Freedom (The Unstated Facts and Points)
- :Ayatullah Misbah Yazdi
Freedom (The Unstated Facts and Points)
Ayatullah Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi
The precious legacy left behind by the Holy Prophet’s Household [ahl al-bayt] (may peace be upon them all) and their followers’ preservation of this legacy from the menace of extinction is a perfect example of an all-encompassing school [maktab], which embraces the different branches of the Islamic knowledge and has been able to train many of the talented personalities by quenching them with this gushing-forth fountain.
This school has presented scholars to the Muslim ummah who, by following the Holy Prophet’s Household (‘a), 1 have occupied the station of clarifying the doubts and skepticisms brought forth by the various creeds and intellectual currents both inside and outside the Muslim society, and throughout the past centuries, they have been the presenters of the firmest answers and solutions to these doubts.
Anchored on the responsibilities it is shouldering, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly has embarked upon defending the sanctity of risa-lah [messengership] and its authentic beliefs—truths which have always been opposed by the chiefs and leaders of the anti-Islamic sects, religions and trends.
In this sacred path, the Assembly regards itself as a follower of the upright pupils of the Ahl al-Bayt’s (‘a) school—those who have always been ready to refute those accusations and calumnies and have tried to be always in the frontline of this struggle on the basis of the expediencies of time and space.
The experiences in this field, which have been preserved in the books of the scholars of the Ahl al-Bayt’s (‘a) school, are unique in their own right.
It is because these experiences have been based upon knowledge [‘ilm] and the preeminence of intellect and reasoning, and at the same time, devoid of any iota of blind prejudices as well as whims and caprices. These experiences address the experts, scholars and thinkers in such a manner that is acceptable to a healthy mind and the pure human natural disposition [fit.rah].
In a bid to assist those who are in quest of truth, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly has endeavored to enter the new phase of these worthy experiences within the framework of research and writing works of the contemporary Shi‘ah writers or those who, through the divine guidance, embraced this noble school.
This Assembly is also engaged in the study and publication of the valuable works of the pious predecessors and outstanding Shi-‘ah personalities so that those who are thirsty of truth could quench their thirst from this refreshing fountain by listening and embracing this truth, which the Holy Prophet’s Household (‘a) has offered as gift to the entire world.
It is hoped that the dear readers would not deprive the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly of their valuable views and suggestions as well as constructive criticisms in this arena.
We also do invite the scholars, translators and other institutions to assist us in propagating the pure Muhammadan (s.) Islam.
We ask God, the Exalted, to accept this trivial effort and enhance it further under the auspices of His vicegerent on earth, Hadrat al-Mahdi- (may Allah, the Exalted, expedite his glorious advent).
It is appropriate here to express our utmost gratitude to A-yatulla-h Muhammad Taqi- Mis.ba-h. Yazdi-, the author of this book, and to Mr. Mansoor Limba for translating it, as well as to all our honorable colleagues in accomplishing this task especially the dear ones in the Translation Office for performing their responsibility.
Ahl al-Bayt(‘a) World Assembly
The Importance of Understanding the Various Meanings of Freedom
These days, what has been talked about more than anything else, and has also been included in the political and legal literature of our country (Iran) and been discussed a lot, is the issue of “freedom”.
For every person, the issue of freedom is interesting. One of the slogans chanted in the Islamic Revolution of Iran was also “freedom”—“Independence, freedom and Islamic Republic”. Political figures and groups in various countries, on account also of the same attractiveness that this issue has, talk a lot about it.
In our own country we can observe that these days and the past three or four years, this slogan is regularly repeated, and everyone is presenting a particular interpretation of it. In order to make the issue clear, it is necessary for us to deal on it a little bit more specifically and precisely, and to examine its diverse aspects.
The interpretation that we usually have of “freedom” is in contrast to captivity, bondage and entanglement. Perhaps, at all times and in all societies the same conception of freedom, more or less, has been and is understood. The various terms, which exist in the different languages for this concept,
approximately, are all denoting such meanings. Every time a person hears this word (freedom) what usually first comes to his mind is that this concept is used in contrast to captivity and bondage. In principle, we comprehend opposite and contradictory concepts with the help of one another. For instance, when we want to describe light we use the concept of darkness. Similarly, in describing the concept of darkness, we discuss the concept of light. There is a famous Arabic expression, which states:
“Things are known by means of their respective opposites.”
At any rate, in understanding contradictory concepts; in order for our mind to understand them better and easier, it usually imagines them together. The same is true for the concept of freedom. Once we want to imagine the concept of freedom, we envisage a being in captivity and bondage, saying that freedom means not in such a condition.
For example, we picture out a bird inside the cage, a person whose hands and feet are enchained, or a person who is detained and imprisoned, and we say that freedom means to be not in such a state and to have no such fetters—the bird shall be free from the cage; the hands and feet of the person shall be unfettered; or the person shall be set free from prison and be allowed to go wherever he wants, and thus we say, “He is free”.
The attractiveness of the concept of freedom for man is exactly on account of this contrast with captivity and bondage; for nobody wants to be in captivity, bondage and entanglement. Nobody wants to confine himself in a room and not allow himself to go out. Nobody wants to enchain his own hands and feet such that they could not move. Everyone wants to freely and willfully go wherever he wants and to behave the way he likes.
Without there somebody teaching him so, man naturally and innately likes freedom and liberty, and abhors captivity and bondage. It can even be said that every sensible being is such that he wants freedom of action, and limitation and restriction are against his nature.
Because of this appeal that the concept of freedom has for us, anyone who would also talk about it and praise it will catch our attention, and anything over which freedom is applied is attractive and desirable for us.
At this juncture, we are most of the time negligent of these facts: Is freedom having only one meaning? Or, are there diverse meanings for it? Is freedom, in whatever sense, concordant with the nature of man, and desirable? Is freedom having only a single type, and that is when the bird is freed from the cage? Or, are there various types of freedom, some of which are not only not beneficial but even so destructive and harmful?
