Ms. Rania Rajab Shaban**
Moderation (Wasaṭiyyah) is among the comprehensive and complex Quranic concepts. Yet, it is among the concepts dominating and regulating all Quranic concepts. Thus, we can deduce that the Quranic Verse of Surat Al-Baqarah (The Cow) reads,
“وكذلك جَعَلْنَاكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا لِّتَكُونُوا شُهَدَاءَ عَلَى النَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ عَلَيْكُمْ شَهِيدًا “..
“And thus we have made you a just nation that you will be witnesses over the people and the Messenger will be a witness over you….” (Al-Baqarah (The Cow): 143),
establishes the spirit of this religion, if it is precise to say so, which any follower should adopt to fulfill the role designated through this Verse. However, it is the vaguest Quranic concept, not in its essence but in the relevant approaches and studies; making it an adjective suitable for modifying any noun and a word holding different meanings seemingly with no contradiction. Thus, it faces the accusation of infirmness and deprived us from its inspirations. Perhaps, the reason of that is its complexity and comprehensiveness, as previously mentioned, leading to neglect some external connotations which are more compatible with its relevant historical contexts and the cultural, social and political characteristics prevailing these contexts.
Hence, the duty of establishing this concept requires a comparative and critical historical approach, which is the objective of this study without the claim of reaching the ultimate conclusion.
The Quranic Verse No. (143) of Surat Al-Baqarah (The Cow) is mentioned in a context tackling the shift of the Qiblah (a sacred direction for Muslims), from Bait ul Maqdis (a Mosque in Jerusalem) to the Holy Mosque (of Makkah), and the refutations of doubts raised by the Medaninian Jews around this event. The whole Chapter is dedicated to the Israelites; demonstrating their methodology in dealing with Allah’s Prophets and the real events and the characteristics of their legislation. However, reflecting on the Verse No. (143) in a comparative context is reasonably acceptable, as the Verse talks about a religion with legislation and methodology different from the preceded, as in:
“لِكُلٍّ جَعَلْنَا مِنكُمْ شِرْعَةً وَمِنْهَاجًا”
“For each one of you did We prescribe a Divine law and a (well-defined) way“,
as both of them are the roots of a nation which is definitely intended to be distinctive if it follows this Divine Law and this way.
The Arabic root وسط”” (Pronounced: Wasaṭ) is mentioned five times in the Quran: in the Verse under study and the Sayings of Allah Almighty:
“قَالَ أَوْسَطُهُمْ أَلَمْ أَقُل لَّكُمْ لَوْلَا تُسَبِّحُونَ”
“The most upright upon them said, ‘Did I not say to you, Why do you not glorify [Allah]?’ “ (Al-Qalam (The Pen): 28),
“حَافِظُوا عَلَى الصَّلَوَاتِ وَالصَّلَاةِ الْوُسْطَىٰ…”
“Perform the five obligatory prayers (in their fixed time) especially the Middle prayer. And stand before Allah with obedience.” (Al-Baqarah (The Cow): 238)
مِنْ أَوْسَطِ مَا تُطْعِمُونَ أَهْلِيكُمْ..”..”
“…from the average of that which you feed your [own] families…” (Al-Ma’edah (Table spread with food): 89)
“فَوَسَطْنَ بِهِ جَمْعًا“
“Arriving thereby in the center collectively.“ Al-‘Adiyat (The Charges): 5)
So, what does “Wasaṭ” mean?
“The middle of something which has equal poles… Wasaṭ sometimes refers to something which has two detested poles. It is used to convey that a man is the most honorable among them; referring to his high social status, as in (هذا أوسطهم حسبًا). It also refers to generosity which stands at the middle of stinginess and extravagance, so it conveys a meaning away from excessiveness and negligence. Hence, it is used to describe normality, uprightness and moral excellence, as Allah Almighty says:
“وَكَذَٰلِكَ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا…”
“And thus we have made you a just nation… “
“The most upright upon them said…”.
Sometimes, it refers to something which has a praised pole and a detested one, such as good and evil. In this case, it refers to the evil when describing a man who is deviated from the path of goodness as in (فلان وسط من الرجال). Regarding Allah’s Saying:
“حَافِظُوا عَلَى الصَّلَوَاتِ وَالصَّلاةِ الْوُسْطَى…”
“Maintain with care the [obligatory] prayers and [in particular] the middle prayer..”,
some said that it (the middle prayer) may refer to the noon prayer (Dhuhr) being at the middle of the morning. Others said that it may refer to sunset prayer (Maghrib) because the number of its units (Rak’aat) comes between two and four ….Others said that it may refer to morning prayer (Aṣ- Ṣubḥ) because it is between the night and noon prayer…Others said that it may refer to the afternoon prayer (Al-‘Aṣr), according to a Prophetic Saying and because its due time is amid the hustle and bustle of the day contrary to the time of the rest prayers….”
