Moral Teachings of Islam- Moderation & Generosity

Host:’ Could you shed some light on moderation as a moral virtue in Islam?

Jamal Badawi:

The issue of moderation as a moral virtue reflects the approach that Islam takes towards life.’ This approach tries to inculcate a sense of balance in the heart and mind of the believer.’ Islam condemns and discourages excessive materialism but it also rejects monasticism or seclusion from society.

To start with the Quran regards excessive materialism an animal like behavior.’ Fore example in (47:12) it says that ‘While those who reject Allah will enjoy (this world) and eat as cattle eat; and the Fire will be their abode.” In other words a person who rejects God and just engages in excessive pleasure does not have the status of a human.

We have also seen in the Quran where it says to seek the pleasure of God but don’t forget your share of this life.’ There is a beautiful verse in the Quran in (2:201) that the Prophet (PBUH) used to repeat in supplication after the prayer ‘Our Lord! Give us good in this world and good in the Hereafter, and defend us from the torment of the Fire!” This verse combines between moderation and benefit in both lives.’ The ideal situation in Islam is neither deprivation or excessive materialism but moderation and balance.

Host:’ What defines excess and what forms do they take?

Jamal Badawi:

What determines what is excessive and what is reasonable is partly determined by the customs and by the changes in time and place.’ There are some very clear cases for example a person eating five chickens for a snack.’ There are many grey areas when it comes to specifics.’ In some countries a car is a luxury in other places it is a basic necessity for life.

Moderation as defined in Islamic law is for those things that are permissible, wholesome and pure.’ Excess can manifest itself in different ways such as excessive eating.’ The Prophet said that the worst container to fill is one’s stomach (relating to the various health problems overeating causes).’ The Quran also says to eat and drink but not to be wasteful or excessive because God doesn’t like those who are wasteful.’ It could be excessiveness in matters of clothing; some people are enslaved by fashion (billions of dollars are made by the fashion industry) which plays people.’ Of course I am not saying that one should not dress gracefully.’ Indeed one person came to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as narrated in Al Nassai and did not have nice clothes on so the Prophet asked him if he had wealth and the man said he did, so the Prophet said ‘God would like to see the effect of His blessings on you.” It is important to dress nicely but as long as we stay away from obsession and excessiveness.

Excessiveness also refers to over all adornment whether in homes such as expensive paintings (value could be used better for a more constructive purpose)or excess in make up etc.’ This is why the prophet said it is prohibited for the Muslim to eat from something made of solid gold or silver because it reflects undue luxury that is not desirable.’ There are other manifestations as some people are workaholics or obsessed with sports etc.’ Any excess is not regarded in Islam as a commendable attitude.

Host:’ What kind of attitude is inculcated in an individual who practices moderation and avoids excess?

Jamal Badawi

First, Islam teaches its followers to practice moderation in order to create a sense of balance and equilibrium in the life of the individual.’ This balances control and deprivation so that there is control without deprivation.’ A person has joy without excess, grace without pride and humility without humiliation.’ Moderation is an overall attitude of balance which is one of the basic characteristics of Islamic teachings.

Second, in order to go through life with its trials and tribulations people need to have the solid ability to resist and stand in the face of these troubles.’ Islam teaches a person to practice Jihad which means to struggle in the path of God and to fight evil on all levels.’ These are duties that can not be achieved by people who are so obsessed with personal pleasure.’ Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) warned against excessive luxury.’ He addressed the people 1400 years and said ‘I am not afraid for you from poverty what I am really afraid of is that the world will open for you and you will have lots of wealth and provisions and that you start competing in it and that it would destroy you as it did people before you!” We can see now in the actions of some who claim to be Muslims how true that prophesy was.’ Indeed in an even more explicit prophesy of the Prophet as narrated in Al Tabarani he said ‘In the later days there will be some of my followers who will eat all kinds of food, drink all kinds of drinks, wear all kinds of clothes and speak with pride and vanity: these are the worst of people.” We see the manifestation of this today as there are some who claim to be Muslim yet they squander money on over luxurious things which is not the attitude of moderation that Islam teaches.

In addition to this moderation allows people to share with others and to show concern for others.’ If one is so obsesses with achieving the maximum pleasure (hedonistic attitude) one would have nothing left to help the poor and needy.

Host:’ How does the Quran depict generosity as a moral virtue?

Jamal Badawi

To start with the Quran indicates that the property and possession that we have is not absolute, as God alone is the ultimate and only owner of the universe and what it contains.’ This means that whatever God has blessed us with whether it is property, resources, mental, intellectual, spiritual, physical or otherwise is a trust from God.’ Thus we can only dispose of this trust at the will of God.’ When the Quran addresses the obligation to take care of the poor and needy it refers to it as their right as found in the Quran in (17:26) ‘And render to the kindred their due rights, as (also) to those in want, and to the wayfarer: But squander not (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift.” When people are generous towards those who are needy it teaches one to be less selfish.’ Of course God has created us with a love for ourselves as we would not be able to survive without it but sometimes it goes too far.’ One of the basic morals in Islam is to control excessive self love as found in the Quran in (59:9) ‘But those who before them, had homes (in Medina) and had adopted the Faith,- show their affection to such as came to them for refuge, and entertain no desire in their hearts for things given to the (latter), but give them preference over themselves, even though poverty was their (own lot).” This verse came as a commentary on a story of a person who entered the mosque and needed someone to host him for a couple of days, so one of the companions of the Prophet offered to do this.’ He took him to his home even though he did not have much food (only enough for his and his wife’s supper).’ He asked his wife to turn off the light and put the food so his guest would not see that he was not eating and feel embarrassed.’ The host and his wife went to sleep hungry.’ Of course one can not expect everybody to act in this noble spirit but it shows the attitude of concern and helpfulness towards those in need.

