What is Extremism?
By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan for New Age Islam
18 Feb, 2015
Extremism, or Ghulu in Arabic, is to transgress the limits set by Divine law. Violating these limits is a result of a shift of emphasis—to give greater stress to something than one actually should. An example of this in the Muslim case is their giving more than necessary stress to politics. In Islam, the status of politics is just partial or relative. And so, to consider it as the basis for the interpretation and explanation of the entire religion of Islam is to transgress the proper limits. And this is a form of extremism.
Once, I was talking with someone about this issue, and he said to me, “You give such great stress to inviting people to God and issues related to this—that’s also a form of extremism!”
I replied to him, saying, “Definitely not! Inviting people to God was an extremely important sunnat, or practice, of the Prophet. In fact, the Prophet was sent for this very purpose. But what has happened today is that Muslims wrongly consider as their rivals the people whom they were meant to invite to God. And so, they have lost the incentive to engage in inviting people to God. That is why I place such importance on reviving this Prophetic practice. I would call it ‘giving emphasis’, not a ‘shift of emphasis’.”
Extremism is never in terms of the essence of the faith. Rather, it is always about the externals or form of religion. To give great emphasis to the essence of the faith is always something desirable—in fact, the Quran does this, too, and this is also the case of the Hadith. It helps to bring to life the spirit of the faith in a person. And when that happens, the other aspects of the faith come to life, on their own.
Giving great emphasis on the spirit of the faith is always desirable. But as regards the externals of the faith, one should act with gentleness and abstain from all extremism.
To act with ‘religious wisdom’, you must always bear this important difference in mind.