Although from a Muslim perspective it is the western media that is to be held responsible for the biased portrayal of Muslims, however, it is partly because of the lack of knowledge of Muslims about Islam that leads to the extremist portrayal of Muslims. Therefore, it is the distance of Muslims from the moderate aspect and preaching of Islam that causes them to be strict, rigid and extremist.
The literal meaning of word ‘Islam’ is “Peace“, therefore a religion that has such a name is natural to be more close to moderation than extremism. Muslims need to know the true preaching of Prophet (PBUH) and the message of Allah to understand that Islam is moderation and harmony in every aspect of life with no extremism or rigidness.
The lines below discuss how balance and harmony in every aspect of life is the essence of Islam and the preaching of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Islam Is Ease:
Although religion requires practice and demonstration, however, there is ease in all the requirements of Islam. It does not present a do or die rule, rather it gives ease and is flexible for a Muslim. The simplest example of it can be seen in the form of Salah. A Muslim is to offer obligatory prayers five times a day, however, if due to some unavoidable reason he or she is not able to do so, then they can offer the Qazaa Salah later when they find time. Similarly, there is a set and prescribed posture and method of offering Salah, however, if one is not able to do so, he or she can do it while sitting or even while lying. Moreover, there is also relaxation in prayer for a Muslim who is traveling to another place other than the local area. Thus, in one of the most compulsory acts of Islam there is ease, moderation and flexibility. Allah Almighty says in Quran:
“….Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship…..” (2:185)
From this ayah it is evident that in every aspect of life Allah wants the ease and facility for the people and there is nothing in which He wants distress or hardship for them. Therefore, if Islam in itself is ease and moderation, then one can naturally assume that the teaching of Islam are also the same and they are to facilitate a Muslim to the path of righteousness and not make it hard for him or her.
Although the social conduct of a Muslim is also governed by the rules laid down by Islam, however, if the life of a Muslim is to be distributed it will be so in two categories, first the life concerned with religious obligations and the other concerned with conduct in social life. Let us discuss the first one in the light of the conduct and behavior of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
For Muslims, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is the epitome of way a Muslim is to live a religious life. In all the religious obligations and rituals Muslims look forward to His personality and conduct. Sadly, due to lack of knowledge of His Sunnah, Muslims take the religious obligations more than overwhelmingly and go for excess in religious obligations, which is against what Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) preached. A hadith in this regard is as follows:
Prophet (PBUH) once asked one of His companion Abdullah ibn ‘Amr” R.A
“Have I heard right that you fast everyday and stand in prayer all night?
“Yes, O Messenger of God”
The Prophet (PBUH) said:
“Do not do that. Fast, as well as, eat and drink. Stand in prayer, as well as, sleep. This is because your body has a right upon you, your eyes have a right upon you, your wife has a right upon you, and your guest has a right upon you.” (Bukhari)
This hadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) explicitly states about moderation and balance in balancing the religious life with the worldly life. There is no denying the fact that the religious rituals such as fasting and the praying at night have great reward. The fact that this life is transitory and the afterlife is eternal can also not be denied, however, a Muslim needs to realize that there is a purpose why Allah has sent humans to this world and that is to live the worldly life in a better way and help others. The achieving of this objective is impossible if one spends all the time in religious obligations and does not pay any attention to things of this world.
From the hadith it can be inferred that the needs of human body must not be sacrificed for the sake of excessive religious rituals, similarly one does not need to disturb the social relations and worldly life for the sake of excessive prayers. One out to create a balance between the two and perform the religious rituals on the time and in the quantity and give the rest of the time to the worldly life and worldly obligations.
Like in the religious life, a Muslim is also to observe moderation and balance in the worldly life as well. A Muslim must understand that this world is not that is all, rather the afterlife is for which he or she needs to prepare in this world and that can only be done when a Muslim lives this life in the most moderate manner and takes care of others. In Quran, Allah Almighty says:
“O children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: Eat and drink but waste not by excess, for Allah loveth not the wasters. Say: ‘who hath forbidden the beautiful gifts of Allah which He hath produced for His servants and the things clean and pure (which He hath provided) for sustenance? Say: They are in the life of this world, for those who believe, (and) purely for them on the Day of Judgment. Thus do We explain the signs in detail for those who understand.” (7:31-32)
From the ayah it is clear that Allah Almighty does not forbid the use of the pleasures of this world, rather He has given these pleasures to people Himself. However, the one thing which Allah Almighty forbids is waste and excess. Both waste and excess are anti of moderation and balance, thus those who waste the resources of this world or indulge in excessive pleasures are the ones who transgress and go against the preaching of Islam. If worldly things are enjoyed in moderation then nothing is wrong with it.
The one thing in which Muslims apparently are not tolerant or moderate in their behavior is when it comes to preaching Islam. Although Islam is truth and nothing but the truth but still in the way of preaching a Muslim is to stay moderate and kind and not deal with people with rigidness and hardship. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) always preached with kindness and softness, regarding which Allah Almighty says in Quran:
“It is part of the mercy of Allah that you deal gently with them. If you were severe or hardhearted, they would have broken away from you.” (3:159)
Being hardhearted and severe represent extremism, which in the light of this ayah is against the conduct of Prophet (PBUH) and it leads to person turning away from Islam rather than turning towards it. Therefore, a Muslim needs to be kind and gentle when it comes to preaching Islam.
In a nutshell, Islam is nothing but moderation and harmony in every aspect of life. However, for that Muslims thoroughly study and learn Quran and follow the teachings of Holy Prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H which would ultimately bring the true picture of Islam in front of the entire world. It is obvious that the religious life needs to be given as importance as the worldly life and the objective of a Muslim should be to strike a balance between the religious obligations and worldly duties in order to be a successful Muslim in this world and in the world hereafter.