Saturday, 6 June 2015

:The Middle Path of Islam - Between Rejection and Extremism

The Middle Path of Islam:
Between Rejection & Extremism

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Shaykh Fadel Soliman of the Bridges Foundation was talking about Wasatiyah and first of all, he explained what is wasatiyah. He said, “Wasatiyah is the distinguishing feature of this Ummah. Wasatiyah in English can be translated to moderation. It can also be Middle Path; it can also be balance life and balance understanding.”

Talking about the importance of Wasatiyah in Islam and in the life of Muslims, Shaykh Fadel mentioned, “Wasatiyah in Islam starts from Aqidah. All through the Fiqh, all through the Islamic rulings, all through how Muslims should see his religion itself; should be also in the Wasati way.”

While explaining how Islam put emphasis on Wasatiyah or moderation, Shaykh Fadel gave example. He said, “Muslims neither see Jesus as a liar nor as God nor as an imposter but rather in the middle between the extremes. Muslims neither see celibacy as a form of righteousness nor do they accept unlimited sexual practices; but rather in the middle between the extremes. Muslims neither see religion as just spiritual communication channels with Allah or God nor do they see it just as a dry set of rules and laws for their daily activities but rather in the middle between the extremes.”

Two verses in the Bible
Shaykh Fadel told about his student life when he was confronted with confusion and came across Christian students who had questions about two verses of the Bible. He narrated the story. He said, “I am a graduate of a Catholic school. I learned in a Catholic school for 12 years and I always saw my Christian colleagues and friends wondering about two verses in the Bible; that was always their questions: which verse should we take and apply as Christians; this is their question. There was one verse that is in the Old Testament which says ‘an eye for an eye’ and ‘a tooth for a tooth’ which means they were allowed to take their revenge as long as they were wronged. And the other one can be considered the concept of forgiveness of the Jesus Christ peace be upon him. It says, ‘Turn the left cheek when they slap on the right cheek’. And they always said those two verses are contradicting. Do we take our revenge or should we forgive? And the answer was always – no. As Christians, we should forgive. This is the New Testament. The New Testament abrogates the Old Testament.”

Shaykh found answers in the Qur’an
Shaykh Fadel said this question is always troubling him too: which verse should they apply? Shaykh Fadel said, “It is not in my Book. It is in their Book. When they read it looks contradicting until I read the Qur’an and the Qur’an explains two verses for me; telling they are not contradicting. Allah the Almighty said, ‘And whosoever takes revenge after he has suffered wrong; against such person, there is no blame; which means there is no blame for someone who decides to apply eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. The next verse said, the blame is only against those who oppress people; so the blame is against the oppressor. So if someone decides to take revenge after he has suffered wrong, there is no blame on him. If someone decides to apply the verse which is in the Old Testament; an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. It is also in the Qur’an, no blame on him; the blame is on the oppressor. The third verse said, but whosoever shows patience and forgiveness this is truly recommended by Allah. But if someone decides to turn the left cheek this is recommended by Allah; so both of them are not contradicting.”

Allah loves Forgiveness
Shaykh Fadel said Allah love forgiveness but Allah does not force people to forgive. He said, “Allah says I love forgiveness. But you are allowed to take revenge. And also laws and rules in countries cannot be based on forgiveness. You cannot make law in this country like that. If someone slaps right cheek he does not turn the left cheek but call the police. He does not turn the leftt cheek. The law cannot based on that. The law has to be based on what they call Mosaic Law. An eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth is not a law. But according to this verse of the Qur’an the law has to give the space for forgiveness. So if someone decided to forgive, the law has to allow him to forgive and to release the other man.”

Moderation in the Tradition, from the
Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him)
There are also many examples from the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Shaykh Fadel mentioned about those instances where Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) corrected his companions on the matter of extremism. He said, actually there are many examples from the life of the Prophet (pbuh) which corrected extremism brought many of the companions to the middle path, to the wasatiyah path after they were about to follow an extreme  path.”

