Do We Have Something Called Freedom in Islam? (3)


Propagating the question through an extra-religious approach

We have so far replied to the question raised by someone posing to be a religious Muslim who, by citing the Qur’an, concludes that Islam should neither have mandatory orders nor interfere in the lives of people because it is inconsistent with the accepted principle of freedom in Islam. Now, we shall reply to the question in the meta-religious and extra-religious form and approach.

The non-Muslim skeptic tries to show that mandatory religious orders and the call for the people to follow and obey are inconsistent with the essence and fundamental nature of humanity. Of course, this question has been expressed in different forms and shapes. We shall point out some of them below:

In the parlance of logic, freewill constitutes the essence of humanity. Now, if we deprive man of freewill and liberty and compel him, it means depriving him of humanity and likening him to an animal with a bridle on his neck to be pulled here and there. So, to respect man and protect his humanity requires that the right to choose be given to him. As such, religion should not have mandatory decrees that urge him to obey the Prophet, Imams and the successors and deputies of the infallible Imam (‘a), for in doing so, he is reduced to the level of an animal which is pulled here and there.

Hume’s question and the first reply to the above question

We shall give two replies to the above question and the first reply is linked with Hume’s question which is incidentally accepted by skeptics. Hume’s question holds that the perceiver of “beings” is the theoretical intellect while the perceiver of “dos and don’ts” is the practical intellect. Since the theoretical intellect is alien and has no relation to the practical intellect, one can not regard the objects perceived by the practical intellect—dos and don’ts—on the basis of the theoretical intellect.

This question of Hume drew the attention of Western philosophers and they made it the foundation and basis of many of their theories and scientific ideas. After the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran a number of the so-called intellectuals utilized this question. In their discussions they argued that we can never deduce “beings” from “dos and don’ts”. If a person has a distinct character and attribute, we cannot conclude that he should therefore be or not be so-and-so, because the perceiver of the former is the theoretical intellect while that of the latter is the practical intellect and these two are not related to each other.

The same people who accept this question of Hume say that compelling people is inconsistent with their humanity, and religion should not have mandatory orders for people because people are free and autonomous. They say at the outset that man is free, and then conclude that he should be set free and not forced. Therefore, from the free nature of man which is among the “beings” that are perceived by the theoretical intellect, they draw “dos and don’ts” which are perceived by the practical intellect, and this is in conflict with their own basis. They themselves do not accept that “dos” should be drawn from “beings”.

Of course, we believe that in cases where “beings” are the sheer cause of a phenomenon, one can arrive at “dos and don’ts”, but such a conclusion cannot be arrived at in our discussion because his freedom is not the sole cause of his being compelled. Rather, freewill paves the ground for duty, and the duty and obligation to do or not to do a certain act is based on the benefit or harm, as the case may be, that actions cause. So, the mandatory order to do a certain act is meant to secure the benefits embedded in it and the reason behind the prohibition of a certain act is the harms it entails.

Second reply—absoluteness and limitlessness of freedom

If we submit to the question—and say that since man is free, a mandatory law should not be imposed on him and no government should have mandatory orders for people; that they should be free to do whatever they like; and that imposition means deprivation of freedom which, in turn, means deprivation of humanity, and thus, no law is credible!! This actually means we accept anarchy and the law of the jungle. Basically, to be mandatory is the eminent feature of law.

In every system and structure, once a person accepts certain laws and orders, he has to act upon them under all circumstances. It is not possible for a person to accept the law but when he sees that its implementation is detrimental to him, he does not follow it without considering its benefit and harm. In this case, the system will collapse and no progress can be made. So long as a law is regarded as credible and official by the legislative authorities, all need to follow it even if it is found to be defective, it is not their prerogative but the duty of the concerned authorities to address the matter. Under the pretext of the defect in the law, the rest are not supposed to shrink from following it.

Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi Written by

Mansoor L. Limba Translated by