Freedom according to the Capitalist Civilization
Freedom was initiated in the capitalist civiliza- tion under the shades of an overwhelmingly bitter doubt which dominated the torrents of the entire European thought as a result of the intellectual revol- utions which succeeded each other at the dawn of modern Europe, shaking all the western intellectual pillars!
The idols of European thinking started falling down one after the other due to the revolutionary discoveries in the world of science which shone at the western man with new concepts of the world and life, and with theories completely in contradiction to the accepted precepts of the past, those which formed the corner stone of his intellectual entity, intellectual and religious life.
Western man started, across those successive in- intellectual revolutions, to look at the cosmos through new eyes, and at the intellectual heritage humanity had left him since the dawn of history with looks of doubt and suspicion. For he started to feel that the world of Copernicus, who proved that the earth is but a planet of the sun, differs a great deal from the conventional world Ptolemy speaks of, and that nature which started revealing its secrets to Galileo and his peers among the scientists, is a new thing compared to the portrait inherited down from the saints and former thinkers like Saint Thomas Acqu- inas, Dante and others. Thus does he suddenly, and with a trembling hand, throw his former precepts, trying to be relieved of the frame in which he lived thousands of years ... !
In its escalating revolutionary torrent, doubt did not stop there! Rather, it wiped out all values and precepts common to humanity and upon which it depended to check the behaviour and regulate relationships. So long as the new cosmos contradicts the old concepts of the world, and as long as man keeeps looking at his reality and environment from a scientific angle, rather than from mythology, then there has to be a reassessment of the religious concept and likewise of all goals and principles man has lived, before his new outlook of himself and his world crystalizes.
Upon this basis has the religion of western man faced the dilemma of "modern" doubt, and it does not really hinge except upon an emotional basis which soon started drying up because of the Church's tyranny and might. It was natural, then, that all of these ethical bases melted at the conclusion of this defeat. So were the principles and ideals which check man's behaviour and tolerate his extremism, for ethics are linked to religion throughout humanity's existence.
When they lose their religious source which provides them with true values and links them to the world of the unknown and of the rewards, they be- come then an empty ruin and an unjustifiable tax! History always highlights this fact! Greek advocates of sophystry disbelieved in deism because of their dependence upon a "sophisticated" doubt! So, they rejected the ethical restrictions, rebelling thereupon, and western man repeated the story anew when "modern" doubt engulfed his religious creed. He revolted against all sorts of disciplinary manners and ethical codes. Such manners and ethics seemed to him to be linked to an ancient stage of man's history.
Western man set out as he willed to behave as he liked, filling his lungs with the fresh air wherein "modern" doubt occupied the position of principles and standards, when they used to restrict the internal inclination of man and his behaviour.
Here were the ideas of the intellectual freedom and the personal liberty born: For the idea of intel- lectual freedom has come as a result of a revolution ary doubt and a mental disturbance which blew up all intellectual precepts. So much so that there remain no more sublime facts whose denial is not permissible, as long as doubt extends itself to all spheres ... ! And the idea of personal liberty comes as an expression of the negative results reached by "modern" doubt in its intellectual combat against faith and ethics, for it is natural that the man who conquers his own faith and ethics is to believe in his own personal liberty and rejects any authority to check his behav- iour and control his will. According to such sequence, modern man reaches doubt, intellectual freedom, and finally "personal liberty" ... !
Here comes the role of economic freedom to form a new series of this "civilized" sequence: Having believed in his personal liberty, modern man strats placing his goals and criteria upon this basis.
Having practically disbelieved in the religious out- look of life and the cosmos, and their respective relationship to the Creator and to whatever reward or punishment man awaits, life starts to him to seem as a chance to win the largest possible portion of pleasure and materialistic enjoyment which cannot be achieved except through wealth ... Therefore, wealth returns as the magic key and the goal towards which modern man labours, the man who enjoys com- plete freedom in his behaviour. It becomes necess- ary to establish the basis of economic freedom and open all fields before this free being to work for the achievement of this new goal: wealth, which western civilization puts up as a new idol for mankind, and every sacrifice mankind offers in this respect is now an honest deed and an accepted scape-goat.
The economic motif becomes dominating as long as the march of modern civilization becomes more distant from the spiritual and intellectual principles which he has refused in the beginning of the march. The mania for wealth increases to dominate the situation, and the precepts of goodness, virtue and religion disappear..., so much so that Marxism, during one of the western civilization's dilemmas, imagines that the economic motif is the impetus which directs the human history in all ages.
