To What Extent Are the Present Human Rights Islamic? (3)

 What is the remedy of the failure of the attempts made in the name of human right?

 In our view, the answer is return to Islam, and recourse to Divine revelation. This is a prescription equally valid for Muslims as well as for non-Muslims. For this, the Islamic societies do not have to wait for anything. Return to Islam, revival of the Quran and of Islamic mode of thinking in society, recourse to Islamic sources (the Quran and the Sunnah) in legal matters -these are the things and that will enable us to understand the meaning of human rights and help us to identify the those rights and guide us in our struggle to secure them.

For the purpose of securing human rights, it is necessary once and for all to give up giving advice and lecturing, since they are of no use. The Quran says:

“Take by force that which we have given you.” (2:63).

God Almighty has granted these rights to mankind, and they should secure these rights by force. The Islamic nations should resist the unjust demands and dominance of the big powers by relying upon the Islamic ideology.

These are not the words of an idealist who speaks about Islamic issues and Islamic ideals from the corner of a theological seminary. These are the utterances of a revolution which has gone through experiences and has felt the actualities.

Our revolution is an experience that is available for study to all the nations. I do not say that we have solved all our problems. We haven’t. There is no doubt that a great many problems have been created for us on account of the Revolution and on account of its Islamic character. But we have solved the problem of dominance. Today the Iranian nation and the Islamic Republic can claim that they have rid themselves of all domination and powers and that they can decide for themselves.

Of course, when a nation tries to do away with all the forms of dependence, it has a long path to tread. And dependence if not accompanied with domination, pushing around, and unjust demands is something natural and tolerable. It is quite obvious that our revolution and the Islamic Republic inherited the legacy of a decadent society, a shattered economy, and a degenerate culture.

What was handed down to the Revolution by the rulers of the past centuries, especially of the last fifty or sixty years, was an Iran beleaguered from all sides. It is not to be expected that the Revolution will be able to lead this dissipated heritage in a short time to the heights of cultural, ethical and economic achievement and scientific and industrial advancement.

We do not make such claims, but, of course, we do anticipate a good future. We believe that it is possible for a nation to reach a high level of material advancement only through independence, self-reliance and by using its manpower and material resources. But what we positively claim today is that the Islamic Republic is not under any political pressure or domination of any power whatsoever.

Political pressures do not influence it to change its course or alter its decisions; it does not change its path or its momentum on account of any consideration for some superpower. It means that we have freed ourselves and our people from the domination of the big powers.

This is an experience, which, we believe, underlines the significance of the most basic and precious of human rights in Islam: the right to live, the right to be free, the right to benefit from justice, the right to welfare, and so on.

These and other such fundamental rights can be secured in an Islamic society. They can be derived from the Islamic sources and Islam has incorporated them in its commands to Muslims and drawn man’s attention towards them, much before Western thinkers gave thought to these rights and values. It is essential to return to Islam.

Muslim thinkers are charged with the responsibility of thoroughly examining and studying the subject of human rights or rather the general structure of the Islamic legal system.

The nations of the world can benefit from the sublime outlook of Islam in this regard in coming closer to securing these rights. The Islamic governments may of course help their peoples in securing their rights, but on condition that they should have no reservations in regard to the big powers. Unfortunately, today we do not see such a state of affairs. Most of the regimes governing Islamic countries are under the influence of the big powers. The majority of them are dominated by the West and under US influence. Therefore, their actions and decisions comply neither with the Islamic principles, nor with the needs of Muslim nations.

You will not find a single country in the world whose people should be waiting eagerly to know as to what the Islamic Conference has to say, so that its resolution promises a sense of obligation or the pleasure of receiving some good news. What is the reason? Why should a gathering of forty-six Islamic states organized on the highest level of heads of states and leaders be so ineffectual and so much devoid of consequence and content?

It is on account of the unfortunate fact that most of these regimes are under the influence of the big powers. As long as this domination of the big powers and their awe and fear remain in their hearts, the affairs of the Muslim nations will be in disarray. If we wish to deliver the Muslim word from its present-day disarray and confusion, the first thing that is to be done is to drive this fear and awe from the hears, as God Almighty has said:

“…So fear not mankind, but fear Me…” (5:44)

They should not be afraid of anyone except God. If this happens, the condition of the Islamic nations will move towards betterment.

Written by Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Khamene’i

To What Extent Are the Present Human Rights Islamic? (2)

What is the reason for the failure of the efforts made by the politicians and the most vocal advocates of human rights?

This is the point to which more attention should be paid, and I shall discuss it briefly here. I believe it is the most basic point, because whatever has presented in the name of human rights is done within the framework of a defective and crooked system, a system of dominance which is repressive and tyrannical. Those who have created the UN and have drafted the Universal Declaration of human rights, and those who most vehemently and vociferously plead for it today, regrettably the majority of them are statesmen and politicians who believe in the system of dominance and have accepted it. The system of dominance means that a group of men dominates and should dominate another group of men.

The system of dominance is backed by the culture of dominance. Today the world is divided into two groups: one is the group of those who dominate and the other is the group of the dominated. Both the groups have accepted the system of dominance, and the big powers believe that this system should be maintained. Even those who are dominated have accepted the system of dominance and have consented to its continuity.

This is the biggest flaw in the existing world situation. Those who do not accept the system of dominance are those individuals or groups who are not satisfied with the social order in their countries or with the social and political state of world affairs, and rise in revolt against this system. The revolutionary groups who revolt against the global status quo or revolutionary governments are very few in number and are constantly subjected to pressures and victimized.

