Islaam & The Battle Between Extremism and Neglect
In recent times many people who call to Islaam have started discussing the matter of moderation and extremism in Islaam. Unfortunately, many of these discussions are driven by political agendas on both sides of the dividing line, that is to say that you have those Muslims who, in their desire to be seen as integrating with the host community, will label as extremist that which they see as alien to the society they are living within. An example of that is the huge debate that erupted in 2006 in the UK regarding the wearing of the face veil (or niqaab) by Muslim women. If one studies the issue of the face veil Islamically outside of the prevalent political and cultural agenda, one would find that the face veil is at the very least recommended by the Islamic legislation, and it cannot be labelled as extreme. Yet others may even regard the growing of the beard as extreme, or praying five times a day as extreme. All of these judgements based upon modern day prevalent culture and not upon study of the Quraan or Prophetic tradition. On the other side of the dividing line, we have the extremists who will go beyond the limits of the Islamic legislation, again driven by either cultural or political agendas, so they may take the lives of individuals by murder and terrorism and attribute that to Islaam and even claim that Islaam legislates such despicable acts. Those who carried out the seventh of July tube and bus bombings in London claimed they were guided by Islaam. But in reality they were deceived by an extremist political methodology, far removed from Islaam. Other extremists may partake in what is commonly labelled in these times as honour killings of female members of their families, or force their daughters into marriage with one whom they do not wish to marry, and then they attribute this to Islaam! Nothing could be further from the truth. This article will discuss the Islamic concept of taking the balanced and middle path in religion.
So the middle and balanced way in Islaam is that a person does not trangress the limits set by Allaah, and likewise he does not fall short with regard to them. And this moderate and balanced way lies in adherence to the example of the life the Messenger of Allaah (may the peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), not going to extremes beyond following him and not falling short in following him. An example of that would be if a man was to say, I wish to stand and pray throughout every night and not sleep because prayer is the best of worship so I love to stay awake praying continually. Then this is extremism in the religion that opposes the truth. Something similar to this occurred in the time of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), when a three men came together and said, I will prayer through the night and not sleep, another one said, I will continually fast and not break the fast, and a third said, I will not get married. So the news of this discussion reached Allaahs Messenger, so he said, What is wrong with some of you that you say such things?! I fast and I break my fast, I stand in prayer a portion of the night and I sleep also and I marry women. So whoever opposes my way (the Sunnah) then he is not from me. (Reported by Al-Bukhaaree). So these people went to an extreme in the religion, so the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him, reprimanded them and corrected them, because they opposed his Sunnah (i.e. his way).
As for falling short, then it is if a person was to say, I am not in need of fulfilling the obligations that Allaah and his Messenger have placed upon me, or he states, I am not in need of carrying out superogatory acts of worship. This negligence is in opposition to the balanced middle way of Islaam and the Prophetic methodology. As for the middle, moderate and balanced path, then that is to proceed upon way of Allaahs Messenger and the way of his noble Companions.
Another example that can be mentioned here is of three men and in front of them is an open sinner. So the first states, As for me, I will not greet this faasiq (i.e. open sinner) with the salutation of peace (i.e. the salaam), I will boycott him and be distant from him and not talk to him at all!. The second sates, As for me I will accompany this sinner and give him the salaam, and I will display my pleasure and happiness in front of him and I will invite him and I will accept his invitations, and I hold him to be a pious man. The third man states, This man is a sinner, and I dislike him due to his sin and I love him due to the imaan (faith) he has. I will not boycott or abandon him unless I see that it will rectify him, and if my boycotting him will not bring about his rectification, but rather I see that it will increase him in sin, then I will not abandon him. So we say that the first man has gone beyond bounds and fallen into extremism, and the second man has fallen short and become negligent. As for the third, then he is one who is balanced.
So this is what we say regarding all the acts of worship as well as worldly dealings and social interactions, that people are either extreme, or negligent or balanced.
