How should we establish balance with respect to the spiritual and worldly dimensions of our life?
Balance holds a very significant place in every phase of life. Balanced action is necessary over the spectrum which covers the essentials of belief and worship, as well as those of eating and social conduct with people, both far and near. “Your Lord enjoys rights over you; your self and your family enjoy rights over you; recompense all these rights to their owners.” This is the consciousness that every individual should pursue in their life with firm balance and composure. The perception of servanthood must be duly interpreted before all else. The goal sought in the remembrance of God is the attainment of His good pleasure. The attainment of extraordinary qualities or the manifestation of wonders is not the purpose; such actions have been considered by saints as being little more than “menstruation blood”; i.e., something that should not be highly regarded. Wonders may come about without having been demanded as a result of sincere efforts; the servant then accepts them as a gift from God, in a dual mood of joy and concern. The most fitting attitude would be to make sure of one’s own loyalty saying, “My Lord, do you offer me something so sweet because have you seen disloyalty in me?”
Taking refuge in a remote place, seeking seclusion to put in order one’s relationship with the Lord is not the only approach. This relationship can also be maintained by restoring one’s interpretation of overall existence and one’s personal life, keeping it fresh with self-accounting and by seeking nearness, love, and zeal. A person engaged in this sort of practice does not spend even one minute in neglect, and feels greater peace as they deepen in servanthood. A physician, to give an example, perfects their studies of human anatomy and physiology as they research these subjects. Perhaps, for this reason, Imam Ghazzali ascribes equal importance to both medicine and religious studies in his work Ihya’ Ulum al-Din (Reviving the Religious Sciences), and he stresses the fact that the negligence of either will bring harm to the nation of Islam. What a great negligence that would be! Imagine, when even the smallest toenail gives discomfort to your foot, you look for someone to alleviate the pain. Then someone comes and soothes your pain; you look upon such a person as being Khidr. A believing physician assumes the same role when they heal any major or trivial maladies. Rewarded for being helpful to others as a member of the community and providing services to people, physicians may be considered to be saints at a level which no one else can reach. It is my opinion that a believing physician can be saved just by engaging in medicine. This is a balance, and it should be considered as such. It is the same for religious studies; if you retreat in seclusion, others may suffer from denial and atheism, as they would be deprived of religious teaching.
I would like to refer to the experience of some of the Prophet’s Companions who came to his house one day when he was absent. They asked the Prophet’s purest wives about his prayers and his worship. His wives explained the Prophet’s way to them, but considering their level in God’s sight in comparison to that of the Prophet’s, they thought that they needed to do more than the Prophet did: “Who are we and who is the Prophet (how can we be compared to him)? The past and future sins of the Prophet have already been forgiven.” One of them said, “From now on I will say my prayers (perform salat) the whole night until the morning.” A second one said, “I will fast all my life, I will not miss a day.” The third said, “I will abandon women, and will never touch them.” They left the Prophet’s house with these thoughts. When the Messenger of God was informed of this, he commanded them as follows: “(I was told that) you said this and that. I swear by God that I am the one among you who fears God most and who avoids His prohibitions most. But, sometimes I fast and sometimes I eat, sometimes I pray and sometimes I sleep, and I sleep with women. (This is my way, Sunna) whoever turns away from my Sunna is not of me.”
This incident clearly reveals that the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, hated any extremism in the conduct of religion, just as he hated disobedience (ma’siyat). Like disobedience, or sinning, which upsets the balance in Islamic life and diverts one from one’s orbit, extremism in religion is an imbalance; it is something to keep well away from.
Perhaps all of us have had some kind of imbalance in our life. During my mission in Trakya, in order to restrain my human dispositions, and to avoid stumbling over the carnal desires of my youth, I used to eat one meal a day with no calorie. The Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, recommended fasting to bring these desires under control. I could probably have obtained the same result if I had eaten less, slept less, and performed more services for the faith. I remember that I prayed “My Lord, send me affliction, so that I can only deal with my pain and forget about my carnal self.” I prayed for even harsher demands to demote my self. This was a mistake, and a result of ignorance about balance. The Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Ask forgiveness and health from God.” We are supposed to keep to the balance which the Prophet enjoined us.
Another issue in which proper balance is not maintained today is the rights of parents and visiting relatives. God emphasizes this issue in the Qur’an to such an extent that showing respect to parents is listed next to worshipping Him. Even while running at the forefront in the service of the faith and the Qur’an, we have to make use of every opportunity to kiss their hands and win their hearts. We may have too many other things that we have to do; our parents may think differently from us on many issues. Unless they rebel against God, they are worth everything we can do for them; they are the means by which we were born into this life
Before we plan anything, we have to take into account every possible difficulty that we may confront-illness, elderliness, etc. When we decide on something, we have to focus to accomplish the work to the end; but we must make sure not to undertake a load we cannot carry.