By Alh. Zakariyah Sarumi
Freedom, both as a concept and as a value has been denied in many individuals, groups and nations. It has been often misunderstood and abused. The fact is that in no human society can man be free in the absolute sense of the word. There must be some limitations of one sort or another, if the society is to function at all.
Apart from this general idea, Islam teaches freedom, cherishes it and guarantees it for the Muslim as well as for the non-Muslim. The Islamic concept of freedom applies to all voluntary activities of man in all walks of life. As already stated, every man is born free on the fitrah or in a pure state of nature. This means that man is born free from subjugation, sin, inherited inferiority and ancestral hindrance. His right of freedom is sacred as long as he does not deliberately violate the law of Allah or desecrate the rights of others.
One of the main objectives of Islam is to emancipate the mind from superstitions and uncertainties, the soul from sin and corruption, the conscience from oppression and fear, and even the body from disorder and degeneration.
The course which Islam has enjoined on man to realize this goal includes profound intellectual endeavours, constant spiritual observance, binding moral principles and even dietary regulations. When man follows this course, religiously, he cannot fail to reach his ultimate goal of freedom and emancipation.
The question of freedom with regard it belief, worship and conscience is also of paramount importance in Islam. Every man is entitled to exercise his freedom of belief, conscience and worship in religion. “Truth stands out clear of error. Whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah has grasped the strongest bond that never breaks. And Allah knows and hears all things. (Q uran2:256).
The Islamic concept of freedom is an article of faith, solemn command from the Supreme Creator. It is built on the following fundamental principles. First, man’s conscience is subject to Allah only, to Whom every man is directly responsible. Secondly, every human being is personally responsible for his deeds and he alone is entitled to reap the fruits of his work. Thirdly, Allah has delegated to man the responsibility to decide for himself. Fourthly, man is sufficiently provided with spiritual guidance and endowed with rational qualities that enable him to make responsible, sound choices. Such is the foundation of the Islamic concept of freedom; there is no room for religious persecutions, class conflict or racial prejudice. The individual’s right of freedom is as sacred as his right to life. Freedom is equivalent of Life itself.
“O mankind! Verily we have created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily the most honored among you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous (Quran 49:13).
The differences of race, colour, or social status are only accidental. They do not affect the true stature of man in the sight of Allah. Again, the value of equality is not simply a matter of constitutional rights or gentlemen’s agreement or condescending charity. It is an article of faith which the Muslims take seriously and to which he must adhere sincerely. The foundation of the Islamic value of equality is deeply rooted in structure of Islam. It stems from basic principles such as the following:
- All men are created by One and the same eternal Allah, the Supreme Lord of All.
- All mankind belong to the human race and share equally in the common parentage of Adam and Eve.
- Allah is just and kind to all his creatures. He is not partial to any race, age or religion. The whole universe is His dominion and all people are His creatures.
- All people are born equal in the sense that none brings any possession with him and they die equal in the sense that they take back nothing of their worldly belongings.
- Allah judges every person on the basis of his own merits and according to his own deeds.
- Allah has conferred on man, man as such, a title of honor and dignity.
Such are some of the principles behind the value of equality in Islam. When this concept is fully utilized, it will leave no place for prejudice or persecutions. And when this divine ordinance is fully implemented, there will be no room for oppression or suppression. Concept of chosen gentile peoples, words such as privileged and condemned races, expressions such as social castes and second-class citizen will all become meaningless and obsolete.
To appreciate how Islam approaches the question of peace, one has only to consider a few elementary facts about Islam. Peace and Islam are derived from the same root and may be considered synonymous. One of the Allah’s names is Peace. The concluding words of the daily prayers of every Muslim are word of peace. The greeting of the Muslims when they return to Allah is Peace. The daily salutations among the Muslims are expressions of peace. The adjective “Muslim” means, in a sense, peaceful. Heaven in Islam is the abode of peace.
This is how fundamental and dominant the theme of peace is in Islam. The individual who approaches to Allah through Islam cannot fail to be at peace with Allah, with himself, and with his fellow men. Taking all these values together, putting man in his proper place in the cosmos and viewing life in the Islamic perspective, men of good faith and principles cannot fail to make our world a better world, to regain human dignity to achieve equality, to enjoy universal brotherhood and to build a lasting peace.
Alh. Sarumi is the Grand Imam Ipetu Ijesa and Chief Missioner Ansar Udeen Ipetu Ijesa