The virtue found within abstinence can be of great benefit to the social nurturing and sustenance of any society. The great religions of the world have long taught that sometimes less is of greater benefit to man than more. Abstinence is not simply to shun away from excess, rather it is to forego that which is lawful to man in order to facilitate a higher spiritual or social ambition.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for those of us living in the wealthiest nations of the world to put into context and consider our lavish lives with the reality of our fellow human beings living in less financially fortunate areas of the world. Therefore, abstinence is a path by which man voluntarily lowers his status so that he can more properly appreciate his own corporeality and existence. He is then able to counter-balance the excesses of his life and move towards moderation.
In the prophets Moses(as), Jesus(as) and Muhammad(saw) we find the model examples of those who partook in abstinence and maximised the benefits found therein. They were able to establish the greatest religions of history, through the grace of Almighty God, by ensuring that they never proceeded beyond the boundaries of moderation. This allowed them to identify and cater for the needs and sensitivities of both the rich and the poor equally.
They were the leaders of millions of people, yet it cannot be said that any of their followers served them more than they served their followers. They lived by the universal and timeless teaching of Muhammad(saw) – “The Leader of a nation is a servant to them”. In short, abstinence ensured that they were continuously in touch with the realities and sensitivities of the people around them. It is regrettable that many hundreds of years later countless political and religious leaders indulge in flagrant excess and thus cannot relate to the very people they are charged with the responsibility of serving. If they embrace the humility of abstinence then perhaps they will remove the cloud of distrust society has placed over them.
Another benefit of abstinence is that it is the nemesis of greed. If man is to eliminate the cancers of war and economic anarchy then each individual must administer a portion of abstinence in their life. It not only inculcates a sense of moderation within mankind but also empowers us to apply moderation towards others; even our enemies.
Abstinence subdues sin and allows man to overcome the temptations of this world. More importantly, it facilitates the journey each servant of God must take in order to conquer their lower self. This is indeed the true purpose of man’s principle striving, the greater jihad of subduing one’s self, or as in the words of Dickens in Nicholas Nickleby, ‘Subdue your appetites, my dears, and you’ve conquered human nature’.