It’s popular today for people to talk about balance; achieving balance between all their aspirations and obligations so they don’t fail in either.
Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported:
“The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The religion (of Islam) is easy, and whoever makes the religion a rigor, it will overpower him. So, follow a middle course (in worship); if you can’t do this, do something near to it and give glad tidings and seek help (of Allah) at morn and at dusk and some part of night”. (Al-Bukhari)
Following a middle course is what balance means. Islam does not mean that we observe only our spiritual obligations and totally neglect our worldly lives. We live in this world, while striving for the next world, so we need to be aware of the rights that others have over us; the rights of our Lord, the rights of our families, the rights of our bodies, and respect those rights.
In the seerah (biography of the prophet) class I took a couple months ago, we learned a little bit about Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him), and were able to draw a lesson about balance from it. In fact, we can learn priorities from his story in the Qur’an. First we can look at people today and see what their priorities tend to be; self first, then family, and then religion. Right?
Sometimes people even say “number one” when talking about themselves, indicating that even the society understands that a person prioritizes himself above all, and then he might place his family. Maybe if the person is married or children, these goals will be intertwined, but last of all comes the religion, and obligations before God.
In Islam, the priorities are that the deen (religion) comes first, that is, the worship of Allah. Then comes families, followed by our physical needs. You can look at the du`a’ made by Abraham in the Qur’an:
And (remember) when Ibrahim (Abraham) said: “O my Lord! Make this city (Makkah) one of peace and security, and keep me and my sons away from worshipping idols. (Ibrahim 14:35)
O my Lord! They have indeed led astray many among mankind. But whoso follows me, he verily is of me. And whoso disobeys me, still You are indeed Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Ibrahim 14:36)
O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in an uncultivable valley by Your Sacred House (the Ka`bah); in order, O our Lord, that they may establish regular Prayer, so fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allah) provide them with fruits so that they may give thanks. (Ibrahim 14:37)
There is another similar du`a’ in Surat al-Baqarah:
And remember Abraham said: “My Lord, make this a city of peace, and feed its people with fruits,-such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day.” He said: “(Yea), and such as reject faith,-for a while will I grant them their pleasure, but will soon drive them to the torment of Fire,- an evil destination (indeed)!”
And remember Abraham and Isma`il raised the foundations of the House (with this prayer): “Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: For You are the All-Hearing, the All-knowing.
“Our Lord! make of us Muslims, bowing to You, and of our progeny a people Muslim, bowing to Thy (will); and show us our place for the celebration of (due) rites; and turn unto us (in mercy); for You are the Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.” (Al-Baqarah 2:126-129)
This is the du`a’ made when Abraham was leaving his wife and child in the valley. It’s interesting because the request for provision is mentioned before belief, but Abraham is actually only requesting the provision for those who believe in the first place.
The du`a’ quoted above is after Ishmael has grown up and Abraham has visited him again in Makkah. (Chronology determined by the statement “make this a safe city” vs. “make this city safe,” a subtle difference implying that in the latter case the city has been established.) The city has been established and so Abraham requests that he and his progeny be protected from shirk.
So we can get an idea for priorities here, but also understand that everything needs to be in balance.
To close, I will quote a statement from the instructor of that seminar on the seerah, that loosely paraphrases a hadith recorded by Ibn Majah, At-Tabarani, and Al-Bayhaqi, which can be read here.
“Whoever’s concern is the dunya (worldly life), Allah will make his affairs disperse and will put poverty between his eyes. And nothing will come from the dunya except what Allah has written for him. But whoever’s concern is the hereafter, Allah will gather all his affairs, put barakah (blessing) in his time, he can be focused–and will enrich his heart, that he will feel rich, content and not poor, and the dunya will come whether looking for it or not.”
So the point of this post is that we need to have balance in our daily lives, which comes from prioritizing our efforts for the Hereafter. And the beauty of Islam is that it is balanced, and attending to the rights of others on us is prescribed as is attending the rights of Allah.
If there are any mistakes in this post, they are my own, and I pray that someone will correct them.