26 Oct The Basic Concepts of Islam: Part 4
The Concept of Freedom
Freedom, both as a concept and as a value, has been denied by many individuals, groups, and nations. It has been often misunderstood and abused. The fact is that no human society can a man be free in the absolute sense of the word. There must be some limitations of one sort or another if the society is to function at all.
Apart from this general idea, Islam teaches freedom, cherishes it, and guarantees it for the Muslim as well as for the non-Muslim. The Islamic concept of freedom applies to all voluntary activities of man in all walks of life. As already stated, every man is born free on the fitrah or in a pure state of nature. This means that man is born free from subjugation, sin, inherited inferiority, and ancestral hindrance. His right to freedom is sacred as long as he does not deliberately violate the Law of God or desecrate the rights of others.
One of the main objectives of Islam is to emancipate the mind from superstitions and uncertainties, the soul from sin and corruption, the conscience from oppression and fear, and even the body from disorder and degeneration.
The course which Islam has enjoyed on man to realize this goal includes profound intellectual endeavors, constant spiritual observances, binding moral principles, and even dietary regulations. When a man follows this course, religiously, he cannot fail to reach his ultimate goal of freedom and emancipation.
The question of freedom with regard to belief, worship, and conscience is also of paramount importance in Islam. Every man is entitled to exercise his freedom of belief, conscience, and worship. In the words of the Quran, God says: Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clear from Error. Whoever rejects Evil and believes in God has grasped the strongest bond that never breaks. And Gods knows all and hears all things (Quran, 2:256).
Islam takes this attitude because religion depends upon faith, will, and commitment. These would be meaningless if induced by force. Furthermore, Islam presents the Truth of God in the form of an opportunity and leaves the choice for man to decide his own course. The Quran says: The Truth is from your Lord. Let him who will, believe, and let him who will disbelieve (Quran, 18:29).
The Islamic concept of freedom is an article of faith, a solemn command from the Supreme Creator. It is built on the following fundamental principles. First, man’s conscience is subject to God only, to Whom every man is directly responsible. Secondly, every human being is personally responsible for his deeds and he alone is entitled to reap the fruits of his work. Thirdly, God has delegated to man the responsibility to decide for himself. Fourthly, man is sufficiently provided with spiritual guidance and endowed with rational qualities that enable him to make responsible, sound choices. Such is the foundation of the Islamic concept of freedom and such is the value of freedom in Islam. It is a natural right of man, a spiritual privilege, a moral prerogative, and, above all, a religious duty. Within the framework of this Islamic concept of freedom, there is no room for religious persecutions, class conflict, or racial prejudice. The individuals right of freedom is as sacred as his right of Life; freedom is the equivalent of Life itself
The Concept of Equality
One basic element in the value system of Islam is the principle of equality or, better yet, equity. This value of equality is not to be mistaken for or confused with identicalness or stereotype. Islam teaches that, in the sight of God, all men are equal, but they are not necessarily identical. There are differences in abilities, potentials, ambitions, wealth and so on. Yet none of these differences can by itself establish a status of the superiority of one man or race to another. The stock of man, the color of his skin, the amount of wealth he has, and the degree of prestige he enjoys have no bearing on the character and personality of the individual as far as God is concerned. The only distinction which God recognizes is the distinction in piety, and the only criterion which God applies is the criterion of goodness and spiritual excellence. In the Quran, God says:
O mankind, verily We have created you from a single (Pair) of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is the most righteous (49:13).
The differences of race, color, or social status are only accidental. They do not affect the true stature of man in the sight of God. Again, the value of equality is not simply a matter of constitutional rights or gentlemen’s agreement or condescending charity. It is an article of faith which the Muslim takes seriously and to which he must adhere sincerely. The foundations of this Islamic value of equality are deeply rooted in the structure of Islam. It stems from basic principles such as the following: (1) All men are created by One and the Same Eternal God, the Supreme Lord of all. (2) All mankind belong to the human race and share equally in the common parentage of Adam and Eve. (3) God is just and kind to all his creatures. He is not partial to any race, age, or religion. The whole universe is His dominion and all people are His creatures. (4) All people are born equal in the sense that none brings any possession with him, and they die equal in the sense that none brings any possession with him, and they die equal in the sense that they take back nothing of their worldly belongings. (5) God judges every person on the basis of his own merits and according to his own deeds. (6) God has conferred on man, man as such, a title of honor and dignity.
Such are some of the principles behind the value of equality in Islam. When this concept is fully utilized, it will leave no place for prejudice or persecutions. And when this Divine ordinance is fully implemented, there will be no room for oppression or suppression. Concepts of chosen and gentile peoples, words such as privileged and condemned races, expressions such as social castes and second – class citizens will all become meaningless and obsolete.
The Concept of Brotherhood
Another fundamental element in the value system of Islam is the value of human brotherhood. This value also is founded on the same principles which have been discussed in connection with freedom and equality. Besides those foregoing principles, human brotherhood in Islam is based on an unshakable belief in the Oneness and Universality of God the worshipped, the unity of mankind the worshippers, and the unity of religion the medium of worship. For the Muslim, God is One, Eternal and Universal. He is the Creator of all men, the Provider for all men, the Judge of all men, and the Lord over all men. To Him, social status, national supermanship, and racial origin are insignificant. Before Him, all men are equal and brothers of one another. The Muslim believes in the unity of mankind with regard to the source of creation, the original parentage, and the final destiny. The source of creation is God Himself. The original common parentage is that of Adam and Eve. To this first parentage, every human being belongs and of it, he partakes. As for the final destiny, there is no doubt in the Muslims mind that it will be to God, the Creator, to Whom all men shall return. The Muslim believes in the unity of Gods religion. This means that God does not confine His religion or favors to any particular nation, race, or age. It further means that there can be no contradiction or fundamental differences in the Religion of God. When all this is interpreted properly, it will leave no ground for pretended supremacy or presumptuous exclusivity. And when it is imparted into the human mind, it will provide man with a clear concept and a solid basis of human brotherhood. Because the Muslim believes in the Oneness of God, the unity of mankind, and the unity of religion, he believes in all the Messengers and Revelations of God without discrimination.