How is moderation applied to acts of worship?
How is moderation applied to acts of worship?
Moderation applies to all the usul [original cases] and furu’ [new cases] just like water flows through green stems and branches. Today we will discuss moderation in acts of worship because exaggeration can breed boredom while dereliction denies a person the pleasure of worship.
Anas Ibn Malik narrated that: “A group of three men came to the houses of the wives of the Prophet asking how he worshipped God. When they were informed about that, they considered their worship insufficient and said, "We cannot compare to the Prophet as his past and future sins have been forgiven!" Then one of them said, "I will offer the prayer throughout the night forever." The other said, "I will fast throughout the year and will not break my fast." The third said, "I will keep away from women and will never marry." The Messenger of God came to them and said, "Are you the same people who said such-and-such? By God! I am more submissive to God and more afraid of Him than you; yet I fast and break my fast and I sleep and marry women. So, he who does not follow my tradition in religion, is not from me (not one of my followers)” [recorded by Al-Bukhari]. This narration is consistent with Quranic injunctions exhorting moderation in acts of worship and the rejection of the opinion of those who deny this approach. Before the Quran’s revelation, there were two main approaches related to acts of worship; dereliction and exaggeration.
The first approach: Dereliction
This was the way of the Jews who relaxed their acts of worship so much so that if we look at the Torah, we will find that they left no mention of the Day of Judgment in it. All the promises it comprises are related to the life of this world which has consequently become their main and basic objective. The Quran describes this in the words: “You will find them clinging to life more eagerly than any other people…” [2: 96]. Their drifting away from worship is described in the following verse: “But then they were succeeded by generations who neglected their prayers and were driven by their own desires. They will assuredly meet with destruction” [19: 59]. God the Almighty also says: “He wishes to turn towards you in mercy, but those who follow their own passions want you to drift far away from the right path” [4: 27].
The second approach: Exaggeration
This was the approach of the Christians who invented acts of worship, and complicated matters for themselves. They invented celibacy, suppressed instincts and denied all forms of life pleasures. They took this approach to such extremes that worship became more or less a form of body torture. God says: “…But We did not prescribe monasticism for them: that was their own innovation by which they sought to please Allah. But then, they did not observe it in the way that it should have been observed. So We rewarded only those who were truly faithful, for many of them were disobedient” [57: 27]. Al-Qasimi said: “Monasticism is an exaggerated act of worship and avoiding people through isolation.” Ibn Katheer said: “They invented it when God never prescribed it for them. They chose it for themselves and they did not even abide by it.” Hence they are abhorred twofold; once for inventing things that God never prescribed for them and once for not even abiding by what they invented. The verse proves that God would never prescribe anything that places hardship on mankind.
Islam prescribes a moderate and straight path — a fair way between total submission to life and suppression of the soul, and total submission to worship and suppression of the body’s needs. On this God says: “But seek the Home of the Hereafter by means of that which Allah has bestowed on you; do not forget to take your portion in this world’” [28: 77]. Commenting on this verse, Ibn Katheer said: “Use the blessings that God has bestowed upon you (wealth and other blessings) to obey Him and get closer to Him; hence you will gain the reward of this life and the hereafter. Do not forget your portion of this life which is all the good that God has bestowed upon you — eat, drink, wear good clothes, live in a good house and get married. Your Lord has a right over you, your body has a right over you, and your family has a right over you, so give each one their due right.”
God says: “So be mindful of Allah as best as you can…” [64:16]. Ibn Katheer commented about this saying: “This means exerting your best effort.” Ibn Abu Hatem narrated that Sa’id Ibn Jabir said commenting on “Believers, fear Allah as is His due, and when death comes, be in a state of complete submission to Him" [3:102], saying: “When this verse was revealed, the Muslims at that time thought to spend their whole time in worship till their feet got swollen and their foreheads were sore. So God revealed the verse, “So be mindful of Allah as best as you can…” [64: 16], abrogating the first verse to facilitate matters for Muslims.
Clear evidence to moderation in worship can be seen in verses like: “O you who are wrapped up in your mantle, stand up to pray for much of the night. It may be half the night or a little less than that or a little more, but recite the Quran slowly and distinctly” [73: 1-4]. God the Almighty says at the end of this chapter: “Your Lord knows that you stand up praying for nearly two-thirds of the night, or one-half of it and sometimes one third of it, as do others among your followers. Allah determines the measure of night and day. He knows that you will not be able to do it, so He has turned to you in mercy. Recite, then, as much of the Quran as is easy for you…” [73: 20]. Al-Saa’dy said commenting on this latter verse: “God makes things easy for you and commands you to do what is easy for you whether much or little. So read what you know of the Quran, what is easy for you to read. That is why we are asked to pray late at night only when we are active . But if we are overcome with laziness or sleep, we should rest because praying should be performed when we are in a relaxed and comfortable state.”
And God the Almighty knows best.