A culture of Balance and Justice is the model and the prototype for humans to strive for, as they come together to establish an organic and dynamic society: “Thus We have made of you an Umma justly balanced.” [2:143]
This bench mark was achieved by Mohammad (S) and his companions in Medina, and hence that society became the field of study for every generation that aspires for Balance and Equilibrium. One must realize that the challenge before us today is how to do that in view of the changes and the challenges of the time and place we live in. Balance is presented in Quran as a prominent feature of the Universe: “And the heaven He has raised, and He has set up the balance, in order that you may not transgress balance. So, establish weight with justice and fall not short in the balance.” [55:7-9]
This feature is also universal and general: “And the earth We have spread out; set thereon mountains firm and immovable; and produced therein all kinds of things in due balance.” [15:19]
The Universe is under a direct order to seek Balance and Equilibrium. Sometimes the response to a certain degree of imbalance may manifest itself in a strong and vigorous fashion like hurricanes, earthquakes or tsunami, in order to restore Balance in the Universe. For humans, Balance is a challenge and a choice and hence, they are urged to seek Balance in their everyday life to maintain harmony with the Universe around them: “Thus, We have made of you an Umma justly balanced.” [2:143]
Balance has been the vision and worldview of Prophet Mohammad (S) by which he defined his overarching mission. This vision preceded him. The model of Mohammad (S) and his disciples have been described in the Torah of Moses and in the Gospel of Jesus: “You see them bow and prostrate seeking grace from Allah and his good pleasure. On their faces are signs of their prostration. This is their similitude in Torah.” [48:29]
Torah addressed the social issues that confronted Moses and his followers and responded appropriately to their challenges. The followers of Moses have just been released from the tyranny, oppression, and torture of the Pharaoh. Their humanity is being restored after it has been weakened and destroyed. The teachings of the Torah emphasized actions that will bring them back to the world. They had to believe in themselves and their ability to act and make a difference in this existence. The model of Prophet Mohammad (S) and his companions in the Torah is emphasizing the dimension that may be overlooked in the process of change and reform. That dimension is spiritual and can be addressed and satisfied by the different forms of worship, like prayer, that will include bowing and prostration in the era of Mohammad.
In the Gospel, another bench mark was emphasized: “And their similitude in the Gospel is like a seed which sends forth its blade, then makes it strong; it then becomes thick, and it stands on its own stem.” [48:29]
The emphasis of the Gospel was on the spiritual dimension for people who were living in extreme materialism under the influence of the Roman Empire at the peak of its civilization. The model of Prophet Mohammad (S) and his companions in the Gospel is focusing on another dimension that may be missed. This dimension stresses how effective human beings should be in this life. Quran uses the practices of farming and cultivation to symbolize the human actions that are needed to make life possible and prevent death.
Therefore, Balance in human life is best achieved when all the dimensions are recognized and satisfied. It is not achieved by oscillating or jumping between two extremes.
Therefore, the challenge before human beings is to actualize their unique human nature by showing their maximum capacity to both live within and build this material and physical world, and at the same time, showing their maximum moral and spiritual capacity to free themselves from its prison.
The various modes of worship in Islam are shaped to illustrate the vision of Balance and Equilibrium. Friday prayer is such an excellent training mechanism and a powerful tool to learn and teach about Balance in social life: “O you who believe! When the call for Friday prayer is proclaimed hasten earnestly to the remembrance of Allah, and leave off business; that is best for you if you but knew.” [62:9]
Friday was a market day in Medina. The believers were trained to liberate themselves from the prison of the market by leaving all businesses and transactions i.e. buying and selling, and hasten to the mosque for Friday prayer and the remembrance of Allah. The situation is presented as an emergency so that the masses will respond in earnest. But as the believers fulfill their obligation, they should not stay in the mosque forever: “And when the prayer is finished, then you may disperse through the land, and seek of the bounty of Allah.” [62:10]
As the believers are able to liberate themselves from the prison of the market and what they may earn and accumulate, they are asked not to retreat from the world but have the capacity to go back to it. This return is qualitatively different because it gives a new direction for the action in the market. Buying and selling will be practiced with a different intent: Business is transformed into seeking the bounty of Allah.
Even the location of the mosque in the center of the market is highly symbolic. The values and the ethics of the mosque are supposed to give the market its direction towards Balance and Justice and prevent it from going in the direction of greed and socioeconomic imbalance and disparity.
The Muslim world has no choice. It only looks good in the dress of Balance and Equilibrium. It has rejected all forms of extremism through its history. When you are in the middle you see and acknowledge the presence and significance of everyone around you. When you are at the extreme you see only yourself and deny the other. One can easily show that the periods of history where Peace prevailed, and all the features of civilization flourished, were also periods of Balance and Equilibrium.
By Walid Khayr