This also relates to the topic of mercy which is not just a feeling of pity but an act.’ Generosity does not necessarily mean giving money away.’ The Prophet (PBUH) once said that ‘A good word and a cheerful face is a charity towards one’s brother.” This doesn’t mean that one is to only be generous with the poor and needy.’ One of the sayings of the Prophet is that whomever believes in God and the hereafter should be hospitable or generous to his guest regardless of his status or financial situation.

Host:’ Are there some forces that might help someone be less-selfish or more generous?

Jamal Badawi:

First, the sense of trusteeship instills responsibility which allows one to dispose of their property the way God wills.’ Second, we must remember that whatever we poses in this life is going to vanish and only the things that we do for charity (out of love for God and fellow humans) is what will remain in our credit.’ A verse that refers to this is found in (16:96) ‘What is with you must vanish: what is with Allah will endure.’

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) indicated that after all even though we are always obsessed with increasing our wealth and position we take nothing of it with us when we depart from our life on earth to our eternal life.’ Fore example in one saying as narrated in Muslim he says the servant of God keeps saying ‘my money’ or ‘my possessions’ and in facts he has non of those possessions except for three: what he eats, what he wears till it is worn out and what he pays in charity which remains in his credit.’ From this we see that the first two, once they are used, are gone and the only things we will take with us to the after life are the acts of kindness.’ In Bukhari the Prophet once asked ‘Who among you loves the property of their heir more than their own?” They replied that they love our property first.’ He replied if you don’t try to put something that will be in your credit in the hereafter then in fact you like your heir, because you will be leaving everything to him.’ This does not mean that one should not leave anything for his heirs but one should always do something that will benefit them in the hereafter.

In Tirmithi there is a noble example of the Prophet (PBUH) once when he had sheep (rare occurrence) to slaughter in his house hold, and his wife Aisha gave almost all meat to the poor and needy except for the shoulder.’ When the Prophet came back and asked if anything was left of the lamb, she replied that it was all gone except for the shoulder.’ He replied ‘No, only the shoulder is gone and all the rest remains.’

We should always remember that Satan always tries to inspire us to move away from the obedience of God.’ One of the techniques used is to tell one that if the are charitable their property will be depleted and that one will be poor.’ For example in the Quran in (2:268) ‘The Evil one threatens you with poverty and bids you to conduct unseemly.’ Allah promiseth you His forgiveness and bounties.’ And Allah careth for all and He knoweth all things.” There is also a Hadith by the Prophet in which he said that the property of a believer would not be reduced because of charity.’ In the Quran it says whatever you spend in the path of God will be replaced in this life and one’s possessions will be blessed.

Host:’ Is it possible for one to be excessively generous?

Jamal Badawi:

Yes, it is quite possible.’ There are some parameters that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) established to help us avoid going to one extreme or the other.’ Of course there are some acts of extreme nobility, like we have mentioned, which can be inspiring to all of us.’ As a basic rule one should not give in charity all that he owns.’ This actually happened in the time of the Prophet when someone came to him with a piece of gold (size of an egg which was quite valuable) and told him that it was all he owned and that he wanted to give it all to the needy.’ The Prophet (PBUH) turned his face away because he did not want to accept it, so that man came from the Prophet’s left side and kept insisting that the Prophet take it.’ So the Prophet took it and then gave it back to him again.’ He says one of you brings all he possesses in charity then he goes and begs people for help!’ The best kind of charity is to give charity after you have satisfied your needs and are self sufficient.

Of course one trusts in God but at the same time there is no sense in giving away all that one has only to end up needing the charity of others.’ Another parameter that is established also is that if one really wants to charitable it starts at home.’ It starts at home either by obligation as one must take care of one’s family, children, parents as well as other relatives also.’ Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was very explicit in a Hadith narrated in Al Tabarani where he said ‘God will not except charity from a person who has needy relatives.’

There is a story about a person who came to the Prophet and wanted to donate all of his money for charity and the Prophet said ‘No.” Then the man said that he wanted to donate half of it and the Prophet said ‘No.” Then the man said that he wanted to donate one third of it and then the Prophet agreed but said that even one third is too much.’ Then the Prophet added that it was better for him to heirs in a comfortable self sufficient position than leaving them to beg.’ One can give charity in order to have credit but not while forgetting his/her obligations.

Host:’ Can you sum up the series of The Moral Teachings of Islam by giving an overview of the topics that we have coved?

Jamal Badawi:

This is the sixth series in our program which was composed of thirty programs which touched on three basic areas.’ In the first six programs we addressed the general questions related to the moral theory and what determines morality.’ Some of the questions were: what is supreme good, how to get information about ultimate good, what kind of sanctions are put forth for doing good and what motivates people to do good.’ We discussed these topics from the secular point of view, from religious point of view and then we looked at it from the Islamic point of view which has its own unique structure and theory.’ We also emphasized other aspects such as human nature, how a person relates to the universe and the main characteristics of the Islamic moral system.

In the second part, fourteen programs, we addressed basic objectives of Islamic law mainly: safeguarding faith, life, mind, honor and property.’ We discussed a whole variety of topics which related to safeguarding these five aspects of Islam law.

In the last ten programs we talked about the various moral virtues of Islam.’ This part looked at the positive aspect of the moral code in which we coved: piety, sincerity, trustworthiness, humbleness, dignity, mercy, forgiveness, purity of the heart, patients and perseverance and responsibility.

All articles published not necessarily the official points of view held by islamonline