a good life if we can afford it, it isn’t haraam so long as our hearts are not attached to it. The Prophet (SAW) never used to indulge in extravagance but never refused it if it came his way. He is our role model. We must attain a balance between this world and the next. Strive in this world to attain next. Some faith traditions neglect this world for next. Others are materialistic and have no concept of hereafter. Islam is the middle way.
- Islam takes into consideration the needs of our bodies and the needs of the soul. In Buddhism one is expected to eliminate all desires and focus only on the soul. The story of Abu ad-Darda (RA) is pertinent for the Muslims (see end of notes). Your body has a right over you… The story of the three men who thought they could better the worship of the Prophet (SAW) is also important to note (see end of notes). “Whoever turns away from my Sunnah is not from me”. Bodily urges have a halal manifestation and haraam avenue. Allah created us this way. Every urge is accessible in halal way and this is to be utilised.
- Islam treats men and woman equally but acknowledges that they are both different and have different roles, needs etc. Allah (SWT) says “there is no male like the female” (3:36); biologically, physically, emotionally. Man and woman complement each other with the roles Allah has given them. Some give women equal roles in society as men. Others treat women as second class citizens. Islam is the middle way. Men and women are not the same in their roles. Each has their own role and responsibility. Man is said to be a degree higher, very gently mentioned in the Qur’an – just to be the breadwinner, as both cannot have this role. Spiritually, men and women are the same – they have the same opportunity to attain Jannah and this is the ultimate equality.
- Islam is the moderate path between revenge and forgiveness. We have the right to take someone to court for a wrongdoing, but Allah (SWT) loves those who are forgiving. Even in the Seerah, there are examples when the Prophet (SAW) was strict with people. Sometimes he (SAW) forgave, other times he didn’t as some people are beyond forgiveness. There must be a level of fear in hearts of people. We do not believe in turning the other cheek as everybody will cheat and harm each other, and is not possible at societal level.
- Islam is the middle way between all other groups. It teaches us that we shouldn’t be foolish and extremely emotional when it comes to politics but neither should we be a-political with a completely hands off approach. Within Islam itself, ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah are in the middle of the sects of Muslims. Neither level of extremes in worship nor in exaggeration of the status of individuals or groups of people. We affirm for them what Allah (SWT) and His Messenger (SAW) affirmed for them. The bulk of the ummah will remain upon the truth until the Day of Judgement, and this is a guarantee from Allah (SWT). The siraat al mustaqeem is the straight path, the middle path.
Notes taken at a lecture delivered by Sheikh Dr Yasir Qadhi at East London Mosque 2014
Narrated Abu Juhaifa (raa): The Prophet (saws) made a bond of brotherhood between Salman Al-Farisi (raa) and Abu Ad-Darda (raa)’. Salman (raa) paid a visit to Abu Ad-Darda’ (raa) and found Um Ad-Darda’ (raa) dressed in shabby clothes and asked her why she was in that state. She replied, “Your brother Abu Ad-Darda’ (raa) is not interested in (the luxuries of) this world.”
In the meantime Abu Ad-Darda’ (raa) came and prepared a meal for Salman (raa). Salman (raa) requested Abu Ad-Darda’ (raa) to eat (with him), but Abu Ad-Darda’ (raa) said, “I am fasting.” Salman (raa) said, “I am not going to eat unless you eat”.
So, Abu Ad-Darda’ (raa) ate (with Salman). When it was night and (a part of the night passed), Abu Ad-Darda’ (raa) got up (to offer the night prayer), but Salman (raa) told him to sleep and Abu Ad-Darda’ (raa) slept.
After sometime Abu Ad-Darda’ (raa) again got up but Salman (raa) told him to sleep. When it was the last hours of the night, Salman (raa) told him to get up then, and both of them offered the prayer.
Salman (raa) told Abu Ad-Darda’ (raa), “Your Lord has a right on you, your soul has a right on you, and your family has a right on you; so you should give the rights of all those who has a right on you.”
Abu Ad-Darda’(raa) came to the Prophet (saws) and narrated the whole story. The Prophet (saws) said, “Salman (raa) has spoken the truth.”
Fasting – Sahih Bukhari: Volume 3, Book 31, Number 189
It is related that Anas ibn Malik said, “A group of three men came to the houses of the wives of the Prophet , may Allah bless him and grant him peace, to ask about how the Prophet worshipped. When they were told, it was as if they thought it was little and said, ‘Where are we in relation to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, who has been forgiven his past and future wrong actions?'” He said, “One of them said, ‘I will pray all of every night.’ Another said, ‘I will fast all the time and not break the fast.’ The other said, “I will withdraw from women and never marry.’ The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, came to them and said, ‘Are you the ones who said such-and-such? By Allah, I am the one among you with the most fear and awareness of Allah, but I fast and break the fast, I pray and I sleep, and I marry women. Whoever disdains my Sunnah is not with me.'”
Marriage – Sahih Bukhari: Chapter 70. 4776