The Meaning of Moderation

The Prophet’s saying, “Moderation, moderation! Through this you will attain your goal!” contains encouragement towards moderation in worship such that one avoids excess and deficiency. It is for that reason that he, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, repeated it twice.

Mutarraf ibn Abdullah ibn Shikhkhir had a son who would strive greatly in worship so he said to him, ‘The best of affairs is the middle one, the good deed lies in between two evil deeds and the worst of journeys is the one where one strives so much that he kills his mount and is left stranded.” (Bayhaqi) Abu Ubaydah said: He means that excessiveness in worship is evil, deficiency is evil and moderation is praiseworthy. This meaning is supported by the hadith reported on the authority of Abdullah ibn Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, said, “This religion is powerful so walk in it with gentleness.” (Ahmad)

In his, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, repeatedly mentioning the command to moderation lies an indication that one should persist in moderation. This is because a strenuous journey in which one strives greatly is prone to end suddenly without completion; a moderate journey however, is more likely to reach its end goal. This is why the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, stated that the end result of moderation was the achievement of the objective, “and whoever travels by night will reach his destination.” 

In this world, the believer is travelling to his Lord until he reaches Him, “Your, verily, O man, are working towards your Lord – painfully toiling – and you shall meet Him.” (al-Inshiqaq 84:6) “And worship your Lord till the certainty comes to you.” (al-Hijr 15:99) Al-Hasan said, ‘People! Persistence, persistence! Surely Allah has appointed the time of cessation of deeds to be just before death,’ and then he recited the above verse. He also said, ‘Your souls are your mounts so tend to your mounts. In this way they will convey you to your Lord, Mighty and Magnificent.’

The meaning of tending to one’s mounts is to be easy on them, to keep them fit and healthy, and not to overburden them. Therefore if one feels his souls is coming to a halt in its travel, he tends to it by inculcating in it the desire to finish the journey or by inculcating in it the fear of not finishing the journey, as the situation may demand. One of the Salaf said, ‘Hope is the guide and fear is the driver and the soul is between the two like a head strong animal.’ So when the guide has grown tired and the driver is unable to have effect, the soul will stop and it will then need gentle treatment and ‘song’ to provoke it into recommencing its journey. In this respect the camel leader, who drives on his herd by singing, said,

Its guide gave it glad tidings, saying:
Tomorrow we shall have bananas and mountains.

Fear is like a whip and when a person excessively whips the animal, it could well die. As such, one must also strike it with ‘songs’ of hope that would encourage it to eagerly revitalise its efforts until it arrives at the destination. Abu Yazid said, ‘I have persistently guided my soul to Allah without letting up, it weeping all the way, then I urged it on until it laughed.’ (ibn Mulaqqin) It is said,

When it complained of the burdens of the journey,
he promised it
Of the relief of arrival, so it revitalised its efforts.

The Journey to Allah by Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali Pages 60-63