Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, regarded extremism in din (way of life) as a basic fault of the people before the advent of Islam. He said:
"Beware, do not adopt extremism, because your predecessors got annihilated by adopting extremist attitudes in din." [Muslim]
Extremist, rigid and strict attitudes did not exist during the time of Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet himself, as can be gathered from documented evidence, was very tolerant, he listened to others with respect, avoided arguments and quarrels and adopted the best available course of action even though it may have been suggested by someone else. There was a balance between his personal, family, social and public life.
Acquiring a deep and balanced understanding of Islam assists in leading a balanced and moderate personal and social life. However, some people are found to give more emphasis to certain aspects of Islam over others, or they place unjustified burdens on themselves that have no reference in the Islamic sources of guidance.
Islam enjoins wisdom, balance, moderation and tolerance in all affairs, and it condemns excessiveness, extravagance and fanatical attitudes. To achieve a balanced attitude, Muslims need to understand the objectives of Islam, stay close to Islamic guidance, and give as much weight to an aspect of Islam as the noble Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) and his faithful Companions gave, no more and no less.
Extremist attitudes, practices and customs, make their entrance into an organisation, community or groups, through various ways:
• through views based on ignorance,
• superficial knowledge,
• imbalanced understanding, or
Extremism is bred when certain verses of the Quran, sayings of the noble Prophet or certain of his deeds are exaggerated or understood out of their context. It even arises from exaggerated love or hate of someone or something.
Extremism is a disease and leads to intolerance, disrespect, inflexibility and cause conflict amongst people. These, in the long-run, destroy communities and are, therefore, alien to Islam because Islam is the "middle" way.
An extremist temperament is one of the major causes of Muslim disunity and weakness today. Cultivation of moderation and balance in people's temperaments is required for reforming the affairs of the world according to Islam. Muslims must avoid extremism and rigidity, learn and observe the ethics of disagreement is Islam, and show respect and tolerance to differing views and opinions that are within the boundaries of Islam.
"Building A New Society" - ZahidParvez, pp. 200, 201