What is concept of and reasons behind the need for a moderate Muslim Nation?
It is said that virtue lies between two extremes. Whether this idea is generally acceptable or not, the truth is usually lost between extremism and negligence. People suffer a lot of extremism and cold negligence. When Islam appeared, the Jews were known for their strong love of life and wealth, whether from lawful or unlawful means. The Christians, on the contrary, sought piety through monasticism, asceticism, and contempt of wealth. In their literature, we find, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of Allah.”
Islam, however, rejects these two ways. Wealth in Islam is a means for other things. Prophet Muḩammad (pbuh) says, “This wealth is fresh and sweet. Blessed is the wealth of a Muslim from which he gives the orphans, the poor, and wayfarers. The one who takes it unlawfully is like the one who eats but is never satisfied, and it will be a witness against him on the Day of Resurrection.” The strictness and rigidity are noticeable in the teachings of the Jews; piety is a punishment for all sins, as if the divine satisfaction is only sought through rigid duties and fabricated manifestations. On the contrary, Jesus (Allah's peace be upon him) spoke about kind hearts and weak humanity, who are in need of the divine pardon. It is said that he pardoned an adulteress and said to the Jews, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”
Islam came and refused the worship spoiled with arrogance and conceit! Repentance is made easy for all sinners. Never disclose your sin; Islam advised and promised forgiveness. It approves punishment for those who are boastful of their crimes and harm society by insisting on them! As such, it rejects arrogant obedience while showing mercy to repenting persons and encouraging humble and kind reform! Ali Ibn Abu-Tālib says, “The real jurist is one who never let people despair of the mercy of Allah or feel secure against the punishment of Allah!” The truth is that Jesus did not underestimate the crime of adultery. It is narrated that Imam Malik said, “Do not look at the sins of people as if you were Allahs. Look at your sins from the prospect of slaves. People are either afflicted or safe. You should be merciful to those afflicted and praise Allah for your safety.” Islam is a moderate religion. It commands adherence to the straight path and forewarns against deviant extremities, right or left.
Ibn Mas‘ūd (may Allah be pleased with him) was asked, “What is the straight path? He said, ‘Muḩammad stands at its center, leading to Paradise. To his right hand is a way and to the left is another way. There are men who call people passing by to deviate from the straight path. People who would walk in such ways would go into the Hell. However, those who follow the straight path would end up in Paradise.” Then Ibn Mas‘ūd read the Qur’ānic verse,
“This is My Path, a straight (one); so follow it closely and do not follow the (other) ways, or then they would make you part away from His way.” (Qur’ān, 6:153)
Extremism in religion may be a result of an error of thought or a deviant nature. It misleads away from the truth and leads to disbelief. Allah Almighty says to His Prophet:
“Say, ‘O Population of the Book, do not go beyond the bounds in your religion, (following) other than the truth, and do not (ever) follow the prejudices of a people who have already erred earlier and led many into error, and erred away from the level way.” (Qur’ān, 5:77)
There are those who exaggerate in worship and thus deviate to the right side, falling into heresy or false enthusiasm. Those who deviate to the left may be affected by negligence, which ends up with arrogance and rebellion. Sheikh Muḩammad Abdullah Dirāz said, “By the right side is meant extremism and failure. Each is deviating from the straight path. By the middle, reference is to the central point equally distant from extremes. This fact is evident in the heresies and delusions as well as in trials of misconceptions foretold in the prophetic statements about the division of Muslims into a few and sixty branches. The same is true about the theological forms of misguidance or lusts foretold as well in the reports on the lavishness or richness of this worldly life Muslims would experience and their competition for it, a case which would give rise to fierce fights among the Muslims. Plainly, all these case fall within those two extremes.”
Islam considers mediation as a virtue as regards to the affairs of religion and world-life. In the field of worship, Islam rejects exhausting efforts, and prefers permanent moderation. The Messenger of Allah (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon him) says, “Indeed for everything there is a zeal, and for every zeal there is a slackening. So if its practitioner behaves properly and moderately, then there is hope for his success. But if the fingers are pointed at him, then do not count him among the worthy.”
