In this verse, Allah (S.W.T) says He has made this Muslim Ummah, an Ummah of Wasat. And No one has the right or authority to change the Ummah’s status of Wasatiyyah.
In the same verse, Allah (S.W.T) indicates to us what the objectives of Wasatiyyah are. They are “That you be witnesses over mankind and the Messenger Muhammad be a witness over you.” And no one has the authority to change the objectives of Wasatiyyah.
We will go over three points. First we will go over the meaning of Wasat, second what it means for us to be witnesses over mankind, and third what it means for the Messenger to be a witness over us.
What is the meaning of Wasat?
In an Arabic dictionary, the term Wasat has three meanings. The three meanings are: to be moderate, to be in the middle, and to be the best. Therefore, when Allah describes the Muslim Ummah as a nation that is Wasat, Allah means that we are moderate, we are an Ummah that is in the middle, and that we are the best nation.
Atawasoot in an Islamic sense means that the Muslim should try his best to be moderate in all of his affairs, and he should keep away from extreme practices and making extreme statements.
The Importance of Moderation:
The best way for a Muslim to behave is in moderation. In trying to explain the importance of moderation,
“Every good manner has two extreme and bad sides. For example, generosity, a good and moderate behavior, comes between two bad behaviors, on one side stinginess and on other side overspending. Braveness, another good and moderate behavior, comes between two bad behaviors on one side cowardness and on other side carelessness. So humans have been ordered to avoid all bad behaviors; by staying away from two bad behaviors, a person will be exactly in the middle which is the farthest point from each extreme.”
“Islam as a religion is the midpoint among all other religions. The Muslims believe in the messengers of Allah in a moderate way. For example, they do not go to extremes in their beliefs about the prophets as the Christians do, nor do they put the messengers at such a low status, as do the Jews. The Muslims always stand in the middle when it comes to all matters of Deen.”
“Always encourage people to take a moderate stand, because it will rescue you from transgression. So we find the middle position between two extremes to be the most balanced and just, where a person will find all the benefits and comforts of this worldly life and the Hereafter. Furthermore, even the human body cannot live normally without the benefits of moderation. If a person is moderate when sleeping, waking, eating, drinking, exercising, in staying away or mixing with others, then the body will function properly. However, if a person goes to an extreme in one of these aspects, then the body will not function properly and the person will not live a normal life.”
“All matters of Deen and its obligations came to man in the most moderate way, so that man could apply those obligations without severe hardship or too much leniency. All of those obligations were very well-balanced, which requires those who practice them also be very moderate.”
Allah (S.W.T) has also ordered us to be moderate in our food and drink. He says, what could be translated as, “And eat and drink but do not waste extravagantly, certainly He (Allah) does not like the extravagant.” (Surat Al-‘Araaf, Verse 31)
The Messenger (S.A.W.) taught his companions to be moderated in what they say and what they do. The Messenger (S.A.W.) always made sure that he and his companions always behaved moderately. And whenever any of his companions went to the extreme with a sincere intention to increase their reward, he used to condemn them and not remain silent. This is because the Prophet (S.A.W.) knew that it contradicts with the characteristics of Wasatiyah-moderation in the knowledge and practice. In this way the Messenger (S.A.W.) is a witness over his Ummah with what he conveyed and raised them with. Let’s mention some of these Ahadith.
Imam Bukhari reported that three companions came to the houses of the wives of the prophet (S.A.W.) to inquire about how much the prophet (S.A.W.) worshiped. When the men were informed, they considered the amount of worship to be insufficient and said: “Where are we in comparison with the prophet (S.A.W.) while Allah has forgiven his past sins and future sins.” One of them said: “As for me, I shall offer prayer all night long.” Another said: “I shall observe fasting continuously and shall not break it.” Another said: ‘I shall abstain from the woman and shall never marry.” The prophet (S.A.W.) came to them and said, “Are you the ones who said such things? By Allah, I fear Allah more then you do, and I am most obedient and dutiful among you to Him, but still I fast (some days) and I don’t fast (other days), I pray at night and I also sleep (meaning he does not pray all night), and I married, and whoever does not follow my Sunnah (way of life) does not belong to me.”
Imam Bukhari also reported that the prophet (S.A.W.) made a bond of brotherhood between two companions of the prophet, Salman and Abu Ad-Darda’. Salman went to visit Abu Ad-Darda’ and found Umm Ad-Darda’ (his wife) dressed in shabby clothes and asked her why she was in that state. She replied: “Your brother Abu Ad-Darda’ is not interested in the luxuries of this world. In the mean time Abu Ad-Darda’ came in and prepared a meal for Salman. Salman requested Abu Ad-Darda’ to eat with him but Abu Ad-Darda’ said: “I am fasting.” Salman said: “I am not going to eat unless you eat.” So, Abu Ad-Darda’ ate with Salman. When it was night and a part of the night passed, Abu Ad-Darda’ got up to offer the night prayer but Salman asked him to sleep and Abu Ad-Darda’ slept. When it was the last hours of the night, Salman asked him to get up and both of them prayed Tahajjud. Then Salman told Abu Adarda’: “Your Lord has a right upon you, your body has a right upon you, your wife has a right upon you, your guest has a right upon you, so you should give to everyone his right.” Abu Ad-Darda’ came to the prophet (S.A.W.) and narrated the whole story. The prophet (S.A.W.) said, “Salman is right.”
Also Imam Muslim reported that the prophet (S.A.W.) warned us by saying, “Ruined are those who insist on hardship in matters of Deen.” He repeated this three times.
And Imam Muslim reported that Jaber Bin Samurah (R.A.) said, “I used to observe prayer with the prophet (S.A.W.) and his prayer was of a moderate length and his sermon too was moderate in length.”
Now I will explain how the Muslim Ummah will be a witness over mankind.
Firstly, this Ummah will be a witness over mankind in this life by establishing justice, and also by providing people with the most accurate scale that has been given by Allah. This accurate scale will bring forth the truth and balance in all aspects of life and Deen without being extreme on either side. And also, this Ummah will be a witness over mankind by monitoring and examining mankind’s way of life. If the Ummah sees extreme practices on either side of the scale, then the Ummah will correct the practice by returning the people to being moderate in all areas of life without exception including their belief, in their worship, in their relationships.
Secondly, this Ummah will be a witness over mankind on the Day of Resurrection. On this day, there will be some nations that will deny that the message was ever conveyed to them. So the Muslim Ummah will come forth as a witness to support the messengers that they had conveyed the message. The Muslim Ummah will be asked, “How do you know?” And they will reply, “We learned this from what Allah has notified us of in His book, carried by the tongues of the truthful prophet.” Imam Bukhari reported that the Messenger (S.A.W) said, “Noah will be called on the Day of Resurrection and he will say, “Labbayk and Sa’dayk (I respond to Your call and I am obedient to Your orders) O my Lord! Allah will say, Did you convey the Message?’ Noah will say, ‘Yes.’ His nation will then be asked, ‘Did he convey the Message to you?’ They will say, “No Warner came to us.’ Then Allah will say (to Noah), ‘ Who will bear witness in your favor?’ He will say, “Muhammad and his followers.’ So they (Muslims) will testify that he conveyed the Message—and the Messenger Muhammad (S.A.W) will be a witness over you, and that is what is meant by the following statement of Allah (S.W.T): “Thus We have made you [Muslims] a Wasat nation, that you be witnesses over mankind and the Messenger Muhammad be a witness over you.”
(Imam Mohamed Baianonie at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, NC, delivered this Friday speech on July 9, 2004)