I’tedal (moderation) according to the Qur’an
Zafarul Islam Islahi
I’tedal is one of the basic characteristics of Islam on which great emphasis is laid in the Qur’an and Sunnah. Etymologically, the word I’tedal is derived from Adl( justice and balance). For the same reason, I’tedal signifies giving every person/ thing what is due to him/her/it and not crossing the limits laid down for every work/thing. In fact, I’tedal is a kind of attitude, perspective and behaviour, based on moderation and balance, which is required by the Qur’an and Hadith to be adopted in every aspect of life. The Qur’an enjoins upon its followers to stand up firmly for justice (Al-Maidah 5/8) and not transgress the limits, as Allah does not like transgressors (Al-Baqarah2/190). As a matter of fact, Islam demands from its followers to undertake the path of I’tedal in all aspects of daily life including Ibadaat. The believers are required by the Qur’an and Sunnah to take care of both kinds of rights: rights of Allah and those of His servants (Huquq Allah and Huquq al-Ibad) and not to give undue emphasis to any of them. It means that they have to maintain a balance between spiritual and material life. This is quite evident from the Prophet’ (SAW) disapproval of proposals of some companions who intended to keep fasting perpetually, pray the whole night and to keep away from marriage for their entire life. The Prophet (SAW) is reported to have told them: “See me; I am more pious than you. I am more fearful of Allah than you. I pray in the night and also sleep. I keep it fast and sometimes do not keep and I have also wives.” Dismissing similar intention of another Companion, the Prophet (SAW) is reported to have told him: “Your body, your wife, your family, your guests have also their rights. For the same reason giving charity at the cost of rights of family members or crossing the limits in infaq is also not allowed. The Prophet (SAW) is reported to have dissuaded a Companion from giving his entire wealth in charity while he had some family members to look after.
This may be noted that the Qur’an strictly prohibitsIsraf (transgression with regard to eating and drinking (Araf: 7/31). But this prohibition may be correctly applied to all those things which are used by people in their daily life. In fact, the Qur’an enjoins upon its followers to be moderate even in walking and speaking or raising voice (Luqman: 31/19). In the same way, extravagance or crossing limits in spending money is not allowed in any condition, as it is the work of Shaitan/ devil (Bani Israyil:17/26-27). On the other hand, the Qur’an is also dead against bukhl (miserliness/ niggardliness or not spending money even when it is necessary or for a work which is due (Bani Israil: 17/29).Instead, it is demanded from the believers to undertake a middle path between two extremes (Israf and Bukhl) (Al- Furqan: 25/67). In fact, the Qur’an builds up a mind set among the people against theIsraf (which is opposed to the principle of I’tedal) on the ground that it is loss of one’s own resources, depriving the poor and needy of their rights and ingratitude towards divine benediction.
Other aspects of human behavior in which also moderate behavior is required include occasions of expression of sentiments, feelings of joy and grief, condition of anger, friendly and inimical relations. As a matter of fact, in all these situations people easily lose the sense of I’tedal and resort to the extreme, which ultimately results in the violation of human rights, denial of justice and harmful activities. Of all the negative sentiments, anger/rage (ghussah/ghaize) is more prone to extremism and violence. In view of the Qur’an, overcoming anger is one of the best qualities of believers and they are liked by Allah Almighty because of nurturing this quality (Aal-i- Imran: 3/133-134). This is a well- known tradition of the Prophet (SAW) that the greatest wrestler or most brave person is one who is capable of controlling his anger. In the same way, in case of achieving success, getting enormous wealth or post and position of authority, a person becomes overwhelmed with joy. If in expressing happiness one does not show restraint and moderation, he becomes arrogant and proud and indulges in activities which are distressing, humiliating and harmful for others. For the same reason, the Qur’an requires believers to control their sentiments in these situations and remain mu’tadil (moderate) in behavior.
Lastly, it is to be emphasised that the best way for ensuring I’tedal in daily life is upholding the principle of justice in every condition which is the most effective means for the protection of human rights and ensuring rights of a person/thing which is due to him/it, and no doubt this is the hall mark of I’tedal.
Prof. Islahi is a former chairman of the
Deptt. of Islamic Studies, A.M.U. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org