Our beloved Prophet (sa) said,
"The best of affairs are those in the middle."
What is The Middle Path
The middle path is empty of desires - swerving to the far right or left, but one founded on balance - ease (when needed) and firmness (when needed). It is acquired by studying the Qura'n, tafsir, sirah, and sitting with scholars and communities who embody its spirit.
How to Achieve Wasatiyyah (Moderation)
The first and most important thing is to realize that being guided to Islam is proof that Allah has giving you the start you need to build on moderation. By having faith you are half way there! However, you are responsible for preserving it, causing it to grow and flourish.
Milk and Moderation
For that reason, when 'Umar (ra) asked the Prophet (sa) about seeing milk in his dream, the Prophet (sa) told him it was "Islam" because like milk, Islam is pure, and just like a person, at least in those days, had to, you have to wake up early and work for milk and a person has to work for guidance - if one doesn't take care of it, it may spoil. It spoils when a person deviates by being too harsh or too easy.
So, the first step is to rely on Allah to guide you between the extremes of those who "earned punishment" and those who "went astray" by establishing the individual obligations. For that reason, you say a minimum of 17 times a day, "Guide us to the straight path." ("Us" here creates a collective responsibility. Hence, it invokes empathy -more to come on that later).
Ways to Preserve Balance (refrigerate your milk)
1. Acquisition of beneficial knowledge
2. Sitting with Scholars
3. Community relations
4. Avoid those who seek to split the community or speak ill of the scholars or workers - are overly harsh or easy on the masses.
On the last point, Imām al-Ghazzāzli said,
“If you see a person declaring others infidels and misguided, shun him and do not busy your heart or your tongue with him! Provocations in knowledge are undoubtedly from people’s nature, and the ignorant one is unable to exercise patience with them. And due to this, differences have multiplied amongst people. If knowledge was forcefully taken from the ignorant, then differences would subside.”
And Al-Hafidh al-Dhahabi [may Allah have mercy upon him] wrote,
“I heard our shaykh, Ibn Taymiyyah, d. 728 a.h, say towards the end of his life, ‘I will never declare anyone from the people of the qiblah (direction of prayer) as an infidel.’”
The Muwatta and Balance
When Imām Mālik was asked by the Caliph to write the Muwatta the Caliph requested,
"Write what brings the firmness of Ibn 'Umar (ra) and the ease of Ibn 'Abbas (ra)"
That is why the Muwatta holds such a hight status. It is a book of balance.
Balance Breeds Success
When Ibn Sina was asked why he was so proficient at medicine, he said,
"I looked at an illness, examinging its causes and potential remedies. I would strive always to find a cure that was in the middle!"
Be Easy; We Are Growing!
Today, as Western Muslim find themselves going through identification puberty - growing pains, we can expect to find folks on either the right or the left, sincerely trying to please Allah, staking a claim for their faith and community. It is important to be merciful to these people, offer advice in a sincere way and know that the subject of the advice is struggling the same.
When we understand that we are all struggling, that will create a greater sense of empathy. Allah says to the companions (ra), "You were once misguided (like them)." The goal is to please Allah and that is done by being balanced upon what the Prophet (sa) taught, uncompromising in those areas where we are ordered to submit, easy and merciful in the areas of ijtihad.
The Companions and Growth
We are similar to the companions whom the Prophet (sa) ordered to pray 'Asr at Bani Quraydha. Some prayed it before they got there, fearing they would miss its time, clinging to the implied meaning of the Prophet's words, while others waited until they arrived, praying it after Maghrib, clinging to the literal meaning of the Prophet's words.
Appreciate Where We Are
At this juncture, we are sure to make mistakes - I'm sure to make mistakes, we must be soft when it comes to ijtihadat and firm on the qat'iyaat. This was echoed by al-Qarāfī who wrote,
“When you come upon a question with two opinions, one making things easy and the other difficult, you must not issue verdicts to the masses, seeking to make things hard on them, or to the specialized (scholars and people known for their worship and piety) or the rulers, seeing to make things too easy for them. Doing so is a sin in religion, hypocrisy and a sign that the heart is void of Allah’s magnificent glory.” Quoted by al-Hattab al-Maliki Mawaib al-Jalil vol. 1 pg. 32
May Allah grant us the strength of heart to be away from irrational conservatism and irresponsible liberalism. We ask him to grant us empathy with each other (even when we correct each other firmly), knowing that families argue, but they stay family.
Hoping you all have a wonderful day (or night),