In addition, the word Wasaṭ (in Al-Baqarah) has several Quranic interpretations. Some said that it conveys the meaning of uprightness, while others said that it means the best as it is similar to the Saying of Allah Almighty:
“كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ…”
“You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind…” (Aal-‘Imran (Family of ‘Imran: 110)
In fact, these two opinions agreed that the most praised matter is the moderate.”
Ali As-Sallabi (a contemporary scholar) commented:
“Moderation (Wasaṭiyyah) is achieved by two things: philanthropy and median …There are principles that should be explained to determine the definition of moderation which are extravagance (Ghulu) or excessiveness, stagnation or negligence and the straight path. In fact, the straight path is the middle way between extravagance and stagnation or excessiveness and negligence and represents the philanthropy…. In addition, the straight path is the Religion of Allah which is apart from any kind of deviation…”It should be noted that in other contexts, median may convey the meanings of “equilibrium, straightness and justice.“
Axiomatically, the adjective and the modified (the just nation) are revolving in the same orbit, and both are related to the mission of witnessing. In fact, being a witnessing nation depends on being just. This means that the three concepts are connected to each other as a one integral unit. Hence, it is necessary to reflect on the meaning of Ummah (Islamic nation) and the mission of witnessing, which are also two comprehensive compound concepts, before discussing the concept of moderation.
The root “أم“ (Pronounced: Umm) is mentioned hundred and thirteen times in the Holy Quran, sixty-one of them are mentioned in the word “Ummah“. Ibn Fares stated: “The (Arabic) letters Hamzah (أ) and Meem (م) are of the same origin which is divided into four categories: the origin, referential source, community and religion; and all the four are similar. Al-Khalil stated: “Arabs used to call anything which unites elements together Ummah.”…And every tribe which is attributed to something constitutes an Ummah, and every generation is considered one Ummah. On the other hand, commenting on Allah’s saying:
“كَانَ النَّاسُ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً..”
“Mankind was a single nation…” (Al-Baqarah (The Cow): 123),
it was said that they were disbelievers, so Allah sent them Prophets with glad tidings and warnings. Others said that all people with Noah (Peace be upon him) on the Ark were believers then they disputed. Allah also says:
“إِنَّ إِبْرَاهِيمَ كَانَ أُمَّةً…”
“Abraham was a nation in himself..” (An-Nahl (The Bees): 120).
This means that he was an ideal role model and a cause of unity..“.
Thus, Ummah, according to the Quranic linguistic style, does not represent a materialistic existence of a group of people, but a human community founded on a certain moral purpose to be attributed to and depend on for maintaining its sustainability and distinctive traits.
The similar significance of the word “nation” in the Verse of Aal-‘Imran,
“…كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ“
“You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind…”
and Al-Baqarah, considering that the addresses in the two Verses are the nation of Muhammad or the Muslim nation, paved the way to the idea that moderation refers to philanthropy. Reflecting on the context of Surat Aal-‘Imran tackling the Christians and their methodology adopted in dealing with their religion, as the context has a significance which cannot be neglected, the Verse within such context reflects a comparative dimension as in the Verse of Al-Baqarah.
Regarding witnessing (Shahadah), the Arabic Root شهد”” (Pronounced: Shahad, means: to witness) is mentioned in the Quran one hundred and fifty-six times. In fact, “It is a root word which denotes presence, knowledge and declaration, and all these pillars constitute the process of witnessing.” Abu ‘Ubaidah said: “The meaning of “Allah witnesses” is that Allah has ordained; signifying the Divine Knowledge and Declaration, because the witness is the knowledgeable who declares what he knows.
Thus, witnessing requires a genuine presence and not just a mere existence. By such presence, it has a duty to fulfill. By its fulfillment, it becomes its symbol, but by putting into consideration the difference between the witness of the Creator and the creature.
Witnessing mentioned in the Verse has many interpretations. Does it refer to the witness in the Hereafter only which is ordained for other nations by declaring that their prophets conveyed the (Divine) message and fulfilled the duty entrusted to them; according to many narrations, or it includes both now and then; the earthly life and the hereafter?!
The Semantic Development of “Being Just” or Moderation
The independence of the concept of moderation did not attract the attentions in the early times, as intended by Allah Almighty,
“وَكَذَٰلِكَ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا…”
“And thus we have made you a just nation…”,
Yet, it was dealt with, like the rest of the Noble Quran, as a partial issue which is quoted to support a comprehensive issue or another partial issue. The uprightness and philanthropy of the nation are consensually concluded by reflecting on this Verse. Yet, what does “Ummah” imply? Does it refer to anyone who believes in Muhammad (ﷺ)? Does the description of uprightness refer to the whole group or certain individuals? Does “a just nation” refer to a certain generation or sect…? In fact, the scope of the concept of Ummah can be narrowed and widened, leading to different signification of moderation according to various deduction fields.
