Freedom and Rights in Islam
It may be debated to what extent anyone can enjoy freedom. Rights and liberties, these bywords of modern age, entice mankind to open up new horizons in its seemingly boundless quest for absolute freedom. And yet man alone is unable to judge if this quest leads to a cherished prize or deadly censure.
Man is deluded by his seeming power over his life and the world that surrounds him. And yet he is feeble and will hardly be able to enjoy the power he believes in his mind to be an integral part of him. No freedom can be absolute. No man’s power can be boundless. If man tries to exercise these freedoms and powers on his own, he will inevitably meet with dire consequences. If you are free to do anything you want and this ‘anything’ is absolute, try cutting off your finger. This will be a manifestation of your complete freedom and power over this world. Will you do that? Most likely not. In his wisdom, Allah will stop you at the last moment. It is because true freedom has bounds. The bounds to do only what is good for you. And these bounds are mapped out and marked by Allah in numerous surahs of the Holy Quran, their quintessence being summed up in the Prophet’s (PBUH) Farewell Sermon.
The Prophet (PBUH) sets us the beacons to guide us in the exercising of our freedoms and rights. The wisdom of this guidance has endured for many centuries and will endure in the centuries to come, no matter what outward appearance a man’s life may assume. It endured in the age of abacuses and it will be valid in the age of artificial intelligence. It will hold its ground in kingdoms and democracies alike. For man remains the same. His heart and mind do not change. And it is to that heart and that mind that Allah’s guidance is directed.
The Prophet (PBUH) makes clear for us the cardinal things. In simple terms man receives guidance that can be applied to any situation in life. It can be summarized as this: you are free to do whatever you want if you observe a few simple rules.
1) Do not consider yourself superior to any man for all men are born equal. Respect their rights that are equal to yours in anything you do;
2) Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Indeed, this applies well both to other people and to your own self;
3) Consider the enormity of the burden and the ultimate responsibility of taking upon yourself the chaperoning of your women, for yours is the right to guide them only when your obligation to provide for them is met and fulfilled without wavering, since a single waiver in your duties shall annul your rights.
4) Beware of following the devil in small things. Be on the watch-out. The devil is cunning. The freedoms he offers are akin to that of cutting off your finger.
What awaits you then is joy. The joy of being a Muslim, which means having true freedom and enjoying your rights in such a way as to gain Allah’s approval when appearing before him. This joy is ours to share.