Moderation of the Islamic Regulations
Al-Azhar Magazine – May 1974
God has invested man with body and soul so that he may appreciate materialist things as well as moral values. Having been created in this dual content, material and spiritual, man’s instincts and emotions ought then to be rightly recognised. We have to admit that man is full of desire to eat, drink, dress, marry, move about, to be moved by friendship and enmity. If man was created in purely material guise, lacking in spiritual capacities and moral values, he would have been no better than the animals. Life, therefore, would have been an ocean of dark materialism unpierced by any ray of light from mind or soul which is the true magnification of the humanity.
Since for life on this planet to flourish, it was necessary that man should have this duality in nature. Man must be material because the universe is material and were its inhabitants spiritual they would be out of place. Man cannot be told to abstain permanently from the good things of life since he was created to enjoy them. He cannot be asked to lead a solitary life when he is instinctly social. It would be unnatural to command him to set aside his mind and take everything for granted, for he was granted his mind by God himself to use.
To order man to go against his nature is impossible and we cannot arrest human activity and block its attainment of cherished goals. Thus Islam has recognised human instinct in all its ordinances, whether in dealing with dogma itself or with regards to morals and rites. Islam aims at regulating the human nature and training of its instincts. In order to attain this goal Islam strikes a happy mean upholding both the rights of the body and the rights of the soul. To maintain a balance between the needs of each, Islam has declared adopted moderations as the theme of all its regulations and the prevailing principle of teachings.
Simplicity of dogma and ease of implementation constitute the principle underlying any of the Islamic regulations. As an example we can take the simplicity of belief in god and in his attributes.
The Holy Quran commended the man kind to think about the work of God while it forbids thinking about His nature. Because His work is evident and is capable of being perceived by human senses as well conceived by human mind. God’s nature is beyond human minds which are accustomed to the use of standards and criteria and definition. Thus the faith in God confined to the idea of an Almighty All- Perfect deity, without going any deeper into the details of God’s nature.
In other words God urges man to think about His creations and the way He controls the world. The Quran did not tell us about the nature and reality of God but concentrates on pointing out His works and acts. The Holy Quran says :
إِنَّ فِى خَلۡقِ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٲتِ وَٱلۡأَرۡضِ وَٱخۡتِلَـٰفِ ٱلَّيۡلِ وَٱلنَّہَارِ لَأَيَـٰتٍ۬ لِّأُوْلِى ٱلۡأَلۡبَـٰبِ
(Lo! In the creation of the heavens and the earth and (in) the difference of night and day are tokens (of His Sovereignty) for men of understanding,) (3 :190)
It also says:
فَٱنظُرۡ إِلَىٰٓ ءَاثَـٰرِ رَحۡمَتِ ٱللَّهِ ڪَيۡفَ يُحۡىِ ٱلۡأَرۡضَ بَعۡدَ مَوۡتِہَآۚ إِنَّ ذَٲلِكَ لَمُحۡىِ ٱلۡمَوۡتَىٰۖ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلّ ِشَىۡءٍ قَدِيرٌ۬
(Look, therefore, at the prints of Allah’s mercy (in creation): how He quickeneth the earth after her death. Lo! He verily is the Quickener of the Dead, and He is Able to do all things)(30 :50)
Describing himself and stressing the fact that He is beyond man’s mind, God says:
وَهُوَ ٱلۡقَاهِرُ فَوۡقَ عِبَادِهِۦۚ وَهُوَ ٱلۡحَكِيمُ ٱلۡخَبِيرُ
(He is the Omnipotent over His slaves, and He is the Wise, the Knower.) ( 6 : 18)
فَاطِرُ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٲتِ وَٱلۡأَرۡضِ ۚ جَعَلَ لَكُم مِّنۡ أَنفُسِكُمۡ أَزۡوَٲجً۬ا وَمِنَ ٱلۡأَنۡعَـٰمِ أَزۡوَٲجً۬ا ۖ يَذۡرَؤُكُمۡ فِيهِ ۚ لَيۡسَ كَمِثۡلِهِ ۦشَىۡءٌ۬ ۖ وَهُوَ ٱلسَّمِيعُ ٱلۡبَصِيرُ
(The Creator of the heavens and the earth. He hath made for you pairs of yourselves, and of the cattle also pairs, whereby He multiplieth you. Naught is as His likeness; and He is the Hearer, the Seer. ) (42 :11)
بَدِيعُ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٲتِ وَٱلۡأَرۡضِۖ أَنَّىٰ يَكُونُ لَهُ ۥ وَلَدٌ۬ وَلَمۡ تَكُن لَّهُ ۥ صَـٰحِبَةٌ۬ۖ وَخَلَقَ كُلَّ شَىۡءٍ۬ۖ وَهُوَ بِكُلِّ شَىۡءٍ عَلِيمٌ۬ ( ١٠١ ) ذَٲلِڪُمُ ٱللَّهُ رَبُّكُمۡۖ لَآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَۖ خَـٰلِقُ ڪُلِّ شَىۡءٍ۬ فَٱعۡبُدُوهُۚ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىۡءٍ۬ وَڪِيلٌ۬ ( ١٠٢ ) لَّا تُدۡرِڪُهُ ٱلۡأَبۡصَـٰرُ وَهُوَ يُدۡرِكُ ٱلۡأَبۡصَـٰرَۖ وَهُوَ ٱللَّطِيفُ ٱلۡخَبِيرُ
(The Originator of the heavens and the earth! How can He have a child, when there is for Him no consort, when He created all things and is Aware of all things? Such is Allah, your Lord. There is no God save Him, the Creator of all things, so worship Him. And He taketh care of all things. Vision comprehendeth Him not, but He comprehendeth (all) vision. He is the Subtile, the Aware.) (6 : 101-103)
Islam takes a moderate stand between those who believe in determination and those who believe in free will, there are verses in the Quran which each one of these two schools of thought uses in order to substantiate its theory. Every person feels two things together, firstly he acts voluntarily or refrains from actions out of his own free will, secondly, circumstances may sometime block the exercise of man’s will, or may sometimes coincide with his will, with result that this will is carried out and realized.