As what is stated in the science of logic, one of the fallacies, which is relatively so rampant, is the fallacy of common word, i.e. a word having more than one meaning. The feature and attribute related to one meaning of the word is erroneously proved for the other meaning. As an instance, the word “shi-r” 2 can be cited. Mawlawi- 3 says:
That one is shi-r [milk, or lion] in the ba-diyeh [cup, or jungle].
And the other one is shi-r in the ba-diyeh.
That one is shi-r, which devours human (or, which human eats).
And the other one is shi-r, which devours human (or, which human drinks). 4
The word “shi-r” means “milk” as well as “lion”. “Ba-diyeh” also denotes two meanings: the first one is “desert” and the other is “cup” and “vessel”.
In this poem of Mawlawi- it is not exactly clear which one is “lion” and which one is “milk”.
Ba-diyeh is equally not clear which one means “desert” and which is one means “vessel” and “cup”.
Or, the word “zami-n” can also be considered. Sometimes, when we say zami-n, we mean a limited, small and specific part of the earth. When we say, zami-n-e kesha-varzi- [agricultural land] or when we say, “So-and-so has bought such-and-such zami-n,” we mean a limited piece of the earth’s surface.
Yet, at other times by zami-n we also mean the earth; for example, when we say, “The earth [zami-n] is one of the planets in the solar system,” or when we say, “The earth [zami-n] revolves around the sun.” When the earth is meant, the concept of zami-n does not only refer to the surface of the earth but also encompass the atmosphere and space as well as the mines and depth of the earth.
If we say, “So-and-so has bought such-and-such zami-n and has also received its land title,” we do not mean that he has bought the earth and registered it under his name, or if we say that the rotation of the earth causes the day-and-night phenomenon, we do not mean that the rotation of the house or garden’s track of land brings about this development.
In any case, this problem regarding all words having more than one meaning exists. In using this kind of words by us or others, we should be careful lest the fallacy of common word were committed.
The concept of freedom is also among those concepts having diverse meanings, and is used in various senses in different sciences. Owing to this, there is the possibility of committing the fallacy of common word. Consciously or not, one could possibly issue a decree related to one meaning of freedom for another, and could even cause discord among the proponents of freedom.
Sometimes, on one hand, one would present his understanding of a subject and on the other hand, another would say, “I did not mean what you said. What I meant by the concept and meaning that I was defending was something else.” In contrast, the other one will oppose his statement and say, “What you attributed to me was not what I meant. My point is something else.”
If we take a survey of the collection of articles, books and treatises related to the concept of freedom, particularly the works written in the recent years, we will find out that there is no specific and common conception of the term among the scholars and writers. A person has described freedom in a certain manner and renders his support for it while the other does the same for another conception of freedom and criticizes the other writer’s definition of the term.
It is natural that given such differences and disparities in outlook, understanding cannot be attained. In order to attain so, we must have a common definition so as to bring the discussion to a conclusion. That is, once we can answer this question—Is freedom concordant with Islam or not?—then that is the time for us to know the meaning of freedom.
Concerning a term having diverse meanings—since the Western writers in their writings have mentioned up to about two-hundred definitions—although so many of these definitions are closer to one another and only through the omission or commission of one and two words that they are different from one another, in some cases those definitions have also inconsistency with one another—how could it be judged that it is concordant with Islam or not?
Similar to “freedom” is the term “democracy”, which is a Western term and sometimes described also as “populism” and at other times as “the government or sovereignty of the people”. Yet, a fixed and precise definition has not been presented, too. It is not clear whether democracy is a form of government and a type of social conduct. Is it related to the domain of government and political issues, sociology, or management? There is a lot of discussion in this regard.
At any rate, in order not to commit the fallacy of common word regarding the concept of freedom, it is necessary for us to be familiar with its various meanings.
1. Freedom as existential independence
One of the meanings of freedom is that any being shall be totally independent, not to be under the influence or sway of another being, and no kind of dependence to other being shall be presumed about it. For example, if somebody would say that the universe exists by itself, stands by itself and is not dependent on God, and the Will of God has no role in the rotations and revolutions (of its components), this statement connotes that freedom means deliverance of the universe from any sort of divine control.
In this case, as one of the beings in this world, man will also have the same ruling, and it opens the way for us to say that man is free from any kind of responsibility and servitude toward any other being including God. Of course, concerning the independence of the universe, there are two views. Some believe that there is no such thing as “God” for the universe to be dependent on “it” and be under “its” will.
Some others believe that God does exist and has created the world, but after the creation of the universe, He has left it to itself and after the creation the universe is no longer in need of God and is independent from His will. By abiding with the regulation and system that God has set for it, it spontaneously continues the rotations and revolutions of its components.
According to them, creation of the universe is like constructing a building. Once the constructor built the building, its survival no longer depends on his existence. It is in fact independent from his existence. It is even possible that the constructor would die, but the building would remain for tens and hundreds of years.
In the imagination of some, the world is also like that. God created it and thereafter left it to itself. This view denies the “cosmic Lordship” [rubu-biyyat-e takwi-ni-] of God while the first view denies the principle of God’s existence. Both the two views are incompatible with the monotheistic viewpoint of Islam.
2. Freedom as “freewill”
The other meaning of freedom, which is also related to the domains of theology, philosophy, scholasticism [‘ilm al-kala-m], and philosophical psychology, is the freedom in contradistinction to “predetermination”. Since time immemorial, this discussion has existed among the thinkers and scholars: Is man really free in his action and has freewill, or is it that he is only imagining that he is free and the truth is that he is under compulsion and has no will of his own?!
The issue of predetermination [jabr] and freewill [ikhtiya-r] is one of the oldest discussions, which exists in the philosophical discussions of all peoples and nations. After the coming of Islam or from the very advent of Islam, because of the Muslims’ contact with other peoples and cultures, or due to the intellectual sediments they had in their minds from the culture of pre-Islamic thought and heresy, this issue was intensely discussed among Muslims.
