Wa-kadhālika ja ‘alnākum ummatan wastā
Thus We have made you a middle nation
(Sūratul Baqarah, No.2, Āyat 143)
After talking about the change in the direction of the Qibla for the Muslims from Masjidul Aqsā to Masjidul Harām Almighty Allah says that the Muslims are a nation that is in the middle. It is ummatan wasatā – a balanced nation that is exemplary through not leaning to extremes.
The word wasatā means the middle point between two things. It is also used to refer to something beautiful and honorable. That is because anything that is balanced and not extreme in either direction is admirable.
Balance is required in all aspects of life. In beliefs, Islam emphasizes that God is not completely controlling of the actions of the human being (jabr) nor does He leave everything to the human being (tafwīdh). Imam al-Sādiq (a) says: There is no jabr nor tafwidh. Rather the matter is in between the two (Tawhid of Sadūq, ch 59).
Lifestyle must be balanced between material and spiritual. Believers should not be so immersed in worldly matters that they ignore the spiritual, nor should they focus on spirituality so much and abandon the world. Many verses of Quran talk about balance. Regarding salāt Allah says: Be neither loud in your prayer nor murmur it, but follow a middle course between these (Q 17:110). About spending He says: Those who when spending are neither wasteful nor tightfisted and keep between these two [extremes] (Q 25:67).
Islam encourages balance in relationships, in learning, in leisure, in food, etc. Balance in all things so that the human being can cater to all facets of his life. This is the natural way of life, the fitrat upon which man has been created. Leading a balanced life brings contentment and peace, and strengthens the natural order in the universe.
The most perfect example of a balanced nation that serves as an example for others are the Ma’sūmīn (a). They are outstanding ideals of the application of this verse and thus are lights for others who wish to follow the path. Imam al-Sādiq (a) says: We are the medium nation, and we are the witnesses of Allah over people and His proofs on His earth. The Ma’sūmīn advised their followers to be balanced. They said: O Shī‘ahs of Āli Muhammad, be a nation that is medium and balanced. So the one who has gone ahead [one extreme] will return to you and the one who is lagging behind [another extreme] will catch up with you (Al-Kāfī, v. 2, p.75).
It is unfortunate that due to the misguided actions of some Muslims many people today consider Islam a religion of extremes. It is clear from the Quran and Hadith that Islam is very much a balanced religion. That is what we must apply in our lives and spread to others.
Remind yourself of this verse to help you lead a balanced and happier life, and spread the word so others too might understand the beauty and wisdom of God’s religion.
Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed), Tafsīr-e Namūneh
‘Allāmah Muhammad Husain Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān