OF FREEDOM IN ISLAM
In the name of Allah, the Compassionate,
"And those who follow
the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in the Torah and the
Gospel, bidding them to do what is right and forbidding them what is wrong, making lawful
for them the good (things), and forbidding for them the corrupt (things) and relieving
them of their burdens, and the fetters that were upon them. Those who believe in him and
honour him, and help him and follow the light while has been sent down with him - those
are they the successful." Holy Qur'an (7:157)
Submission to the will and laws
of Allah is the source of all freedom. It liberates the mind, soul, and behaviour from the
evil influences of the world. It helps mankind overcome oppressive tyrants, unjust laws,
lusts, deviation and psychological complexes which enslave his will. Submission to the
will of Allah grants man the right to choose a better way of life, to live his life in a
moral and upright way.
Islam was revealed to the Prophet
of humanity as merciful, eternal and all powerful. If during his life man submits to the
will of Allah, he can depend on His mercy at the time of judgement.
"And We have not sent
you but as a mercy to the world." Holy Qur'an (21:107)
The Prophet (s.a.w.) is quoted as
"Surely, I am a granted
Islam freed mankind from the
darkness of polytheism, slavery, and injustice. It introduced the light of faith. It
opened the doors to moral and social reform, and created an atmosphere of security and
safety in which man was free to think, invent, and seek the road to perfection and
Freedom is the source from which
the tree of life grows. A little sapling needs of light, water, air, a spacious field in
which to grow, extend its branches, bloom and bear fruit. So, too, does freedom need the
light and guidance of Islam to flourish. If the young tree is deprived of light and space
its growth will be distorted and stunted. So, also will oppression and servitude deprive
man of his moral freedom. Oppression and servitude are like a horrible prison in which
terror and tyranny devour man's self image, his will and his desire to grow spiritually.
It deprives human life of all sense of a higher purpose, robs man of his free will and
destroys all that is good in human nature.
Islam came to break man's fetters
and tear dawn the wall of this prison. It enabled mankind to cast off the chains that
hindered his growth and induced him to give proper expression to his humanity and follow
the path to moral perfection. It created an atmosphere of hope and optimism which gave a
true meaning to human existence.
The freedom that Islam grants is
based on commitment and responsibility without which there can be no true freedom. Freedom
without restraints leads only to nihilism, the consequence of which is the complete
breakdown of the moral and social order.
The irresponsible concept of
freedom expounded by existentialism, democracy and modern theories of freedom of
expression lead only to corruption and immorality since they are not tied to any concept
higher moral values or self control. For Islam, freedom lies in commitment and
responsibility. They form an integral part of each other and can in no way be separated.
There is no freedom of choice without responsibility; no responsibility without freedom.
The Ullama (scholars), over
centuries, have studied and researched the relationship between freedom and
responsibility. On the basis of their research they produced their explanation of human
behaviour, and outlined their connection with the divine justice. They concluded that if
man were deprived of free will and the right to choose his path in life, he could never be
reconciled with Allah, the Glorified.
Because Allah has granted man
free will, which allows him to choose his course in life, man is answerable to Allah for
"Surely We have shown
him the way: he may be thankful or unthankful." Holy Qur'an (76:3)
"...Nay! man is evidence
against himself, Though he puts forth his excuses." Holy Qur'an (75:14-15)
Divine reward or punishment is
ordained in accordance with man's free will. Without free will and its adherent
responsibility and commitment there could be neither reward nor punishment.
"And stop them, for they
shall be questioned." Holy Qur'an (37:24)
"And We have made every
man's actions to cling to his neck, and We will bring forth to him on the Resurrection Day
a book which he will find wide open. Read your book; your own self is sufficient as a
reckoner against you this Day." Holy Qur'an (17:13-14)
Because Islam insists that man
has free will because that is the way that Allah created him. It allows him to express
this freedom and to practise it within the limits of commitment and responsibility and
self control. Man has an obligation to choose the path of righteousness, and to safeguard
his freedom and that of others.