The fatalistic tendencies, meanwhile, gained much currency, and they would even cite Qur’anic verses in proving the predetermined state of man. Among the Islamic schools of thought, Asha-‘irah (Ash‘arism), which is among the scholastic schools of the Ahl as-Sunnah, upholds the theory of predetermination. 5 Of course, it is not as extreme and passionate as others.
In any case, this question is posed: In terms of action, does man really have freewill and is free such that he could decide and do whatever he likes? Or, are there elements in the offing, which compel man to do a certain action and even to accept a particular idea and thought, and that freewill is just an illusion? The proponents of predetermination believe that the different social, natural and supra-natural elements compel us to act and even think and decide in a certain way. According to them, as what Mawlawi- cites as an example,
That you said I have to do this or that Is itself a basis of freewill, O master!
Speeches are nothing but illusion and imagination, and are incompatible with the reality; man has no freewill of his own and is under the influence of various elements.
This matter is also discussed in the philosophical psychology: Is man a being who, in terms of personality and mental frame, has the power of decision-making, or not? In scholasticism and theology this is also discussed: As the servants of God, are human beings under compulsion, or autonomous and free?
According to our view and that of the majority of Muslims, this belief in the domain of (personal) opinion and outlook is rejected, although in the domain of action and deed all people know that they have freedom and freewill. If mere predetermination rules over man, there is no more point of having moral and educational systems as well as government organs.
In the domain of ethics and educational system, if man is compelled to do a good or bad action, having no choice of his own, with respect to the good deed he must not be praised, lauded and be given reward. Equally, if he were compelled, he must not be punished and reprimanded for an evil deed.
If the child were compelled in his action, there is no more point of training him, and for controlling his action educational systems must be abandoned. In case both the teacher and trainer, and the child and pupil were under compulsion in their actions, the trainer could not advise the child to perform a certain activity and to avoid a certain undertaking. In the same manner, in the domain of legal, political and economic issues, all those regulations and recommendations that have been made are pieces of evidence that man is indeed free and autonomous.
When man is autonomous to perform a certain action or abandon the same, they will admonish him to perform or abandon a certain act. If he were under compulsion, having no choice and freewill on his action, then there is no point of admonishing or giving order to him.
This freedom and freewill in which we do believe is a creational [takwi-ni-] affair whose opposite is predetermination [jabr]. It has been endowed by God to man, is among the peculiarities of man and the criterion of his superiority over all creatures.
Among the creatures that we know, it is only man that has the power to choose and select, notwithstanding his diverse, and at times, contradictory inclinations. In responding to the call of his desires—whether they are bestial desires, or divine and sublime aspirations—he is totally free and autonomous.
Undoubtedly, God, the Exalted, has bestowed this divine blessing to man so that out of his freewill he could select the right path or the wrong path.
All the advantages that man has over other creatures including the angels are under the auspices of having the power to choose and select. If he would make use of this power in the right path and choose the divine wishes while putting aside the bestial desires, he will reach an exalted station wherein the angels will feel humble before him. Of course, man’s possession of this freedom is a creational issue. Approximately, nowadays, nobody denies it and regard himself as totally under compulsion, having no freewill of his own. The Qur’an naturally gives emphasis on this issue:
“Say: (It is) the truth from the Lord of you (all). Then whosoever will, let him believe, and whosoever will, let him disbelieve.” 6
“Lo! We have shown him the way, whether he be grateful or disbelieving.” 7
Hundreds of verses, nay it can be said, the entire Qur’an, highlight the autonomy of man because the Qur’an is meant for the guidance of man. If man were under compulsion, his being guided was a predestined matter and so with his being misguided, and there was no place for guidance by choice. In this manner, the Qur’an will become useless and futile. It is clear that the second meaning of freedom is different from the first one that we mentioned. Of course, they are common in indicating objective realities and so to speak, the “beings” and “not-beings”. None of the two meanings falls in the domain of “must” and “must-not”.
If man had been really created to be under compulsion, it can no longer be said: “He must be free.” On the contrary, if man had been created as autonomous, it cannot also be said: “He must be compelled.
” In these two meanings of freedom, one cannot speak of “mandatory” and “moral” orders. If in the parlance of philosophy it is proved that man is created to be under compulsion, the slogan of the freedom of man can no longer be chanted. If man is by creation under compulsion, whether we like it or not, the freedom of man will be an impossible and absurd affair. The domain of “being and not-being” is different from that of “must and must-not”.
Therefore, if someone applied “freedom” with its creational meaning and then arrived at the “must and must-not”, he is committing that fallacy of common word, which we pointed out before. If we proved that man by creation is free, one cannot arrive at the legal and moral freedom, and say: “So, he must be free,” or “It is good” for him to be free”. To discover and prove an external reality is one thing, and to talk about “good and bad” and “must and must-not” is another. One must not mix the two together, however.
3. Freedom as “the lack of attachment”
The third meaning of freedom is a concept, which is often used in ethics and mysticism. In this famous poem of Ha-fiz?, 8 he has pointed to it:
I am the servant of anyone who under the sky
Is free from every color of attachments.
In this sense, freedom is the opposite of “belongingness” and “attachment”. That is, sometimes the heart of man is attached and fond of some things, and at other times it has no attachment to anything; it is free from any form of belongingness. Of course, what is meritorious is that man should have no affection to the world, material things, and worldly and non-divine pleasures, and not that he should have no love and affection to anything or anybody including God, the Prophet (s?), 9 awliya-’ [saints], and the like.
One more precise and mystical meaning of “the lack of attachment” is that the man in the sublime station of monotheism reaches a point where his love belongs to anything or anybody except the Divine Sacred Essence. In this state, even if he would love a person or thing, it is under the auspices, and because, of love of God, which is under the aegis of the Divine Beauty. In the perspective of the Islamic sciences, one of the highest stages of human perfection is love and affection to God:
“Those who believe are stauncher in their love for Allah.” 10
In the Du‘a- Kumayl 11 we read:
“(O Lord! Make) my heart enthralled by Your love!”
