Middle Way of Islam and of Ahl-as-Sunnah avoiding exaggeration and extremism

Middle Way of Islam and of Ahl-as-Sunnah avoiding exaggeration and extremism


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Islam is a perfect balance and a middle way between any kind of extremism, between extreme harshness and extreme laxness. Both exaggeration and negligence, too much or too little, are blameworthy in Islam.  The scholars have a saying that just as the way of Islam is the middle, balanced and just way between the extremisms of the various religions, the way of Ahl-as-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah (the People of the Prophet’s Way and the United Group) is the middle, balanced and just way between the extremisms of the various sectarian deviants.

For instance, concerning Jesus Christ peace be upon him, the Jews disbelieved in him, reviled him, and did not give him or his mother the proper respect they deserve even though he truly was a Messenger sent by Allah born by a miracle and as a sign for them, whereas the Christians went to the opposite extreme of exaggerating his status and making him into the son of God or God Himself (may Allah be exalted above their blasphemy, heresy and idolatry).

The Messenger of Allah peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, warned against both these extremisms with succinct eloquence when he said:

( لا تطروني كما أطرت النصارى ابن مريم فإنما أنا عبد فقولوا : عبد الله ورسوله )

“Do not exaggerate my praises as the Christians exaggerated the praises of Jesus the son of Mary. Verily I am only a slave, so say: “Abdullah (the slave of Allah) and His Messenger.” [Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim] Here the saying “Abdullah (the slave of Allah)” is a rebuttal against those that may elevate the status of the Prophet too high, by reminding them that he is still a human and a servant and slave to Allah the Lord, Master Sovereign and One God, whereas the saying “His Messenger” is a rebuttal against those that may degrade the Prophet below his honored status as the specially chosen Prophet and Messenger of Allah who must be loved, honored, obeyed and followed as the best model and example since he has been sent by Allah the Most High and Exalted for our benefit and as a mercy for all the worlds.

To cite another example about purification rules, the Jews have extremely harsh and complicated rules to even cut the cloth out of a dress to clean it from filth, and on the opposite extreme the Christians are so loose and lax that they have no rules of ritual cleanliness.  Islam takes the middle, sensible path between these extremes by the simple rules of purification to keep a clean healthy environment by washing with pure water to clean any dirt and filth from the body and cloths and places of worship and residence. In the example of the dietary rules, the Jewish Kosher laws are extremely harsh and difficult considering that they have hundreds of rules to remember (like the complicated rule against mixing any milk and meat products, etc.), while on the other extreme, the Christians have no dietary rules at all and eat anything and everything, even pork (pig meat), carrion (dead meat), carnivorous animals and other unhealthy foods and drinks.  Islam takes the middle and sensible path of simply prohibiting the harmful and unhealthy foods and drinks like pork, carrion and alcoholic and intoxicating beverages and substances, while allowing all wholesome food and drink. In these examples the Jews represent the extremely harsh and difficult way, and the Christians the extremely lax and loose way, with the Muslims taking the straightforward, middle, balanced, intelligent and just way.

Ahl-as-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah (the People of the Prophet’s Way and the United Group) are between the deviations of the groups and sects which stray away from the correct guidance of the Quran and the Sunnah. Islam has been maligned unjustly since non Muslims think that these innovated ways and beliefs of the deviant groups are associated with Islam, and for this reason it remains a duty to clarify the truth from falsehood, and the correct Islamic creed and practice from the errors and deviancies.

For instance Ahl-as-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah are between the excessive harshness of Khawarij who say that to sin is to disbelieve and therefore make Muslims to be disbelievers, and the excessive laxness  of the Murji`ah who say that sin doesn’t harm faith and therefore do not think Muslims can ever apostate no matter how grave their transgressions.  The people of Sunnah say that sin harms faith and yet that not all sin is disbelief, and moreover, that some great sins like shirk (idolatry) and mockery of the religion, are disbelief and can invalidate the Islam and Iman (Faith) of a Muslim.

Ahl-as-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah are between the exaggerated love of the Shia towards the Ahl al-Bait (people of the household) of the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, and the neglect of the Naasibah who do not love or respect the Ahl al-Bait. They love and respect the family of the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, yet in a moderate manner only as they deserve.

In the issues of the Names and Attributes of Allah the Exalted, the Ahl-as-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah are between the extremism of the Mushabbihah who say that Allah is just like His creation, and the “Nufat” (“Deniers”, including the Jahmiyyah and Mu’tazilah and others) who deny all or some of the Names and Attributes of Allah. Ahl-as-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah affirm what Allah and His Prophet have affirmed concerning the Names and Attributes, without denial (ta’teel), without distorting (tahreef), without saying how they are (takyeef), and without making any resemblance with the creation (tashbeeh, or tamtheel).

