The Spirit Of Islam
EXTREMISM is a product of ignorance. Given two extreme points on a straight line, anyone can point out where the middle point lies. But a person that cannot see the entire line will also miss the middle point. He may be sitting on an extreme edge, yet congratulate himself for being in the middle. Unlike the line, real life is not one-dimensional.
As individuals, we find ourselves being pulled in so many directions by myriad internal and external forces. In a society the complexity increases manifold as these forces intersect in complex ways. When you add their dynamic interrelationship over time, the complexity becomes mind-boggling. “Thus have We Made of you an Ummah justly balanced” [Al-Baqara 2:143]. Ummah-i-Wasata can be translated as the middle nation, the best nation, and an Ummah justly balanced. The Phrase captures the essence of Islam, which is to shun all excesses. At other places [e.g. Al-Maidah 5:12] the Quran refers to the path it shows at as Sawaa-As-Sabil. Our physical well-being requires that we eat a well balanced diet and follow the course of moderation. Our economic, social, and spiritual well- being similarly demands finding the balanced approach and the moderate course in all these spheres. Our total well-being requires finding the path of moderation for our entire life.
For this we need Divine Guidance. No one is more conscious of this than the believer who turns to Allah five times a day with this supplication: “Show us the Straight Path.” The Path that avoids the extremes of Ifraat (excess) and Tafreet (insufficient action). Is there another group that seeks the path of rectitude and moderation with the same fervour? A large number of followers of other religions who accepted Islam have been impressed by the simplicity, profoundness, clarity, and logical soundness of its belief system.
Extremism is inherently unstable. Its injustices invoke a rebellion and a counter trend. Thus we see that the Western World has gone from the pleasure-is-sin ascetism of yesteryears to the sin-is-in liberalism of today. In these wanderings from one extreme to another, the extremist tendencies themselves have not been overcome. Rather, they have produced unprecedented social upheaval at home and unprecedented exploitation and injustices abroad. (Islamic history is free of such wanderings, as one would expect of a religion that came to show the middle path.) “But if any of you, after this, resists faith, he has truly wandered from the path of rectitude.” [Al-Maidah 5:12].