How much is enough? Really, how much of anything is enough? The sacrifices we make for the attainable, perishable indulgences of the dunya are astounding to say the least. The capacity to inconvenience or mistreat others for a small gain is not unimaginable. All of us have experienced a push in the wrong direction by someone vying with us for a promotion or acknowledgment.
Equally, abstinence from the joys of life and the pursuit of happiness contradicts the spirit of Islam and the letter of the Qurʾān and modality of the honored Messenger Muḥammad . To push away grace and blessings under the guise of piety is fraudulent and sinful. The refinements of the worldly life and all its splendors are a Gift from the Almighty for all humanity to enjoy, to recognize Allāh as its source and pass it on to the subsequent generations.
Sometimes, unintentionally, orators and authors provide us with tales of wondrous spiritual achievements in isolated narratives that lead the audience into the presumption that the masters of the past were beyond reproach and felt no hardship in attaining and maintaining righteousness. When you read the biographies of the noble companions of the prophet Muḥammad you find human beings struggling to attain Qurba (Nearness) to Allāh in very real terms. They struggled against desire, battled alcoholism, fought against tribalism and racism, endured the bitterness of divorce and repented from sins – major and minor.
Achieving balance and moderation has always been one of the objectives of the spiritual masters of the past and will remain so in the future.
But how can we achieve balance when the dunya beckons with its entire attainable splendor, while the Akhira is beyond our realm and seems so distant? What is to be done when what we are told will ensure our salvation seems to be spiritually un-spiritual? What if our ṣalāh does not comfort; the Qurʾān does not touch the heart? Where is one to turn when du‘ā’, with all its need and anguished complaint, seems hollow? If the seemingly virtuous deeds leave one in unfulfilled apathy, is there a recourse other than pursuing the tangible, albeit fleeting, luxury of life at the expense of the virtuously difficult path that leads to eternal comfort?
Balance, as we intend to attain in life, can be segmented into three complimentary objectives:
- In remaining reasonably steady in an overwhelming situation while traversing an unstable circumstance – Steadiness.
- In applying equal strength, deference and importance to two opposing forces so as to effectively cancel them out and produce an outcome of maintained stability – Stability.
- In knowing that what we take out is reset by what we put back in – Equality.
Islam as exemplified through the Sunnah, the way of life of the Prophet Muḥammad , seeks balance in its purest form.
“Indeed We have sent Our Messengers with clear proofs, and revealed with them the Scripture and the Balance (justice) that mankind may keep up justice…” [Surah Al-Hadid, 25]
Balance is justice, especially when it is difficult to accomplish. When the world is in shambles and our day seems like night, balance is found in justice!
Allāh equates His Divinely revealed scripture and the clear evidence of its manifest Truth with balance that maintains justice.
The governor of Khorasan, Al-Jarrah ibn `Abd Allāh, wrote to the caliph `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz, saying:
“Peace be upon you. The people of Khorasan have become rebellious. They are fit for nothing but the lash and the sword. If the Commander of the Faithful sees fit to allow me to enact such a policy, I will do so.”
`Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz responded as follows:
“I have read your letter wherein you mention that the people of Khorasan have become rebellious and are fit for nothing but the lash and the sword, and wherein you seek my permission to enact such a policy. You have lied. What they are fit for is to receive justice and their rights. Enact that among them. And peace to you too.”
“Indeed, Allāh orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.” [Surah An-Nahl, 90]
In contradiction, many who nod their heads at the above as it pertains to social justice, politics and macro scale issues, fail dismally in establishing it in their home, workplace, neighborhoods or mosques. But that is just it. Without individual attempts at justice, the overall balance is eschewed. It starts with you, with me, with our families and community.
Consider the imbalance of closed communities who refuse to acknowledge domestic violence exists in Muslim homes.
Consider the imbalance of after-school Qurʾān schools where a whack is customary for childish behavior exhibited by children during their lessons.
Consider the imbalance of the growing divorce rates amongst Muslim households.
Consider the imbalance of an outwardly religious man “legally” divorcing his spouse so that they can fraudulently claim social security payments as two separate individuals, all the while claiming to be a “religious” marriage.
Consider the imbalance of young adults finding comfort in intoxication and love on the streets.
Consider the imbalance of young adults making sense of nonsense calls to riotous anarchy in the name of the Prophet .
When the ground shifts with trial and Fitnah, the pursuit of justice in our personal dealings brings balance to our broad spectrum of life.
The Prophet declares unequivocally, “None of you truly believes until he wants for his brother what he wants for himself.” (Agreed upon) The masters of the past understood this to mean, as imām An-Nawawi states, “It is preferred to understand this in the sense of universal brotherhood, so that it includes the non-Muslim and Muslim.” The Love you have, the faith you hold, the wealth you possess, the success you earn, the happiness you feel – all and more, you wish for others to receive as you have enjoyed.
“You who believe, be steadfast in your devotion to Allāh and bear witness impartially: Do not let hatred of others lead you away from justice, but adhere to justice, for that is closer to awareness of Allāh. Be mindful of Allāh: Allāh is well aware of all that you do.” [Surah Al-Maaidah, 8]
Within all of us is the capacity to go too far, too quick, too deep, and too literal. Within all of us is the capacity to do too little, too late, too shallow and too liberal.
“O mankind, what has deceived you concerning your Lord, the Generous, Who created you, proportioned you, and balanced you?” [Surah Al-Infitar, 6-7]
Our natural inclination, fiṭrah, is balance. Excess or negligence pulls us from that straightened, upright fiṭrah. Every day of our life, in our prayer we ask Allāh to bless us with balance.