Because Islam grants free will,
it is expected that man will use it to further his knowledge in all areas which help in
the improvement of the human lot on this earth. Otherwise, freedom may become a tool of
destruction, annihilation and doctrinal deviation. Man is urged, by Islam, to consider the
physical and spiritual welfare of others in all his endeavors. This prevents freedom from
being turned into a dictatorship, exploiting other's inalienable rights to share in
nature's natural resources.
Political freedom in Islam is a
means of leading mankind to justice, goodness and peace. It guarantees and protects the
political rights of all.
Art and literature should reflect
the values of the Holy Our'an, and emphasize love, goodness and human relations in an
aesthetic way. Irresponsible freedom in these areas leads to pornography, debauchery, and
disrespectful for all moral values.
Man should therefore, practise
his personal freedom without encroaching on the rights of others and deviating from a
correct moral conduct. In an atmosphere which respects the rights and freedoms of others,
mankind can grow and prosper. Life is filled with knowledge and good deeds. Freed from
lusts and the control of tyrants, man can find his way to true happiness.
Freedom is "the power to
choose and determine one's position". As such, man should choose and decide
carefully on a course of action which would best benefit himself and others.
Freedom does not mean to satisfy
all his instincts. Nor does it mean to give into the pressure of lusts and desires.
Behaviour should be guided always by our inane sense of what is right and should not be
motivated by our desire for pleasure or immediate gratification.
The collapse of the civilization
and man' s fall into misery and helplessness are direct consequences of permissiveness and
the frenzied pursuit of pleasure. The Qur'an presents us with lessons drawn from history.
It tells us of nations and communities that destroyed themselves by ignoring the way of
Allah and following only the way of the flesh, being ruled by their unnatural desires.
Allah, the Almighty, says:
"But there came after
them an evil generation, who neglected prayers and followed the sensual desires, so they
will meet perdition." Holy Qur'an (19:59)
"So leave them plunging
into false discourses and sporting until they meet their day which they are threatened
with." Holy Qur'an (43:83)
"Like those before you,
who were stronger than you in power, and more abundant in wealth and children; so they
enjoyed their share; so you enjoy your share, as those before you enjoyed their share. You
have gossiped as they gossiped. Those it was whose deeds shall be nullified in this world
and in the Hereafter; and those - they are the losers. Has there not come to them the
tidings of those who were before them - of the people of Noah, and Ad and Thamood, and the
people of Abraham, the in habitants and the destroyed cities? Their Messenger came to them
with the clear signs; Allah would not wrong them, but they wronged themselves."
Holy Qur'an (9:69-70)
The emphasis on materialism and
freedom without responsibilities in today's societies is destroying the social and moral
fabric of these societies. It gives rise to moral decadence, promiscuity, crime and a lack
of respect for all moral, legal and natural courses of actions.
Freedom is abused and has become
a subversive tool, a scourge to mankind. This abuse of freedom has resulted in chaos
throughout the world. It has led to corruption, crime, war, poverty, drug addictions,
alcoholism and life destroying diseases such as AIDS.
National and international
organizations agree in their surveys that drug addiction throughout the industrialized
world is increasing at an alarming rate. This increase is taking place in spite of massive
public awareness campaigns and millions of dollars spent on education. Thousands of people
are jailed through the world every day for drugs related crime. But the true causes of
drug addiction- the breakdown of moral values, the helplessness and despair of the
underprivileged, and the emphasis of a secular society on instant self gratification and
solution of problems- are never addressed.
Let the statistics speak for
Drug addiction is increasing at
an alarming speed. More than 50 million people worldwide are thought to be addicted to
drugs. It is estimated that among the poor, black ghettos of North American cities the
addiction rate is 50%. Across the population at large surveys suggest that 20% of the
people are addicted either to drugs or alcohol. Rates are highest amongst the young.
Millions of dollars, that could be spent on bettering the lives of the poor and
underprivileged, are wasted on the war against drugs, and drug pushers.
In 1980s, with the introduction
of crack cocaine into the U.S.A. the crime rate due to drug addiction increased
dramatically. It is estimated that at least 60% of young America have experimented with
drugs. In one report of high school students (1988) 47% of students had smoked marijuana
and hashish, over 90% had tried alcohol. (Drugs, Society and Human Behaviour: 1990).
There is no reason to expect that
the figures are any lower in the other industrialized countries.
