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Teachings of Moderation and Balance in Islam

By Kaniz Fatma, New Age Islam

31 March 2018

Moderation means to adopt a middle path between two extremes in all walks of life. Islam stresses moderation and balance in all aspects of life; in beliefs, worship, conduct, relationships, ideas, customs, transactions, daily activities and human desires. Principled moderation has been reiterated in the Quran whether explicitly or implicitly as a good character in Islam.

Allah Almighty said:

 “Thus, We have made you a justly balanced community” (2:143).

The Arabic words “Ummataw Wasata” have been used in praise of this Ummah. The word ‘Wasata’ is commonly translated as moderate. Therefore the characteristic of this Ummah is moderate behaviour in all aspects, whether of character or action. They are people who do not sway to extremes; neither are they negligent in acts of worship nor extremely ascetic like those who discard the world to live in mountains.

According to this verse, Mufti Shafi Usmani from Deobandi school of thought says, “The characteristic quality which confers superiority on the Islamic Ummah over others is its being Wasat- (a word which has been variously translated into English as “midmost, moderate, just, intermediary, middle, central or justly balanced”). In order to explain the implications of the word Wasat, commentators have usually made use of another Arabic adjective Mu’tadil (signifying “moderate or temperate”) and the noun I’tidal which means “being equal”; both the words come from the root ‘Adl which signifies “to be equal or to make equal” (Maariful Quran- Mufti Shafi Usmani)

Imam Razi comments on this verse 2:143, saying: The justly balanced (Wasat) in reality is the furthest point between two extremes. There is no doubt that the two poles of excess and extravagance are destructive, so to be moderate in character is to be furthest from them, which is to be just and virtuous. (Tafsir-e-Kabir by Imam Razi 2:143)

In his classical Arabic dictionary Ibn Manzur writes;

“Every praiseworthy characteristic has two blameworthy poles. Generosity is the middle between miserliness and extravagance. Courage is the middle between cowardice and recklessness. Humanity has been commanded to avoid every such blameworthy trait.” (Lisan al-Arab 15/209)

Wahb ibn Munnabih, a Yemenite Muslim traditionalist of Dhimar in Yemen, said, “Verily, everything has two ends and a middle path. 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. (Hilyat Al-Awliya 4818)

It is reported that Hadrat Hudhaifa (May Allah be pleased with him) said, “O people, remain straight upon the path and you will have taken a great lead, but if you swerve right or left then you will be led far astray.” (Sahih Bukhari 6853, Grade: Sahih)

Hadrat Ibn Mas’ud reported: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) drew a line with his hand and said, “This is the straight path of Allah”. Then the Prophet drew lines to the right and left and said, “These are other paths and there is not a path among them but that a devil is upon it calling to its way.” Then the Prophet recited the [Quranic] verse, “Verily, this is the straight path, so follow it and do not follow other paths. (6:153) (Musnad Ahmad 4423, Grade: Sahih)

We should implement the teachings of moderation and balance in all walks of life, whether with regard to duties of faith or the duties of worldly life.

Allah Almighty said, “Seek the home of the Hereafter by that which Allah has given you, but do not forget your share of the world.” (28:77)

Hanzalah Al-Usayyidi reported, I said, “O Messenger of Allah, when we are in your presence and are reminded of Hellfire and Paradise, we feel as if we are seeing them with our very eyes, but when we leave you and attend to our wives, our children, and our business, most of these things slip from our minds.” The Prophet said,

“By Him in whose hand is my soul, if your state of mind remains the same as it is in my presence and you are always occupied with the remembrance of Allah, the angels will shake your hands in your beds and roads. O Hanzalah, rather time should be devoted to this and time should be devoted to that.” (Sahih Muslim 2750, Grade: Sahih)

Therefore in accordance with this teaching, we should be moderate in our acts of worship such as prayer, fasting, and even charity. For instance, our prayers should be recited in a moderate voice, neither too loud nor too soft.

Allah Almighty said,

“Do not recite too loudly in your prayer nor too softly, but seek a way between them” (17:110)

It is reported on the authority of Hadrat Abu Musa that he said, “We were with the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, during a journey when the people began to exalt Allah loudly. The Prophet said:

 “O people, be gentle with yourselves for you are not calling upon one who is deaf or absent. Rather, you are calling upon the Hearing, the Seeing.” (Sahih Bukhari 3910)

Hadrat Jabir ibn Samurah reported saying, “I was praying with the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, and his prayer was of moderate length and his sermon was of moderate length.” (Sahih Muslim 866, Grade: Sahih)

With regard to voluntary acts of worship, the Prophet [peace be upon him] asked his companions on many occasions to limit their extra worship so that they could perform their duties towards their families as well as maintain their health.

It is reported that Abdullah ibn Amr said, “The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings 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 4903, Grade: Sahih)

Hadrat Salman Al-Farisi, (may Allah have mercy upon him) said, “You have a duty to your Lord, you have a duty to your body, and you have a duty to your family, so you should give each one its rights.” (Sahih Bukhari 1867, Grade: Sahih)

The similar message is found in this Hadith which says, “The best of your religion is the easiest.” [Ahmad]

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

“He who desires that his life be prolonged and he be granted more provisions and to be protected from the evil end, then let him fear Allah and maintain good ties with kinship”. (Al-Haakim)

He also said, “O’ people spread greetings, feed people, keep kinship ties and pray at night while people are sleeping and you will enter paradise safely” (al-Hakim)

Islam teaches Muslims to be moderate even when are doing charity. It calls Muslims to spend enough to help the needy; but it also asks them to retain enough to take care of their families and ourselves.

Allah Almighty said:

 “They are those who, when they spend, are neither extravagant nor miserly, but follow a middle way between them.” (25:67)

Thus we should also be moderate in our relationships with others. We should love for people what we love for ourselves but we should not exceed the limits so much that we endorse their wrong activities.

Hadrat Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “Let not your love be infatuation and let not your hatred be destruction.” It was said, “How is this?” Hadrat Umar said, “When you love someone, you become infatuated like a child. When you hate someone, you love destruction for your companion.” (Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 1322, Grade: Sahih)

Ibn Hibban suggested Muslims to have a middle path when dealing with non-Muslims and said, “Do not exceed the limits in seeking nearness to them, nor be excessive in seeking distance from them.” (Tafsir al-Mawardi 60:8)

Ibn Hibban wants to say that Muslims should not adopt what is against Islam while seeking nearness to non-Muslims and similarly they should not seek distance so much that they develop any sort of hatred or insecurity.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

 “By Allah, he is not a believer, he is not a believer, he is not a believer,” It was said, "Who is that, O Allah's Apostle?” the one who could not provide peace and security to his neighbours." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Number 45)

In this Hadith the word “neighbours” include both Muslims and non-Muslims.

Some more Ahadith which encourage good relationship with Muslims and non-Muslims are as follows;

“Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer? It is keeping peace and good relations between people, as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.” (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)

“Whoever is kind, Allah will be kind to him; therefore be kind to man on the earth and He Who is in heaven will show mercy on you.” (Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi)

To sum up, Islam has taught Muslims to be moderate in all activities of their daily life. They should avoid any type of extremism pleasing to Satan that leads them astray from the right path. With this teaching of moderation and balance, Muslims can counter the growing tides of extremism that threaten both Muslims and non-Muslims.

Sources of Study:


  2. Abu Amina Elias “Moderation and Balance in Islam”

  3. Tafsir-e-Kabir

  4. Ma’ariful Quran

  5. Sihah-e-Sitta


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