Shaykh Fadel gave the example of Abdullah ibn Amr ibn Aas. He said, “The wife of Abdullah ibn Amr ibn Aas complaining against him to the Prophet peace be upon him that Abdullah ibn Amr ibn Aas [one of the four people who were really into the Qur’an so much. He spent all night, most of his time reading the Qur’an and in a continuous state of worship] and the Prophet peace be upon him called him and he did not tell him I am proud of you. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, ‘Your family has rights on you, which means give them time, play with them.’ The Prophet used to play with the family, with the kids, with the wives. Your family has rights on you; and your body has rights on you which means give it some rest; and your guests have rights on you which means don’t stop socialising with people; you are Muslims you are socialising with people.”

Moderation in worship, fasting
Shaykh Fadel also mentioned about moderation in worship, in fasting and in daily life. Shaykh Fadel gave example. He said, “Three men went to the Prophet asking about the amount of worship that he practices and when they were told by the wives of the Prophet; they are like, O, we can do more than this; may be he is a Messenger of Allah, he does not need to worship more, but we can do much more than this. One of them said, ‘I will be celibate and I will never get married all my life for the sake of Allah.’ The other one said, ‘I will not break my fast at any day; I will fast seven days a week until I die.’ And the third one said, ‘I will never sleep at night and I will every night stand up in adoration for Allah and making Qiyam ul Lail until dawn.’ And the Prophet (peace be upon him) brought them and the Prophet did not say I am proud of you. No, he reprimanded them; like he reprimanded Abdullah ibn Amr ibn Aas.”

Shaykh Fadel also mentioned what the Prophet (peace be upon him) told these three people. The Prophet said to them, ‘Wasatiyah is an important value. He told them; look, listen to me; I fear Allah more than you do; and I am the most obedient and dutiful amongst all of you but still I fast and break it. Perform Salah and sleep at night. And I take wives. So whosoever turns away from my tradition, from my Sunnah; does not belong to me. You are not allowed to even worship extremely. Imagine this.” Shaykh Fadel mentioned.

The Prophet (pbuh) said extremist perish
Shaykh Fadel also said, Wasatiyah in itself is a value in Islam. It is a value in Islam. Those three people wanted to do good but extremely. There is nothing good in extreme. Extreme is not good; in everything; it is not good. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, ‘Beware, the extremist perish; the extremist perish; the extremist perish’; he said thrice. It is a message for us. The Prophet (pbuh) warned us from extremism; ‘It can destroy our Ummah. Extremism can destroy our Ummah.’

Wasatiyah is an important value
Shaykh Fadel also observed, “The issue is: we teach our children that self-development is an important value. Cleanliness is a good value. Truthfulness is an important value. Courage is an important value. Similarly, Wasatiyah is also an important value in itself. Being Wasatiyah is an important value and this is something we should plant in the minds and hearts of our children. The problem with Wasatiyah it needs wasatin to promote it; it means moderate people to promote moderation. If you are not moderate you cannot promote moderation yourself. This is an issue actually.”

He said, “Many of us are extreme; not necessarily extreme politically or we go to join ISIS No but extreme in our affairs. If you oppress your wife; if you oppress your husband; if you oppress someone you are extreme. This is how Allah the Almighty call in the Qur’an. He did not call it extreme he call it extravagant.

Allah describes Pharaoh extravagant
 Shaykh Fadel then mentioned about extravagant which means also extreme. He said, “Allah even describes Pharaoh as an extravagant, which means extreme; does not mean extravagant, he is spending too much. No. Indeed, Pharaoh is a tyrant and he is extravagant. It means he is extravagant, it means he is extreme in oppressing people. So this is something very important actually.”

