20 June 2019 CE | 17 Shawwal 1440 AH

Hadith Explanation

Excessiveness in Religion

Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “Beware of going to extremes (in religion), for those before you were only destroyed through excessiveness.” [An-Nasai]

Allah Most High says in the Quran, “Say: O people of the Book, do not be excessive in your religion.’” [4:171]

Imam Qurtubi says, “According to exegetes, this refers to the extremism of the Jews concerning Eesa (alaihis salam) in accusing Maryam (alaihis salam) of fornication, and the extremism of the Christians in considering him to be a god. For both excessiveness and remissness are evil, and both may be unbelief.” [Al-Jami’ li ahkam al-Quran]

Ibn Taymiya says regarding this hadith of the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam), “His saying ‘Beware of going to extremes in religion’ is a general prohibition applying to all types of extremes, whether in beliefs or works.” [Fayd al-Qadir sharh al-Jami’ al-saghir]

Going to an extreme means to leave the Sunnah of the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) and define piety for oneself. Once a group of three men came to the house of the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) and comparing their worship to that done by the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) thought that they should do more. So one of them said, “I will offer the prayer throughout the night forever.” The other said, “I will fast throughout the year and will not break my fast.” The third said, “I will keep away from women and will not marry ever.” Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said to them, “By Allah, I am more submissive to Allah and more afraid of Him than you; yet I fast and break my fast, I do sleep and I also marry women. So he who does not follow my tradition in religion, is not from me (not one of my followers).” [Sahih Bukhari]

What the Christians invented in terms of monasticism and the extremes they went to in it was partly due to the fact that they did not have with them the original or comprehensive teachings of Eesa (alaihis salam). But with the comprehensive code of conduct that Allah Most High has revealed to us in the form of the Quran and Sunnah, there is no justification to make anything up, add anything to the religion or leave anything that is in it. In fact, to do so is to reject what Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) has revealed in favour of one’s personal opinion, and this is shirk.

On the one hand are those Muslims who Shaitaan misguides by making them subject their bodies to deprivation and pain in the name of greater piety. On the other hand are those Muslims who Shaitaan misguides by telling them that to follow the religion of Allah in those areas one finds difficult, is to go to extremes. Such Muslims then consider following the original teachings of Islam as extremism. May Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) save us from both these extremes of excessiveness and remissness.

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