By Abdur Rashid Siddiqui
A responsible highways authority will erect a variety of warning signs in order to alert drivers to dangers and so ensure safe passage. Similarly it is necessary that certain of the obstacles in the path of self-purification be identified for the benefit of the seekers of truth. Doing so will help them reach their destination safely. In broad terms, there are certain failings which gradually separate one from one’s goal against which it is well to be forewarned.
One of these failings is extremism. Human beings are prone to go to extremes when overtaken by passion. They often adopt an extremist position on particular issues, whether acts of worship or points of morality, overemphasizing certain matters at the expense of others. Islam enjoins human beings to seek balance and moderation in their outlook and warns them against extremism of any sort. One should therefore observe moderation in the effort to attain self-purification. It is reported on the authority of Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: ‘Do not strain yourself in matters of faith lest Allah may treat you harshly.’ (Abu Dawud) In another hadith he warned: ‘Beware! Do not become entrapped by extremism. For people before you were destroyed on account of their extremism in faith.’ (Abu Dawud)
We have taken note of extremism as an obstacle and pitfall on the road to self-purification. This should not give rise to the impression that one cannot make progress on this road. Certainly this is not that difficult. Human beings instinctively welcome goodness and are repelled by evil. There are lessons to be learnt from every event in this universe, as well as from one’s own experience. One does not stand in need of joining some training course to assimilate these lessons. Furthermore, it is within man’s capacity to fulfill the obligations prescribed by Allah. Allah does not burden anyone beyond his capacity, for that would run counter to justice.
Source: Excepted from Tazkiyah: The Islamic Path of Self-Development, edited by Abdur Rashid Siddiqui and published by Islamic Foundation, 2004.