In the Soviet Union alcoholics
are now estimated to number about 40 million. This is having an adverse effect on the
country's industrialization and production figures.
The Paris based "Jeune
Afrique" magazine reported that 60% of traffic accidents and 40% of divorce cases are
as a result of alcoholism. In 1986, in Japan, 25524 people commuted suicide. (National
Police Agency of Japan: 1987). The numbers are expected to increase as materialism takes
its toll on the Japanese population).
In Britain one out of every five
children suffers from the consequence of family breakdown. Drug addiction and related
crime are reaching unprecedented rates and bringing appalling suffering to the people.
SEX AND DISEASES
Human life is gravely threatened
by the collapse of the natural male-female relationship, free sex, debauchery and man's
lack of self control. Dangerous and often fatal diseases are the natural consequence of
unlicensed sexual practices.
Throughout the world it is
estimated that between 5 and 10 million people carry the AIDS virus. It is expected that
at the close of this century there will be over 100 million infected people who because of
the laxity of moral standards will continue to infect others.
AIDS is an epidemic disease. It
destroys the body's immune system and leads to an appalling death. So far no cure has been
discovered for it although it is well known that sexual abstinence can prevent it. Except
in the rare circumstances where aid is contacted through infected blood transfusion and
medical contact, AIDS is a result of illegal drug use (infected intravenous needle use)
and illicit homosexual and heterosexual relationships. It is spreading rapidly throughout
the world wherever moral values are not upheld.
The "Sunday Times" of
London has reported that Britain may lose 10,000 citizens to AIDS before the end of the
The number of AIDS victims
doubles every eight months. The report stressed that the number of victims, which at the
time of the report stood at 512 was equal to the number of cases in the USA four years
previously. The report criticized the British government's attitude towards the disease
which it concludes is not taking the disease, its causes and effects seriously enough.
In the USA the number of AIDS
victims continue to rise at alarming rates. More children are born with the disease and
suffer dreadfully throughout their short lives. Educational authorities, hoping to stem
the increase of victims, emphasize "self-sex" rather than stressing the moral
turpitude that leads to the disease in most cases. It appears that the authorities believe
that moral values have no role to play in the correction of the disease. They would be
well advised to look at Muslim countries where strict moral values are the norm and
consequently such diseases do not exist.
These statistics and reports draw
a grim picture of the consequences of the materialistic life which has turned its back on
Allah and all the moral and spiritual values of the Holy Qur'an.
The appalling suffering brought
about by these diseases and addictions are a result of man's inability to practise freedom
with restraint, and responsibility. The limitless freedom has resulted in chaos, disorder,
crime, despair and death and for many the annihilation of the very freedom they wished to
Our young people were attracted
by the outward manifestation of the freedom of the west. They did not understand the
dangerous, destructive underside of the materialistic world. They looked to the West for
ideas on clothing, eating and social conduct forgetting that the price of such behaviour
is a loss of moral values. Lured by the fashionable clothing and standards of behaviour,
they absorbed the bankrupt moral codes of the west, ignoring for the moment their own
superior values. Many perceived, too late, the moral void that existed underneath the
veneer of civilization.
Those who understand freedom as a
license to act as one pleases should look to the Western societies and observe the fruit
of such thinking. One of the major results is that women viewed freedom as breaking away
from the home. Sexual freedom was unrestrained by moral commitment or responsibilities and
promiscuity raged and ravaged the population.
The family collapsed and a generation of children was lost- a generation which is in need
of love and care. The results are seen everywhere in drinking, drug taking and crime which
is destroying millions of young lives.
Economic freedom is seen as a
means to exploit the underprivileged by bribery and corruption. A capitalist class, whose
sole aim is to amass wealth in the hands of a few, has grown powerful and influential on
the sweat of others.
Man has an obligation to pursue
knowledge and to increase his skills and to use them in his life. But, we should
distinguish between science and useful products and civilizations which means guiding
society towards a certain point in accordance with certain methods.
The Muslim should keep in mind
that his outlook on moral behaviour should always be in accordance with the Creator of the
Universe and His ordained principles and moral values. A divine civilization is that which
is ordained by the Islamic Message. Man, in this philosophy, is a servant of Allah. Allah
alone has full authority over man. Within the framework of obedience to the Will of Allah,
man can live a life founded on justice and wisdom and exercise his divine given rights of
freedom in his daily behaviour.
