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      Publish Date: Thursday,22 July, 2010, at 11:13 PM Doha Time 

Freedom in Islam and democracy 

There is no word that nations have called for, spoken about in 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 matters could be sacrificed. On many occasions, 
people have keenly called for it while being unaware of what they wished to get 
from it.

This has remained the case until it became the means by which politicians 
achieved their political aims and personal interests, and used 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 a justification 
to destroy any real freedom and wage wars against many nations. 

It was made to sound as if democracy is the way to achieve such freedom, 
because democracy is founded upon 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 must exist in order for the other to do 
so; therefore, one who loves freedom must call for democracy and love it, and 
vice versa. Such people also claim that, consequently, whoever hates democracy 
and is an enemy of it is also an enemy of freedom. 

The questions that arise here are: does democracy (as practised by the Western 
nations) 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 an 
American or a European truly free? Are the lives that they live in their 
nations ones of freedom, or even partly so? 

Does Islam oppose the principle of freedom or does it approve of it and call 
for it? If Islam does approve of it, then how does it deal with it and expect 
people to practise 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 and 
coincides with the sought freedom, the one in Islam or the one in democracy?

All these questions and many others force one to compare between freedom as 
Islam presents it and calls for it - how it was practiced under Islamic rule 
for fourteen hundred years and is still being practised today, and how freedom 
is practiced in democratic systems, and 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 limited human mind is what defined freedom in democracy and decided what is 
good and what is bad in it according to what its desires and lusts imposed, 
which entails that freedom in democracy becomes limited at times and broadens 
at others, depending on what the decision makers feel is beneficial at the time.

This means that the nations who practice such systems become experimental 
laboratories and are in a state 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 alone, who is the infallible Creator of all 
mankind Whose Qualities are perfect and beyond defect, weakness or 
incapability. He is All-Knowing of the condition of His creation and Knows best 
what their requirements are and what suits them.

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 

In Islam, every person knows what he can and cannot do as well as the areas in 
which there is room for manoeuvre, 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 the circle that has been 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 allowable. 
It also implies that much good will be included in the circle of the evil and 

Under democracy, many evil things have been made permissible based on its 
definition of freedom, but were later found to be immoral and oppressive, which 
caused them to then be 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 and dispraised. 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 - people who 
should in reality be slaves to Allah only; it causes people to be under the 
control of others who may be lower in status than themselves; those who are in 
control are the ones who set their rules and forbid and allow them whatever 
they wish - all that those who are under such control can do is to submit and 
obey. 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?

l 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, honour and dignity, while on the 
other hand, being enslaved by other humans who are weak and incapable is a form 
of oppression and punishment.

l Man was created with the natural disposition of being a slave, so if he is 
not a slave to Allah, then he will certainly become a slave to another human, 
and this is a false state of affairs, regardless of the form it takes and the 
status of the human who he is enslaved to.

l Worshipping Allah represents the ultimate freedom because it frees one from 
being enslaved to other false gods. In democracy, freedom places man under 
varied types of pressures and external strains that make him lose a great 
portion 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 that 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 to 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 great pressure upon people.

These types of pressure deprive man from a great deal of the freedom of choice, 
freedom of thinking and freedom of adopting opinions that he would have taken 
if these pressures did not exist. These pressures deprive man from his freedom, 
despite the claim of some who live under such a system to be free.

The 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. These pressures are referred in the Qur'an.

Allah Says (what means): "Those who were oppressed will say to those who were 
arrogant: 'Rather, [it was your] conspiracy of night and day when you were 
ordering us to disbelieve in Allah and attribute to Him equals.' But they will 
[all] confide regret when they see the punishment; and We will put shackles on 
the necks of those who disbelieved. Will they be recompensed except for what 
they used to do?" [Qur'an 34: 33] They plot continuously, day and night, in a 
way that prevents one from having an opportunity to pause and think correctly 
in order to be guided to a sound decision.

In Islam, man is freed from all external pressures and effects that may limit 
or even deprive him from his freedom of choice and decision. Islam frees man 
from all such pressures.

In democracy, freedom exposes man to all evils, corruption, and everything else 
that would ruin his good morals and pure nature; it causes him to become 
inclined towards aggression and abnormality. Its similitude is like that of a 
person driving a car without brakes who is also negligent of other drivers and 
pedestrians, therefore, he would slam into others and cause many accidents.

On the other hand, in Islam, freedom is a cause for one to adopt the finest and 
most courteous morals and behaviour, it does not allow one to transgress in any 
way and preserves man's health, faith and thinking; its similitude is like that 
of one who drives 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 appears as if it is a gift that 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 from it 
except for a reason that is legislated by Allah.

The words of 'Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, clearly reflect this when he 
said: "Who gave you the right to enslave others when they were born free?"

This is freedom in democracy and in Islam, so which is worthier for the title?

Allah Says (what means): ".And remain on a right course as you are commanded 
and do not follow their inclinations..." [Qur'an 26:15]

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