Justly Balanced Ummah

Kashmiri Muslims offer congregational Friday prayers at historic Jamia Masjid in Srinagar on first Friday of holy month of Ramadhan. Mubashir Khan/GK

As the Muslim Ummah has been defined as justly balanced, it may not touch extremes, whatever is the walk of life or the sphere of activity—theological or otherwise, and faith stands to be tested by divine guidance, such as the change in the direction of prayer—the Qiblah:

‘’Thus have We made of you an Ummah justly balanced. That ye might be witness over the nations, and the Messenger a witness over yourselves; and We appointed the Qiblah to which thou wast used, only to test those who followed the Messenger from those who would turn their heels (from the faith). Indeed it was (a Change) momentous, except to those guided by Allah . And never would Allah make your faith of no effect. For Allah is to all people most surely full of Kindness, Most Merciful’’ (Al Baqarah: 143)

‘Wasat’ is the Quranic idiom used to describe the middle. Applied to Muslim Ummah, middle path is implied on the faithful. Abdullah Yusuf Ali, one of the foremost commentators on Al-Quran says, ‘’So the mission of Islam is to curb, for instance, the extreme formalism of Mosaic Law or the extreme ‘other worldliness’ of Christianity’’. What Abdullah Yusuf Ali is alluding to is the exclusiveness assigned to ‘Mosaic Law’  by virtue of which the followers of Moses call themselves the chosen people, while as Christian ‘other worldliness’ promotes renunciation as the road to salvation. Such doctrinal rigidity is to be foresworn and the middle path followed in word and deed, ever and always.

The change of ‘Qiblah’ from Jerusalem to Mecca was a test of faith, besides Mecca was to evolve as epicentre of Muslim Ummah, which in fact it had been from the Abrahamic epoch, besides as Abdullah Yusuf Ali notes, geographically Arabia stood in an intermediate position in the Old World. He alludes to the point that ‘Wasat’ also implies a touch of literal meaning of ‘Intermediacy.’