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Islam Gave the World the Gift of Liberty
Liberty: That Is Islam
Liberty? That is us. That is Islam. Long before other folks got wind of it or started to make loud noises about it.
Liberty is so much a central part of the message of Islam that the American Revolutionary orator, Patrick Henry, may have taken his words directly from the pages of the Qur’an.
Demanding freedom for the American colonies from Britain, Patrick Henry said in the later part of the 18th Century: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
Note the reference to “Almighty God” in this passage. Also note the juxtaposition of the notion of liberty with a direct invocation of the name of God Almighty.
Who among us Muslims, the card-carrying criers of the name of God day and night, could have said it better?
A Great American Revolutionary Hero
This great American revolutionary hero knew full well that a life lived without liberty was no different from death. And he somehow knew that “God Almighty” had a hand in human liberty as well as in all matters of life and death.
Precepts of the Biblical prophets and the teachings of Jesus Christ, Alaihis Salaam, were still fresh in his mind.
That is how the glorious and divine notion of liberty came to be the bedrock of American culture and tradition. And that is also how the fledgling nation of the United States of America became the lodestar of liberty for the rest of the world in modern times.
But from way before that, starting from the 7th Century, liberty has been the cornerstone of Islamic culture and tradition. In fact, the idea of liberty is a fundamental teaching of the Qur’an.
And God Almighty sent Islam to bestow upon the human race the gift of liberty one more time, and in its full and final form and phase – a gift he had been sending to humanity piecemeal at different times and in different places through different prophets and messengers, may God bless them all. Bits and pieces of God’s gift and plan of liberty for humanity adorn the pages of all books with any divine basis or background, including the Old and the New Testament.
And this concept of liberty finds its final form and shape in the Qur’an and in the daily doings and saying of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.
It was the lofty cry for liberty, coming down from heaven in the pages of the Qur’an, and through the lips of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, that found this belated modern-time echo in the free and democratic America that Patrick Henry and his American Revolutionary colleagues such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were trying to wrest from the tyrannical clutches of the British Empire.
One Nation under God:
That Is Precisely What Islam Is All About
That is also how the American flag came to be the symbol of “one Nation under God, indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all.”
Now tell me, which part of this American Pledge of Allegiance to the flag is not a direct reflection of the core teachings of Islam? Is it “one nation”? Is it “under God”? Is it “indivisible”? Is it “liberty for all”?
Or is it “justice for all”? Which one? Precisely which one of these wonderful ideals and concepts did Islam not teach the world – and that too all of 1400 years ago?
Which one of these elements is not a direct reflection of the words of the Qur’an, or a continuation through time and space of the legacy of Muhammad – Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam – a legacy that had been sweeping the world for well over a full millennium before the American Revolution or the French Revolution made this thought and language about liberty possible in this part of the world at this particular time.
The question we all need to ask today is this: Who among us present-day Muslims will build these bridges of shared understanding, camaraderie and cooperation between America and the West on the one hand and the world of Islam and Muslims on the other hand?
Who among us has the training, qualifications and background fit for this mammoth and historic undertaking? And who among us has the attitude and mindset suited for this task?
And who among us has the sincerity of purpose, depth of understanding, clarity of vision, boldness of spirit and sharpness of skills that this stupendous responsibility requires?
The Shame of Present Muslim Reality
So liberty is Islam. Make no mistake about it. And so are its inseparable cousins: universal human dignity and equality.
This neat little package of liberty, human dignity and equality is what Allah designed and sent Islam into this world to give everyone everywhere.
The shame of it is that much of the present crop of inept Muslim leaders as well as their mostly ignorant and supine following is not brought up to think, believe or act like that, which is a measure of the enormous gulf that separates all too many Muslims from their twin life-support systems of Qur’an and the true Sunnat of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.
Many of the Muslims of our time, as their forbears of recent past, are so caught up in the details and minutiae of their Fiqh-based Masaa’l and Madhaahib, as well as in the advancement of their own personal interests and ambitions, mostly for wealth and power, that their minds and spirits are not in tune with Qur’an’s life-giving message of universal human liberty, dignity and equality.
And those few enlightened and dedicated souls among Muslims – and non-Muslims – who tried in the past, and try now, to wrest a handful of freedoms and rights for their people, including Muslims, are killed, bought off, marginalized or imprisoned and tortured by those who are bent on holding humanity in thrall and plundering its wealth and resources, whether in the name of Islam or non-Islam.
Just get hold of a list of all the places where people from around the world are sent to be tortured when they are taken prisoner in so many of the so-called wars or when they are kidnapped from their homes or streets on one charge or another, and you will begin to get a sense of what I am talking about.
Often, it is people with Muslim names and backgrounds that are set to catch Muslims and keep them in serfdom and bondage and deny them their lawful Islamic and human rights, liberties and dignities.
Muslim Problems: Muslims’ Own Doing
So, there is little surprise if Muslims in much of the world today live in bondage and fear, much of which, they must understand, is of their own doing. Yes, you can and should always blame the Devil for your own shortcomings and failures of omission and commission. It is a given, for in the lives of human beings, both Muslims and non-Muslims, the Devil is always the default.
Yes, there are a lot of non-Muslims who wish Muslims ill and have seldom passed up an opportunity to rob them of their wealth and power. But that is their job in a sense: to fight for their own self-interest and target those who they see as a threat to them.
So, from that point of view, the Muslims can continue to blame any or all of the following for everything that went wrong with them without undertaking any serious analysis of the causes and effects of their own life and without taking any responsibility for their own role in their own decline and downfall. Here is a rich list of enemies to blame, but this list is only a partial one: Crusades; Colonialism; Imperialism; Hindu Chauvinism; America; Israel.
I am not denying that any or all of these have been a source of trouble for Muslims in the past or happen to be so in the present. What I am saying is that Muslims seem to be remarkably incapable of analyzing, understanding and coming to terms with the role they themselves played in relation to any or all of these presumed sources of their trouble.
Also, Muslims conveniently forget that they were given a broad immunity of sorts against total domination or annihilation from external sources such as non-Muslims. It is the Muslims themselves against whom they were supposed to be vigilant.
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