“(O Allāh) Set us on the Straight Path – Sirat al-Mustaqeem.” [Surah Al-Fatihaa, 6]
The straight path is one wherein Istiqaamah (Stability) is maintained. The road to Jannah is declaration of faith and Istiqaamah. Allāh reminds us of the consequences of the decisions we make in this worldly life and the impact they have on our eternal hereafter by inviting us to balance:
“It is Allāh who has sent down the Book in truth and [also] the balance. And what will make you perceive? Perhaps the Hour is near.” [Surah Ash-Shura, 17]
Opposing that balance produces disturbances in our life and results in loss in the akhirah (Hereafter). Allāh says:
“But those whose scales are light – those are the ones who have lost their souls, [being] in Hell, abiding eternally.” [Surah Al-Mu'minoon, 103]
Important spiritual concepts of repentance (Tawbah) and seeking protection from our mindless sins (Istighfaar) become imperative to attaining balance and remaining spiritually stable. As Muslims we find hope in Allāh's boundless mercy that outweighs and overwhelms our discretion. Nevertheless, Allāh invites us to His mercy. The door is open, but you need to step towards it.
“Except those who repent, believe, and do good deeds: God will change the evil deeds of such people into good ones. He is most forgiving, most merciful.” [Surah Al-Furqaan, 70]
Most scholars understand this to mean that if your repentance is sincere, it will be evident in your faithfulness thereafter, which will result in righteous deeds that are of a sufficient magnitude to wipe away your sinful indiscretions.
Imām al-Ghazali said, “If the person you were unjust to passes away or becomes otherwise unreachable to seek his pardon, you must increase in good deeds until you have performed an amount that you believe would be sufficient for the oppressed individual to take away from you on the Day of Judgment and that you would still have enough left over to ensure your OWN salvation.”
Balance is achieved by knowing your weaknesses and working on them and buffering against future lapses through consistent, albeit minute, acts of piety. Reformation is within grasp of the one who reaches out. We set ourselves firm on the Straight Path by returning to it as soon as we lose our way. The Prophet reports to us that Allāh declares:
“O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great at it.” [Sahih Tirmidhi]
Good and evil can never be made equal, light and dark are not the same and truth is distinguishable from falsehood.
It may seem strange but the solution to combating hate is love, tolerance and forgiveness. Muslims are taught to resist aggression with a degree lesser than what was received, not out of weakness or inability, rather due to humility and the pursuit of peace.
“Good and evil cannot be equal. [Prophet], repel evil with what is better and your enemy will become as close as an old and valued friend.” [ Surah Fussilat, 34]
Inversely, when provided comfort or favour, Muslims are ordered to respond with a degree more than they have received.
“And when you are greeted with a greeting, greet [in return] with one better than it or [at least] return it [in a like manner].” [Surah An-Nisa, 86]
The Prophet was wondrous in his implementation of receiving insult and harm and returning it with mercy and forgiveness.
History records that Fudalah ibn 'Umair, one of the chieftains of Quraish, pledged himself to assassinating the Prophet , even if it meant his own death.
During the conquest of Mecca, the Prophet began his Tawaf (circling) of the Ka'bah. Fudalah thought that in all the clamor he could conceal a poisoned dagger and approach the Prophet and none would be the wiser. As Fudalah began his approach , the Prophet stopped and turned and faced Fudalah and addressed him from a distance, “O Fudalah, what are you plotting within yourself?” Fudalah said “I am here in pursuit of righteousness.”
The Prophet continued and Fudalah began to draw closer still. Once again the Prophet asked “O Fudalah, what are you plotting within yourself?” Fudalah again said, “I am here in pursuit of righteousness.” The Prophet smiled and continued. Soon, Fudalah was in striking range, but the Prophet of Mercy struck first.
The Prophet placed his noble hand on Fudalah's chest. The heart beneath was full of hatred and evil intent. The Prophet reached out in love, forgiveness and mercy. Amongst 10,000 warriors at the conquest of Mecca, the Prophet did not order Fudalah dispatched. He didn't ask guards to bar him and keep him at bay. He acted in love and assurance.
Fudalah understood that his life had been spared and that had Muḥammad wanted him harm, it would have been ordered. He said, “When he placed his hand on my chest, there was no one in the world I hated more than he. Yet, by Allāh, by the time he lifted his hand, there was no one in the world more beloved to me than he.”
A Muslim seeks to heal rather than excise, to replenish rather than begin anew, to sow rather than wander further and further to gather.
A Muslim gives full measure and weighs all matters with fairness seeking balance. That results in good for all, as Allāh says:
“And give full measure when you measure, and weigh with an even balance. That is the best [way to produce the] best result.” [Surah Al-Isra, 35]
Spiritual development or the pursuit of Ihsan perfection is the catalyst for harmony which is balance in all that surrounds us.
The one who follows the Sunnah is a teacher by vivid example. They work hard at whatever task is at hand, all the while encouraging those around them. They simplify and resolve problems. They listen more than they speak and when they are addressed, they pay attention. Their home life in private is full of worship that is hidden from the eyes of others who would admire them if they knew. They are full of belief and are certain of their Lord.
Belief with unwavering sincerity that is directed towards earning Allāh's pleasure alone, proven through righteous deeds with purity of Heart is the way to Paradise. You and I will never earn Jannah. We cannot pray enough, fast enough or be charitable enough to EARN eternal comfort. Our deeds are a symbol of our faith in the pursuit of Allāh's Mercy, which results in Paradise.
“It is the Lord of Mercy who taught the Qurʾān. He created man and taught him to communicate. The sun and the moon follow their calculated courses; the plants and the trees submit to His designs; He has raised up the sky. He has set the balance so that you may not exceed in the balance: weigh with justice and do not fall short in the balance.” [Surah Ar-Rahman, 1 - 10]