The necessity to think through
one's actions and accept responsibility for them are clearly specified by Prophetic
"Should you set your
mind on doing something, think of its outcome. If it is honest, go ahead. But if it is
dishonest, refrain from doing it."
We must discover our God given
personality and understand and be sincere in our beliefs. Only by doing so we can become
strong enough to resist imitating others and their seductive but unethical moral codes of
Islam encourages freedom of
thought, speech, politics, economy, individual conduct, but insists that this freedom
encompass a sense of responsibility and commitment. By doing so, Islam aims to build
strong, unwavering characters who are secure in their self knowledge and have confidence
in themselves and their values, and whose behaviour will always reflect their strength.
The Prophet (s.a.w.) warned us
not to be foolish imitators of others. He urged us to develop our independent characters
nourished by Islamic teachings.
He (s.a.w.) has said:
"Do not be a mere
imitator with no firm determination. You say, 'I am with the people. Should people do
good, so do I. And if they do evil, so do I'. But school yourselves. If people do good so
should you. But if they do evil shun their evil deeds."
The Our'an and the Messenger of
Allah (s.a.w.) nourished the Islamic concept of freedom. Never did he deny his followers
freedom of expression. Muslims could always speak their minds while in his presence. He
consulted them about his revelations and listened to their views and counsels. The first
Muslim community lived in unprecedented freedom under the banner of the Holy Our'an and
the leadership of the guiding Messenger. Everyone lived in an atmosphere of social justice
and harmony. There was no place for pride and arrogance. Even as the teeth of a comb did
they live. The only privilege accorded to anyone was that conferred by piety. All nations
lived as one.
The pre- Islamic society into
which Islam was revealed was pastoral. Its pillars were slavery, exploitation and
Islam laid down the principles of
justice, equality and freedom and established moral values. Since the concept of slavery
was entrenched in the pre-Islamic world, and equally contrary to the Islamic concept of
freedom, many inducements to free slaves were introduced. Freeing a slave could help
expiate sin. Sin is a spiritual perversion, called by the Holy Qur'an "a deviation, a
malady". It separated man from Allah and His Mercy.
Manumission of a slave was one
way in which a sinner could show remorse and atone for his sins and so be restored to
There were many sins which could
be atoned for in this way; a Muslim who was unable to fast during the Holy month of
Ramadan: false testimony; breaking a sacred pledge to Allah; al-Dihar . premeditated
murder, or unjust murder, or even unintended murder as in the case of the death of a
fetus: women cutting off their hair as a sigh of deep mourning or self mutilation for the
same reason; all these could be atoned for by emancipating a slave without giving sanction
to the sins. Emancipation had always to be accompanied by true contrition.
Islam, moreover, allocated a
certain percentage of zakat revenues (an Islamic tax) for the purpose of emancipating
slaves and established the laws of al-Mukatabah , and al-Tadbi  to legalize and be
instrumental in the process of manumission.
Throughout the books of fiqh
(jurisprudence) and Islamic legislation there are numerous rules and details about the
emancipation of slaves. Slaves were freed primarily so that they could live in the freedom
and dignity of Islam and be emancipated in soul as much as in body. Thus, it is clear that
from the very beginning freedom of the individual was of paramount importance in Islam.
"And surely We have
honoured the children of Adam, and We carry them in the land and the sea, and We have
given them the good things, and We have made them to excel by an appropriate excellent
over most of those whom We have created." Holy Qur'an (17:70)
In Islam freedom is an
inalienable right which enable man to lead a moral and upright life, and brings him under
the mantle of the justice and mercy of Allah.
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of
Back To Index of Articles
 Al-Dihar is the saying of a
husband to his wife. "You are like my mother to me", which means he would not be
allowed to go to bed with her. He can't do so without an expiation.
 Al-Mukatabah is a written agreement between a master and his slave to emancipate the
tatter in return for something.
 Al-Tadbir is the process of emancipating a slave after the death of his master. It is
fulfilled on the strength of a statement said by the master during his life. It is
"You are free after my death".