The Significance of Moderation for Scholars of Usul al-Fiqh (Fundamentalists)
Scholars of Usul al-Fiqh (Principles of Islamic jurisprudence) proved the authenticity of consensus (Ijmaa’) depending on the Verse of Al-Baqarah and stated that the moderation of Ummah is parallel to its virtue, as mentioned in the Quranic Verse:
“كُنْتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنْكَر…”
“You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong…” (Aal-‘Imran: 110),
Which proves the virtuousness of this Ummah. In this regard, Al-Borzawi, a Hanafi scholar, in his book in Usul l-Fiqh, said: “Philanthropy (of this Ummah) proves the authoritative of their consensus….While moderate means justice which is opposite to injustice. Being witnessing over people requires sound judgment and authoritativeness if it is a witness in both earthly life and the hereafter, as the Prophet (ﷺ) said:
“لا تجتمع أمتي على ضلالة”
“My nation will not unite on misguidance.”
Is this uprightness attained in the whole Ummah, or is it only in a certain generation?
The words of Al-Fakhr Ar-Razi provide an answer to this question: “It, the Verse, is a discourse delivered to all members, from its first generation till its last one, and to those who witnessed the Revelation of this Verse and those who came after them till the time of the Hour…” Then, Ar-Razi proved that uprightness and witnessing are found in every age. “If we consider that all members of the first and last generation of this Ummah are witnesses over others, it will be useless; as no one is left to be witnessed. Thus, the intended meaning, here, is the people of every era…” Therefore, the witnessing of this Ummah during the earthly life, which depends on its nature as just, means: “If the majority report something, their report shall be an evidence, and that exactly what we mean by saying that consensus is authoritative. “.
Is this uprightness designed for certain members? Ar-Razi also answered: “Allah’s Wording: “and We made you” is a collective discourse and not an individual one… Similarly, scholars said: This Verse does not indicate that it (uprightness) is embedded in all of them; but it indicates that some members will certainly hold this trait… Therefore, many scholars said: if we distinguish between a rightful person and a mistaken, the word of the right person is an irrefutable proof, while the word of the mistaken is neglected…Therefore; Allah’s Declaration of the philanthropy of the Ummah does not require a detailed declaration. This proves that this does not contradict their inclination towards minor sins and even major ones.”.
Here, both the scope of a just nation and witnessing are narrowed: “Indeed, eligibility is required for the testimony…supposedly, the upright and sufficient should be followed…” As a result, people who follow their whims are excluded from this scope and their consensus should be rejected.
That’s why fundamentalists and jurists limit the meaning of moderation to only denote the uprightness required for witnessing, while witnessing is achieved through consensus.
Within the Context of Dogmatic and Sectarian Disagreements
This Verse is used, within the context of dogmatic and sectarian disagreements, as a supportive proof in different dogmatic issues. It is also an evidence to prove the validity of Caliphship of the four Caliphs considering that the Companions (of the Prophet), being the first addressees to apply philanthropy and justice, consensually agreed that their caliphship is valid. Thus, the opinions of the opponents among “people of heresies and whims” are totally rejected. In addition, this proves the uprightness of the Companions as well.
On the other hand, others believe that the philanthropy mentioned in both Verses, of Al-Baqarah and Aal ‘Imran, refers to the infallible Imams of the Prophetic Household.
Regarding the issue of the actions of worshippers, others, depending on this Verse, believe that the worshippers’ actions are created. They said: “This Verse indicates that the uprightness and philanthropy of this Ummah depends on the Divine Will and Creation.” In this regard, Mu’tazilites commented: “The meaning of this Creation is the hidden graces which Allah knows that when He prescribed them the nation will choose the correct path in their words and deeds..”
Due to these sectarian disagreements, in which the followers of each sect and each school of thought believe that they are the only survivors and the only right group which will never be affected by those who let them down, the followers of each school of thought, axiomatically, should depend on moderation; as they are the just nation and the witnesses over others.
“Sunnah adherents (Ahlu As-Sunnah), in Islam, are like Muslims compared to the Jews and Christians; as they are moderate in the issue of the Divine Attributes compared to the people of denial and negation and the people of Anthropomorphism…They are also moderate in the issue of the Divine Actions compared to the Mu’tazilites who deny predestination (Qadar), and its opposite Jabriyyah who deny the Divine Wisdom, Mercy and Justice and rejecting Allah’s Command and Prohibition and His Reward and Punishment…In addition, they are at the middle in the issue of good and bad tidings compared to Al-Wa’idyyah and Al-Murji’ah… They are moderate in dealing with the Companions of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) compared to the extravagant and the impolite…..”.
