Knowing The Bounds Of Our Mannerisms
Mannerisms have limits: When these limits are crossed, they become transgression. When they fall short, they become deficiency and disgrace.
Anger has a limit: It is to be bold while being above having negative and deficient traits, and this is the perfect form of anger. If this limit is exceeded, you become a transgressor. If you fall short of it, you will be a coward and will not be able to raise yourself above negative traits.
Covetousness has a limit: It is to take all you need from this world and what it has to offer you. When you fall short of this limit, it becomes disgrace and lack of resolve. When you exceed this limit, you end up wanting what you shouldn’t want.
Envy has a limit: It is to compete in becoming perfect and to excel such that your rival is unable to excel you. When this limit is exceeded, you transgress and oppress in which you wish that the good things are taken away from the one you envy and are keen to harm him. When you fall short of this limit, you become low, weak in aspiration, and you belittle yourself. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “There should be no envy except in regards to two things: a man who is granted wealth by Allah and he is able to spend it for the sake of the truth, and a man who is granted wisdom by Allah and he takes it and teaches it to the people.” So, this is an envy of competition, where the envious one pushes himself to be like the one he envies without wishing that he is deprived of the good things that he has.
Sexual desire has a limit: It is to relax the heart and mind from the exhaustion of worship, to maintain moral excellence, and to use the fulfillment of these desires to help you in this. When you exceed this limit, you fall into being overly lustful, and you come to resemble animals. When you fall short of this limit and don’t use this time to obtain excellence and virtue, this becomes weakness, inability, and disgrace.
Relaxation has a limit: It is to collect yourself and your strength to prepare for worship and perfection of the self and to save this so that you don’t become weak or tired. When you exceed this limit, this becomes laziness and waste, and you end up missing out on so many things that could benefit you. When you fall short of this limit, you end up hurting and weakening your energy, and it might even be cut off from you like a farmer who has no land to plow or crops to pick.
Generosity has a limit: Whenever this limit is exceeded, this becomes wastefulness and extravagance. When you fall short of this limit, you become cheap and miserly.
Bravery has a limit: When you cross this limit, you become reckless. When you fall short of this limit, you become a coward. This limit is that you put yourself forth when the time is right to do so and that you hold yourself back when the time is right to do so, just like Mu’awiyah said to Amr Bin Al-’Aas: “I don’t know whether you’re brave or cowardly! You go forth to the point that I say you’re the bravest person, and then you stay back to the point that I say you’re the most cowardly person!” So, he replied: “I am brave if I am guaranteed the chance, If I don’t have the chance, I am a coward.”
Protective jealousy has a limit: If you exceed this limit, you fall into accusation and suspicion of the innocent. If you fall short of this limit, you fall into heedlessness and lack of manhood.
Humility has a limit: If it is crossed, this becomes humiliation and disgrace. If you fall short of it, you deviate from arrogance and false pride.
Honor has a limit: If you exceed it, you fall into arrogance and blameworthy traits. If you fall short of it, you deviate to humiliation and disgrace.
The basic principle in all this is to choose the path of moderation between excess and negligence. This is what all of the benefits of this world and the next are built upon. In fact, you can benefit your body in no other way, because when some of your activities are done with a lack of moderation and either exceed or fall short of it, your body’s health and energy begin to decline accordingly.
Likewise, natural activities such as sleeping, staying awake, eating, drinking, having intercourse, playing sports, spending time alone, spending time with others, etc. – if these are all done moderately between the two blameworthy extremes, this is justice. If you deviate to either extreme, this is a sign of deficiency and will lead to even more deficiency. This knowledge of proper limits is from the best types of knowledge, especially the limits of what is commanded and prohibited. The most knowledgeable people are those who know the most about these limits.
– By Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah, Al-Fawa’id, pg. 196-199