By Azhar Imtiyaz
October 27 is called a black day in Kashmir as our land was occupied by India on that day in 1947. From that day, we, the people of Kashmir, are fighting to liberate our country by whatever means we can. We used and are still using strikes and conferences; we also used civil protests and are still out on the streets to give a blow to this oppression.
There is no other word Kashmiris have spoken about at length, and desired fervently in their hearts, more than freedom. People have delivered speeches about it, written books on the subject, composed newspaper columns in support of it and have raised banners calling for it; they have made it an objective for which all other things could be sacrificed. On many occasions, people have keenly called for it while being unaware of what they wished to get from it.
But it has also become the means by which politicians achieved their aims and personal interests, and use their apparent pursuit of it to attract people’s attention and gain their support. In many cases, this claimed pursuit of freedom has become a means and justification to destroy any real freedom.
Some groups in Kashmir work for “Azad Kashmir” and some for “Accession to Pakistan”. But the creed of freedom will remain a hollow dream until and unless Kashmir is not governed by the Law of the Almighty. We should turn to the history of Islam and its teachings to analyse the concept of freedom in the context of Islam. It is being presented as if democracy is the way to achieve such freedom, because democracy is founded on freedom. Thus the proponents of this ideology have made having a democratic system mandatory for achieving freedom; they argue that one leads to the other and therefore one who loves freedom must call for democracy. Such people also claim that whoever hates democracy is also an enemy of freedom.
The question arises: does democracy (as practiced by the world now) truly achieve the freedom that mankind desires and requires? Does it even raise the level of freedom that people enjoy? What is the type of freedom that democracy achieves for nations and where are its boundaries? Is a Pakistani, an Indian, an American or a European truly free? Are the lives they live in their nations free, or even partly so? Does Islam oppose the principle of freedom or does it approve of it and call for it? If Islam approves of it, then how does it deal with it and expect people to practice it and what are the permissible types of freedom within Islamic boundaries? Also, is freedom in Islam the same as that in democracy, or are they different? Which one of the two ‘freedoms’ is more realistic?
All these questions force one to compare freedom as Islam presents it and calls for it – how it was practiced under Islamic rule for fourteen hundred years and is still being practiced today – and how freedom is practiced in democratic systems, how contemporary countries and nations apply it. This comparison must be made in order to see which of the two is more beneficial, more realistic, more honest and closer to the truth.
The human mind defines freedom in a democracy, and thus people decide what is good and what is bad according to what current desires and lusts are. So freedom in a democracy becomes limited at times and broadens in other epochs, depending on what the decision-makers feel is beneficial at the time. This means that nations who practice such systems become experimental laboratories and are in a state of constant flux regarding what is allowed and what is not.
In Islam, on the other hand, freedom is clearly defined and its limits and boundaries have been set by Allah, who is the infallible creator of all mankind, whose qualities are perfect and beyond defect, weakness or incapability. Thus, freedom in Islam has a distinct feature, which is stability – what was permissible in Islam fourteen hundred years ago remains so until the day of resurrection. In Islam, every person knows what he can and cannot do as well as the areas in which there is room for manoeuvering, according to what Allah has permitted. Furthermore, freedom in Islam is underpinned by ultimate justice and authority because it comes from Allah, contrary to that defined by democracy, which is man-made and therefore fallible and subject to shortcomings and injustice. In democracy, the limits of freedom move within a circle defined by human legislators.
In democracy, freedom is opposed to and conflicts with whatever is defined as evil by human legislators, which, due to their limited knowledge and abilities, entails the inclusion of much evil in the circle of what is good and allowed. It also implies that much good will be included in the circle of evil and the forbidden. Under democracy, many evil things have been made permissible based on its definition of freedom, but were later found to be immoral and oppressive, and then prohibited. Likewise, many matters that were later found to be beneficial were initially prohibited, and this constant fluctuation causes the concept of freedom in democracy to be undermined and belittled.
Conversely, in Islam, freedom is opposed to and conflicts with whatever Allah has defined as evil due to His comprehensive knowledge and infallibility. Allah has only permitted what is good and beneficial for mankind and has prohibited only that which is evil. Consequently, the range of freedom in Islam is only from what is good to what is praiseworthy. Freedom in democracy only serves to enslave people to one another – whereas people should in reality be slaves to Allah alone. This causes people to be under the control of others and those in control are the ones who set the rules. What type of freedom is this which entails enslavement to other humans?
In Islam, freedom frees man from enslavement to other humans to the comprehensive enslavement to Allah Alone. One might argue that both are forms of enslavement, so what is the difference?
The difference is that Allah is the creator; He provides for man, facilitated the universe for him and guided him to the right path; therefore, Allah alone has the right to be worshipped and man should be grateful to Him and obey His commandments. Worshipping the creator gives the slave might, honor and dignity, while on the other hand, being enslaved by other humans is a form of oppression and punishment. If man is not a slave to Allah, then he will certainly become a slave to another human, and this is a false state of affairs. Worshipping Allah represents the ultimate freedom because it frees one from being enslaved to other false gods.
In a democracy, freedom places man under many types of pressure and strain that make him lose a great part of his freedom of thinking and choice. Examples of these pressures are the media; the pressure of fulfilling his lusts, using different means to do so; the pressure of earning provisions, which is one of the greatest pressures people face; the pressure that politicians and religious leaders place upon people, and how some of these people fabricate and alter facts; the pressure of intoxicants and drugs, which are now widespread; and the latest pressure, which is the threat for anyone who refuses to give in to the instructions that have been set to deal with the phenomenon of ‘terrorism,’ which is a powerful means of placing pressure on people.
These pressures deprive man of a great deal of the freedom of choice, freedom of thinking and freedom of adopting opinions that he would had if these pressures did not exist. Contemporary tyrants do not need to exert much effort to accomplish what they wish from other nations; all they have to do is apply some of these pressures for a short period and, sure enough, other nations usually surrender to their requests.
In Islam, man is freed from all external pressures and effects that may limit or even deprive him of his freedom of choice and decision. In a democracy, it is like a person driving a car without brakes who is also negligent of other drivers and pedestrians, who can, therefore, slam into others and cause accidents. On the other hand, in Islam, freedom is a cause for one to adopt the finest and most courteous morals and behavior, it does not allow one to transgress in any way and preserves man’s health, faith and thinking; it is like a person driving a car with excellent brakes and who stops where he is supposed to and drives only when it is safe to do so.
Freedom in democracy seems as if it is a gift that a man gives to another fellow human, and it is as if he has the right to give him as much of it as he desires and whenever it suits him. In Islam, however, it is a right that Allah has granted to His slaves, and no human has the right to deprive others of it except for a reason that is legislated by Allah.
That is what my humble analysis is; rest almighty Allah knows better. May he bless the Muslim Ummah throughout the world.
—The writer is an M.Pharma student