In addition, they are qualified to be witnesses: “…Therefore, when Adherents to the Sunnah and the community (Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah) follow the true Islam without deviation their witness over the rest nation is accepted, contrary to the people of heresies and whims. The Prophet (ﷺ) said:
“يحمِلُ هذا العلمَ من كلِّ خلَفٍ عدولُه ينفونَ عنهُ تحريفَ الغالينَ وانتحالَ المبطلينَ وتأويلَ الجاهلينَ….”
“Those who are upright, in every successive generation, will preserve this knowledge; rejecting the distortions of the extremists, the plagiarisms of the fabricators and the interpretations of the ignorants…”
This mission is not limited to the Sunnah adherents only. Yet, Az-Zaidiyah, for example but not limited, believes that they are the moderates because, “the truth reached them, and the pillar of the religion of those qualified for Caliphship is rightly established, as they are apart from extravagance and negligence….”.
An Argument with People of Other Religions
This tendency was at its peak amid the war against the crusaders, yet this does not mean that such tendency had never existed before. At that time, they fought for the sake of their broken souls against those disbelieving occupiers. In his response to a letter attributed to the bishop of Sidon, Paul of Antioch, written to support Christianity, Ibn Taymiyyah said: “In addition, He made his nation (Muhammadﷺ ) the best nation created for mankind as they are the completion of seventy nations. They are the best of them, and the most honorable of them to Allah, because Allah through His Book and Messenger guided them aright on whatever they disagreed regarding the truth and made them just, upright and humane. In fact, they are moderate in their belief in monotheism, Allah’s Names and Attributes, and His Messengers, Scriptures and Religious Legislations… Thus, Muslims are moderate in legislation, as they did not deny the abrogating rule to stick to the abrogated like the Jews. They also neither alter anything of His Perfect Legislation nor innovated a legislation apart from Allah like Christians. They neither placed prophets and saints in a higher status decreed for them, like Christians, nor belittled them, like Jews. They neither attributed the creature traits, with its shortcomings and flaws like poverty, stinginess and weakness, to the Creator Almighty (Anthropomorphism), like Jews, nor attributed the Traits of Allah Almighty, who is not similar to anyone, to the creature, like Christians. They did not disdain His worship like Jews and did not associate another god in His worshipping like Christians…”
In another statement, Ibn Taymiyyah compared between the Legislation of Torah which is basically hard and the legislation of the Bible which mainly depends on easiness.
Moreover, he highlighted the characteristics qualifying the Ummah of Muhammad to carry the mission of witnessing over all nations: “….He supported his Ummah so that they could carry the burden…No doubt that the Ummah of Muhammad are the most wise, pious and the highest in their belief and strive…”. He, then, talked about the witness of Muhammad about Jesus, Peace be upon both of them, and his refutation of the Jewish lies and Christian exaggeration. Then, he tackled the witnesses of the Ummah of Muhammad over all people: “Allah made the Ummah of Muhammad witnesses over people by delivering the truth…., as an adequate witness is the upright, and not the one who exaggerates in his testimony by fraudulently changing the truth by addition or omission like the testimony of the Jews and Christians about Jesus ….” This honorable status is for all except people of heresies because they are similar to the Jews and Christians.
In conclusion, the significance of moderation, according to this tendency, is of two dimensions: Firstly, the moderation of Islamic Shariah between hardship and easiness compared to the other Divine legislations, and Secondly, the moderation of the Ummah which has special characteristics, embedded by Allah, to be qualified to carry the burden and fulfill the mission of witnessing. As previously mentioned, this perspective was rooted in a certain historical context and as a result of a methodology considering the Noble Quran a descriptive discourse rather than an instructive obligating discourse. Yet, this historical context had changed during the renaissance age, from the beginning of the nineteenth Georgian century, when there is a cultural gap between the west and the east, especially when the western cultural waves reached the eastern coasts. Then, the discourse of renewal and reformation adopted the methodology of self-criticism, the self which becomes culturally inferior to others. Consequently, affirming the special characteristics and the philanthropy of the Ummah of Muhammad became a sort of arrogance leading to inferiority to the other. This does not mean that the first tendency has totally disappeared, but it was somehow there, but was not the only in the arena.
Moderation for Advocates of Reformation and Renewal
Here, the concept of moderation gained a new dimension seeking a balance between self-criticism and other-criticism; the inherited and the foreign, to renew the religion and revive the Ummah by raising its awareness towards the factors of its existence and role. Jamal Ad-Deen Al-Afghani and Muhammad Abdo are among the most renowned figures promoting such moderation. According to Al-Afghani, renaissance cannot be achieved unless by rejecting the “inherited backwardness “for the “cultural revolution” and of the “European raid” by our cultural endeavor which is based on the Islamic identity represented in the “Islamic university”. In addition, Imam Muhammad Abdo described his reformation methodology to liberate reason from the curb of imitation, saying that it: “contradicts the two major categories in the Ummah: religious studies students and their fellows, and the modern art students and their fellows.”. He emphasized that this moderation is deduced from the Islamic spirit and methodology by returning to its first streams before the (years of) division.
