At the present time, the word "extremism" is probably the most incessantly repeated word on the tongues
of journalists, writers, and politicians. It is likely that the events of September 11 are what put it in the forefront of
popular terminology, for such terminology gives expression to inner feelings and makes up for a lot of talk and lengthy explanations.
Extremism is a derived word, and it seems that those who use it mean by it a person who stands far off to one side of the
This maze of terminology is a major cause of people not being able to see eye to eye. It is what turns
dialogues into screaming matches where no one listens to anyone else. This is especially true for the word "extremism", because
it is an attempt for the one using it to define things from his or her own perspective.
For example, you as a person
most likely consider yourself a moderate. Moderation is itself a symbol for balance and virtue and is a sought after quality
in everyone's estimation. Virtue is the middle ground between two extremes of vice. This was Aristotle's view and it has been
upheld by the scholars of Islam like al-Ghazālī, Ibn Taymiyah, Ibn al-Qayyim, and others. It is one of the meanings of "the
middle nation" mentioned in the Qur'ān:
"Thus We have made you a middle nation…" [Sūrah al-Baqarah: 143]
you consider yourself to be a person who represents this noble value of "moderation" then it follows necessarily that you
categorize the positions of others accordingly - this one is on the right, that one is on the left, this one is on the far
left, that one is an extremist, this one is not an extremist…
This type of outlook might come across as an exaggeration
of one's own perspective and an overestimate of its value, since it makes the individual's viewpoint the criterion for all
judgment and estimation. It might also be seen an attempt to dictate to others how to think without giving them any say in
There are some people who are naturally disposed, intellectually and psychologically, to balance and
moderation. This is a very valuable quality for a person to be blessed with. Scholars have always considered integrity
to be the highest virtue, and this quality is typified by harmony and balance between a person's impulses so that no single
impulse can override another. This is achieved under the control of reason, so that when it is achieved, there is balance
between the dictates of reason and the person's behavior.
In contrast to these people are others who are inclined to
have one aspect of their personality overpower all others, anger for instance or lust. They can maintain no balance between
reason and impulse. Sometimes reason exercises an authoritative control over their impulses and sometimes it is the other
way around. This loss of balance can make these people come up with ways of thinking that are far from moderate.
person's temperament has a direct effect on the choices, both intellectual and practical, that a such a person will be disposed
to make unless that person is checked by some stronger outside influence. The result of this is that you find a person's views,
choices, and overall way of life to be related to each other, since they all come from one source.
most people fall within the sphere of justice and moderation when it comes to their everyday dealings. This is the way people
are made. The sphere of moderation is by no means narrow; it is in fact a general framework encompassing many broad categories
of people. It remains to be said that this natural moderation that most people enjoy in no more that the ability to accept
the truth and be affected by it. This type of preparedness is of no benefit, however, unless it has the effects of divine
guidance impressed upon it.
For this reason, we see that in the Qur'ān and Sunnah, revelation is likened to rain and
a person who is open to guidance is likened to good soil. Even more specifically we see a simile of a humble heart and fertile
ground and of a heedless heart and barren land.
"Has not the time arrived for the believers that
their hearts in all humility should engage in the remembrance of Allah and of the truth that has been revealed to them? And
that they should not become like those who were given the scripture before, who as ages passed, their hearts became hard?
For many among them are rebellious transgressors."
Right after this Allah says:
"Know that Allah gives
life to the Earth after it is dead. We have made the signs clear for you, so that perhaps you may understand." [Sūrah
Ibn Kathīr, in his commentary on the Qur'ān, says: "In this verse is an indication that Allah softens
the hearts that have been hardened, and that he guides those who are bewildered after they have strayed, and that he eases
distress after it had been severe."
Abū Mūsā al-Ash`arī relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "What
Allah sent me with of guidance and knowledge is like abundant rain that falls on the land. Some of the land is pure and rich,
so when the rain hits it, it produces abundant grass and pasture, and where this land is free of growth, it takes in the water
so that Allah benefits the people with it. They drink it, give it to their animals, and use it in agriculture. Other land,
however, is flat and barren, neither retaining the water nor producing pasture. The first type of land is like the one who
possesses understanding of the religion and benefits from what Allah had sent to me, so he learns it and teaches others. The
other land is like the one who pays no heed and refuses to accept the guidance that Allah has sent to me." [Sahīh al-Bukhāri
(77), Sahīh Muslim (4232), and Musnad Ahmad (18752)]
This leads us to the conclusion that true balance and integrity
is built upon two foundations:
1. Adhering to the truth that comes from Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon
him) and applying the revealed teachings to all the problems of life, great and small.
2. The innate quality
in a person that predisposes him to accept this truth.
Revelation is the light and the person ready to accept its guidance
is the lamp from which that light shines. According to one interpretation mentioned by Ibn Kathīr, this is why Allah says:
"The parable of His light is like a niche within it a lamp…" [Sūrah al-Nūr: 35]
the rain, and the person who has willingness to accept it is like good, fertile ground. This simile can be found in other
texts besides the ones we have mentioned. This means that divine revelation from the Qur'ān and Sunnah is the proper standard
of judgment. The people who carry the Law in this manner are, in every generation, the balanced and moderate people. This
is clear from the following hadīth: "This knowledge is carried in each generation by the people of just moderation who
reject the spurious interpretations of the ignorant, the claims of those on falsehood, and the distortions of the fanatics."
