Freedom and Islam

The Spirit Of Islam

T O Shanavas

RECENTLY, I read an article, “Women in Islam” describing the liberation of women by Islam and the Holy Prophet (PBUH). In reality women cannot travel alone to Hujj or visit Mecca (the safest place for any one), and women cannot drive a car in Saudi Arabia. It is not a secret that Muslims in general and Muslim women in particular in the world are the least free and least educated. So, I wonder: Oh Islam! You are a great theory but no practical value, unless you live in the West.
After all, only one thing matters in Islam. Faith is a matter of exclusively personal and private experience. We embrace faith individually just as we confront our death individually. An Iranian Muslim philosopher, Souroush, correctly said it that we have communal actions and but not communal faiths. We can express faith in public but the core of the faith is mysteriously private. The preeminence of Islamic faith is for the hereafter where people are judged individually: “Everyone of them will come before Him all alone on the Day of Resurrection. Surely A-Rahman will show love for those who believe and do right.” [19:95-96]. There is no Original Sin that transcends over the goodness of whole mankind in Islam. Therefore, the only things that matter on the Day of Judgment are actions at the individual level. Community actions are useless.
Similarly, the Holy Qur’an states: “Say (Muhammad it is) truth from the Lord of you all. Whosoever will, let him believe and whosoever will, let him disbelieve” (Koran 18: 29) “And so, [O Prophet,] exhort them; thy task is only to exhort: thou cannot compel them to believe.” (Koran: 21-22). “O Prophet.!…Thy duty is not more than to deliver the message; and the reckoning is Ours.” (Koran 13:40). These verses teach that a roof made out safety and liberty is an absolute necessity to develop faith in the hearts. These verses demand Muslims to guarantee freedom and safety for all. Therefore, if governments, Imams, enforced Fatwas demand any public or outward obedience and submission, such outward appearance is not faith. When law, power, force, and tyranny enforce religion, they are taking control of the body not the soul. Unfortunately, many Muslims want to make reign over body the most important tent of Islam even though the Qur’an rejects their craving for power over body: “It is not your meat or blood that reach Allah: It is fealty of your heart that reaches Him” (22:37).
In Muslim majority nations, people are forced to confessed Islamic faith and behave in one voice in religion; but they forget that the rulers cannot fill the heart with genuine faith. I believe that faith chosen freely at the individual level without coercion and without forced conformity is the genuine faith. In a world where the hearts with freely chosen faith, not by forced compliance, pervade, the true religious spirit come alive to establish an ideal society by free choice of the people.
This is proven by Muslim history in the first 6 centuries. Muslims helped Jews to create their Golden Age and liberate Christians from tyranny of Roman church. Muslims philosophy and science promoted the Enlightenment and Renaissance of the Europe. We also created the experimental science. In those days, we educated anyone who came our way without force-feeding our faith. Now we have governments that have taken control of our body claiming to send our “meat and blood” to God while Muslims have to beg from non-Muslim societies for their daily bread to keep their body alive.
The Holy Prophet (PBUH) struggled to establish a free society. Similarly, Muslims must struggle hard peacefully to establish a free society where no totalitarian government, no Imams, no predominant group control us or decide for us. Everyone is equal. If any one wants to be a believer, let him/her be. If anyone wants to be an apostate let him/her be safe to live the life of an apostate. So-called Islamic government is myth created by power hungry people to control Muslim mind and body. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) ruled as democratically elected ruler following the invitation by the people of Medina. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) never forced a decision upon his community even when he believed that majority decision on a particular secular matter was a mistake as happened in the case of the disaster of Uhud war.

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