"Wasatiyyah" in the Perspective of Muhammad Asad

Term Paper, 2017

8 Pages, Grade: a




Some religious perspective on wasatiyyah

Islamic principle of wasatiyyah from Asad’s viewpoint

The Islamic Governance in the context of Wasatiyyah



Wasatiyyah in the Perspective of Muhammad Asad

Nadzrah Ahmad,1 Ahmad Nabil Amir2

This paper aims to analyze Muhammad Asad’s significant ideas and doctrine of wasatiyyah (Islamic moderation) as illustrated in his magnum opus The Message of the Qur’an. It endeavors to discuss the essential idea and principle of moderate Islam or “community of the middle way” (ummah wasata) as interpreted and propounded by Asad (1900-1992) in his Tafsir. It will also analyzed other major works of Asad that presented his views and understanding of wasatiyyah such as The Road to Mecca – his auto-spiritual biography and travelogue, This Law of Ours and Other Essays, The Principles of State and Government in Islam, Islam at the Crossroads and Sahih al-Bukhari: The Early Years of Islam that further illustrated his analytical discussion of this important idea and its significant implications in Muslim society.

Key words: The Message of the Qur’an, Asad, Islamic moderation, wasatiyyah, balanced community


The principle of wasatiyyah (Islamic moderation) had a profound bearing in Muhammad Asad’s worldview, a theme which he passionately advocated and assertively defended throughout his engaging and critical study of Islam. This paper provides a brief analysis of his profound ideas of wasatiyyah and its broad framework as set forth in his prolific works. His major views and fundamental ideas on moderate Islam was articulated in his unprecedented tafsir, The Message of the Qur’an that expounded a critical perspective on wasatiyyah – an essential theme that was rigorously and largely expanded in his erudite footnotes, as he assertively claim: “Islam should be presented without any fanaticism. Without any stress on our having the only possible way and the others are lost. Moderation in all forms is a basic demand of Islam.” (1980)

Some religious perspective on wasatiyyah

The crucial understanding of religious principle and doctrines on wasatiyyah were intrinsically revealed in the Qur’an and Sunnah that stipulated an unequivocal precedent to this pivotal ideal. It brought forth defining principle and ideal of wasatiyyah and its various connotation and meaning as encapsulated and alluded in many verses [ ayah ] and hadith, such as: “And thus have We willed you to be a community of the middle way” (2:143), “You are indeed the best community that has ever brought forth for [the good of] mankind” (3:110), “God wants to lighten your burdens” (4:28), “And neither allow thy hand to remain shackled to thy neck, nor stretch it forth to the utmost limit [of thy capacity]” (17:29), “And [pray unto Him; yet] be not too loud in thy prayer nor speak it in too low a voice, but follow a way in-between” (17:110), “Seek instead, by means of what God has granted thee, [the good of] the life to come, without forgetting, withal, thine own [rightful] share in this world” (28:77) “weigh, therefore, [your deed] with equity, and cut not the measure short!” (55:9), “But if one is driven by necessity - neither coveting it nor exceeding his immediate need - then [know that], behold, thy Sustainer is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace” (6:145), “And who, whenever they spend on others, are neither wasteful nor niggardly but [remember that] there is always a just mean between those [two extremes]” (25:67); and as reported in rigorously authentic hadith, “They are losers, those who make religion strenuous. They imperil themselves who enforce tough practices of Islam. They destroy themselves who are extreme” (Muslim), “Islam is easy and the person who makes it strenuous is a loser. Hence, follow Islam with moderation, be close to it, give glad tidings” (Bukhari), “The best form of deed is moderation” (al-Bayhaqi, Sunan, 3/273, al-Albani, Silsilah al-Ahadith al-Da‘ifah 14/1663) and its various connotation in the athar of sahabah and tradition of the “Pious Forebears” (al-salaf al-salih), such as the saying of Imam Ali “Do not be too hard, lest you will be broken; and do not be too soft, lest you will be squeezed”.

