There are two kinds of extremists, ones who sacrifice principles for convenience, believing it is wisdom, and those who sacrifice wisdom mistakenly believing they are following their principles.
The first hides behind the justification that the world is complicated, the second hides behind the justification that their principles are simple.
The root of both kinds is vanity. The vanity of the first is their own self-interest and convenience, believing that their principles are only there to serve themselves. They justify themselves by proudly following principles when convenience allows, but shirk away inventing exceptions and excuses when not.
The vanity of the second is in their conceited self-righteousness – that by following principles to excessive degrees or when they are not relevant to a situation, they attain superiority in rank over others. They proudly justify themselves by claiming they follow a ‘higher purpose’ or under the false-modesty of being a ‘humble agent’ of their principles.
The Islamic way is the middle path between these two extremes: To be uncompromising in principles, but be wise in their application. Knowing when to apply some and when some don’t apply to the situation.
To achieve this one must know that the world contains both simple and complicated situations, with complicated situations sometimes appearing simple, and simple ones sometimes appearing complicated. Principles too can be simple in form, but complex in details. The only way to navigate this is to remove oneself and one’s emotions and desires from the equation and investigate purely detached from the situation, in order to come to a wise judgement and achieve the correct end goal that is not affected by one’s vanity.
There is a saying ‘listen 100 times, think 1000 times, speak once’
The extremist who sacrifices principles considers, the other to be a fanatic, and the extremist who is excessive in principles (unwittingly going outside them) considers the other to be a pragmatic hypocrite. Of course, they’re both right about each other, but unable to understand the middle way, and so contemptuously consider the one following the middle path to be either a fanatic or a hypocrite (or both).
The middle way is difficult because it requires discipline, perseverance, and study of Deen AND the world – but through it we attain understanding of the true nature of reality and the correct actions we must take.
“We made you to be a community of the middle way, so that you might bear witness to the truth before all mankind.” (Qur’an, 2:143)
A message to all and to myself.