Rafed English

The Emergence of Contradictions on the Limit of Freedom

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

The question on the limit and boundary of freedom and on who determines it has a general answer, and that is, once it is said that freedom is above the law and should not be limited, it is referring to the legitimate freedoms. Some have also said, “Legitimate and rational freedoms,” while others have also added other descriptions.

In some paragraphs of the Human Rights Declaration the expression “moral’ exists, which focus on the observance of rights along with the moral standards. These paragraphs more or less contain ambiguous concepts. It is obvious that what they meant by “legitimate” is not that a religious law such as that of Islam has prescribed it as such.

It is true that linguistically speaking, the words mashru-‘ [legitimate] and shari-‘ah [religious law] have the same root. However, mashru-‘ [legitimate] in the legal and political context means qa-nu-ni- [legal] and that which is regarded by the government as authoritative and valid [mu‘tabar], and not that it is definitely religiously permissible.

This subject should not confuse some of the believers, and mistakenly supposed that when we say legitimate rights or legitimate freedoms, what we mean are those determined as such by the Islamic law. Instead, what are meant by “legitimate” are the legal [qa-nu-ni-], and authoritative and valid [mu‘tabar] laws [huqu-q], while “illegitimate” [ghayr-e mashru-‘] are affairs that are infringement on the rights of others.

But this question arises: Which are the legitimate and rational rights and which are the illegitimate and irrational ones? Who are supposed to determine them? There is no option but to give this reply: The law determines the details and limits related to freedom, and it is exactly here that the initial contradictions and inconsistencies can be detected.

On one hand, they are saying that these rights and freedoms are above the law and that no law is supposed to limit them. But when we inquire as to whether freedom is absolute or limited, they say that it is not absolute. Since they cannot offer a correct answer, they say that what they are referring to are the legitimate freedoms. We are asking, “What is meant by ‘legitimate’?”

They reply that “legitimate” is anything that the law has approved. It is this law that determines the limit of freedom. You are saying that these freedoms are above the law. In reply they would possibly say that all human beings and rational individuals know what is meant by legitimate and rational freedoms.

We will say to them that if all people and rational individuals know a certain subject, dispute concerning it is therefore inconsequential because we and all Muslims of the world who constitute a population of over a billion people of the world, are among the rational ones. And they can say that in Islam some forms of freedom have been recognized, and they acknowledge and accept some forms of freedoms and do not recognize some others. In the end, keeping in view of the knowledge and research that we have, this question has remained unanswered. The philosophers of law have no categorical answer as to what thing sets limits on freedoms.

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