The Responsibility of Expression
Adopted from the book : "Freedom; The Unstated Facts and Points" by : "Ayatullah Misbah Yazdi"
Of course, it should not be imagined that regarding expression (both spoken and via media) Islam is only concerned with prohibiting and restricting it. Such a notion is totally wrong. So many expositions and statements (both spoken and via media) is deemed permissible from the viewpoint of Islam, without restricting them howsoever.
Many expositions and statements are not only permissible but they are also obligatory. Not only that they are obligatory; instead, some are among the most obligatory things. In a situation wherein the enlightenment of a society and its deliverance from the misguidance of unbelief [kufr] and polytheism [shirk] and impiety depends upon the use of the tongue, pen, film, and any other media, it is incumbent upon man, should he be capable of, to use them all to express the truth and refute falsehood.
Sometimes, this issue is so important in that to exercise dissimulation [taqiyyah] 30 is unlawful, and in the words of the late Ima-m Khomeini- (may his soul be sanctified), “To take action is obligatory unless there is nothing to convey”.
The movement of Ima-m Khomeini- (r) 31—this greatest socio-political movement of the twentieth century—commenced with the pen and speech. The Ima-m began his work by issuing manifestos and delivering speeches. 32 He regarded speaking and “expression” for him as the most obligatory of all obligations and deemed himself “obliged” to do it. In some cases, his view concerning this “duty” is as what he said: If a person does not shout and voice out (the truth of the matter), he has committed major sin. In this connection, the Holy Qur’an also states:
“Those who hide the proofs and the guidance which We revealed, after We had made it clear in the Scripture: such are accursed of Allah and accursed of those who have the power to curse.” 33
Those learned men who do not convey the truths of religion that God revealed for the people, do not resist against heresies and exercise voluntary silence for the sake of his personal interests are the subject of God’s curse and that of the angels and all those who are entitled to curse. In such cases as per the text of the Holy Qur’an, to express is among the most obligatory things and anyone abandoning it deserves the curse of those who are entitled to curse.
What is meant by “expression” [baya-n] is not solely “speaking”. Instead, it includes writing, radio, television, and any media that can possibly be used to spread the truth and save human beings from deviation, ignorance and impiety. In such cases, to express is not only a “right” [haqq] but also a “duty” [takli-f]. Enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong is one of the most important among them. Of course, there are different stages of its duty.
One stage of the duty of expression is related to the people in general while another stage of which is for the individuals who have peculiar facilities, powers and capabilities. In this context, the highest stage of duty is shouldered by the Islamic state and government, which possesses the greatest power and facilities in this respect.
In principle, the general criterion of proving duty for the government is the same general ruling, which we discussed in relation to values. That is to say, what is related to the “interests of society” and along the path of the society in general toward “nearness to Allah”, it is necessary for the government to the extent of its capability to provide them as far as possible.
And it is also incumbent upon the government to remove whatever is detrimental for the interests of society, both material and spiritual, and serves as an impediment for the realization of human perfection. For instance, if expression of an issue (whether orally or through any other means) is harmful for the welfare of society, its spread must be hindered in the same manner that distribution of poisonous, contaminated and perilous foodstuffs and medicines in the society shall be prohibited.
30. Taqiyyah: prudential dissimulation of one’s true beliefs under conditions of acute danger to one’s life, property, or honor, a practice based on Qur’an, 3:28. As its observance depends on certain terms and conditions, it may be obligatory [wa-jib], recommended [mustahab], abominable [makru-h], or forbidden [hara-m]. For a fuller discussion of taqiyyah, see Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi, Taqiyyah (Dar es Salaam: Bilal Muslim Mission of Tanzania, 1992), http://www./taqiyyah; Al-Taqiyya/Dissimulation, http://www./encyclopedia/chapter6b.html; and ‘Allamah Tabataba’i, Shi‘ite Islam (Albany, N.Y., 1975), pp. 223-225, http://www./anthology. [Trans.]
31. The abbreviation, “r” stands for the Arabic invocative phrase, rahmatulla-h ‘alayhi, rahmatulla-h ‘alayha-, or rahmatulla-h ‘alayhim [may peace be upon him/her/them], which is used after the names of pious people. [Trans.]
32. For information on the role of Ima-m Khomeini-’s speeches in the victory of the Islamic Revolution, see Kauthar: An Anthology of the Speeches of Ima-m Khomeini- Including an Account of the Events of the Islamic Revolution (1962-1978), Volumes 1-3 (Tehran: The Institute for Compilation and Publication of Ima-m Khomeini-’s Works, Winter 1995). [Trans.]
33. Su-rah al-Baqarah 2:159.
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