The first step for the spiritual traveler to take is to abandon the contingent affairs; those illusory and fictitious values, and conventional habits and practices that prevent him from traveling on the path. What we mean is that he should live in moderation among the people.
Some people are constantly preoccupied with the rules and customs of society, and all their thoughts and efforts are centered on pleasing others and cultivating friendship. Such people are obsessed with formalities and welcome all kinds of interaction with various people, whether meaningful or useless, for the sake of maintaining their social status.
They habitually subject themselves to these formalities in order to maintain their actual or imagined prestige, often exposing themselves to obligations and severe hardships. In order to preserve that which is peripheral, they set aside the very substance of life. They take common people’s admiration and/or disapproval as criteria and waste their lives conforming to those standards.
The vessel of their being is besieged with the tides of social habits and customs, swept hither and thither by the waves of social decorums and values of the society. Not knowing themselves, this group of people have no will power of their own, but are totally submissive to the will of society and follow that.
In sharp contrast to this group, there is another group of people who withdraw from society and people, renounce all kinds of social customs and norms, and free themselves from all societal obligations and privileges. They do not associate with or frequent the company of people, but live in their peaceful seclusion to the extent that their very seclusion brings them notoriety and recognition.
In order to attain his desired goal, the traveler must always observe moderation, adopt a middle position, refrain from either extreme, and walk on the straight path. This objective will not be achieved unless a reasonable degree of interaction is maintained with society. In such a situation, should a discord inevitably arise between the spiritual traveler and ordinary people as a result of the frequency and/or quality of their association, it would not be very harmful to the wayfarer.
Of course, such a conflict will rarely arise because, while social intercourse is necessary and essential to a certain extent, the traveler would not under any circumstances submit himself [to follow] the manners and practices of the common people: 'And they do not fear the blame of any blamer [in matters relating to God].' (5:54)
This verse in effect points to the traveler’s steadfastness in his pursuit of the straight path and his fortitude in his beliefs and practices. On the whole, one can say that the wayfarer must examine every social issue, evaluate its advantages and disadvantages, and never submit to the moral values and modalities of the masses of the people.