Interpreting the Verse of Al-Baqarah, he commented: “…Allah granted Muslim Ummah, through its religion, two rights; the right of the soul and the right of the body…and I can claim that He gave it all humanitarian rights…as if He is addressing them saying: We made you a just nation who knows the two rights and reach the two excellences to be witnesses over people; the extravagant materialistic and the extremist spiritual people ….to witness that they deviated from the path of straightness’. Then, He added: “and the Messenger will be a witness over you” means that the Messenger (ﷺ) is the role model of moderation. Hence, this Ummah will be just by following his path and legislation….as if He is addressing them saying: You will attain the description of a just nation if you strictly follow the Messenger’s guidance and Sunnah (traditions and practices). On the other hand, if you deviate from the right path, the Messenger, himself, his religion and his Sunnah, will be an argument against you by regarding you unqualified to be his Ummah described by Allah in His Book: “You are the best nation“. Yet, your heresies will deviate you from the middle till reaching one of the two extremes…”
Here, we notice that achieving philanthropy, designed for the Ummah, is directly proportional with the degree of its effort exerted in following the Islamic moderation without mistreating the other party, who is different in religion or school of thought. This is because this grace is thanks to Islam.
That’s how moderation, which is among the characteristics of Islamic methodology, prevents the fall in the captivity of duality and its paradoxes. In this regard, Dr. Muhammad Emarah described it as a comprehensive moderation; “…its lens reflecting the rays of its light…because it rejects the unjust extravagance and false extremism and represents the simplicity, intuition and profoundness of humanitarian instinct… This comprehensive moderation does not call, contrary to the thoughts adopted by literate and sophisticated people, for passivity towards issues and dilemmas, because it represents the hardest situation in which one could not easily choose one of the two poles. It is not also the Aristotle moderation stating that virtue is a middle ground between two vices. like a midpoint, it has a symmetrical distance away from the two poles to maintain its middle position. It is a midpoint and a fixed stance and something which is different than the two poles it intersects. In fact, this is not the Islamic moderation intended. From an Islamic perspective, it is a third stance, a completely new stance. This middle position between two contradictories does not mean that it has no mutual connection with their features, divisions and elements. It is different than both but not in all aspects, as it rejects the rigidity in keeping the features of only one pole…Thus, moderation, as a third new stance, is distinguished by collecting and uniting all what is able to be collected and united, to be one system, with no contradicting and forged features, divisions and elements of opposite poles. That’s why it is a comprehensive moderation. “Avoiding any misconception that this moderation is limited to the theoretical scope only and has no impact in reality or effectiveness in the scope of application and practices, Dr. Emarah described it as a “salvation for the Islamic reformation from division and duality of paradoxes”. He proved this depending on a comparative perspective of this severe disagreement in the philosophy of Western civilization between ” materialistic people and the perfectionists, and rational people and theologians”. On the other hand, comprehensive moderation preserved the Islamic methodology from the inevitable contradiction between soul and body, the earthly world and the hereafter, religion and state, subject and object, individual and collective, reason and reality, materialism and perfectionism, objectives and means, fixed and changeable, ancient and modern, reason and revelation, independent reasoning (Ijtihad) and imitation…”. After rejecting the captivity of duality, Dr. Emarah sees that this comprehensive moderation, representing the simplicity of the humanitarian instinct, is parallel to easiness which is one of the most significant features of the Islamic methodology. He, then, quoted the Prophetic Hadiths:
“إن دين الله يسر”
“The religion (of Islam) is ease.”
“مَا خُيِّرَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ (صلى الله عليه وسلم) بَيْنَ أَمْرَيْنِ (في الإسلام) إِلاَّ اخْتَارَ أَيْسَرَهُمَا مَا لَمْ يَكُنْ إِثْمًا فَإِنْ كَانَ إِثْمًا كَانَ أَبْعَدَ النَّاسِ مِنْهُ”
Whenever Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) was given the choice of one of two matters, he would choose the easier of the two, as long as it was not sinful to do so, but if it was sinful to do so, he was the most strict to abandon it.[a]“. 
