Rafed English

Servitude is against the demand of the natural disposition [fit'rah] of man

Adopted from the book : "Freedom; The Unstated Facts and Points" by : "Ayatullah Misbah Yazdi"

As it is known to you, in the past human societies the system of slavery was prevalent. Through trick and force, they used to transport some people from far distance regions and force them to work as slaves in their own countries.

These people who were deprived of the rights of citizenship used to work in the farms and factories of their masters. In the system of slavery racial discrimination and exploitation of the weak classes were exemplified in the worse manner. Such a system is inconsistent with the human spirit and nature. And all people strongly detest being slaves and servants of other people.

Slavery or being a servant in general is blameworthy, and thus, man should not be a slave by even God.


That this statement is contradictory with our religious teachings is very clear. The Holy Qur’an mentions the human beings as “servants of God”:

“And Allah hath compassion on (His) bondmen.” 53

“And Allah willeth no injustice for (His) slaves.” 54

God, the Exalted, calls the most beloved and noble of human beings, namely, the Eminent Prophet of Islam, Hadrat Muhammad (s?) as ‘servant’ [‘abd]:

“Glorified be He Who carried His servant by night from the Inviolable Place of Worship to the Far Distant Place of Worship the neighbourhood whereof We have blessed, that We might show him of Our tokens! Lo! He, only He, is the Nearer, the Seer.” 55

Equally, those who acquired sublime stations of humanity and reached the status of the “soul in peace” [nafs al-mut?ma’innah] are called ‘servants’ [‘iba-d] and are included in the rank of the special servants of God:

“But ah! thou soul at peace!

Return unto thy Lord, content in His good pleasure!

Enter thou among My bondmen!

Enter thou My Garden!” 56

Therefore, in the culture of the Holy Qur’an, to be a ‘servant of God’ is not only not blamable and contemptuous but rather a badge of honor and nobility. After excessive acts of worship, His Holiness the Commander of the Faithful (‘a) used to humbly bow down in prostration and utter:

“O God! It is an enough honor that I am you servant and it is an enough poverty that Thou art my Lord.” 57

As such, in the culture of the Ahl al-Bayt 58 (‘a) to be a servant does not indicate the abjectness and meanness of man. From the viewpoint of the Qur’an and the Sunnah [Prophetic tradition], servitude to God is the highest honor for man. Yet, in order to remove the doubt, we shall deal with the issue in detail. You know that belief in monotheism [tawhi-d] means belief in the One True God Who is the Cherisher and Sustainer [rabb] of all the worlds.

“Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds.” 59

“Lo! They are Thy slaves.” 60

It is the foundation of all divine religions, and all the heavenly scriptures have emphatically enjoined it. The need for the human beings to obey God, apart from the narrative proofs and devotional testimonies expressed in the Qur’an and the Prophetic tradition, has also philosophical evidence. Its philosophical evidence is based on the “ought to be” deduction from the “being”.

The explanation of these “beings” is of two kinds: (1) “beings” that can be deduced as “ought-to-be’s” and (2) “beings” that cannot be deduced as “ought-to-be’s”.

Expressing the difference between the two requires a precise scientific and technical study, which is beyond our concern. What can be stated well here is that when in a logical analogy a passage of “beings” is the absolute cause of a phenomenon in the passage of “ought-to-be’s”, in reality this kind of drawing a conclusion is the deduction of “effect from cause”.

But if the one located at the side of “beings” is not “absolute cause”, the effect cannot be deduced from the cause because in case of the existence of the absolute cause, the effect finds its necessity of existence. In this manner, it can be said that the effect has the deductive necessity [wuju-b-e bi’l-qiya-s] with respect to the absolute cause.

Now, that we say that man is the servant and slave of God (passage from the group of “beings”) is the absolute cause for the reason that man must obey God (passage from the group of “ought-to-be’s”). God, the Exalted, has created our material and physical existence and has breathed us of His spirit. In addition, He has endowed us with innumerable blessings such as air, water, food, bodily members, power to think, and everything that is related to the life of man. The ownership of God to these material and immaterial blessings cannot be negated.

Therefore, God is the Owner and Grantor of all our existence and blessings, which we use for our own subsistence, growth and perfection. Now that our Master is God and that we are His servants and slaves, on the basis of the dictate of reason that “the owner can occupy his possession in whatever manner he likes,” He has the right to “appropriate” us in any manner, and we should be subservient and obedient to Him, for quintessentially we are nothing. In the system of slavery the slave has the ability to oppose. He can escape from the clutches of his master. He can be sold to another master or be turned over to another.

Such things can be materialized in the “delegated ownership” [ma-likiyyat-e i‘tiba-ri-]. This is in contrast with the “real ownership” [ma-likiyyat-e haqi-qi-] in which assuming such affairs in regard to it is impossible and unattainable. God cannot take away the ownership of His servants from Himself or delegate them to others.

Of course, this “incapability” is not on account of impotence and inability. Instead, basically, such an act cannot intrinsically pertain to power. Just as God cannot annihilate Himself or commit suicide, one cannot imagine Him also to be not the “Owner” of His servants and the human beings to be not His “servants” for only a moment. 61

In other words, the label “Creator” [kha-liq] for God and “creature” [makhlu-q] for the human beings and other beings are eternal and perpetual appellations.

