By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan for New Age Islam
27 June 2020
Man has been granted total intellectual freedom in Islam. Islam with its message of freedom of expression brought a revolution in human history. Earlier in all periods of human history, the system of absolutism prevailed in the world. Man was denied intellectual freedom and the secret of all human progress lies hidden in intellectual freedom.
According to Islam, the first benefit of this intellectual freedom is that man receives that highest good which is called ‘fear of God’ in the Quran (5: 94). It consists of man’s recognition and realization of God in full freedom and, of one’s own freewill, without any external pressure from God. So long as there is no atmosphere of total freedom, none can experience the indescribable pleasure of spiritual experience which is called fear of God in the Unseen. Hence it is impossible (without freedom) to grant anyone credit for the highest of human actions.
Freedom of expression is the thing which saves one from hypocrisy. The human mind necessarily thinks and forms opinions. In such a situation, if curbs are placed on freedom of expression, people’s thinking cannot be stopped. The only thing that will take place is that their thinking will not come to their lips and pens. Any institution, nation, state which places curbs on freedom of expression will be ultimately brimming with hypocrites. In such an atmosphere sincere people can never be produced.
In this way intellectual freedom is related directly to creativity. A society having intellectual freedom breeds creative people whereas a society which curbs intellectual freedom will necessarily stagnate and as a result, the produce of creative mind and its growth and development will forever be stopped.
The proper stand in the matter of disagreement and criticism is that people shed off their unnecessary sensitivity in the matter of discussion instead of attempting to put a stop to the act of criticism and disagreement itself. This is the demand of Islam as well as the demand of nature.
The attribute of true believers described in the Hadith is: ‘Whenever a truth is presented to them, they accept it.’ (Musnad Ahmad, Hadith No. 24379) A believer is one who has full capacity of accepting truth. Whenever a truth is brought before him, no personal complex comes in the way of his accepting it.
The highest point of this attribute is that man is always prepared, rather he eagerly waits for someone to point out to him any shortcoming of his, so that he may immediately accept and correct it. It is this attribute of a believer which has been expressed by Umar Faruq in these words: ‘May God bless the man who sends me the gift of my own shortcoming’. (Sunan al Darimi, Hadith No. 649)
Acceptance of the truth is the greatest act of worship. It is an act for which man must make the greatest of sacrifice. To lose one’s sense of greatness for the sake of truth is an occasion when man earns his entry into Heaven by paying its price.
When does one receive the blessing of having performed this great form of worship? This opportunity comes to man only when there is full freedom of speech.
Freedom of speech provides that conducive atmosphere in which great virtues flourish. It is in such an atmosphere that those situations are created when a person is given the credit of the pronouncement of truth and another rewarded for the acceptance of the truth.
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