Islam & Moderation: How to Reconcile between the Affairs of the Dunya & Akhirah.
One of the biggest challenges I encounter is having to reconcile between working to attain the wealth of this dunya and all the pleasures that come with it and working for the akhirah. I sometimes worry that if I succeed in one, I'll fail in the other. It can get overwhelming.
More often than not, we tend to function in extremes when it comes to affairs of the deen and dunya. Some completely invest themselves in this worldly life, forgetting the impending akhirah, whereas others seclude themselves from society as a means to focus on their religious duties, all the while neglecting their families and worldly duties.
A question that I often find myself asking is, ‘how can I reconcile between dunya and akhirah, between not completely depriving myself of the delights Allah has put on this earth while keeping my focus and efforts on Jannah?’
The answer is simple. Islam teaches us to be moderate and balanced in all aspects of life, whether it is religion, worship, relationships, ideas, or daily activities. Principled moderation is one of the defining characteristics of good character in Islam.
Islam does not ask for us to live in isolation, to cut ourselves off from society, or to completely deprive ourselves of what Allah has made halaal. Our religion is not one of extremes – we shouldn’t be excessive in our eating, we should eat to sustain ourselves; we shouldn’t be excessive in our spending, but we should not tight-fisted or miserly.
Moderation is the center point between two extremes. Every one of our virtues sits at the moderate center of two vices that stray from it. Our goal should be to find that center and always return back to it when we move away from it.
Ibn Manẓūr writes in his classical Arabic dictionary:
كُلُّ خَصْلَةٍ مَحْمُودَةٍ فَلَهَا طَرَفَانِ مَذْمُومَانِ فَإِنَّ السَّخَاءَ وَسَطٌ بَيْنِ الْبُخْلِ وَالتَّبْذِيرِ وَالشَّجَاعَةَ وَسَطٌ بَيْنِ الْجُبْنِ وَالتَّهَوُّرِ وَالْإِنْسَانُ مَأْمُورٌ أَنْ يَتَجَنَّبَ كُلَّ وَصْفٍ مَذْمُومٍ
Every praiseworthy characteristic has two blameworthy poles. Generosity is the middle between miserliness and extravagance. Courage is the middle between cowardice and recklessness. Humanity has been commanded to avoid every such blameworthy trait.
Source: Lisan al-Arab 15/209
The key to being a good Muslim does not lie in hating the dunya or running away from it, it lies in finding a balance between your religious duties and your worldly duties- for they both go hand in hand.
Imagine how much easier and less enjoyable it would have been if the former had been the case. If people had to, they would seclude themselves and pray all night, every single day, but doesn't that go against human nature? Imagine your loved ones not having time for you, your mother never returning your calls, and men and women refusing to get acquainted because it would be a source of distraction. Also consider what would happen if people refused to enrol in medical schools or farmers refused to learn their trade: we'd be left without medical treatment and would most likely starve to death.
Allah says in the Qur’an;
“Do not exult. Indeed, Allah does not like the exultant. But seek, through that which Allah has given you, the home of the Hereafter; and [yet], do not forget your share of the world. And do good as Allah has done good to you. And desire not corruption in the land. Indeed, Allah does not like corrupters.” (Quran 28:77)
Deen and dunya are more intertwined than we know; we can only attain excellence in our deen through achieving excellence in this dunya. The key is to nurture and protect our bond with Allah because the quality of our relationship with Allah defines the quality of life we live in not only this world, but in the Hereafter as well.
So, contrary to what we may believe, striving for the dunya is not wrong as long as it is in accordance with what Allah has ordained for us; in fact, it is the polar opposite. We're following His instructions to the letter.
Another important factor in achieving this balance is to always weigh our actions against the Quranic teachings and the Sunnah. Being conscious of our actions keeps us vigilant and in line when it comes to engaging in worldly activities. True contentment and happiness lies in the remembrance of Allah and His worship. We ought to make it a habit to remember Allah in our daily activities and be grateful for what He has endowed us with in this life. Moreover, we have to make sure to never neglect our religious duties at the cost of our worldly pleasures- make Him (SWT) your priority and live by it.
“[The people of understanding are those] Who remember Allah while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying], “Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing]; then protect us from the punishment of the Fire.” (Quran 3:191)
A life lived in accordance to Allah’s commandments is ‘Ibadah’ in itself. This dunya is only but a means to an end. It is a platform through which we can earn Allah’s pleasure and rewards, which essentially lays down the foundation of the life we are to live in the Hereafter.
The Prophet S.A.W said to his close companion Abdullah ibn ‘Amr:
“Have I heard right that you fast every day and stand in prayer all night?” Abdullah replied: “Yes, O Messenger of Allah”. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Do not do that. Fast, as well as, eat and drink. Stand in prayer, as well as, sleep. This is because your body has a right upon you, your eyes have a right upon you, your wife has a right upon you, and your guest has a right upon you.” (Sahih Bukhari 127)
Islam endorses moderation in all aspects of life. Hence, as Muslims, we should adhere to a certain level of moderation in our deen and in our dunya in order to attain true success in this life and the Hereafter.
So, in response to my question, seeking a better life for myself or wanting to enjoy life to the fullest is not a sin. In fact, doing everything well and with ihsaan is encouraged. Enjoy life, seek (halaal) money, travel, eat, sleep, and uphold ties of kinship, but do so in moderation and within the boundaries set by Allah SWT.