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Citing the Quran 31:17-18:

O my son! Establish Salah, enjoin good and forbid the evil. Endure with patience whatever befalls you, surely this shows your determination in conducting the affairs.[17] Do not speak to the people with your face turned away, nor walk proudly on earth; for Allah does not love any self-conceited boaster.[18] Be moderate in your pace and lower your voice; for the harshest of voices is the braying of a donkey."[19] (Malik)

Question: Should "be moderate in your pace" be taken literally? I.e., does it forbid Muslims from walking fast?

Or perhaps is it better to interpret this ayat as metaphorical for life in general? I.e., it's about patience, and not having an overly fast-pace life.

This ayat is within instructions by Luqman (Quran 31:16-19), parts of which are taken literally.

  • It can't be a prohibition from walking fast, as men are asked to walk fast when performing 'omrah or hajj, when it comes to sa'y and tawaf. An the verse about going to Friday prayer literally means running to it. – Medi1Saif Jul 13 '16 at 5:27
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Luqman in the Quran is described as a wise man and in these verses or the story which the Quran tells us about him he is teaching his son (and us = the reader) a lot of things about believe and the etiquette (Aadaab آداب) on how he -as a believer- should deal with people, how he should act, walk and speak etc. ...

Be moderate in your pace اقصد في مشيك: has been mostly interpreted literally in the tafsir books by the explanation: "don't walk neither fast nor slow".
Some scholars like Sheikh Taher Ben Achour added that moderate means moderate between a walk of pomp التبختر (an arrogant walk, who walks very slowly -to be seen-) or creep الدبيب (a shay walk, who walks very fast- to not be seen-).
In tafsir al-Bahr al-Moheet there's a quote of ibn Masu'd (May Allah be pleased with him) telling us that they were asked not to walk at a slow leisurely pace like Jews nor to walk along with the body close to the floor (quietly or secretly) as the Christians, and take a way in between both.

وقال ابن مسعود : كانوا ينهون عن خبب اليهود ودبيب النصارى ، ولكن مشيا بين ذلك

At-Tabari instead said, that Luqman has prohibited or discouraged his son here from arrogance, but he also added an evidence for not walking fast. This would go ahead with the meaning of this sahih hadith.

Al-Baghawi added to the moderate way of walking a quote of 'Ata': walk with calmness and ease.

وقال عطاء : امش بالوقار والسكينة

He also referred to (25:63):

And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily

From this we can conclude a believer should walk neither fast nor slow, neither in an arrogant style nor a shay way he should walk with ease.

See also this fatwa which includes a comment from tafsir al-Qurtoby on the Verse 31:19. And this summary about Luqman and his advices.

And Allah knows best!

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