Equity: A way forward in countering extremism
Allah says: And thus We have made you a nation justly balanced (ummatan wasata) that you may be the bearers of witness to the people and (that) the Apostle may be a bearer of witness to you… (Part Al-Baqarah, 2:143)
Therefore, one finds that Islam presents the just and balance way in every aspect of life. Not only that, it also warns against heading towards either extreme: that of excessiveness and negligence.
Allah says, "Guide us to the straight way, the way of those upon whom You have bestowed Your grace, not those whose (portion) is wrath nor those who have gone astray" (al-Faatihah 1:6-7).
The words in the verse above, "a nation justly balanced (ummah wasata)," means "equity and most excellent."
This understanding is most consistent with the remainder of the verse. The justly balanced approach is the reason why this nation has been assigned the role of witness against the other nations, "that you may be witnesses over the people." Testifying is only to be performed by just people as it is not acceptable from anyone except a just person. Reportedly, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
"On the Day of Resurrection, Noah (peace be upon him) will be brought and asked, 'Did you convey [the message]?' He will say, 'Yes, 0 Lord.' His nation will be asked, 'Was the message conveyed to you?' They answer, 'No warner came to us.' He [the Lord] will say [to Noah], 'Who are your witnesses?' He will answer, 'Muhammad and his nation.' Then you [that is, the followers of Muhammad] will be brought and will give witness." Then the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) read the verse, "Thus have We made of you a nation justly balanced,"-he stated, "[That is,] just,"- "that you may be witnesses over the people and the Messenger a witness over yourselves." (Ascribed to Bukhari)
This explanation [for the verse 2:143] is also apparently what the early scholars of Quranic exegesis stated, including ibn Abbaas, Mujaahid, Saeed ibn Jubair, Qataadah, as well as others of the later Quranic commentators.
Allah says, [Believers], you are the best community singled out for people: you order what is right, forbid what is wrong, and believe in God. If the People of the Book had also believed, it would have been better for them. For although some of them do believe, most of them are lawbreakers - (ali-Imraan 3:110).
Quranic verses explain each other. Since the Quran describes this nation as "the best," its description as "wasat" must necessarily follow because "wasat" in the Arabic language means "the best, most excellent, and fair." This usage is customary in the speech of the Arabs, that is, that "wasat" means equity.
A well-known commenter [Abul Aala Al-Maududi] of the Quran, says regarding the above verse:
“The word "ummatan wasata" is so comprehensive in meaning that no English word can correctly convey its full meaning. It is a righteous and noble community which does not go beyond proper limits, but follows the middle course and deals out justice evenly to the nations of the world as an impartial judge, and bases all its relations with other nations on truth and justice.”
Thus, equity means to follow all the teachings of Islam, and to practice them in accordance to the way it was given, without going beyond the limits which have been set by Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him). A Muslim believes that Islam is complete and perfect in all its teachings. The laws given in the Holy Quran are exactly what Allah wanted for the believers.
The completion and perfection of Islam means that whatever constitutes its teaching is exactly what a Muslim is required to do, as part of his duty to Allah. Today I have perfected your religion for you, completed My blessing upon you, and chosen as your religion Islam: [total devotion to God]; but if any of you is forced by hunger to eat forbidden food, with no intention of doing wrong, then God is most forgiving and merciful. [Part of al-maidah 5:3] Violation of God’s laws and teachings amount to sins and transgression, and does not amount to ‘moderation’.
Each Muslim is required to accept these teachings whole-heartedly, without any reservation or hesitance. Allah commands the Muslims in the Holy Quran by saying, ‘O you who believe! Enter into Islam whole heartedly, and follow not the footsteps of Satan. Verily, he is to you an open enemy’. (2:208)
Islam does not stress the spiritual at the expense of the material, or vice versa. Rather, it brings both of them into harmony. It commands its followers to prepare themselves for the Hereafter while at the same time lawfully enjoying their portion of life: Seek, with [the wealth] which Allah has bestowed on you, the Home of the Hereafter, nor forget your portion in this world. (Part of al-Qasas 28:77). Once the prayers are performed, the believers are encouraged to go about their business: “And when the prayer is finished, then disperse in the land and seek of Allah’s bounty, and remember Allah frequently that you may prosper.” (Al-Jumuah 62:10)
Furthermore, the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to repeat in supplication “Our Lord! Give us good in this world and good in the Hereafter, and defend us from the torment of the Fire!” The ideal situation in Islam is neither deprivation nor excessive materialism but justly balance.
Islam commends moderation while observing our religious duties and condemns going to the extremes by overburdening ourselves with duties that are bound to put us off the religion altogether: Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you.” (Part of 2:185) “On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear.” (Part of 2:286)
Islam commands its followers to take a balanced course between niggardliness and extravagance, be it in their ordinary spending or in charity. They should strike a perfectly just measure between the two extremes. The Qur’an says: “And let not your hand be tied [like a niggard’s] to your neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach [like a spendthrift’s], lest you become blameworthy and destitute.” (Al-Isra 17:29)
The Qur’an describes the devoted slaves of Allah as those who: “When they spend, are neither extravagant nor niggardly, but hold a medium [way] between those [extremes].” (Al-Furqan 25:67)
The Qur’an condemns both ends of extremism in warfare, either aggression or pacifism: And fight in God's cause against those who wage war against you, but do not commit aggression-for, verily, God does not love aggressors. (2:190)
The Qur’an condemns the people of the previous scriptures because of the excesses they had committed in their religion: “O people of the Book! Do not exceed the limits set in your religion, nor say of Allah anything but the truth. Jesus Christ, the son of Mary was [no more than] a Messenger of Allah and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary and a spirit created by Him; so believe in Allah and His Messengers. Say not ‘Three [Trinity]’! Cases! It is better for you. For Allah is One God, glory be to Him. Far exalted is He above having a son. To Him belong all that is in the heavens and in the earth. And sufficient is Allah as a Disposer of affairs.” (An-Nisa 4:171)
Equity cannot be a mere human criterion for virtues. Instead, it is a distinguishing characteristic of the Quran. It is the Quran and its faithful adherents who are truly the people who are free of deviation, with respect to both excessiveness and negligence. The foundation of the religion of Islam is the antithesis of extremism. It is the religion of equity as defined by God Almighty the All Wise and not subject to whims of Man - be they clergy or laity.
The Quran expounds the centrality of equity within every aspect of Islam and thus, enables one to authoritatively discern the objectives of Islam and thereby aids in countering extremism.
And Allah knows best.
For Younger Readers
God teaches in the Quran, the holy book of Muslims that:
The more a believer follows the Quran the less extreme he/she will be
Quranic teachings lead to a balance and fair way of life