Sheikh Salman delivered this address – “The Muslim Community between the Extremes of Zealousness and Apathy” – during the inaugural session of the second international conference of the Global Centre for Renewal and Guidance. The conference, entitled “Guidance of Thoughts and Behaviors” was held in Mauritania’s capital city of Nouakchott from 26 to 28 March, 2008.
After acknowledging – in verse – the great services to Islam that Mauritania has provided over the centuries, he began by saying:
When we speak about moderation, we must first define moderation as a concept and pinpoint its essence. This is because there has never been any disagreement between various Islamic factions that moderation is the proper approach that should be sought. Everyone agrees that moderation is something praiseworthy. Even the Kharijites – that most extreme and fanatical of sects – claimed moderation for themselves.
The problem is in how people conceive the idea of moderation, since the principle of moderation is, in the abstract, something that everyone accepts.
This is because Allah says: “And thus We have made you a moderate nation.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 143]
The text that most strongly establishes and defines the proper concept of moderation in Islam is where the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) says: “This religion is easy. No one becomes harsh and strict in the religion without it overwhelming him. So fulfill your duties as best you can and rejoice. Rely upon the efforts of the morning and the evening and a little at night and you will reach your goal.” [Sahîh al-Bukharî]
With these words, the Prophet (peace be upon him) gives us a clear understanding of moderation. The hadîth establishes the essential principle that the religion is one of ease and facilitation. Muslims today are in great need of understanding this properly.
Moderation and facilitation do not imply that a person can follow his own predilections without regard for the dictates of the sacred texts. By contrast, moderation is intrinsic to those texts. It is embodied in Islamic teachings which are drawn from the Qur’ân and Sunnah. Being moderate, therefore, has nothing to do with following one’s base desires.
It is not possible for people to agree with one another all the time. People are not all of one heart. This is alluded to by the Prophet (peace be upon him) where he says: “So fulfill your duties as best you can.” No one should become insistent upon following a limited, personal vision in applying Islam’s rulings to himself or to others.
* * * * *Moderation should be employed when preaching to people and calling them to righteousness. Exhortations should never be taken to an excess where the listener begins to despair of attaining Allah’s forgiveness and mercy. What is desired is to give people the glad tidings that the doors of repentance and mercy are open to all.
* * * * *When we work for our faith, our loyalty in doing so must be to Allah and His Messenger. This religion is far too great for us to confine our loyalties to a specific movement or group.
Even though much of the disagreement between various Islamic organizations is in minor matters, we find too often that this disagreement tends to polarize the Muslims.
* * * * *Moderation is not a single, rigid idea. Nor is it a mere slogan to be invoked at various times. Rather, it is a methodology, a principled approach based upon the Qur’ân and Sunnah with regard to the general objectives of Islamic Law and an attitude of assuming the best about others and seeking the best way to facilitate their needs.
The opposite of moderation is extremism. There are two kinds of extremism in religion. One is zealotry and excessiveness. The other is apathy and a wanton disregard for moral values.
Either way, it is a crisis when extremism besets a nation or a civilization. This has been the case throughout history and for all societies. There can be no doubt that Islam’s message gives us best and most comprehensive way to remedy extremism and dispel it.
* * * * *The following measures can be implemented help to solve the problem of extremism in our societies:
1. Scholars should be facilitated in carrying out their efforts. They need to be given access to the media.
2. Educational and news channels need to be established that present the true image of Islam to the public.
3. There needs to be moral reform in the Muslim world.
4. Muslim societies should rectify the errors in beliefs and legal rulings that are prevalent.
5. Justice is essential. People’s rights must be ensured. Upholding people’s rights is essential to Islam. This is part of our Islamic heritage that is attested to by many examples from our history.
This task, moreover, is everyone’s responsibility. It is the responsibility of parents as much as it is the responsibility of heads of state. It is the responsibility of teachers. Everyone shares this responsibility to the extent of his or her abilities.