June 7, 2006
Right Kinda Freedom
I've written my thoughts about freedom sometime ago when the cartoons incident sparked a wave of interest in what constitutes freedom of speech and expression. Now discussion has gone into other sorts of freedom, with the growing interest in International Human Rights and liberalism.
Wan Azhar Wan Ahmad, senior research fellow at a local Islamic research institute, wrote an article in today's Star which I thought quite interesting. He spoke about freedom from a Muslim perspective.
In his article, he goes to the root of the word freedom. The term ikhtiyar means the power of choice, or freedom. This word, in turn, has its roots in the word khayr, which means Good. What this means is that within the framework of Islam, freedom actually means the free choice of what is "good and better".
In his words, he says that "one cannot separate freedom from rights in the sense that the freedom to choose must always be done for the right, true, just and correct. It follows that a choice for something bad, as far as Islam or morality is concerned, is not real freedom. In this spirit, the Islamic concept of freedom differs from that of the secular idea."
My question is, what is the very definition of "good and better"? Surely every religion would assume its teachings to be the "good and better" relative to the other. Thus, freedom from an Islamic perspective would mean the freedom to practice within the parameters of what the faith allows, that which is enshrined within the religion itself – the practical manifestation of which can be humanly interpreted.
This is tantamount to saying that whatever freedom a Muslim enjoys is to the extent that the "bad" is not practiced, defined in Islamic terms.
Nevertheless, who am I to criticise who too believes in bounded freedom, as written about before. However, I believe in the principle behind the matter. It is the spirit of the law instead of the letter of the law. It is more important to recognise there is a principle behind a teaching, which I can practise with full conscience.
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