Similarly, this subject is also present in numerous supplications and traditions, and the highest station of man is that the love of God encompassed his entire being from head to foot and his whole heart is enthralled with His love such that not a single speck of love to other than God is ever present there.
This meaning is another conception of freedom; freedom means “emancipation” and lack of attachment to anything and anybody other than God. It is again obvious that this meaning is totally different from the first two meanings mentioned earlier. The two meanings are related to the domains of realities and “beings and not-beings” while this meaning is related to the domain of values and “must and must not”.
Here, we are saying that it is “good” for man to be free from affection to other than God, and if he wants to acquire more perfection, he “must” be free and liberated from love to other than God.
If we apply this meaning to freedom, then absolute freedom is not desirable. That is, that man should be free from love and affection to anything and anybody other than God, the Exalted, is against moral values. There is also an opportunity here to commit error and fallacy. Anyone would deceptively talk about freedom in this sense that man must not be under captivity and bondage, and then say that man must thus not be fettered even by the love of God and that he must emancipate himself and be totally free. To emphasize his point, he would recite the same poem of Ha-fiz?:
I am the servant of anyone who under the sky
Is free from every color of attachments.
This is while it is an obvious and deceptive fallacy. When did Ha-fiz? wanted to say that “I am the servant of the aspiration of him who, to the extent of being insensible and cold-hearted, nurtures nobody’s love in his heart”? Ha-fiz? negates affection and attachment to other than God. His point is the negation of affection to materiality and worldliness,
and that man should give his affection to a thing, which is worthy of such an affection, as well as to somebody who is the embodiment of all goodness, and whatever beauty and perfection existing in the world are all reflections of His Beauty. This is yet another meaning of freedom, which is often applied in ethics and mysticism.
4. Freedom vis-à-vis “slavery”
The fourth meaning of freedom is a social subject and that is freedom vis-à-vis “slavery”. In the past it was such that some human beings used to take other human beings as slaves, forcing them to work, buying and selling them. Some were also free and were slaves to no one. This meaning of freedom is also totally different from the three meanings mentioned earlier, having its own particular ruling features.
There are also numerous meanings of freedom apart from these four, which we will presently refrain from mentioning. We will instead tackle a meaning of freedom which is related to law and politics, and is the focus of our attention for the present discussion. The purpose of mentioning these meanings of freedom is for us to pay attention to the fact that freedom has numerous meanings, each having its own particular ruling features, and the ruling features and effects of one meaning must not be erroneously applied to the other meanings.
5. Freedom in the legal and political parlance: mastery over one’s destiny
One current meaning of freedom advanced in law and politics is freedom in the sense of “mastery over one’s destiny”. In this meaning, man is free in the sense that he is not subject to the sovereignty of others and he is the one determining the mode, nature and way of his own life. Naturally, on the contrary, a person who is under the domination of others, receiving orders from the latter to do or not to do something, and cannot act the way he likes, is not free.
Thus, freedom in the legal and political parlance of the contemporary world means the negation of the right of others to have sovereignty over man, even if they happened to be God, the Prophet, the Commander of the Faithful, 12 and the Ima-m of the Time 13 (‘a). 14 In this perspective, only man and his sovereignty right are genuine. If man himself willfully delegated this genuine right of him to God,
the Prophet or others, they will acquire the same right; otherwise, they do not have the right. In sum, “man is free” means that no one and no being has the right to trample on the right of man to have mastery over his destiny and to designate duties for his life and actions. In interfering on the affairs and lives of people, the jurist-guardian [wali- al-faqi-h], infallible Ima-ms (‘a) and the Prophet (s?),
who have their own particular stations, and even God Himself have to wait for their approval otherwise they have no right to issue decree and order to the people, and even if they did so, it has no value, and the people are not obliged to accept their enjoinment and prohibition.
We will examine this meaning of freedom in the future discussions. We will clearly explain the viewpoint of Islam on this issue.
The Need for the Restraining Law
From the viewpoint of Islam, man is a locomotive being; in other words, a traveler who is moving from his point of origin to a certain destination, which is his ultimate perfection and bliss. The span and extent of life is like a route, which must be treaded in order to reach the destination. Let me cite an example so that the readers could understand better the subject.
Let us assume that a driver wants to move from a city, let’s say Tehran, toward Mashhad. If the hands and feet of this driver are paralyzed, naturally he cannot drive. He can only drive if his body limbs are sound, having the free power to choose and select.
Otherwise, he cannot tread such a path leading toward perfection. Therefore, God, the Exalted, has endowed man with freewill and the power to choose so as to tread this path with the feet of his own “choice and volition” and arrive at the destination. Otherwise, he will not arrive at the destination.
As such, if one would think that in a state of compulsion he could tread this path of perfection and arrive at the destination, he is wrong. Man must be free and have the power to choose so as to tread this path.
The more man is free in his choice, his deed becomes more valuable. For the driver to merely have a sound physique is not a guarantee that he would arrive at his destination.
It is because possibly, out of recalcitrance, whim and caprice, he would choose a wrong way, and without being under compulsion he would turn the steering-wheel by his hands, push the accelerator pedal by his feet, and fall on a canyon. So, to have choice and volition alone is not enough for man to attain bliss.
Instead, it is a necessary requisite to have the comprehensive cause. In other words, the sufficient requisite for the attainment of bliss is that man should pay attention to the road signs and properly observe the driving rules and regulations in order to arrive at the destination. One who would say that he is a powerful being having volition, and he wants to move in violation of driving rules and regulations, and that no one also should put a stop to his move, should be aware that his path will end in falling to the abyss of canyon.
So, apart from the fact that man should have a sound physical constitution, he should also know the route and observe the rules. Driving rules can be divided into two: the first group is the set of rules, which if not observed, will cause harm to the driver himself. For example, if he deviates from the highway, he would possibly fall into a canyon or fall from the bridge—harms for the driver himself and his vehicle.
