One of the biggest misconceptions that people have regarding Islam is that it is an extremist religion and promotes religious extremism. Due to this misconception, the non-Muslims refrain from knowing Islam, while the Muslims have nothing to do but to believe that their religion teaches extremism and is not tolerant of any ease in it.
With a little research, one can easily reach to the conclusion that Islam is a religion of moderation and encourages balance in every aspect of life, whether it is religious, personal, professional or social life. By reading Quran and observing, the Sunnah of Holy Prophet (PBUH) one can easily find evident examples of the moderation and ease Islam propagates.
Allah Almighty says in Quran:
“Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship.” (2:185)
From this verse of Quran, it is evident that Allah Almighty intends to make life and religion easy for us. It is we who because of lack of knowledge and not understanding the true message of Islam make things difficult for us and make them overcomplicated.
The greatest example of the moderation, easy and harmony of Islamic preaching can be seen in the form of life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). He had wives, played with children, performed religious obligations, took care of the matters of state and in all His other doings He created a balance. Therefore, if a Muslim is to look for guidance and a way of living life that is the best embodiment of the moderation propagated by Islam, then the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is what needs to be viewed and followed.
From the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
Prophet (PBUH) never encouraged extremist behavior in any aspect of life; rather He detested such an approach towards life. Prophet (PBUH) once asked one of His companion Abdullah ibn ‘Amr” R.A
“Have I heart 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)
The message could not be clearer than the one in this hadith. This hadith clearly advocates the fact that a Muslim needs to establish balance in every aspect of life because we as humans have different obligations and we have to fulfill those obligations. Let’s break down the different obligations mentioned in this hadith and try to see their implementation in the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
The first obligation identified in the hadith is the obligation we have for our body. There is no evidence from the life of Prophet (PBUH) that He indulged in extreme activities that caused the body harm, rather He encouraged taking care of the body and His support for playing sports and performing physical activities is an evident example of how He wanted Muslims to be physically fit and healthy. His commending Abdullah ibn ‘Amr R.A to create a balance between fasting and eating is an example of moderation pertaining to the physical health of the body.
The second obligation identified in the hadith is our obligation towards our eyes. The life of Prophet (PBUH) shows that although Prophet (PBUH) used to offer Tahajud prayer in the latter part of night, but He did so after waking up from sleep. Therefore, instead of staying up all night praying, Prophet (PBUH) created a balance of sleep and prayer in night, and this is what He instructed Abdullah ibn ‘Amr R.A as well. Therefore, for us Muslims things can’t get as easy as having to pray in a part of night while providing rest to the body at the same time as well.
Third and fourth obligation
The third and fourth obligation mentioned in the hadith is the rights of wives and guests. From the life of Prophet (PBUH) one cannot find a single example of His wives complaining about Him not giving time to them. Rather, He was one of the most efficient person who gave equal time to all of His wives. Moreover, it is also proven from His life that He would shorten His prayers if He had guests waiting for Him. Thus, Islam tells us to create balance in our religious, familial and social life, so that each and every right upon us is fulfilled in the best manner.
If you as an explorer of the essence of Islam want to find more examples about the message or harmony and moderation propagated in Islam, then the below ayah can serve the purpose best:
“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)
This ayah clearly explains that Allah Almighty wants us to enjoy the gifts of this life that He has created for us; however, the thing to remember is to not exceed our limits and transgress the boundaries of excess. Therefore, if we keep on enjoying the gifts of Allah in moderate manner, it is all good; it is the excessiveness, which we have to avoid. Thus, Islam in no way advocates abandoning the worldly delights in favor of what lies in the world hereafter; rather the utilization of the worldly things is necessary to keep life going.
Besides the misconception that Islam teaches extremist behavior, the other problem with the contemporary Muslims is that they preach Islam with strictness to others and are not gentle when it comes to preaching Islam. This attitude of theirs is what keeps the people interested in Islam from coming close to it and knowing the Truth. About genteel and lenience in Islam, Allah Almighty says in Quran by referring to Prophet (PBUH) in the following way:
“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)
If Prophet (PBUH) was softhearted and kind to the people when preaching religion, then who are we to be strict about it. We also need to soften our heart so that the spread of Islam could be easy and people interested in religion could find their way to truth.
In short, Islam is a religion of harmony and balance. Neither does it propagate or encourage leaving the worldly life for religion, nor does it encourage its followers to take Islam casually and forget their religious obligations. If a final verdict can be deduced from this discussion, then it will be nothing else than the fact that Islam is a religion of peace and harmony and propagate balance in every aspect of life.
May Allah Almighty guide us in understanding the true essence of Islam and open our eyes and heart to the true message that was bestowed upon us. Ameen!