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Chapter 5. The Meaning of Moderation

His (saw) saying, "Moderation, moderation! Through this will you attain your goal!" contains encouragement towards moderation in worship such that one avoids excess and deficiency. It is for this reason that he (saw) repeated it twice. Al-Bazzar records the hadith on the authority of Hudhayfah that the Prophet (saw) said,

"Excellent indeed is moderation in poverty. Excellent indeed is moderation in affluence. Excellent indeed is moderation in worship."

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 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.' [Baihaqi]

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 Amr that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said, ''This religion is powerful so walk in it with gentleness and let not the worship of Allah become burdensome for you for the one who falters and is unable to continue has neither shortened the journey nor preserved his mount. Work the deeds of a man who believes that he will die as an old man and beware of the fear of a man who believes that he will die tomorrow." Recorded by ibn Zanjawayh and others.

In his (saw) repeatedly mentioning the command to moderation lies an indication that one should persist in this 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 goal. This is why the Messenger of Allah (saw) 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,

You, verily, O man, are working towards your Lord - painfully toiling - and you shall meet Him. [Quran, 84:6]

And worship your Lord till the certainty comes to you. [Quran, 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 soul 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 shall you see 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.' 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.