THE CONCEPT OF
FREEDOM IN ISLAM
In the name of Allah, the
Compassionate, the Merciful.
"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
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
Holy Qur'an (21:107)
The Prophet (s.a.w.) is quoted as having said:
"Surely, I am a granted mercy."
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 salvation.
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 his actions.
"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
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
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
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
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
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
Let the statistics speak for themselves:
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
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 century.
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
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 express.
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
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
"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
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 grace.
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
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
"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 the
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.
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
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