Al-Qaradawi (2010) in his uncomparable al-Madkhal ila al-Ma‘rifat al-Islam (Islam: An Introduction) that succinctly described major aspect and principle of shari‘ah, portrays the nature and essence of Islam that intrinsically balance and set forth its ideal and principle characteristic: rabbaniyyah (God consciousness), thabat and murunah (permanent and flexible), waqi‘iyyah (practical and realistic), tawazun (balanced), syumul (comprehensive), ‘alamiyyah (universal), and wasatiyyah (moderate).

Hamka (2016) in his outstanding exposition of religious postulate of ethics and philosophy, Lembaga Budi illustrated the position of major Muslim philosophers, Ibn Hazm and al-Ghazali on the ideal of wasatiyyah, advocating its principle on philosophical ground. According to Ibn Hazm: “he must know that justice in weighing something and as a measure of character was moderation and balance. The middle ground between two attitude, both licentiousness and exaggeration.” (Hamka 2016, 36)

Al-Ghazali, in his prodigious work on kalam (or speculative theology) argued that: “no doubt, that the balance of air in the body is the cause of its healthy. When it’s not kept in harmony, it was the sign of its illness. The example of that can be compared to spiritual healthy. The equilibrium in spiritual attitude was the sign of its healthy.” (Hamka, 2016, 37)

While Distinguished Prof. Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan (2013) in his keynote address at the Second International Conference on “Islam and Islamic Studies in Changing World: Challenges and Opportunities” pointed out that “the Qur’anic teaching of Khair Ummah (The Best Ummah) was in fact part and parcel of the concept of al-Wasatiyyah which refers to the condition, attribute or quality of justice and goodness/excellence which Allah swt has designated solely to the Community of Prophet Muhammad saw - Ummah Wasat – the vital collective transnational force mandated by Allah swt to champion the transformational mission of the Prophet saw.”

Depicting a broad and deeply grounded theme of wasatiyyah as explicated in the Qur’an and hadith (prophetic tradition) Rizkhan (2005) analytically propounded this idea in his riveting work: “moderation, or balance, is both a general characteristic and a fundamental landmark of Islam, as mentioned in the Qur’ān (al-Baqarah: 143) which says: “We have made you an Ummah justly balanced…Islamic texts call upon Muslims to exercise moderation and to reject and oppose all kinds of extremism: ghuluwwu (excessiveness), and tashdīd (bigotry).”

Islamic principle of wasatiyyah from Asad’s viewpoint

The principle of wasatiyyah projected by Muhammad Asad was essentially developed in his auto-spiritual biography, The Road to Mecca, a principle groundwork that provides a far-reaching analysis of Islamic construct and worldview of wasatiyyah. According to him: “and yet it was from this desolate, lifeless land, from amidst these sandy valleys and naked hills, that the most life-affirming faith of man’s history sprang forth.” (1980) It was a great narrative and intensely dramatic account of his spiritual sojourn in Arabia, the homecoming of the heart - a story of his discovery of Islam and his encounter and “integration within the Muslim community”. He advocated an essentially balance and moderate ideal of Islam and brought forth its broad connotation, “this time of ours was in need of an ideological basis for a new social contract: it needed a faith that would make us understand the hollowness of material progress for the sake of progress alone – and nevertheless would give the life of this world its due; that would show us how to strike a balance between our spiritual and physical requirements; and thus save us from the disaster into which we were rushing headlong.” (1980, 305)


1 Asst. Professor, Department of Qur'an and Sunnah, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia, P.O. Box 10, 50728 Kuala Lumpur.

2 Islamic Renaissance Front, Level 8, Pavilion KL, 168 Jalan Bukit Bintang, 55100 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Malaysia.

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"Wasatiyyah" in the Perspective of Muhammad Asad
International Islamic University Malaysia  (islamic revealed knowledge and heritage)
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wasatiyyah, perspective, muhammad, asad
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Dr. Ahmad Nabil Amir (Author)Nadzrah Ahmad (Author), 2017, "Wasatiyyah" in the Perspective of Muhammad Asad, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/378653


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