Moderation is the spirit of this religion
Shaykh Fadel mentioned that the spirit of this religion, Islam, is moderation. He said, “Our children should see their elders living in moderation; worshipping in moderation. Allah the Almighty said, ‘I have made you a middle nation.’ This is the spirit of this religion. The spirit of the religion is to be wasati – moderate. This verse is in the Suratul Baqara.You know what’s the number of the verse. Total Baqara is 286 verses divided by two; it is the verse number 143 exactly. Exactly in the middle of the Sura al-Baqara. The challenge of each and every one of us is to be moderate/ wasati all the time. Not to go extreme. It is easy to go extreme – either to the right or to the left. But it is a challenge for every Muslim to be wasati all the time. We have to know that.”

Terrorism is the symptom, not disease
Speaking about terrorism and its connection with extremism, Shaykh Fadel said, “Terrorism is not the problem. Terrorism is a symptom of the disease; the disease is extremism. So we don’t deal with the disease; we just deal with the symptom, then we are not going anywhere. There are circumstances; there are issues; they put pressure on every one of us to make him go extreme and his challenge and her challenge is not to go extreme. Victim in the Middle East is victimized by the Middle Eastern brutal regimes.  ISIS is not at all worse than Sisi himself. He killed 2000 in six hours… This is really a pressure on the youth and we really need to find a substitute; we really need to find them away to hell.  But we should not turn our back to this problem, thinking that they will not go extreme. They will go extreme, if you don’t find them another way to help.”

Youth have identity crisis
Talking about youth and extremism, Shaykh Fadel said, “The youth have a big identity crisis. Muslim, born here, for example, from the Bangladeshi background, is neither seen by the wider society as English because of his colour; nor he really feels that he is Bangladeshi like his parent; nor his parent are allowed even by law to give him the discipline that he needs to be a good Muslim. So, there is a big identity crisis in this. So we really need to find the way our sons and daughters are here really integrated into the society like the sons and daughters of the Muhajireen who were integrated into Madinah and they did not have this identity crisis; not happened identity crisis because they lived with the role model.”

Our Role Model is Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)
While dealing with the issue of youth and extremism, Shaykh Fadel mentioned about integration and gave example of the Muhajeroun of Madinah who integrated into the new country. He said, “Our role model is Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who was an immigrant; who was dragged out of Makkah as a refugee and went to Madinah and he lived there as an immigrant. He left Makkah with tears in his eyes, saying, ‘O Makkah! Let know that you are the dearest country to my heart’. Here it is open to him to go back and live there; he did not but he stayed back in the new country which he loves so much because it gives him support. It gives him support and he integrated into this new country to such an extent that he said, ‘O Allah! Let know that I love the Ansars and had I not been immigrant I could have been one of the Ansars.  If Ansars walk anywhere I would be walking with the Ansars’”

He also mentioned, “Even in some aspects of his Makkan culture, in order to fit into the culture of the new country without compromising the religion; because religion here comes first. This is moderation; this is wasetiyah.”

Fitting into the culture of the new country
Talking about fit into the culture of the new country, Shaykh Fadel gave an example from the life of the Prophet peace be upon him. He mentioned, “Lady Ayesah was coming back from a wedding. He told her, ‘did you have a fun?’ She said, she had a fun. He told, ‘what did you singing?’ She replied, we did not sing. ‘O come on, you did not sing Makkan. You Makkan should understand that you are not in Makkah anymore. You are here in Madinah and the people of Madinah love singing and why you did not sing for them. And even subject to the song that could have been suitable for a wedding.’ The Prophet told. This is the way of changing the culture in a way that does not compromise the religion. He is the role model.”

Islamophobia is one of the forms of extremism
Speaking about Islamophobia and extremism, Shaykh Fadel said, “Islamophobia. It is one of the forms of extremism. If we want to fight extremism then we need to fight on both sides. One of the good ways of keeping the youth in the wasati path, in the middle path, is to engage them in fighting extremism; so if a young boy or a young girl is since very young age fighting extremism they will not go extreme. And one of the ways is to engage them into activities they can be fighting Islamophobia and extremism. And also one of the good things about that is that when you fight Islamophobia we are removing the fear in the wider society from the Muslim youth; so they may not be marginalised and accepted in the wider society.”

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