Thus man’s will is not over powering or the most dominating factor. His actions are subjected to a balanced system: he has a free will which he exercises with in the frame work of causes and circumstances. This idea is understood from the following verses of the Holy Quran:
وَٱللَّهُ خَلَقَكُمۡ وَمَاتَعۡمَلُونَ
(When Allah hath created you and what ye make?) (37 :96)
Thus action belongs to man and creation belongs to Allah. And:
إِن يَنصُرۡكُمُ ٱللَّهُ فَلَا غَالِبَ لَكُمۡ ۖ وَإِن يَخۡذُلۡكُمۡ فَمَن ذَا ٱلَّذِى يَنصُرُكُم مِّنۢ بَعۡدِهِ ۦۗ وَعَلَى ٱللَّهِ فَلۡيَتَوَكَّلِ ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنُونَ
(If Allah is your helper none can overcome you, and if He withdraw His help from you, who is there who can help you after Him? In Allah let believers put their trust.) (3 : 160)
This explains why when embarking on certain action, we appeal to God to guide our steps. The same spirit of moderation is evident and explicit in regulations concerning the prayer, the fasting, the almsgiving and other rites.
يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ لَا تُحَرِّمُواْ طَيِّبَـٰتِ مَآ أَحَلَّ ٱللَّهُ لَكُمۡ وَلَا تَعۡتَدُوٓاْۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ ٱلۡمُعۡتَدِينَ ( ٨٧ ) وَكُلُواْ مِمَّا رَزَقَكُمُ ٱللَّهُ حَلَـٰلاً۬ طَيِّبً۬اۚ وَٱتَّقُواْ ٱللَّهَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أَنتُم بِهِۦ مُؤۡمِنُونَ
(O ye who believe! Forbid not the good things which Allah hath made lawful for you, and transgress not, Lo! Allah loveth not transgressors. Eat of that which Allah hath bestowed on you as food lawful and good, and keep your duty to Allah in Whom ye are believers)(5: 87-88)
The Quran forbids any attempt to deny the body the satisfaction of its natural needs, or indulge in this worldly material life completely till his soul is enslaved. This principle is based upon taking human instinct into consideration. The following Quranic verse stresses the fact that, followers of the Quran should be a model for all people in moderation, simplicity of dogma and ease of implementation of its regulations. Addressing to those who follow the teachings of Quran, God says:
وَكَذَٲلِكَ جَعَلۡنَـٰكُمۡ أُمَّةً۬ وَسَطً۬ا لِّتَڪُونُواْ شُہَدَآءَ عَلَى ٱلنَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ ٱلرَّسُولُ عَلَيۡكُمۡ شَهِيدً۬ا ۗ وَمَاجَعَلۡنَا ٱلۡقِبۡلَةَ ٱلَّتِى كُنتَ عَلَيۡہَآ إِلَّا لِنَعۡلَمَ مَن يَتَّبِعُ ٱلرَّسُولَ مِمَّن يَنقَلِبُ عَلَىٰ عَقِبَيۡهِ ۚ وَإِن كَانَتۡ لَكَبِيرَةً إِلَّا عَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ هَدَى ٱللَّهُ ۗ وَمَا كَانَ ٱللَّهُ لِيُضِيعَ إِيمَـٰنَكُمۡ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ بِٱلنَّاسِ لَرَءُوفٌ۬ رَّحِيمٌ۬
(Thus We have appointed you a middle nation, that ye may be witnesses against mankind, and that the messenger may be a witness against you. And We appointed the qiblah which ye formerly observed only that We might know him who followeth the messenger, from him who turneth on his heels. In truth it was a hard (test) save for those whom Allah guided. But it was not Allah’s purpose that your faith should be in vain, for Allah is Full of Pity, Merciful towards mankind) (2 : 143 )
This trait of moderation into which Muslims were moulded through Islam invests them with the power being witness among the nations of the world, for this faith combines principles and ideals in conformity with human nature.