In order to evade those dangers, warning signs will be posted such as “Dangerous curve,” “Move from right,” “Drive slowly,” etc. so that the driver would not drive in violation of the driving rules and be cautious to remain safe. Yet, in the second set, violation of the traffic and driving rules will not only endanger the life of the driver but also endanger the lives of others and give rise to accidents, which sometimes endanger the lives of hundreds of people.
It can sometimes be seen in some expressways and highways, especially in some countries where high speed is allowed, that violations of rules are responsible for the hundreds of cars to hit one another, and as a result, putting in danger many lives of people. It is sometimes written in the newspapers that, for example, in an accident in Germany 150 cars bumped one another.
Naturally, in such happenings it will not suffice to give warning and advice to observe precaution; in fact, they would also post traffic lights and more powerful warning signs; they would assign surveillance cams, automatic cameras, and occasionally, policemen in order to pursue, fine and punish the offending drivers.
Violation in the first case would lead to the deviation of the vehicle from the highway, its turning upside down and breaking of the driver’s hands and feet. In this way, they will no longer fine the driver because he has harmed himself. But in the second case, the violations would endanger the lives of others, and it is on this account that the police will pursue the violator and penalize him.
In the course of the life of man, there are two kinds of dangers. The first kind refers to the dangers related only to ourselves. If we do not abide by the laws and regulations, we have brought harm to ourselves. In reality, the harm and loss of non-abidance with the regulations are individual and personal.
In these events, decrees are enacted and following which is emphasized, which are technically moral laws and they are called as such. If a person would not pray or, God forbid, would commit other sin in privacy in such a manner that no one would be aware of it, this person has harmed and wreaked himself. Nobody will pursue him and ask why he has committed such a sin in privacy.
Nobody is even permitted to investigate it because spying on actions done in privacy by individuals is unlawful. For, this issue is a personal one. Although there are moral admonitions, decreeing that even in privacy man shall not commit sin and think of committing one, these admonitions are like the warning signs posted along the roads.
It is similar to the admonition to drive slowly, which in case of its non-observance and deviation from right to left, or to have high speed, man has brought harm to himself, and the police will no more look after him. Nevertheless, the second kind of danger is not related only to the person himself.
In case of non-observance of the rules and regulations, which are technically called legal laws, both the person in question and the society will be harmed. As such, these laws have the assurance to be executed, and violation of which shall be dealt with accordingly.
These are similar to the driving offenses that will bring about accidents for others and endanger their lives. It is on this account that the police will pursue and penalize the offender. It is here that legal laws, including penal and criminal laws, are brought up vis-à-vis moral laws. That is, this domain is concerned with the field of law and laws enacted by the legislative organs and enactment of which is guaranteed by the government.
Thus, the basic difference of the moral rules with the legal rules is that in the moral rules, nobody is the guarantor of their execution such that anyone who violates them will be penalized. If someone is being pursued, it is not a violation from the moral perspective, but from its legal perspective it is, which is related to the laws and the government, the guarantor of its execution. And if “privacy” would be advanced, it is legal in its general sense, otherwise it is penal and criminal.
In any case, just as a driver must be careful of his life as well as that of the passengers and to keep them from danger, man is like a traveler who moves from a starting point and will face many dangers along the way leading to the destination.
These dangers are sometimes related to himself and have individual rules for which there are moral admonitions. Yet, wherever there are possible dangers to be posed on others, or somehow morally corrupt others, or encroach on their lives, properties and chastity, it falls under the legal (in contrast to moral) laws, which the government has to execute.
If with regard to the driving rules we mentioned, a boastful driver would say, “I am free and I want to act in violation of the rules,” and its consequences will harm him only, they will merely advise him to be careful and cautious otherwise his life will be endangered, but if the lives of others are also threatened, they will prevent him.
The police will chase him. Through the use of different devises such as radar, electronic cams, automatic cameras, and others, they will pursue and punish him. Here, nobody will say that the police’s pursuit is against the freedom of man. All people and all rational individual in the world acknowledge that if a certain act of individual poses a threat to others, there must be a law to curtail the freedom of violator because that freedom is not legitimate and legal. The intellect does not accept this freedom as it poses a threat to other people.
All rational people accept this subject and we do not know of any ‘rational’ person who, out of knowledge and awareness, would say that man should be free in life such that he could do whatever he likes no matter what harm it entails for himself as well as for the lives, properties and chastity of others; nobody confirms and approves this statement. Thus, wherever there must be a law, and the society must accept that law and be acknowledged by the individuals, there is no dispute.
The Divine and Atheistic Cultures and the Difference of Their Perspectives on Law
It became clear that there is no dispute on the indispensability of having law. The disputes commences on this question: To what extent that this law that limits and regulates freedoms, and say, “Keep right,” or “Drive slowly,” has the right to limit the freedom of man?
Everyone accepts that if the life and property of others are violated and if the action of man poses a danger to the lives of others, the law must restrain his action, and not allow anyone, for example, to point a gun to somebody else and kill him! Now, after acknowledging the fact that the law has the right to limit freedoms that are harmful for others,
this question is raised: Does the legislator limit the freedom of man only if it poses harmful to the material interests of others and brings material losses to him, or in lawmaking the religious, spiritual and otherworldly interests of human beings have to be taken into account as well? The bone of contention lies on this discussion. We can classify cultures into two: One is the divine cultures, a lucid example of which is the Islamic culture, which is the focus of our attention.
We believe that the divine culture is not peculiar to the religion of Islam. It has rather included the other heavenly religions as well, though there have been distortions and deviations therein.
Contrast to this culture is another culture under the name, “atheistic or non-divine culture,” the symbol of which today is the Western world. It must be kept in mind that what we mean is not the geographical west; rather, what we mean is what we called as the Western culture, which is prevalent in Europe and America.