To assume that He dismissed man from being an intrinsic “servant” is a contradiction, for its meaning will be this: that man both exists and is His servant, and does not exist and not His servant.

The existence [mawju-diyyah] of every being [mawju-d] is like that of ‘creatureship’ [makhlu-kiyyah], servanthood [mamlu-kiyyah] and servitude [‘ubu-diyyah], and our servitude in relation to God can never be cut off in the same manner that the light cannot be assumed to have no brightness, or the fire be regarded as having no heat.

“Real Ownership” [ma-likiyyat-e i‘tiba-ri-] and “Delegated Ownership” [ma-likiyyat-e i‘tiba-ri-]

What we said about the impossibility of negating the “master and servant” [ma-lik wa mamlu-k] relationship between God and man is related to the “real and intrinsic ownership or mastership” [ma-likiyyat-e haqi-qi- wa takwi-ni-]. As what we have indicated, ownership or mastership is classified into two: (1) “real and intrinsic ownership or mastership” [ma-likiyyat-e haqi-qi-] and (2) “delegated ownership” [ma-likiyyat-e i‘tiba-ri-].

The concept of “ownership or mastership” [ma-likiyyah] among the human beings is a “delegated affair” [amr-e i‘tiba-ri-]. For example, by giving an amount of money, I will become the owner of a garment. That is to say that a contract between me and the garment’s owner will be forged in the basis of which by giving a certain amount of money on my part, the garment will belong to me and I will become its owner while the other person will own the money. I can do whatever I like to the garment. For instance, I would sell it and give it to somebody. Such an affair is the demand of my “ownership”.

When a person has a delegated or contractual ownership, he can expropriate in various ways that one he owns. Of course, man has also intrinsic ownership [ma-likiyyat-e takwi-ni-], which in comparison to the intrinsic ownership of God in relation to all the worlds is so weak; for example, man’s ownership of his own will, or man’s ownership with respect to the “intellectual being” [mawju-d-e dhihni-] he has envisaged in his mind. Man can wish for and imagine a thing anytime he likes and not wish for and imagine it at another time.

In these two examples, albeit man has intrinsic ownership, it is yet different from the “intrinsic and real ownership of God” because the existence of man and his will and imagination are all creatures of God. In spite of it, man has the diverse capabilities to expropriate them. Thus, through the primary way, God, Who is the “Real Owner” [ma-lik-e haqi-qi-] and the “Cherisher and Sustainer of all the worlds” [rabb’ul-‘a-lami-n], can expropriate His creatures in any fashion.

Some of the concepts used in the social life and particular cases sometimes experience expansion-oriented shift and are also used beyond the social life. Now, if the previous value-laden one is used in a new circumstance, a fallacy has been committed.

Concerning our discussion, the slavery of man by another man, which existed in the past social system, is laden with a negative value, but the slavery of man in relation to God is, apart from being negatively value-laden, is laden with the highest positive value, for it is under the auspices of servitude to God that man can attain his ultimate perfection and be included among those who are thus addressed by God:

“Enter thou among My bondmen!” 62

God, the Exalted, addresses as “servant” [‘abd] His most beloved servant, namely, Hadrat Muhammad (s?):

“Glorified be He Who carried His servant by night from the Inviolable Place of Worship to the Far Distant Place of Worship the neighbourhood whereof We have blessed, that We might show him of Our tokens! Lo! He, only He, is the Nearer, the Seer.” 63

One cannot accept God as the Supreme Being while not regarding himself bound by servitude to Him. According to this outlook on servitude, man is the servant of God and obedience to Him is obligatory on man.

Notes :

53. Su-rah al-Baqarah 2:207.

54. Su-rah al-Gha-fir (or al-Mu’min) 40:31.

55. Su-rah al-Isra-’ 17:1.

56. Su-rah al-Fajr 89:27-30.

57. Biha-r al-Anwar, vol. 77, p. 400.

58. Ahl al-Bayt: according to authentic hadi-ths recorded in both the Sunni and Shi-‘ah sources, the term Ahl al-Bayt, and interchangeably It?rah and A-l, is a blessed Qur’anic appellation that belongs exclusively to the Prophet, ‘Ali-, Fa-t?imah, Hasan, and Husayn (‘a). The members of this Family of five, with the Prophet Muhammad (s?) at its head, were the ones alive at the time the Qur’anic verses regarding their virtue were being revealed to the Prophet (s?).

However, nine other Imams from the descendants of Ima-m al-Husayn (‘a) are also in this chosen Family, the final one being Ima-m al-Mahdi- (‘a). For further information, visit: http://www./faq. [Trans.]

59. Su-rah al-Fa-tihah 1:2.

60. Su-rah al-Ma-’idah 5:118.

61. For concise information about this issue on the essential attributes of God, see Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi, God of Islam (Tehran: World Organization for Islamic Services, 1998), http://www.wofis.com/publications/020/020.pdf. [Trans.]

62. Su-rah al-Fajr 89:29.

63. Su-rah al-Isra-’ 17:1.

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