In the frame of searching for revival factors that help in performing the designed duty of this Ummah, Dr. Mona Abul Fadl sees that: “The just nation is the nation entrusted to be vicegerent on earth. This means that it is the only nation and not just a nation among other nations, because it is the Pivotal Nation. The concept of the pivotal nation includes the meaning of moderation and witnessing. In this regard, she added: “The most significant impact resulted from the concept of a just nation, of reinforcing the pivotal nation, is that it emphasizes the duty of leadership designed for the Ummah to lead all the nations.” Thus, moderation of the Ummah has some significations related to its witnessing and leadership. First, the community it represents is central, and as a result, it is a source of balance and harmony for other communities. Second, this means to have a moderate mood and avoid excessiveness and negligence. Third, the Ummah is just in the balances of its values and systems.” Then, she referred to other significations of moderation concerning geography saying: “The Islamic continent represents a connected strategic regional humanitarian expansion at the middle of the earth”.
Therefore, the mission of testimony gains a wider significance when linking it with vicegerency on earth, instead of limiting it to the dogmatic and ritualistic side of Islam. In fact, some described it with (The Cultural Testimony).
Cultural testimony means that a Muslim should: “exert his utmost effort in combating the political and social injustice; supporting the poor and the vulnerable, advocating human rights and freedoms in all its levels, rejecting self-indulgence and vice, and spreading good tidings of pleasant life and cooperating in establishing its pillars and developing its elements in the educational, political, economic, social and artistic field…”.
We can, here, discover another idea connecting between witnessing and vicegerency which is regarded as an expansion to the idea conveying that the “just nation” refers to the infallible Imams (Muslim religious leaders). For example, witnessing, for Muhammad Baqir As-Sadr, is: “The Divine interference to save human (the vicegerent) from deviation and guide him towards the goals of a rightly guided vicegerency.” As-Sadr also believes that the Holy Quran divides the witnesses into three categories, as Allah Almighty says:
“إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَا التَّوْرَاةَ فِيهَا هُدًى وَنُورٌ ۚ يَحْكُمُ بِهَا النَّبِيُّونَ الَّذِينَ أَسْلَمُوا لِلَّذِينَ هَادُوا وَالرَّبَّانِيُّونَ وَالْأَحْبَارُ بِمَا اسْتُحْفِظُوا مِن كِتَابِ اللَّهِ وَكَانُوا عَلَيْهِ شُهَدَاءَ…”
“Indeed, We sent down the Torah, in which was guidance and light. The prophets who submitted [to Allah] judged by it for the Jews, as did the rabbis and scholars by that with which they were entrusted of the Scripture of Allah, and they were witnesses thereto….” (Al-Ma’idah (The Table spread with food: 44).
According to this Verse, the three categories are prophets, rabbis and scholars. Scholars (Aḥbaar) are the jurists, while rabbis (Rabaneeyoon) represent a middle class between the prophets and the scholars which is the status of Imam.” While witnessing is represented by prophets, Imams and referential sources (jurists), As-Sadr adopted a rational method in demonstrating first the mutual cooperation between these three roles in witnessing as well as their differences, then the conditions of witnessing which are uprightness (moderation), knowledge, deep understanding of the core of the message and the current situation, helping the witness in in supervising human role as a vicegerent on earth.
As-Sadr distinguishes between vicegerency on earth and Divine Vicegerency. The latter is achieved by merging between vicegerency and witnessing altogether, which cannot be achieved except by a prophet or an infallible Imam. In case there is no qualified Imam “and if the Ummah is ruled by a tyrant and is deprived from its right in public vicegerency, the jurist will practice it in a narrow scope. On the other hand, if the nation frees itself, vicegerency will be transferred to it, due to its dependence on the pillars of Divine Vicegerency in practicing political and social leadership… Through this way, Islam, in case of decline, assigns the responsibilities of witnessing and vicegerency for the jurist and the Ummah; legislative independent reasoning and contemporary consultation..” freely quoted (A.H.).
Moderation in the Field of Islamic Jurisprudence Renewal
In this field, the signification of moderation conveys a meaning adjacent to easiness and tolerance and lift of hardship, because both of them are among the characteristics of Islamic Shariah. Tolerance, according to Ibn ‘Ashour, “is the recommended ease in matters where people tend towards sternness.” Thus, it confronts with human’s instinct which hates rigidity and hardship. According to Ibn ‘Ashour, human’s instinct “is the center of the legislative rulings”. Moderation, hence, balances between fixed and changeable in the Shariah, past and future, hereafter and earthly life, and revelation and reason. It also represents moderateness between sternness and mildness. In conclusion, truth is not limited to the most judicious. So, verdict (Fatwa) should not adopt it (the judicious) but on the easiest under the condition that it considers Shariah’s objectives and Rulings causes. Whosoever wants to follow the judicious himself is free to do so without obliging others to follow him. In fact, “Allah intends for His slaves ease“.
The advocates of this thought, including Dr. Al-Qaradawi, place themselves in the middle between those who wants to go far, away from this way till suspending Shariah by regarding it an essence not a system, and those who wants to reflect on the literal meaning of the text neglecting the Rulings causes and the Shariah’s objectives and their applicability on the ground. This does not mean that this thought represents one group.