The states in that part of the world are promoting this culture and are at the threshold of spreading this culture to other countries. So, for clarity sake, let us present two classifications of culture. One is the divine culture while the other is the Western (atheistic) culture. These two cultures have some fundamental differences with each other, with which we will deal.
It can be said that the Western culture has been consisted of three pillars. Of course, there are other parts and elements, but its most fundamental parts are three. Its first pillar is “humanism”. That is to say, for man to have a life full of comfort, happiness and ease is valid and nothing else for him has validity.
The word “humanism” is brought up in contrast to inclination to God and religion. Of course, they have also propounded other meanings for it but they are not our concern. Its famous meaning is “anthropocentrism”. That is, man has to think of himself, his pleasure, enjoyment and comfort, but that there is a god or an angel is not our concern.
This trend is the opposite of the one prevalent before, during the Middle Ages in Europe and before that in the Eastern countries in which the main attention has been focused on God and spiritualities. The proponents of this view say that we have to abandon this subject (extreme attention to the celestial affairs at the expense of the mundane affairs).
We are already tired of the medieval subject matters. Instead of the discussions of the Medieval Church, we want to return to the core of humanity, and no more discuss anything beyond man and nature, especially God. Of course, it is not necessary for us to deny them, but we have no business with them. The criterion is man.
Inclination toward humanism in Europe and in the latter part of the Middle Ages through the renowned writers and literary men of the time, such as Dante 15 of Italy, was brought up. In reality, it was a return to the pre-Christian era.
As we know, Christianity was born in the East, in Palestine in particular. Prior to the coming of Christianity in Europe, the European societies were idol-worshipers. The most important empire at the time was the Roman Empire consisting of the Byzantium (present-day Turkey) and the Western Roman Empire (Italy).
With the exception of the Jews, these people were all idol-worshipers. After the coming of Christianity in Rome, elements of idol-worship were adopted and the European society accepted such a form of Christianity. An example of distortions in Christianity is the Doctrine of Trinity and then erecting of statues of Hadrat Maryam (Saint Mary) and that of the angels in the churches. As a result, these churches are very similar to those idol-temples of the past.
Thus, Christianity in the Western world is a distorted form of Christianity which replaced polytheism; and in reality the government there was a worldly government devoid of spiritual values, established there in Europe in the name of Christianity, under the name of the divine rule, and for the sake of the heavenly and celestial mission.
Under the guise of Christianity and with ‘celestial’ and ‘heavenly’ slogans, they committed so many heinous crimes, until such time gradually the people were suffocated by these injustices and crimes, and eventually returned to the life prior to Christianity.
The humanist thought, in truth, emanates from the return to man in place of God, the return to the earth in lieu of the heaven, and the return to worldly life in replacement of the otherworldly life.
This is the kernel of the humanist thought, which states that we have to replace God with man. With the spread of the prevalent literatures of the time and through the efforts of the pioneering humanist writers such as Dante, the famous Italian poet and author, this trend gradually gained currency in all Western countries, propounded as a pivot with a wide array of dimensions and angles. Therefore, humanism is the mother of all other trends, which collectively constitute the Western culture.
This principle is contrary to the divine culture, which states that the pivot is Allah and that all our thoughts must revolve around the axis of the concept of God.
All our attentions must be directed toward Him. We must seek our prosperity and perfection through proximity and union with Him, for He is the fountainhead of all beauties, felicities, nobilities, and perfections. Hence, Allah is the axis. If we are really particular of putting ism with it, we say that this trend is “Allah-ism”. That is, attention to Allah in opposition to attention to man.
This is the first basic point of departure and clash between the divine culture and the Western atheistic culture. (Of course, there is also an exception in the West as there are also more or less divine and spiritual trends there. Thus, my point is the dominant trend, which today is called the Western culture.)
The second pillar of the Western culture is “secularism”. After the Westerners made man as the axis, if there were any person who wanted a religious inclination, he was like someone who wanted to be a poet or painter, and as such, he would not be confronted.
Just as some accept a particular school of painting and sculpture, some also want to be Muslims or Christians, and there is no hindrance along their way, for what man wants must be respected.
They say that those who, at the margin of their life, want to choose a religion are like those who choose a kind of literature, poem and art, and their choice must be respected. But these individuals must be aware that religion has no relation whatsoever to the basic issues of life and must not become the basic core of life. Just as poems and literature have their own particular status, religion also has its own.
Let us assume that some individuals have their own arts, open a gallery and display their painting works. We will also respect them, but this show of respect does not mean that painting is the nexus of politics, economics and international issues. So, painting is a marginal issue. Their opinion is that religion has also the same status.
If there are those who want to worship God, go to the house of worship, and like a poet who recites a poem, supplicates to his God, it is none of our business.
But we are concerned with which law is supposed to rule over the society; what kind of a system is the economic and political one. Religion is not allowed to interfere in this domain. The locus of religion is the mosque, church and idol-temple. The serious issues of life are related to science, and religion must not interfere in the issues of life.
This trend and mindset in general is called secularism. That is, the segregation of religion and the issues of life, or worldliness and so to speak, “thinking of this world” instead of “thinking of the heaven,” which is inculcated in religion. They say that we have to dismiss these statements that celestial angels are descending on the Prophet (s?) or that in the hereafter man will be admitted to the kingdom of heaven and the like, and to think as earthlings.
Accordingly, you have to talk about food, clothing, art, dance, music, and similar things that are beneficial to life and have no relation with the domain of religion. The fact is that the fundamental affairs of the life of man, particularly politics, economy and law, are related to science, and religion is not supposed to interfere in them. This is the second pillar of the Western culture.
The third pillar is “liberalism”. That is, nobility lies on man. Man must be totally free, and there must be no restrictions and limitations on the life of man, unless they are necessary.
One must try to minimize as much as possible the limitations, and reduce the values. It is true that each person and each society has his or its own set of values, but they must not be treated as absolute.
