The Holy Book of Islam, the Qur’an, describes the Muslim society as “Ummathan wasathan”, a balanced society. (2: 143) It means a society that adopts a middle course, not swerving to extremes.
This balance is seen in many aspects of Islam. One example is its stand towards this world and the other world. Religions are expected to be afterlife-directed, and renunciation of earthly life is generally considered a very desirable attitude to life, though most people fail in this venture. The Qur’an, however, teaches: “Seek your Home of the Hereafter with what God has given you in this world; and do not forget your portion in this world”. (28:77)
Allah has also said: “It is He (God) Who has created for you all things on this earth” (2:29). This clearly shows that God wants us to make use of the blessings of this world for our progress. So Islam does not teach us to adopt a negative attitude to this world; it does not say that the world is evil in itself. And when we see that God created everything for our use, then who are we to say, “We don’t want them”?
In fact it is our approach and attitude to this world that makes the world good or evil as the case may be. God has given us guidance in how best we can live here in peace and prosperity. It is up to us to determine how we use the resources of this world and how we live here.
Although chronologically Islam is the latest religion, in many ways it stands between the formalism of Judaism and the spirituality of Christianity. Islam teaches Muslims to have the best of both worlds: the world of business, politics and turmoil, and the world of eternal peace in the Hereafter.
Man as God’s Ambassador on Earth
God tells us that He created us as His ambassadors on earth (Qur’an 2: 30). This means,
(1) that He has given us certain faculties to make us worthy of being his ambassadors (Qur’an 17:70); and (2) that we have to discharge the duties that are placed on us as God’s ambassadors.
God has given us intellect, imagination, memory, speech, and so on, which are all required for our life on earth. He has also given us freedom, without which our intellectual faculties will be useless. It is up to us to use these faculties to our benefit in this world as responsible persons. But is it proper on our part to be reckless in our use of our God-given freedom and these faculties? Not at all.
Then how do we know the limits of our freedom or the seriousness of the responsibilities entrusted to us?
To this end, He has given us Guidance. He helps us to use all His blessings optimally so that we do not exceed the limits set by Him.
The Balance in the Creation of the Universe
We read in the Holy Qur’an: “He has created man; He has taught him intelligent speech. The sun and the moon follow courses exactly computed; and the plants and the trees, bow in adoration. The Firmament has He raised high, and He has set up the Balance, in order that you may not transgress due balance.” (55: 3-8)
As God’s representatives on earth, we too have to observe a balance and justice in the use of God’s bounty. This means that as responsible citizens of God’s kingdom, we cannot squander or waste natural resources, or even the wealth we presume to be ours; for, we have to consider not only our own needs, but also the needs of the future generations.
This balance should be present in everything we do. Therefore a Muslim cannot be an extremist in anything, just as he cannot be a spendthrift or a miser. God decries extremism even in religious matters. God commands: “Do not commit excess in your religion”, as He has commanded us to observe justice in everything. For this reason, a Muslim has to be a reasonable person, a person of proper balance and equanimity. In times of good fortune or bad fortune, he has to keep his cool; he cannot lose his balance.
Thus we find that Islam is a religion of justice and balance. It visualizes an ideal society where people live in peace as equal citizens striving for the material and spiritual welfare of all.