Tuesday March 19, 2013
Moderation holds the key
By DR MOHD FARID MOHD SHAHRAN
Moderation is somewhat taken for granted and this is the reason why religion acts as a reminder on the importance of moderation and the hazards of extremism.
THE recent skirmishes in Lahad Datu reflect attempts by certain quarters in trying to achieve their political aims through violence.
Despite their historical allegations, the unrealistic approach taken especially in the form of armed aggression on the sovereign territory of a country had not only cost unnecessary casualties but also disrupted, in one way or another, the stability of the long-standing peace in this country.
Obviously, such an incident is not the first time violent and aggressive means are used by various groups to fulfil their political objectives.
In fact, without any exaggeration, history books are replete with war rather than peace.
Be that as it may, we cannot simply conclude that man is violent by nature.
For man is originally created by God in the best form and is furnished with good qualities.
Yet, due to various reasons such as conflict of individual and communal interests, injustices, as well as the Satanic influence of greed, man resorts to extreme and violent means to solve his problems.
Invariably, this relates to the importance of moderation in human life.
Although a highly fundamental and essential principle to the human nature, moderation is somewhat taken for granted.
It becomes all the more removed from human nature and difficult to achieve when extremism instead is taken as a way of looking at things and achieving the various objectives of life.
This is the reason why religion acts as a reminder on the importance of moderation and the hazards of extremism.
The Quran conveys a simple yet stern message, “Do not transgress (the limits); for God does not love transgressors.” (2:190)
As a matter of fact, it is the good virtue of moderation that elevates human beings to the level of the best community, “Thus, We (God) have made you a community justly balanced that you might be witnesses over the nations.” (2:143)
This verse implies that the role of a witness to mankind is not possible unless a person is moderate in nature.
The Quran also addressed the Prophet to be moderate in his dealings with others, “And become moderate in thy pace and lower thy voice.” (31:20)
Moderation in both pace and voice can not only be understood in the literal sense, but also metaphorical, in that a person should have a refinement of character and a reasonable state of mind when engaging with fellow men.
The importance of being in the middle and not inclined towards transgression is also the foremost message of the Prophet.
He stresses in a hadith that, “The best thing in all matters is the middle-most.”
While in another, the Prophet expresses that, “You are to hold on to the average medium to which the ones higher (often need) to descend and the ones below (aspire) to ascend.”
Moderation is also the key to a balanced and just personality. In fact, most virtues emerge from a moderate psychological state of human being.
Muslim scholars of the past, particularly al-Ghazali, expound the four cardinal virtues which are moderation in the sense of taking the middle stand between two extreme vices.
These cardinal virtues are wisdom, courage, temperance and justice.
Firstly, wisdom (hikmah), which is the result of having a balanced faculty of reason, lies in the middle of two vices, cunning and stupidity.
Next, courage (shaja’ah), which is related to the faculty of anger, comes between audacity and cowardliness, while temperance (’iffah), which deals with the faculty of desire, lies between prodigality and niggardliness.
With the culmination of the three, according to al-Ghazali, is the virtue of justice (’adl), defined as the condition of everything in its proper place.
In other words, all the cardinal virtues are a reflection of a person who is balanced and whose major faculties such as reason, anger and desire are in their proper places.
Hence, virtues acquire their meanings from a certain sense of balance and aversion to either of the two extremes.
The manifestation of extremism does not only take place in the political world, but also in all parts of life.
This is evident in the Quran which explicitly addresses several times the importance of being moderate in various instances, for example financial management, as expressed in the following verse, “And tie not your hand to your neck nor stretch it out to its utmost reach lest it may leave you sitting in destitution and rebuke,” (17:28) and also in another, “The true servants of the Merciful are those who are neither extravagant nor niggardly in their spending but keep to the golden mean between the two.” (25:67)
In legal matters, the injunction towards moderation comes through the following verse, “The recompense of an injury is an injury equal to it.
“But one who forgives and seeks reconciliation, his reward is with God. For God loves not the oppressors.” (42:40)
In sum, much is to be gained by placing moderation as our major principle in life.
Not only will it create tranquillity and harmony in the microcosmic world within man through a well-balanced personality, it will also facilitate a more peaceful macrocosmic universe outside and definitely reduce some political problems of many countries.
> Dr Mohd Farid Mohd Shahran is Senior Fellow, Centre for Economics and Social Studies, Ikim