Three men went to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) once and wanted to express their sincerity. The first man said, “I will fast everyday and never eat during the day again.” The second one said, “I will remain celibate to worship God for the rest of my life.” And the third one proclaimed, “I will pray all night every night and never sleep again.”The Prophet was not impressed with their zeal. He told them, “I am the Prophet of God, and I eat and fast, I also marry and sleep at night. Whoever does not follow my path is not one of my followers.”The message from the prophet is that faith should be practiced in moderation. The Prophet warned his followers against religious extremism in all its aspects.
Moreover, Islam as a faith is not confined to common rituals of worship such as prayer, fasting and remembrance of God but is encompassing of all aspects of life. Hence, eating, sleeping, and exercising to recoup one’s strength in order to be a functional healthy person for example is as important to staying alive as it is to being a believer. Marrying and enjoying conjugal life is not just an integral part of being a human being but is also considered an act of worship. The Prophet repudiated the three men’s declarations because they were leaning towards extremism.During wartime, the Prophet gave strict instructions regarding rules of engagement. “Do not cut down trees, do not burn crops, and do not kill women, children or the elderly. Fight only those who fight you,” he used to say.
At the outset of his mission in Makkah, he strictly forbade any retaliatory act of violence against his enemies even in the face of the severe persecution and hardship early Muslims were subjected to in the holy city. He could have asked his followers to try to assassinate some leaders of Makkah, particularly those who opposed him most, in return of a promise of paradise but he did not. When he settled in Medina and a group of known hypocrites fomented fitna, or sedition, some of his companions wanted them killed. Prophet Muhammad, now politically and military strong, refused arguing that he did not want people to say that Muhammad killed his followers. All of the wars he fought were either defensive or retaliatory.