The Middle Way – Commentary by Sally Jo Gilbert de Vargas

Do not deprive yourselves of the good things of life which God has made lawful to you; but do not transgress the bounds of what is right.”~ Qur’an 5:87

“One regret, dear world
that I am determined not to have
is that I did not kiss you enough.“  ~Hafiz

Islam is a path of balance, sometimes called the “Middle Way.”  There is no asceticism in Islam, and no one is asked to lead a reclusive life or to retreat from the world.  We are asked to be a friend of God, who “buys and sells in the market and marries and takes part in social interaction, and never for gets God for a single moment” (Abu Said ibn Khayr).  During the Prophet Mohammad’s lifetime, when his companions would ask him about a member of their community who seemed to be overly zealous in his devotions, the Prophet would warn the person not to go to extremes, even in worship.  “Pray at night, but not all night,” he said.  “Your family has rights over you, your body has rights over you” (Hadith). 

Similarly, the Qur’an constantly calls our attention to the signs of God that are all around us, in everyday life, that we should notice and appreciate. This includes our worldly companions, the animals and the earth itself. “Have they, then, never considered the earth – how much of every noble kind of life We have caused to grow thereon?  In this, behold, there is a message unto men, even though most of them will not believe in it.”  (Qur’an: 26:7-8) Allah often in the Qur’an swears by (or calls to witness) these signs of nature: the heavens, the earth, the moon, the sun, the day, the night, the land in which you are free to dwell, the dawn, the stars and the constellations, and even the human soul.  In other words, the created world was meant for us to appreciate and enjoy, but always within the bounds of humility and gratitude.  We are enjoined to “walk humbly upon the earth…” We are instructed, even when we spend money, “be not extravagant, and not stingy, but hold a just balance between the two extremes” (Qur’an 25:63-67).  If we can attain this life of balance, simplicity, and gratitude in all aspects of our life, we can avoid the danger of extravagance in our habits and possessions.  Instead of having to pile up possessions or seek thrills in order to feel happy, we can learn to appreciate and exult in all the beautiful aspects of creation that are around us in every moment, and we can find delight, joy and gratitude in every moment of existence.  

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