[Refer to al-Tamhīd (1/59)]
This is clear and to the point, and there are many texts like it. This shows that the
people of justice, balance, and moderation who are guided by the light of the Qur'ān and Sunnah are the mainstream to which
all others are to be brought back.
Fanaticism of any kind is the exception that makes the rule. This is why the Prophet
(peace be upon him) warns against fanaticism. Ibn `Abbās relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Keep away
from fanaticism in religion, for those who came before you were only brought to destruction by their fanaticism in religion."
[Sunan al-Nasā'ī (3007)]
The Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) were the just and balanced moderates
who were a witness over mankind. Those who go to extremes or fall into fanaticism must be brought back to the way of the Companions,
as well as those who fall into antipathy and carelessness.
Extremism in an Islamic framework means deviance in understanding
Islamic teachings or in applying them, in spite of the fact that some of these extremists might present their arguments from
an Islamic standpoint or be motivated by religious feelings. Islamic history provides us with the example of the Khārijīs,
the first and possibly severest extremist group in Islam. They were neither convinced nor satisfied with the understanding
and application of Islam exhibited by the Companions, preferring to split the fabric of Muslim society, go off on their own,
and then turn against the rest of the Muslims violently. Their origins stretch back to a disturbed individual who criticized
the justice of the Prophet (peace be upon him) saying to him: "Muhammad, be just!" This was the beginning of a sect that would
consider itself select, that would believe itself to be true, sincere, and pure, and that would deem all others to be oppressors
and deviants far from the straight way.
However, it would be a mistake to always give the Khārijīs as the example of
extremism. This will give people the impression that extremism is a Muslim commodity. It must not go unnoticed that there
is Jewish extremism out there presently taking the form of major and official political parties and organizations that boast
about their fanaticism and feel no shame in making public their hostile and threatening demands against their opponents, not
to mention the systematic fanaticism that has become an official part of Jewish politics and that is the common denominator
underlying the full spectrum of Jewish opinion.
No different is the Christian extremism that shows itself in hundreds
of Christian groups and organizations throughout the United States and their tens of millions of members.
of September 11 provided these people with the opportunity to come out in the open with the enmity that they harbor against
Islam and the Muslims. Some of them have demanded the obliteration of everything Islamic. Others have demanded the destruction
all places sacred to Muslims. Many official voices have been raised accusing Islam itself for what happened, declaring it
to be an evil and loathsome religion.
This goes for the official policies that have brought about in the United States
a special style of dictatorship just for the Arabs and Muslims, excluding them from the laws that protect the general public
and denying them the rights possessed by the rest of the population. This course of action is itself a repugnant form of extremism.
Even more extreme are the exaggerated abuses of power being exhibited by the allies, their flagrant disregard of human rights,
their aggression against the Afghani people, and their casual approach to bloodshed. The only difference is that this is
the extremism of the powerful who do not need to justify their actions.
Then there is the extremism of the secularists
in the Muslim world who persist in trying to apply Western experience - or to even fully transplant Western society - to the
Muslim world. Worse than this are those among them who adopt belligerent policies borrowed from the Communists to besiege
religious people in all sectors of society and deny them access to the media, employment, social positions, and political
The reactions and counter-reactions that ensue from this have no limits. Extremism breeds extremism.
The best environment to spread extremist ideas is one where the people are oppressed and denied their natural human rights.
This denies them the opportunity to be calm and emotionally stable. It puts strain on their personal lives, their religious
lives, their family lives, and their financial dealings.
Extremism - by which we mean transgressing the bounds of justice
as defined by divine revelation and deviating from the natural disposition inherent in the human being - is without doubt
a problem of crisis proportions. The history of civilization provides us with numerous examples of this extremism, while the
Message of Islam can be seen as the ideal way of dealing with it. Nevertheless, we are not here to react to the West and
exchange accusations with it and the rest of the world. We are in no need of such a battle which could scarcely bring us any
benefit. What is important is that we realize how much we need to develop the understanding of the Muslims on an individual
level, so we can all recognize extremism that takes us outside the framework of Islam. It may also be good for us to realize
that the West both produces extremism and exports it. It may be that some of us are its consumers. At the same time, we must
be aware that extremism has not reached crisis proportions when it is restricted to a few groups; however, the security of
the world is threatened when it becomes the official law enjoying its own legitimacy. This is what we see coming from within
political circles and institutions with executive power in the West, and this may have far-reaching effects. The Jews would
probably be chosen as the best candidate in the world for such a description if the peoples of the world were given the freedom
to decide matters for themselves.
There is a need for us to broaden our intellectual sights and not just let the
West define for us what extremism is. We must become cognizant of the fact that extremism goes beyond the realm of Law
and turn into the message of a civilization capturing the minds of people all over the world and neither the West nor the
East can fully contain it.
Here we must realize that the West is going through a time of crisis, and even though
we may be suffering something of the same, we must be ready to get beyond our problem. This can only be achieved by a commitment
to clemency, moderation, and balance and spreading the correct teachings of our religion that puts and end to all contradictions