Everyone is free to be faithful to a set of individual and collective ceremonies and customs, but he must not allow a certain manner to be regarded as a social value and let it interfere in politics, economy and law. Man is free to conduct any transaction he wants and to produce anything he wants. He can use any kind of labor in any manner, and as much as possible he must be free in economy. There must be no restriction in choosing profitable transaction whether it involves usury or not. As much as possible, the worker must be given work and the length of time of his work must not be fixed so that the capitalist could earn more profit and income.
Concerning the labor wage, they say that the lower its level is, the better. Accordingly, fairness, compassion and justice are essentially discordant with liberalism.
The liberal man must think of advancing his economic interests. Of course, expediencies demand that sometimes law must be observed so as to avoid chaos and disorder. But the crux of the matter is that man must behave the way he likes. He is also free in choosing his mode of dressing, and should he wish he could even be nude, and there is no problem for that. No one should restrain him.
Of course, sometimes the particular social conditions impose restraint on the individuals such that if they want to be totally nude, the people will revile and vilify, and cannot tolerate them. This is a different story, otherwise no law is supposed to impose limit on man on how he would dress himself, whether his attire is short or long, limited or not, and whether the man or woman is stripped or not.
Based on liberalism, man must be free, and the relationship between man and woman must be free as much as possible. Only in case that in the society extreme conditions emerged that would end up in tumult that freedom must be checked to some extent. This is the bound and ultimate point of freedom. Yet, unless it reached the limit, the man and woman are free to have relationship in whatever manner they like, whenever and however they please. It is the same case on the political issues, so on and so forth.
The principle is that no condition or circumstance must limit man, unless it is necessary. This is the basis of liberalism, and as we have said the three pillars of humanism, secularism and liberalism constitute the triple edifices of the Western culture, which play a vital role in the lawmaking.
In comparing the Western culture with the Islamic culture, the first issue is humanism whose opposite is the supremacy of God. Those who believe in this view, just as the Muslims believe in God, do not consider the legislation. They are only thinking of their economic interests, welfare, comfort, and pleasures.
Of course, among the Western schools there are also more or less disputes such as, for example, whether pleasures and interests are individualist or collective. However, all these schools have one thing in common and that is, as much as possible conditions and limitations must be reduced.
In opposition to this atheistic thinking is the mindset of the divine school and Islamic culture, which state: Nobility does not lie on man; rather, God is the supreme. It is He Who is the genesis of all values, beauties, felicities, and perfections. He is the Absolute Truth. He has the highest right on human beings, and we have to behave in such a way that we establish link with Him.
God cannot be overlooked in life, or else man will forfeit his humanness. The essence of humanness lies on worship of God. Man is innately inclined toward Allah. Once we overlooked this inclination, we have remove man from his humanness. In any case, the main axis in the ideas, thoughts and values is only God, whose opposite is anthropomorphism.
The second issue is secularism whose opposite is the supremacy of religion. The most expedient and important affair for a faithful person is the choice of religion. Prior to thinking about his daily bread, he has to investigate first whether the religion he is professing is the truth or not, whether his religion is authentic or not.
Is belief in One God correct or not? Is it better to remember God or to deny Him? Which is correct, to believe in One God, or in Trinitarian God and many deities? Thus, on the very day that man reaches the age of responsibility, he has to determine whether or not he believes in God, the revelation and the Day of Resurrection.
Is the Qur’an the true word of God or not? Prior to choosing occupation, spouse and field of study, he has to choose his religion first because religion is related to all aspects of life. Thus, the second pillar of the divine culture is religion-centeredness, which is the opposite of secularism that regards religion as a marginal affair in life, stating that religion is not supposed to interfere in the main issues and not to be propounded as the most essential issue encompassing all facets of life.
Islam states that no subject is outside the ambit of religious values, and the lawful and unlawful of religion. Religion determines the lawfulness or unlawfulness of every thing. This trend is the opposite of secularism.
The third issue is liberalism; that is, the supremacy of freedom, lack of restrictions, and capriciousness. Liberalism means the preeminence of desire; since for the aforementioned meanings of freedom they have commonality on some levels, if we want translate them into Persian we have to say, is?a-lat-e delkha-h [the primacy of desire].
On the opposite side of liberalism is the supremacy of rightfulness and justice. Liberalism states that you have to act as you like, while the divine trend and divine culture states that you have to act within the periphery of rightfulness and justice. One must not make a step beyond the sphere of right and act against justice; of course, the two (rightfulness and justice) are interrelated, for if we take right in its general sense, justice will also be included:
“Justice is to give all rights to their rightful owner (claimant).”
Hence, the concept of right is blended in the concept of justice, yet in a bid to avoid misunderstanding, we mention the two concepts together.
So, liberalism upholds the primacy of desire and its opposite is religion that advocates the supremacy of truth and justice. In other words, religion says that there are really truth and falsehood and it is not that we have to look for anything that we like. Instead, we have to identify which is truth and which is falsehood; which is justice and which is injustice. Even though I wanted to commit injustice against others, I am not supposed to do so to anyone.
The expediency of liberalism is that we respect truth and justice so long as going against them would lead to crisis; otherwise, everyone can think about his own interest.
They say that compassion and fairness are concepts humanity has brought out while in a state of weakness. If you have the ability, you can do whatever you want to do unless you feel that this freedom (of action) will cause social crisis and since its dire consequences will also affect you, it (freedom) must be restrained.
Thus, the third principle in the Islamic culture is the supremacy of truth and justice whose opposite is the primacy of desire. These three pillars, i.e. humanism, secularism and liberalism are the three fundamental pillars in the Western cultures, which exert influence on the lawmaking process.
We have stated that all rational people of the world reject absolute freedom. We do not know of anyone who says that anyone can do whatever he wants at any time.
So, on negating the absoluteness and limitlessness of freedom, the question is: What is the extent of freedom? To what extent can the law promote or restrain freedom? Basing on the divine and Western cultures, there are two distinct answers to these questions. Based on the Western culture, freedom will be limited whenever it threatens the material interests of human beings.