Yet another example is of a man who is married, so he is subservient to his wife and goes whichever way she directs him, and he does not correct her when she sins, and he does not ever encourage her with goodness and excellent behaviour. Rather she posseses his decision making, and she has authority over him. And on the other extreme there is a man who is overburdaning and arrogant and he has no concern for his wife or her feelings, he demeans her and treats her worse than an oppressed slave is treated. The third man is balanced and moderate with regard to his wife, just as Allaah has commanded him, And the women have rights over their husbands similar to those of their husbands over them in that which is good. (Quraan 2:228), and the Messenger of Allaah said, Let not a believing man hate a believing woman, if he dislikes one quality in her, then he will be pleased with another. (Reported by Imaam Muslim). So we see that the first one is negligent, the second is extreme and third is in line with the wise legislation, moderate and balanced.
From all of these examples we see that moderation and balance is decided by the teachings of the Quraan and Prophetic Sunnah. As Muslims we are obligated to believe that the legislation of the Quraan and Sunnah are just and balanced, as Allaah, the Most High, has stated, Allaah bears witness that none has the right to be worshipped except He, and the Angels and those with knowledge also bear witness. And He is established with justice, none has the right to be worshipped except Him, the All-Mighty, All- Wise. However, those who misunderstand the texts due to their ignorance or misinterprete them due to their deviated desires, they are the ones who fall in negligence or extremism.
We find modernist muslim thinkers and authors who claim to be re-interpreting Islaam for the modern age, stating that Allaahs Messenger used to encourage the people with ease and taking the paths of ease, and they quote as a proof his statement, Give good tidings and do not cause the people to flee, and make things easy and do not make things difficult. (Reported by Muslim) and the statement of Allaah, Allaah wishes for you ease and He does not wish for you hardship. (Quraan 2:185). So they utilise the likes of these texts to justify their own shortcomings. Some modernists even claim that if a religious act is not found in the Quraan, then we are not obligated to act upon it. This saying of theirs is a clear violation of Quranic text.
Let us here bring several more examples to show the middle path between extremism and negligence:
1. The beard of the Muslim male causes the people to feel intimidated, so one should remove it or trim it down. Then this statement displays negligence in enacting the commandment of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in which he said, My Lord has has commanded me to grow my beard and trim the my mustache. (Reported by At-Tabari). He also commanded the believers, Trim the mustache and grow the beard. (Bukhaari and Muslim). Growing the beard is from the natural disposition of a male and a distinguishing sign of a Muslim, as has been stated in other narrations. To oppose this command is a sinful action. So the middle way is to grow the beard, and negligence is to shave it or trim it.
2. The face veil and outer cloak worn by the Muslim female is intimidating and unnecessary, so women should not wear it. This is another statement that falls short of the balanced legislation. As for the outer cloak or Jilbaab, then the female has been commanded with it in the Quraan where Allaah sates, O Prophet! Tell the your wives and your daughters and the believing women to draw their outer garments (Jilbaabs) around the whole of their bodies. That will be better so they are known so as not to be annoyed. (Quraan 33:59). So the outer garment has been commanded by Allaah, so it is not permissible to disobey Him due to prevalent culture or tribal traditions or in the name of integration! As for the face veil, then at the very least it is recommended by the legislation. It was stated by Aisha, the wife of the Prophet, that when one of the companions approached her, I covered my face with my garment from him.(Reported by Al-Bukhaaree). She also stated that whilst at Hajj, when male riders would pass by, She would drop the garment from her head over her face. (Reported by Abu Dawood). And similarly has been related by the sister-in-law of the Prophet, Asmaa during Hajj, when she stated, We used to cover our faces from the men. (Reported Al-Haakim). So it is strange that we find Muslim community leaders claiming that there is no mention of the niqaab (face veil) in the Quraan and therefore it is not from Islaam, but merely an old desert-Arab tradition! Whereas, we find from the above narrations that the face veil was the practice of the believing women. So those Muslims who reject the legitimacy of the face veil have fallen into neglect of the religious texts, and are not to be considered as balanced, but instead we say they are negligent. What is even worse is that they call to these ignorant views.
