By Sumit Paul, New Age Islam
11 August 2022
“Freedom, Religion, Spirituality and God Are the Most Overused and Unrealized Concepts."
- Albert Camus, ' Resistance, Rebellion, and Death: Essays'
Youm-e-Azadi (Independence Day) is on the anvil and the ensuing Independence Day is going to be all the more significant as this happens to be India's 75th Independence Day. Though we often use the words 'independence' and 'freedom' as synonyms, there's a subtle difference in degree/s. Mortimer Jerome Adler argues in his book ' The Idea of Freedom' that, 'To be independent is not to be free.
Independence has certain limitations, but freedom is boundless.' Very true. Independence is a state of existence, whereas freedom is a state of mind. While the former is transient, the latter is transcendental. Rumi explains the idea of freedom so succinctly, “Free of who I was, free of presence, free of dangerous fear, hope, free of mountainous wanting."
Human race is more or less rooted in the (restricted) idea of independence, bound by time, space and place. But, we're not exactly free, whereas we're condemned to be free, to borrow and paraphrase Jean Paul Sartre's famous quote on individual freedom. Freedom is an idea. It's a spirit. While incarcerated at Ahmednagar fort, Abul Kalam Azad famously wrote in his autobiography, ' Ghubaar-e-Khatir ' (Outpourings of the heart) that ' Jism Ko Qaid Kiya Jaa Sakta Hai, Rooh Ko Nahin. Here, 'Rooh' is spirit, the indomitable human spirit. But most of the humans, not just Indians, aren't free in letter and spirit.
Is there anyone as free as to say that he's just a human? We're independent to assert our existence as a Hindu, Muslim or Christian but we're not free to say that we're free in spirit. Freedom is to be free of all ethno-existential burdens and baggage. Hakim Sanai says in Dari, “Mee Az Aazaad Min Un Khayal-e-Aazaad “(To be free from the very idea of freedom is freedom). It means, any idea, even if that be of freedom itself, is an idea and an idea eventually snowballs into an ideology and the ideology finally swallows you and your freedom.
Humans are doctrinal animals and ideological zombies. This doctrine, that doctrine, we're all the time encumbered by isms, however lofty that may seem or sound. Now the idea of Nationalism is sweeping people off their feet. While I don't pooh pooh one's love for the country and by no means am I belittling the contributions of the freedom fighters who laid down their lives for the sake of their motherland, my point is: Isn't nationality, like your religion, an accident of birth? To a free man, all the world is a big country. Passport-wise or on the basis of your Aadhaar Card, you may be an Indian, but is it your identity? Remember, all of us happen to be Indians, not Indians. Likewise, you happen to be a Muslim, not a Muslim. You didn't choose your religion and country. They were foisted upon you. So, where's freedom? You're just independent in a limited sense to do certain limited things.
You've to be free of all silly attachments to your religion, deities, gods, prophets, books, caste, class and all that jazz. You've to be global to be called a free spirit and a Parinda-E-Ahraar (a free bird). Until this happens, you remain in the dungeon of country and colour and cannot think beyond that. You stay condemned to be mentally imprisoned till you kick the bucket. By the way, Happy Independence Day.
A regular columnist for New Age Islam, Sumit Paul is a researcher in comparative religions, with special reference to Islam. He has contributed articles to world's premier publications in several languages including Persian.
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