The Quran calls upon the people to follow moderation in all aspects of life and to acknowledge of human nature. It says:
وَلۡتَكُن مِّنكُمۡ أُمَّةٌ۬ يَدۡعُونَ إِلَى ٱلۡخَيۡرِ وَيَأۡمُرُونَ بِٱلۡمَعۡرُوفِ وَيَنۡهَوۡنَ عَنِ ٱلۡمُنكَرِۚوَأُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ هُمُ ٱلۡمُفۡلِحُونَ
(And there may spring from you a nation who invite to goodness, and enjoin right conduct and forbid indecency. Such are they who are successful) (3 : 104)
The following Prophetical narration illustrates that moderation in worship is not in compatible with piety and fear of God:
“Three persons came to the house of the Prophet’s wives asking about his acts of worship. When they found out they said: Where do we stand in relation to the Prophet? God has forgiven him all his sins both the early and the late ones! One of them said : I will spend my nights in prayer. Another said: I will fast the whole year. The third said: I will never marry. When the Prophet was told about the decisions of the three persons he said: By God, none of you could be more fearful of Allah than myself. Yet I fast and break the fast; I pray part of the night and sleep the rest, and I marry. Whoever rejects my way of life does not belong to me”.
This was the middle course charted by the Prophet for his people. He has thus emphasized that moderation is the method of Islamic life. Islam forbids deviation from the natural way of life, and establishes man’s right to enjoy food, drink, dress, etc within the limits that serve the interests of both body and soul. The following verses further emphasize this point:
يَـٰبَنِىٓ ءَادَمَ خُذُواْ زِينَتَكُمۡ عِندَ كُلِّ مَسۡجِدٍ۬ وَڪُلُواْ وَٱشۡرَبُواْ وَلَا تُسۡرِفُوٓاْۚ إِنَّهُ ۥ لَا يُحِبُّ ٱلۡمُسۡرِفِينَ ( ٣١ ) قُلۡ مَنۡ حَرَّمَ زِينَةَ ٱللَّهِ ٱلَّتِىٓ أَخۡرَجَ لِعِبَادِهِۦ وَٱلطَّيِّبَـٰتِ مِنَ ٱلرِّزۡقِۚ قُلۡ هِىَ لِلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ فِى ٱلۡحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنۡيَا خَالِصَةً۬ يَوۡمَ ٱلۡقِيَـٰمَةِۗ كَذَٲلِكَ نُفَصِّلُ ٱلۡأَيَـٰتِ لِقَوۡمٍ۬ يَعۡلَمُونَ
(O Children of Adam! Look to your adornment at every place of worship, and eat and drink, but be not prodigal. Lo! He loveth not the prodigals. Say: Who hath forbidden the adornment of Allah which He hath brought forth for His bondmen, and the good things of His providing? Say: Such, on the Day of Resurrection, will be only for those who believed during the life of the world. Thus do we detail our revelations for people who have knowledge)(7: 31- 32)
It should be noted that the people should be nicely dressed when worshipping, for it they appear in their best in the presence of a king; it is all the more reason to be so in the presence of King of kings. A question may come to one’s mind that eating and drinking are two natural functions practised both man and animals, why then they should form the theme of a divine command? The answer is that the command is surely meant to lead to the limitation which followed and which was embodied in the other commands. The verse aims at forbidding excess and exaggeration in any facet of man’s life.
Further more Islam calls on people to look forward to a better standard of living, to a decent and dignified life. To attain this objective one has to work more, produce more, and exercise initiative. Another example of the moderation of Islam is charity. According to the Quran charity should not lead the donor to become destitute. The Holy Quran says:
وَلَاتَجۡعَلۡ يَدَكَ مَغۡلُولَةً إِلَىٰ عُنُقِكَ وَلَاتَبۡسُطۡهَا كُلَّ ٱلۡبَسۡطِ فَتَقۡعُدَ مَلُومً۬ا مَّحۡسُورًا
(And let not thy hand be chained to thy neck nor open it with a complete opening, lest thou sit down rebuked, denuded) (17 : 29 )
So neither be niggardly nor extravagant for then you will be overcome by grief and regret. Another verse upholding the principle of moderations, says:
وَٱلَّذِينَ إِذَآ أَنفَقُواْ لَمۡ يُسۡرِفُواْ وَلَمۡ يَقۡتُرُواْ وَڪَانَ بَيۡنَ ذَٲلِكَ قَوَامً۬ا
(And those who, when they spend, are neither prodigal nor grudging; and there is ever a firm station between the two;) (25 : 67)
Islam follows the rules of logic and human nature when it implies that one of the two, that is the husband and wife, should be the head of the family. The husband was chosen on the basis of three principles:
- Man is the protector and the maintainer of the woman because God has given him more strength and because he supports her from his means.
- Man has the larger responsibility and so should have the authority. Man has the patience to cope with difficulties that might arise in this position and the responsibilities that go with it.
- If Islam chose the woman for this status it would be against all principles which call for right person for the right situation. It would also be in opposition to the rules of nature, and human instinct.