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A Fine Line Between Moderation and Extremism

Islam is a balanced religion; the religion of middle course; and it is a fact!

However, Muslims may come in many different flavors.

Allah says in His book what means:

{And thus We have made you a medium (just) nation (ummatan wasata) that you may be the bearers of witness to the people and (that) the Apostle may be a bearer of witness to you…} (Al-Baqarah, 2:143)

Abul Aala Al-Maududi, a famous scholar who interpreted the Quran, says regarding the above verse:

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“The word “ummatan wasata” is so comprehensive in meaning that no English word can correctly convey its full meaning. It is a righteous and noble community which does not go beyond proper limits, but follows the middle course and deals out justice evenly to the nations of the world as an impartial judge, and bases all its relations with other nations on truth and justice.”

Muslims deserve this title when they follow Allah’s commandments the way shown by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who was moderate in all affairs.

Allah told us to be moderate, and the way to do this is explained to us by our Prophet (peace be upon him):

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“The religion (of Islam) is ease, and whoever makes the religion a rigor, it will overpower him. So, follow a middle course; if you can’t do this, do something near to it and give glad tidings and seek help (of Allah) at morn and at dusk and some part of night”. (Al-Bukhari)

Narrated Anas ibn Malik that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“Make things easy for the people, and do not make it difficult for them, and make them calm (with glad tidings) and do not repulse (them).” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Abdullah ibn Masoud narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:

“Shall I not inform you of whom the Fire is unlawful and he is unlawful for the Fire? Every person who is near (to people), amicable, and easy (to deal with).” (At-Thirmidhi – Hasan)

Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) reported:

Never did Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) make a choice between two things but adopting the easier one as compared to the difficult one, but his choice for the easier one was only in case it did not involve any sin, but if it involved sin he was the one who was the farthest from it amongst the people. (Sahih Muslim)

Extremism is going to either extreme; one side makes the lawful unlawful, and the other end, makes the unlawful lawful. I need to note here that Islam is not about black and white. Indeed, there are very clear matters that do not require questioning, while other issues are more ambiguous.

These uncertainties, I believe, are causing division among some Muslims while producing confusion for others.

You might be thinking: “I know where you are heading.” However, this time I just want to tackle this subject from my experience as a person who lived in different parts of the world.

Also on a daily basis, I receive questions from readers; many of which are misconceptions about interpreting Islamic concepts, Quran and Hadith. If we follow the true teachings of Islam, which are based on the Quran and the authentic traditions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), we will never go astray.

These factors made me draw some conclusions on what leads to confusion among some Muslims, which are the following:

Listening to Non-Muslim Extremists

So many Muslims waste their time reading from anti-Islamic websites. This not only confuses them but also makes them angry and frustrated; therefore, weakens their faith. My advice is to stay away from such sites since they quote Quran and Hadith out of context and draw their own biased conclusions, which are false.

We must understand that Islam cannot be taught by a non-Muslim; the same way we don’t go to a Buddhist to learn about Christianity.

Also, media plays a big role in shaping people’s opinions. It often has a negative effect on both Muslims and non-Muslims. The latter could develop a bad impression about Islam. While, Muslims could get more furious and depressed, some even to the point of being ashamed to be a Muslim!

Listening to Muslim Extremists

You might ask: ‘How to identify a Muslim extremist?’

On one hand, there is the more obvious Muslim who takes many aspects of Islam lightly such as saying: “why do I have to wear the hijab?”, “why do I have to pray five times?”, or “why Allah is going to punish me if He created me that way?”. This category is usually looked at as non-practicing Muslims but it is actually taking one extreme.

On the other hand, I have observed that if a person tells you to hate other religions and Islamic sects, is hasty in judging others, is quick in ruling about the unlawful (haram) without any Islamic qualifications, cannot cope with non-Muslims and refuses to deal with them, and often sits in the Masjid idle most of the day pretending to seek knowledge, then he has deviated from the true teachings of Islam.

This reminds me of a real story that I have experienced firsthand. A one-day-old Muslim came to me after completing the congregational prayer and asked me why Muslims have to hate such and such people? When I inquired who told him this information, I found that it was someone who had all the above qualities combined.

