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Moderation and Deviation

Every one of the four ethical virtues is to be practised to a certain degree and within definite limits, transgression of which would transform a virtue into a vice. If every virtue is thought of as the center of a circle, any movement away from the center would be considered as a vice, and the farther away it were to move from this point, the greater the vice. For every virtue, therefore, there are innumerable vices; since there is only one center in a circle, whereas points all around the center are infinite in number. In regard to deviation, it does not make difference in which direction the deviation occurs. Deviation from the center, in whatever direction, is a vice.

To find the real center, which entails absolute moderation, is thus difficult to attain. To remain at this center and to preserve this balance is even more difficult. The Prophet (S) said:

The Surat Hud has made an old man of me because of the verse, Remain as steadfast as you have been commanded'. (11:112)

As opposed to the real center, there is the approximate center, which is more accessible. Individuals who purify and develop their souls usually reach this relative center and acquire relative moderation. It is for this reason that moral virtues differ with different individuals, circumstances, and times. Relative moderation, like deviation, covers a wide area at the center of which lies the point of absolute balance and moderation.

Adapted from: "Jami' al-Sa'adat" by: "Muhammad Mahdi al-Naraqi"

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