And thus we have made you a moderate nation that you will be witnesses over the nations (mankind) and the Messenger will be a witness over you (Quran 2: 143).
The key words in this verse (ayah) are “ummatan wasatan” (a moderate nation), from which the concept of wasatiyyah (moderation) is derived.
The concept is a very comprehensive and, at the same time, complex one. It perhaps most fully portrays the meaning of Islam and the role of Muslims.
In addition, it is the most widely used and abused concept. True Muslims proudly use it because they understand it, while those bent on manipulating Islam and Muslims inanely abuse it because they do not – or pretend not to – understand it.
To the latter, the idea of moderate Islam and Muslims signifies alliance with and support of the West, politically, culturally and ideologically. It also denotes religious permissiveness, which is the threshold of liberalism. The weaker Muslim a person is, the more moderate he becomes.
The Actual Meaning of ‘Ummatan Wasatan’
The actual meaning of ‘ummatan wasatan‘ is “the true, just and best nation”.
The source of this meaning is the plain message of the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad’s Sunnah, followed by authorities in the Arabic language, exegesis or tafsir (commentary) of the Quran, and theology, instead of some politicians, journalists, or just wannabes.
In Arabic, wasat means “best and most excellent”. It also means “centre” and “middle”.
For instance, the tribe of Quraysh was said to be in wasat (in the middle) in relation to other tribes. That means it was the best tribe.
Similarly, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was said to be in wasat with respect to his people. That means he was the best and most excellent of all of them.
When Allah furthermore says that the ‘Asr prayer is the best, He describes it as wusta (a variation of wasat), that is, the middle and best prayer (Al-Baqarah, 238).
The best and most just person among “the owners of the garden” the Quran also calls awsat (Al-Qalam, 28). Awsat is the superlative form of wasat.
The Reasons for Being a Moderate Nation
Muslims are a moderate (best, just and most exemplary) nation for several reasons.
All earlier nations failed in different ways to embrace en masse, meticulously practice and preserve the teachings of their prophets. Muslims are the solitary exception with regard to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the Quran.
Those nations’ subsequent religious trajectories turned out to be incongruous aberrations, and their civilizational directions failed experiments.
Muslims shun the extremities of previous nations with which they rejected their prophets and corrupted their legacies. Those extremities are ideological and practical.
Foremost were the excesses of the Jews and Christians. The former depreciated and denigrated their prophets to such an extent that they killed many of them, while the latter incorrectly venerated Jesus so much that they ended up regarding him as the Son of God.
Muslims are a moderate (middle and justly balanced) nation because they stick to the truth and its right path, without swerving into any of the potential extremities (immoderations).
Since every earlier nation failed and then adopted a wrong path – especially the Jews and Christians as the numerous and extant People of the Book – Muslims are the only hope for humanity.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the final messenger of God (the Seal of Prophets) and the Quran the final revelation of Allah to mankind. As such, Allah promised that He will be the guardian both of the Quran and the final prophet’s legacy.
Such could be one of the imports of the Prophet (peace be upon him) being sent “as a mercy to the worlds” (Al-Anbiya’, 107).
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