Islam is the most tolerant religion. In fact, you will not find in the Quran the term “Allah hates”, we rather read “Allah dislikes or doesn’t love” and yes there is a big difference. “Hate” means feeling intense or passionate dislike for someone. Allah has mercy and accepts repentance. If He hated disbelievers then He wouldn’t accept them when they turn back to Him. How would people enter Islam if we hate them?

It is a fact that Muslims are different with slightly different views on how to practice Islam; they are influenced by their respective cultures. As a moderate Muslim, I need to keep that in mind and respect their ways.

If there are corrections to be made then we need to find a wise way to reach each person at their level of intellect. It is best to ask moderate scholars to guide them and avoid arguments that will only lead to widening the gap rather than bringing us closer together. Often an extremist will judge such Muslims to sometimes calling them corrupt or even disbelievers.

I, so many times, would turn my head all of a sudden when I hear a Muslim saying such and such a thing is “Haram”. My question is when did you become a Mufti (a high ranking judge in an Islamic court), who often has comprehensive Islamic knowledge to be able to rule on different matters for different people in different situations.

It amazes me to hear someone living in the West say; ‘I don’t deal with those kafirs (disbelievers)’ and starts quoting Quranic verses out of context to prove his point. He sounds very convincing but how does he convey the message of Islam to others and how does he deal with his non-Muslim neighbors and co-workers?

He might go to the extreme of not working claiming that he is so pious that he doesn’t work for disbelievers, but freely accepts government aid.

If you find someone jobless out of laziness and you see him often sitting in the Masjid idle, know that there is definitely something wrong. I worked in the West and it was hard for me to stay jobless for more than two weeks at a time. I just wonder how these people survive. Maybe government aid but so often other sources; I will let you draw your own conclusions.

We must also be careful on properly choosing moderate scholars to listen to. Try to attend different Jumuah Khutbas at different Masjids to widen your scope and be able to choose whom you feel most comfortable with; moderation could be easily recognized.

Taking “Lawful” and “Unlawful” Lightly

Many Muslims are hasty in deciding what halal is and what haram is. Some of us are so much into making Islam a religion about does and don’ts, a religion of merely black or white that doesn’t require its followers to think. You ask the question and we pull the answer from the magic hat.

I often receive questions about trivial issues such as inquiring whether it is lawful to go to the dentist. In Islam, all matters are lawful, except what Allah and His messenger has made unlawful, which are few.

However, we must also be careful about drawing rulings because there is a general rule in Islam saying that the unlawful becomes lawful out of necessity.

So each situation is different and it is only after the person clearly explains his/her situation to a scholar that they will be able to issue a ruling related to that person’s circumstance.

The other issue is to ask about factual matters related to your own circumstance and not to someone else’s condition; it is only the concerned person who can best explain his/her situation.

Often we receive questions about fictional matters such as how is a Muslim supposed to treat a slave when Islam has already abolished slavery more than ten centuries ago, or asking about unseen matters that are only known to Allah (SWT); things that don’t help us neither in this world nor increase our faith and knowledge to better our Hereafter.

“Why do I Need the Hadith?”

There is a trend among some Muslims who reject the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) altogether. This is due to the confusion that the ahadith have classifications and it is not clear to them what is authentic and what is not.

A new comer to Islam thinks why I should read something that is unauthentic. Since I cannot differentiate between what is true and what is false, it is best to stay away from Hadith altogether.

We need to understand the importance of classifying Hadith, otherwise, anyone may claim that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said something he didn’t say. Without such classifications, Muslims would have mostly followed the doubtful.

Without the Prophetic traditions, Islamic jurisprudence would be incomplete and we wouldn’t understand many verses in the Quran. A simple example is how to pray and knowing the time range of the five daily prayers.

The True Guidance Is Within Yourself

In our time and age, we need to be careful about what Islam is and what it isn’t. There are too many factors that may lead us astray. We either need to seek authentic Islamic knowledge or ask about our religion from moderate scholars.

Islam is the religion of moderation and deviating from its middle course will only divide and confuse us; a path that displeases Allah and pleases Satan.

When you hear a doubtful Islamic ruling, always inquire from several Islamic sources. You might be thinking that this will further confuse you because of differences in opinion. However, look at it as a mercy that you are able to think for yourself and choose what is moderate by rejecting the extremes.

May Allah (SWT) guide us all to His Straight Path.