3. If a Muslim male does not shake the hand of a female, the non-Muslims will think this demeans women, so lets take the ease and shake hands with the opposite sex. This statement is a negligent approach that falls short of the middle path. The Prophet (salallaahu alaihi wassallam) said, I do not shake the hands of women. (Reported by Ibn Maajah) And Aisha the wife of the Messenger, stated, By Allaah, the hand of Allaahs Messenger never touched another woman [other than his wives]. He used to take the pledge of allegiance of women verbally only. Shaking hands with the opposite sex is a means to temptation that may eventually lead to fornication. However, there is no harm in exchanging greetings without shaking hands, as long as alluring speech is avoided. And there is no harm in women shaking hands with immediate relatives such as their fathers, husbands and brothers. The Prophet was never disrespectful towards his female disciples, yet he never shook their hands, so this is a respectful act towards women. Most non-Muslims are very understanding once this matter is explained to them, so more Muslims should make effort in explaining this affair rather than giving in, and thereby opposing the Prophetic texts and falling short. In truth a Muslim can be a responsible member of the community, without comprimising the obligations of his religion and without breaking the laws of the host country. Indeed good, upright practising Muslims become role models of good character in communities.
Modernist thinkers and preachers deliver verdicts claiming that the religion allows for this ease wherein Allaah is disobeyed. If it was the case that that the Messenger was giving license to his Companions to disobey the clear commands of the Quraan and Prophetic Sunnah, then we would find clear examples from the Companions themselves opposing the commands contained in the texts, yet no such narrations are found in the huge body of hadeeth literature. We never find for example the Companions shaving their beards, or the women removing their hijaabs, or men shaking hands with women and other than that! The textual proofs related to ease revolve around concessions that are established also by textual evidences for example: It is stated in text that if one is not able to pray standing due to illness, or difficulty, then he prays whilst seated, if he is not able to do that, then he prays lying down; If one has no water nearby, or has an illness that prevents him from utilising water to make an ablution (wudhoo) for prayer or take a bath from sexual intercourse, then he is given the allowance to make a dry purification (tayamum) by simply striking the earth, wiping the hands and face; When one is upon a journey, then he shortens his prayer from four to two units and he may combine between some of the prayers and he may break his fast if he wishes, even if it is in the month of Ramadhaan, and so on. So these are just some examples of conessions and the removal of hardship contained within the wise, divine legislation.
You can see clearly, that the legislated ease does not entail disobedience to Allaah. In these times we find those who claim to represent the moderate Islamic viewpoint, yet in truth, they oppose the Islamic texts and speak about the Religion ignorantly, and from the most ignorant of their statements is, We do not find this ruling in the Quraan, therefore we are not obligated with it, whilst it is established that the Islamic leglistation is take from the Quraan, the Prophetic Tradition and the concensus of the Companions. The danger with these viewpoints is that small sections of muslim communities fall prey to the extremists as a backlash to these new age modernist thinkers who are negligent in implementation of the Islamic legislation. So on the other side of the spectrum we have the extremists who lurk in the shadows, waiting for their prey. They indoctrinate the youth with false doctrines that call to violence and false notions of Jihaad. So they encourage with suicide attacks and terrorist acts, that are forbidden by the Quraan and the Pure Prophetic Sunnah. We refer to our leaflet entitled, The Corruption of Terrorism & Suicide Bombing - Exposing the Perpetrators of Evil.
So in summary, the middle path lies in adhering to Quraan and the Prophetic Sunnah upon the understanding of the Companions.
Fatawa Arkaan al-Islaam of Shaikh Muhammad bin Saaleh al-Uthaimeen,
Sharh al-Mumtee of Shaikh Muhammad bin Saaleh al-Uthaimeen.
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