In the affairs of the world, Islam dislikes extravagance and squandering; it approves reasonable spending. Allah has described ‛Ibād ur-Raħmān (the worshippers of the Beneficent Allah) saying,
“(These are) the ones who, when they expend, are neither extravagant nor grudging; and between that is an upright mean.” (Qur’ān, 25: 67)
In the field of religious studies, I saw people who are so knowledgeable with transmitted and reasonable Islamic knowledge and have great competency in jurisprudence. They, however, have harsh hearts. A judge, for instance, convinced a woman who is accused of adultery to confess adultery and, therefore, sentenced her to stoning to death for such confession! I said, this is a Jewish approach. The Messenger of Allah (Allah's peace and blessings be upon him) used, mercifully, to guide the accused to escape the punishment and retract his confession. This judge, however, circumvented to punish the culprit! This is against the style of Islam. He missed another aspect of the Islamic culture and consequently his heart remained spiritually sick. Were he familiar with “the knowledge of hearts” and the emotional aspect of Islam, he would have kept the woman’s secret and forgiven her! Sadly, there is a separation in our religious studies between jurisprudence and Sufism, the case which sometimes makes some Sufis blindly follow deaf and arrogant laws.
Moderation is a virtue that evidently permeates the Islamic social and economic directives. As regards to the men-to-women relationship, for example, it rejects that a woman be confined to the house or dismissed from it! A man should not deal with her as if he was a jailer or hunter! Home is the place where the woman is responsible for the upbringing of the new generation and educating her children the teachings and traditions of religion. Home is not a prison, as some traditions in our lands mistakenly understand it to be. It is not a place for valueless accidental meeting of parents and children as found in some European families. Women play a great role in their public communities. They learn, teach, receive medical treatment, and can command and reject, buy and sell. They may participate in the army medical-services and even fight if necessary. They, moreover, should have experience in the nation’s religious and civil affairs. Unfortunately, there are those who deny women all those rights or some of them. The Western woman has excessively separated herself from home and gone away from her primary mission. If we adhere to the moderation of Islam, it would be more pleasing to Allah, the nation and the sexes together.
At the economic aspect, Islam recognizes the right of individual property, with the restrictions of ħalāl (lawful) and ħarām (unlawful) matters, ensuring the rights of the weak and unprivileged. This contributes to the welfare of the nation due to permanent incentives, and the avoidance of social disintegration resulting from the promotion of mercy to which Islam calls. Therefore, nations may escape the woes of the infidel communism and unjust capitalism. It is supposed that Muslims profoundly learn those facts from their Prophet (pbuh) and practice them. Allah will ask them about the guidance they have received: What benefit have they gained from or extended to others? Every people will be held accountable on the Day of Resurrection.
“How then will it be when We bring forth from every nation a witness and bring you to come as a witness of these?.” (Qur’ān, 4:41)
Surely, Muḩammad (pbuh) will be a witness before Allah that he has passed to them those noble teachings. Muslims will also be asked whether they have acted upon what they learnt or not. All nations are also expected to listen to and benefit from them! They are the witnesses of the nations because they are the bearers of the public message, and the callers of moderation as explained above. While Mohammed (pbuh) is a teacher for them, they are teachers for the rest of peoples of the earth! This is the meaning of the Qur’ānic verse,
“Thus We have made you a middle nation to be witnesses over humankind, and (for) the Messenger to be a witness over you.” (Qur’ān, 2:143)
It is regrettable that the nation entrusted with this task has neglected conveying the message. It, moreover, neglected acting upon the teachings of its Prophet. Today, it has sorrowfully become a blind follower of the parties of the Right or the Left, in the East and the West, and has thus forgotten all about the straight path.
 Muḩammad El-Ghazāli, “A Hundred Questions on Islam”, Al-Azhar Center for Translation (ACT), 2017, p. 92.