Moderation in the Practical Lexicon of the “Political Islam”
Moderation was limited, in the practical lexicon of the political Islam current, to be the antonym of extremism and extravagance. In its discourse, it means moderateness. Because this lexicon was formed amid accusations of extremism and terrorism against Islam, the concept of moderation was added to this lexicon, from a political perspective, to refute the accusation and first free Islam from the accusation of extremism and terrorism then defend those who were described as (moderate Islamists) by considering them as the representatives of the true essence of Islam.
Through his book entitled “الصحوة الإسلامية بين الجمود والتطرف” (Islamic Awakening between Rigidity and Extremism) dedicated to refute extravagance and extremism and its advocates, moderation is tackled as an opposite side to both of them. Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi said:
“Moderation is one of the general characteristics of Islam and one of the basic milestones which Allah distinguished his Ummah with, as it is the nation of justice and moderateness that carries the mission of witnessing, during the earthly life and the hereafter, over any deviation, to the right or the left, from the middle straight path….Islamic texts calls for moderateness and warns from extremism to which Shariah refereed using several synonyms: extravagance, fakeness and stressness. Allah Almighty says:
قُلْ يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ لَا تَغْلُوا فِي دِينِكُمْ غَيْرَ الْحَقِّ وَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا أَهْوَاءَ قَوْمٍ قَدْ ضَلُّوا مِن قَبْلُ وَأَضَلُّوا كَثِيرًا وَضَلُّوا عَن سَوَاءِ السَّبِيلِ
Say, “O People of the Scripture, do not exceed limits in your religion beyond the truth and do not follow the inclinations of a people who had gone astray before and misled many and have strayed from the soundness of the way.” (Al- Ma’edah (Table Spread with Food): 77).
For this purpose, the Prophet (ﷺ) opposed any tendency towards religious extremism and forbade the action of extravagance of some of his Companions in worshipping and abstinence to the extent that they deviated from the moderateness which is an Islamic objective. In fact, he achieved a balance between the spiritual and materialistic life and harmonized between the religious and earthly life…..”
Therefore, we find those who belong to the political Islam current complain from injustice they are facing due to fusing between moderateness and extremism and considering all the Islamists as one category.
Essence of Moderation
In this regard, we can reach methodological ways to study the essence of moderation despite its intellectual connotations. Some believe it to be a third status amid two paradoxes; a new status but with no connection between them which harmonizes between its elements with no forgery or contradiction. This is what Muhammad Emarah described as the Islamic perspective of moderation. Others, under the Islamic perspective also, believe that it is not a third result out of two paradoxes, but, according to Nasr Muhammad ‘Aref, “a moderation which unites what is thought to be contradicted in a balanced and harmonized way that makes it hard to differentiate between them. For example, among the Beautiful Names of Allah Almighty are The Manifest and The Hidden, The First and The Last….etc.[b] In addition, Allah Almighty says:
“وَهُوَ الَّذِي مَرَجَ الْبَحْرَيْنِ هَٰذَا عَذْبٌ فُرَاتٌ وَهَٰذَا مِلْحٌ…”
“And it is He who has released [simultaneously] the two seas, one fresh and sweet and one salty and bitter…”.
These are tackled without discussing any contradictory parties.”
On the other hand, others believe that it is impossible for the conciliative moderation to depend on forgery (Talfiq; fusing different opinions as a twist to deduce a deviated opinion), as Nasr Hamed Abu Zaid called in his critique of the moderation of Ash-Shafe’e, if it does not result a new component which does not belong to any of the two poles. He also regards hesitation as a feature of the forged moderation. He said: “Forged thought is the thought which tries to fuse two methodologies depending on ideologies instead of a rational thinking which tries to verify the aspects of authenticity and creativity in two contradictory methodologies. It also reaches a new component which does not belong to any one of the two”.
Accordingly, we can introduce a methodological perspective of the semantic development of moderation and the potential path for such development:
- While the concept of moderation is comprehensive, it should be systematically established in a way that fits its comprehensiveness, complexity and versatility. This concept has suffered from confusion on different levels. From one side, Islamic moderation is referred to as a moderation which harmonizes between paradoxes with no forgery. Yet, moderation, intended by Allah Almighty through His Exalted Wisdom and dominant Knowledge and Power, is something which mankind cannot achieve. Thus, we should distinguish between moderation which Allah embedded in His Religion and Path and the moderation which a Muslim, with his innate nature, can achieve through his understanding and by following the Islamic methodology. If not, the result will be infirmness not moderation. Here, we can deduce the importance of the methodological study which builds the concept, especially the Quranic concepts, into levels and controls the transformation from one level to another. In fact, fusing between these levels makes it difficult to differentiate between the sense of pride towards Quran and the acceptance of its arbitration, according to the level of one’s understanding and knowledge and the historical and social background. This fusion leads to another misconception as choosing between two choices or paths is attributed to moderation as mentioned in the Verse of Al-Baqarah. In fact, there is no point in the scope of human deeds which does not have points on its right and on its left. However, everyone can prove that he is standing in the middle. Consequently, moderation becomes an adjective suitable for modifying any noun. Moderation, which is at the middle of extravagance and extremism and between negligence and indifference towards the Rights of Allah, accepts many contradictions. Moreover, moderation, implying tolerance towards others or relief towards Muslims, accepts also many interpretations that may contradict each other. Therefore, we find that many of the writings tackled moderation reflect, in reality, their political, economic, social, intellectual or jurisprudential However, everyone can prove his moderation and depend on the Verse of Al-Baqarah as a supportive evidence! Consequently, there is a misconception, a misconception which, honestly, does not affect moderation alone.