In the issue of free will and predestination Ahl-as-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah are between the Jabriyyah sect who deny that we humans have any will of our own and therefore say that Allah forces us to act and then is unjust to us by holding us responsible for those actions, and the Qadariyyah sect who say that humans have total free will and that Allah doesn’t control our actions or know what will happen before it happens, and therefore in effect say that there are other creators besides Allah. Ahl-as-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah are between these two extremes by saying that man has limited free will to choose between right and wrong, truth and falsehood, obedience and disobedience, and that Allah is the One and Only Creator and Master of all, the All-Knowing and All-Wise Lord God.

In the issue of the respect to the Auliyah (beloved friends and allies of Allah), many Sufis go the extreme of exaggerating their virtues even giving them traits of Rububihyah (Lordship) and Uluhiyyah (Divinity), and therefore they supplicate them making them into deities and idols. some other people go the opposite extreme by denying the truth of the confirmed reports by which they have gained their special merit as Auliyah of Allah. Ahl-as-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah are between these two extremes by saying that there are indeed some especially devout worshipers of Allah to whom Allah blesses with special blessings, but they never exaggerate their status above the station of a humble, human slave of Allah, and they strictly maintain sincere worship to Allah the one Lord God without idolatry, innovation or hypocrisy.

Allah the Almighty said:

( وَكَذَلِكَ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا لِتَكُونُوا شُهَدَاءَ عَلَى النَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ عَلَيْكُمْ شَهِيدًا)

“Thus have We made of you a Middle Ummah, that you might be witnesses over the people, and the Messenger a witness over yourselves…” [Sura Al-Baqarah (the Cow) 2:143]: The word “Wasat” can be translated as “middle” and “just” and “justly balanced,” and the meaning is to avoid all exaggerations, extravagances, extremism and injustices.

True love of the Prophet peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, is shown by obedience to his commands and following his Sunnah, as Allah said:

( قُلْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ اللَّهَ فَاتَّبِعُونِي يُحْبِبْكُمُ اللَّهُ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ )

“Say (O Muhammad to mankind): ‘If you (really) love Allaah, then follow me (i.e. accept Islamic Monotheism follow the Quraan and the Sunnah), Allaah will love you and forgive you your sins’”[Al Imraan 3:31]

Part of the guidance and Sunnah of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, is to avoid any extremism, even in worship, as it is reported :

“… أن نفرا من أصحاب صلى الله عليه وسلم سألوا أزواج النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم عن عمله في السر فقال بعضهم: لا أتزوج النساء وقال بعضهم : لا آكل اللحم وقال بعضهم : لا أنام على فراش وقال بعضهم : أصوم ولا أفطر فبلغ ذلك رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فحمد الله وأثنى عليه ثم قال : ما بال أقوام قالوا : كذا وكذا لكني أصلي وأنام وأصوم وأفطر وأتزوج النساء فمن رغب عن سنتي فليس مني “

“Some of the companions of the Prophet, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, asked the wives of the Prophet about his deeds in private (i.e. his private worships), and when they heard about it, they considered their own deeds to be insignificant.  Some said: ‘I will never marry women’, another said: ‘I will never eat meat’, another said: ‘I will never sleep on a bed’, and another said: ‘I will fast and never break fast’. When this was related to the Prophet, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, he said: ”What is the matter with some people who say such and such? I make prayer and sleep. I fast and break the fast.  And I marry women. Whoever turns away from my Sunnah (way) is not of me”. [Reported by Muslim, an-Nasa`e, Ahmad and others]

Allah the Exalted said:

قُلْ مَنْ حَرَّمَ زِينَةَ اللّهِ الَّتِيَ أَخْرَجَ لِعِبَادِهِ وَالْطَّيِّبَاتِ مِنَ الرِّزْقِ قُلْ هِي لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا

خَالِصَةً يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ كَذَلِكَ نُفَصِّلُ الآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ

“Say ‘Who has forbidden the adoration with clothes given by Allah, which He has produced for his slaves, and pure lawful (tayyibat) things.’ Say: They are, in the life of this world, for those who believe, (and) exclusively for them (believers) on the Day of Resurrection  (the disbelievers will not share them).  Thus We explain the signs in detail for people who have knowledge.” [7:32]

The general principle about worship of Allah is that we only worship Him, glorifying His name, by those acts of worship that have been specifically legislated by Him in His shari’ah (the religious law). This law is derived only from the Qur`an and Sunnah, as practiced by His Messenger and Prophet who is the perfect example of sincerity and righteousness. Only these acts of worship are acceptable to Him, and it is not allowed to initiate and innovate any other forms of worship. The general principle about our sustenance and livelihood is that, by His bounty and mercy, all forms of food that Allah has created and all acts of livelihood and endeavor are lawful (halal) to us except that which is specifically mentioned as unlawful and prohibited (haram).

Abu Salman Deya-ud-Deen Eberle

أبو ســـلمان ضياء الدين ابرلي

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