It is not possible that the idea of economic free- dom can be separate from another idea, which is the idea of political freedom, for the essential condition for practising a free activity on the economic stage is the removal of the political obstacles and the con- quest of the difficulties put forth by the ruling auth- ority through the possession and nationalization of the governing apparatus, so that the individual may rest assured that there is no power which can separate him from his achievements and desired goals ... !
Thus were the general outlooks or basic series, of which western man composed his civilization, completed. He worked sincerely to establish his life on their basic and adopt a world call thereof...!
In this light can we clearly see this "civilization" in its characteristics to which we have pointed out at the beginning of this chapter, for it is a civilized phenomenon which started as a bitter and distrubing doubt and ended as a doctrinal belief in freedom. It is an expression of the belief of western man in his control over himself and his possession of his will after he has refused to submit to any authority. Freedom, according to capitalist democracy, does not only mean the denial of others' control; rather, it means much more than this; it means man's control over himself and the practical separation between himself and his own Creator and destiny.
As for Islam: its position from freedom essen- tially differs from that of western civilization, for it takes care of freedom in . its negative implication or, rather, in its revolutionary output which liberates mankind from the control of others, breaking the chains and shackles which hand-cuff him. It considers the achievement of this negative implication of free- dom as one of the greatest goals of the Divine Mess- age Itself ... A nd He releases them f rom their heavy burdens and f rom the y ok es that are upon them ... (Qur'an, 7:157)
But it does not link this concept to its positive i mplication according to the concepts of western civilization, for it does not consider man's right to be liberated from others' control and standing by their side on par as a result of man's control over himself and his right to determine his behaviour and conduct in life; that is, what we would label "the positive implication of freedom according to the concepts of western civilization". Rather, it links freedom and liberation from all idols and artificial shackles to sincere submission to Allah. For man is, above all, a servant of Allah who does not recognize any submission except to Him, or yields to any idol- atrous relationship of any colour or shape. Instead, he stands on equal footing in his own sincere sub- mission to Allah with the rest of cosmic creation.
The essential basis of freedom in Islam, there- fore, is unity and belief in sincere submission to Allah, before Whose hands all idolatrous powers are crushed, the powers which trampled on man's dignity across history.
Say: "O People of the B ook! Come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but A llah; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not, f rom among our- selves, lords and patrons other than A llah ... " ( Qur'an, 3:64)
He said: "W orship ye that which ye have (your- selves) carved?! B ut A llah has created you and y our handiwork !" (Qur'an, 37:95-96)
V erily those whom ye call upon besides A llah are serv ants lik e unto y ou... . ( Qur'an, 7:194)
... Are many lords differing among themselves better, or the one A llah, Supreme and Irresist- ible?! ( Qur'an, 12:39)
Thus does Islam base the liberation from all kins of slavery upon the principle of admitting an absolute submission to Allah, making the relation ship between man and his Lord the firmly-rooted basis for his liberation in dealing with all people and with all natural things in the cosmos.
Islam and western civilization, although both practising the operation of man's liberation, differ in the intellectual basis upon which this liberation stands. Islam bases it upon the belief in man alone and in his control over his self which has doubted all principles and facts lying behind the materialistic dimensions of man's existence.
For this purpose has the idea of freedom in Islam been rendered to a believing doctrine which be- OM lieves in the Unity of Allah, and to a firm convic- tion in His control over the cosmos. The deeper this belief goes into the Muslim's heart, and the more centralized his unifying outlook to Allah is, the more elevated his soul will be and the deeper his feeling of dignity and liberty, and the more stiff his will to stand in the face of tyranny, corruption and en- slaving others:
A nd those who, when an oppressiv e wrong is inf licted on them, (are not cowed but) help and def end themselves. (Qur'an, 42:39)
Contrary to this is the idea of freedom accord- ing to western civilization: for this is the product of doubt, unbelief and the result of disturbance and rebellion, not of conviction or stability, as we have already come to know.
We can classify the democratic capitalist norms of freedom, for the purpose of comparing them with Islam, to two kinds:
i) One of them is freedom in the personal sphere of man, which is what democracy labels "Personal Freedom".
ii) The other is freedom in the social sphere. This includes the intellectual, political and economic norms of freedom.
Personal freedom treats man's conduct as an individual, albeit if he lives independently or as part of the society. As for the three other norms of free dom, these treat man as an individual living among the group, permitting him to voice his ideas to others as he likes and granting him the right to choose the kind of ruling authority he favours, and opening before him the way to all various kinds of economic activity according to his capacity and inclination .
Adopted from the book: "Contemporary Man and The Social Problem" by: "Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir Al-Sadr"
Share this article