- Being complex and comprehensive, it was necessary to establish the concept of moderation as an active concept not a passive one. That’s why moderation encountered a qualitative change by transforming the meaning of moderation, as philanthropy and uprightness, according to the renewal advocates, from being a description for Muslims as an Ummah compared to the Christians and the Jews, to be a feature of the Islamic approach, which is reflected, by its characteristics, on the Ummah established by this methodology. The more it follows this methodology, the more it deserves the title of a just nation. In another words, moderation is no longer what makes us Muslims, but it is what we should be. Perhaps, these are the fruits of the school of renewal in studying the dilemma of determinism and free will in addition to its tendency towards self-criticism. This brings moderation into a new focus; as an independent concept, and even a dominant one because it includes all the Islamic Teachings and summarizes its spirit in one word. That’s how its semantic horizons are widened. As a result, the concept of witnessing is widened till approaching the concept of vicegerency on earth. Yet, this does not mean that there were methodological standards established before studying or analyzing this concept, in order to distinguish between moderation of Islam, with all its manifestations, and the meaning of the moderation of its Ummah. Yet, there is still a misconception. This explicitly appears through comparative studies. When comparing between Jews, Christians and Muslims, some recall the stances of Jews and Christians in the past, and at the same time depend on the Quranic Verses, tackling the relevant issue, to represent the Muslims’ stance (nowadays)! This is an obvious misconception: either the comparison should be set between two systems or two human communities from both an ancient and modern perspective. Such kinds of comparisons, always and forever, reach a conclusion stating an absolute preference to Muslims over the rest of nations; resulting from it an absolute preference to some of them over the rest. In addition, it contradicts the Wisdom of the Quranic Stories in their didactic impacts. The Holy Quran, through the Quranic Stories, tackles the features of the consequences deviating the previous nations from the Divine Path and demonstrates the controlling laws of these consequences. These laws are universal and are not designed for a certain nation, despite of the difference in legislations and scriptures. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) informed us about them. Thus, any comparison should regard these consequences not as inevitable but as a humanitarian influence (depends on the understanding of religion and reality) which consecutively enter a cause-effect relationship in its historical (social, economic and political) contexts. In this sense, the incipiencies end up with results and the later becomes, normally, new incipiencies to the upcoming. That’s how this consecutive sequence cannot be interrupted unless by changing the factors of the humanitarian influence; which is a preference feature for nations and which any study of the concept of moderation should not neglect. It is true that our permissible scope is the scope of interpretation; not the Revelation, as Allah has promised to preserve His Noble Book:
“إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُون”َ
“Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur’an and indeed, We will be its guardian.” (Al-Hijr (The City of Stone or The Rocky Plain): 9)
Yet, our understanding and exegeses may be affected by other writings. Thus, we follow ways similar to them; hindering us from representing the true spirit of this religion and its moderation and as a result reviving the just nation. This gap between the moderation of Islam and its representation should be covered by comparative studies.
- Despite of the development in realizing moderation, we are deeply deducing its manifestations and phenomena. For example, we say that Islam balances between the individual and society, the body and soul and the reason and Revelation…. We also talk about its moderation in theology, legislation and ethics…etc. Yet, we need a methodological understanding of moderation by going deeply into these manifestations to explain its organizing aggregates.
Translated by: Rehab Jamal Bakri***
Revised by: Prof. Neamat Mashhour****
* The Article was Published in AL-Muslim AL-Muaser Magazine. Issue 152. PP. 67- 89.
** Egyptian researcher.
[a] (a note by the translator: this Translation is from: Sunnah.com)
[b] (A note by the Translator: for more information about the Beautiful Names of Allah Almighty, please check the link below: https://huda.tv/articles/miscellaneous-topics/the-99-attributes-of-allah/
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*** Egyptian Researcher and Translator.
**** Professor of Islamic Economics and Islamic Finance. Faculty of Commerce, Al-Azhar University.