If freedom threatens the life, health and properties of human beings, the law will put a restraint on it. Therefore, if the law would say that maintaining health is necessary and that potable water must not be poisoned as it would endanger the lives of people, this imposition of limits on freedom is acceptable because these freedoms are ought to be retrained in order to maintain the safety of individuals.
Undoubtedly, this law is acceptable for all. Nevertheless, in case an act threatens the chastity, eternal bliss and spiritual values of people, and pollutes the human soul, should the law hinder it or not? It is here that the dispute between the divine and Western cultures arises. From the divine perspective, man is moving toward divine and eternal perfection and the law is supposed to pave the way for this wayfaring, removing all the obstacles along the way.
(At this juncture, the law we are referring to is the legal and administrative law whose guarantor for its execution is the government, as well as the one related to the individual. That is to say that the ethical issues are not what we mean.)
In answer to the question as to whether or not the law should prevent anything that jeopardizes the eternal life of human beings, the divine culture states that it should prevent, but the answer of the Western atheistic culture is negative. If we were truly Muslims, and do acknowledge God, the Qur’an, Islam, Hadrat 16 Muhammad (s?), Hadrat ‘Ali- (‘a), and the Ima-m of the Time (may Allah, the Exalted, expedite his glorious advent), we should hold in high esteem the spiritual, eternal and otherworldly values.
The lawmakers have to observe the spiritual and divine interests while the Islamic government has to prevent that which is harmful to the spiritualities of human beings, otherwise we will follow the Western culture. The law should not only facilitate the bodily health, subsistence and other material welfare of human beings, prevent anything that creates disorder and crisis in the society, and put on check any action that threatens the economic interests and security of the people. Instead, the law should take into account the spiritualities as well.
We have two options before us: We have to accept either the Islamic law or the Western law. Of course, in these two options there are intermixtures and intersections. They are the manifestations of the statement of the Commander of the Faithful (‘a) who says:
“Something is taken from here and something from there and the two are mixed!” 17
They take something from the Islamic culture and yet another from the Western culture and this constitutes the asymmetrical combination. Certainly, Islam does not accept such an approach, and in reproaching it the Qur’an states:
“Lo! those who disbelieve in Allah and His messengers, and seek to make distinction between Allah and His messengers, and say: We believe in some and disbelieve in others, and seek to choose a way in between; such are disbelievers in truth.” 18
Today, there are also those who want to mix some elements of Islam with some elements of the Western culture, and present it to the society as the “modern Islam”. These individuals do not believe in Islam. If he only believed in Islam, he would know that Islam is a totality whose demands he should definitely accept.
I cannot claim that I do accept Islam, but I do not accept some of its demands. Therefore, our affair in legislation and in setting limit on freedom is situated between the two, one of which we have to choose. We have to regard either the material and worldly threats, or both the material and spiritual threats as the criterion in setting limit to freedom.
If we accepted the first we thus accepted the atheistic Western culture, but if we accepted the second, it follows that we accept the divine and Islamic culture.
The farther we are from that polar (the first) the nearer we become to Islam. In any case, these two have no total concordance because as far as material interests are concerned, both Islam and the atheistic Western culture state that they must be pursued. For example, both the two cultures state that the hygienic orders must be observed. Yet, as far as spiritual affairs are concerned, difference arises.
When only the material interests are considered, a small circle of the limitations is set before the freedom of man; however, when we added the spiritual values, another circle will be added to the first circle, and two aliquot circles emerge. As a result, the circle of limitations is wider than the circle of freedoms.
When we say that the freedom accepted in religion is not like the freedom in the West bespeaks of it. That is to say that it is on this account that spiritual interests must be observed. We cannot be like the Westerners who are unrestrained and unfettered. We have to observe the set of other values related to the spirit, true humanity and eternal life of man.
But the Western culture says that these values are not related to the social laws. Government and state laws revolve only around the axis of material affairs of society and their opposite are related to ethics, which have nothing to do with the state. Once it is said that the sanctities of religion are in danger the government official will say,
It does not concern me; my duty is to protect the material interests of the people’s lives. Religion is related to the seminaries and the a-khu-nds; 19 they themselves have to go to protect them (religious sanctities). The government has nothing to do with these issues.
But if the government is an Islamic one, it says: “Religion first, then the world”.
The Preeminence of the Spiritual and Religious Interests over the Material Interests
If we were put in a situation wherein we have to choose between two options: that with economic progress our religion will receive a blow, or that we would advance in religion while our economy would be arbitrarily affected to some extent—which option will we choose? We believe that the advancement of Islam also guarantees economic progress, but in a long-term program provided that it is implemented perfectly.
Nonetheless, sometimes it is possible that in a short-term it would negatively affect the economic interests and put individuals in a difficult situation. Now, if the situation would be such, which one has preeminence over the other—religious interests or worldly interests? It is clear that the religious interests are preeminent, as it has been stated, thus:
If your life is in danger, sacrifice your property for your life. If the situation were such that you have to choose between life and property, you have to sacrifice your property for your life. If the situation were such that you have to choose between life and religion, between remaining alive in unbelief and being slain while having faith, you have to sacrifice your life and property for the religion. 20
At this point, if man is killed, there is nothing wrong.
“Say: Can ye await for us aught save one of two good things (death or victory in Allah's way)?” 21
What is wrong with a person who will be slain in the path of his religion? He will directly go to heaven. But if supposedly he would live having without religion for another hundred years, what is the benefit except that day by day his suffering will increase? Thus, from the viewpoint of Islam, religious and spiritual interests are better than material interests. Therefore, apart from observing the spiritual interests, the law has to give priority to them.
The Natural Law School
From the foregoing discussions, the viewpoint of Islam regarding freedom and difference with the Western culture was clear, but owing to the reputation of the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is only proper for us to examine closer the substance of this declaration on freedom and to know its relation to Islam.
Anyone who is acquainted with the philosophy of law knows that one of the schools on the philosophy of law is the natural law school. Since time immemorial, from the time philosophy was conceived, some have enga
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