by: Abdolhussain Moezi
Abdolhossein Moezi is Imam and Director of The Islamic Centre of England in London

The Holy Qur'an states that the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of night and day are constant reminders for us to ponder why we are here. Likewise, the four seasons also alternate as a result of the movements of the earth, moon and the sun, giving us further food for thought.

Among the seasons, spring, which begins with the sun passing the line of the Equator, is called the season of moderation or the season of the equinox.

The lesson learned from the season of spring is very important as it teaches us to engender moderation in our views, temperament and behaviour. Just as spring is moderate in climate, neither burning hot nor biting cold, it is also a season when buds and flowers grow and the trees start to bear fruit.

Just as the moderate climate of spring causes life to flourish so too can man's existence blossom in the atmosphere of moderation; it is only in the atmosphere of equability that s/he can get ever closer to God.

Thus it is important to learn the value of moderation and temperance in the individual and social life of Muslims with reference to the Noble Qur'an.

Most people, by nature, regard immoderation and activities that lead to extreme forms of behaviour as reprehensible and unacceptable. As such we are constantly advised that we should avoid extremes in all our activities and this is something that agrees with common sense. Someone who is moderate in their behaviour is usually considered to be worthy of merit. This is because moderation is rooted in justice and justice, according to Imam Ali, is putting things in their proper place.

Therefore actions that are moderate are actions that are correct and those that are immoderate are those actions that are corrupt. The Qur'an uses the term "qasd" (to adopt a middle course) to convey the idea of moderation, just as it uses such words as "wasat" (middle), "sawaa`" (equality), and "haneef" (straight, undistorted) to convey the same meaning.

In the teachings of the Qur'an moderation is found in every situation that is proper and correct. It would suffice to quote the words of Moses in the Qur'an concerning the value and merit of moderation when he uses the term 'sawaa' in saying, "Maybe my Lord will show me the right (sawaa) way." (28: 22)

The Qur'an warns us about extremism in different aspects of faith. In this regard, the views that the Arab Christians and Jews of the time of the Prophet had about Abraham is condemned as extremism. "Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, rather he was a haneef, a Muslim, and he was not one of the polytheists." (3:67)

This statement of the Qur'an shows that the Jews and the Christians arrived at extremes regarding Abraham. One of them went to extremes in literalism and the other to extremes in seeing him from a non literalistic point of view. One was attached to the world and to a very exacting law and the other with a law that was so exceptionally lax that it could be said that it did not have a law at all. One was completely earthly and this worldly, and the other completely heavenly and other-worldly. For this reason the Qur'an says that the religion of Abraham is a religion of the middle way (haneef) and it is not one of extremes.

Islam, as the very religion of Abraham, attaches high importance to moderation and temperance; the Muslim community by virtue of the teachings of the Qur'an can be understood as the sublime society based on moderate beliefs and conduct. The Noble Qur'an explicitly and clearly describes the Islamic community as such, "Thus We have made you a middle nation (one of moderation between two extremes) so that you may be a witness to mankind and the Messenger be a witness to you." (2:143).

This sublime verse calls on Muslims to aspire to the lofty standards of moderation in all dimensions of life and to avoid all forms of immoderation and over-restraint. It can thus be said that Islam is the religion of moderation and that Muslims are the community of moderation.

Indeed we can say that the middle way is the very Straight Path (Siraat al-Mustaqeem) to which we ask God to guide us in our everyday prayers keeping us away from being among those who earn His wrath (maghdoobin), which refers to those who are immoderate, and among those who go astray (the dhaallin) which refers to those who are over restrained.

The conduct of our noble Prophet as a role model was one of moderation and temperance. The Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali(a) who walked in the footsteps of the Prophet, used to say that "We are the middle post, whoever has fallen behind should catch up with us and whoever has gone ahead of us should return back to us." He also said "The right and the left lead astray; the only path is the middle way, upon which the Book of God and the way of the Prophet remain".

Based upon what the Noble Qur'an teaches, whenever the middle way is violated and there is the tendency towards extremism such an activity falls under the term, "extravagance" (israf). The word israf and its derivates occur in the Qur'an 23 times and have a wide scope in meaning. In general terms israf means that which is opposed to the moderate values of the Qur'an including disbelief, wrongdoing, corruption, etc. It also includes every type of deviation in doctrine, morals, society, economy, etc. One expression of extremism in morals, for example, is sexual extremism as typified by the community of Lot which, according to the Qur'an, was the first community to be guilty of sexual extravagance. Concerning this, verses 80 and 81 of Surah al-A'raaf calls them people who are excessive: "And Lot, when he said to his people, 'What! Do you commit an outrage none in the world ever committed before you?! Indeed you come to men with desire instead of women! Rather you are a people of extravagance!'

Regarding extravagance in economy, otherwise known as waste, God calls the wasteful the brothers of the devils (17:27). Cases of such waste are the distribution of wealth for wrong purposes, such as disobedience, corruption, using wealth to show off or to brag, or any unwise use of wealth that departs from proper standards. This is true in all circumstances, and includes public as well as private wealth.

To summarize: ignorance, hedonism, following one's lower desires, selfishness, forgetfulness of God, thanklessness, ingratitude and many such actions are all indications of straying from the middle path and falling into deviation.

Verses 124-127 of Surah Ta Ha, inform us about the horrifying consequences of excessiveness in the Hereafter: "Whoever disregards My remembrance, his shall be a wretched life, and on the Day of Resurrection We shall raise him blind. He will say, 'My Lord! Why have you raised me blind though I used to see?' He will say, 'So it is. Our signs came to you, but you forgot them and thus you will be forgotten today.' Thus do We requite him who is excessive and does not believe in the signs of his Lord."

Originally published in islam today magazine UK, Vol. 1 No. 1 | November 2012. It has been republished here with permission.