The most illustrative example of it is the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has rejected domination in all its forms, and has not accepted anybody’s domination. The East as well as the West are the same for it in this respect. It does not give any priority to the powerful of the world or to its rich, while making decisions.

It was subjected to political as well as military and economic pressures, and the pressures of world-wide propaganda launched against it. The cause of such pressures is clear. It was all done for the reason that the Islamic Republic has taken a clear and independent stand against the system of dominance. If some progressive governments have resisted Western and US domination, in majority of cases, there were observable signs of acceptance of and surrender to Eastern domination.

Wherever in the world there is any pressure, high-handedness and unjust demands made upon a certain nation by a big power in the world, we have made clear our stand and have openly and bluntly expressed our definite views without any reservations. But the majority of the world’s nations have accepted this system.

You can see that unfortunately the governments of the same countries which are subject to domination do not have the moral courage and guts to resist and oppose the domination of the big powers and fight them, while in our view it is quite possible. We believe that if the poor countries, the countries that have been under domination and in spite of their resources have been forced to fulfill the unjust demands made by the big powers- had they wished to stand against them, they could do so. No miracle is needed; it is sufficient that the governments should rely upon their own people.

Unfortunately, the weakness of will to resist, and more than weakness the treachery on the part of heads of some states in some cases, did not allow them to rise against the system of dominance. This system of dominance prevails over the world economy, culture, international relations and international rights. Naturally the issue of human rights has been posed within the framework of this system of dominance and developed in the background of this system and its outlook.

As a result the very persons who strive to secure freedoms, opportunities and means of welfare for their citizens in European countries in the name of human rights, they bomb and kill human beings in other countries by thousands. What does it mean? Does it mean anything other than this that in the view of the culture of domination which prevails over the world, human beings are divided into two categories: the human beings whose rights are to be defended, and the human beings who have to rights whatsoever and it is permissible to kill, destroy, enslave and subjugate them and to seize their belongings. This system is prevalent all over the world and the conception of human rights is also the product of such a culture.

This is the framework of the system of rights in the world of today. Within this cultural and legal framework the superpowers constantly widen the gap between the weaker nations and themselves, and exert more and more pressure on them. The greater the rate of advancement in technology and its speed accelerates, the more are the weaker countries and nations threatened and subjected to mounting pressures. No one asks the big powers today as to what right they have to put greater pressure on other countries and nations than ever before with their greater advancement in technology and industrialization. Today the satellites launched into the space by the big powers are moving in their orbits around the globe, and gathering minutest details and probing into the secrets of other countries. Why? What gives them right to do that?

Today, most of the communications between people on the global level, especially those between statesmen and heads of states, and political and scientific communications are accessible to those who possess sophisticated technology. Why? Does anyone ask them? Does anyone raise any objection? Since the US has launched those satellites and possesses the means of gathering and benefiting from intelligence, it is given the right by all to obtain that information.

Doesn’t the eavesdropping on the communications between the world’s people amount to a violation of their rights? Does anyone put this question to the US, France and Germany? When this question is raised, will anyone affirm that such a question should be raised? No, everyone says to himself: they are strong so they can do it ; they are capable of doing it, so they must use the opportunity. Today, the problem of atom bomb and the use of nuclear weapons is an issue all over the world.

The superpowers themselves raise it because they are afraid of each other. They wrangle over it and each tries to dupe the other by limiting the nuclear arsenals of its rival while equipping itself with more and more. But, have the smaller countries ever thought of opposing the makers of nuclear bombs, by declaring that unless these bombs are destroyed and defused and unless peace of mind is restored to humanity, which is exposed to the nuclear danger every moment, they shall not have any relations with them, nor any trade nor any cooperation in any matter?

Have the Third-World countries, the non-aligned nations and other countries of the world- have they ever thought of making use of some kind of leverage against the race for nuclear arms? No. If you suggest this idea to them, they will say that it is an advanced technology, they possess it; they can, and so must produce such weapons.

It means that they have accepted the logic of dominance. The absence of balance in the present world conditions has equally been accepted by the oppressor as well as the oppressed nations. The culture of dominance has been imposed on the minds. When we denounce the East and the West in international fora on account of their acts, we clearly perceive the astonishment of heads of the states and representatives of countries.

They consider it something odd and rash, whereas it is a natural stand by an independent nation. All the nations and states should behave in a like manner, but they don’t. The conclusion that we draw is that today the prevalence of the culture of dominance has become the biggest evil. It is something which has been greatly detrimental for the weaker nations, and encouraged the big powers to violate human rights.

Whenever there is a mention of terrorism, mostly that which comes to the minds of people is some desperate act of a youth, a victim of oppression fed up with life, from Palestine, or Lebanon, or some African or Latin American country, rather than the acts of such big powers as the US, the UK, and others. This is nothing but the result of the culture of dominance, the culture that unfortunately dominates human mentality all over the world.

In the culture of dominance, words also acquire peculiar connotations that suit the suit the system of dominance. For instance, ‘terrorism’ is defined in a way so that the US’s aggressions against the other countries do not come under the definition of ‘terrorism’. This is a big flaw in the present state of affairs.

Therefore, the failure of the attempts made in the name of human right- even on behalf of those who are sincere and earnest- is on account of the nature of the framework within which they want to lay down and declare the rights of the human beings- something which is not possible. This framework is to be broken and the system of dominance to be condemned. States, nations and countries should resolutely reject the unfair and unjust domination of the big powers so that human rights may be understood, pursued and restored.

Written by Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Khamene’i

To What Extent Are the Present Human Rights Islamic? (1)

The issue of human rights is one of the most fundamental human issues and also one of the most sensitive and controversial. During the recent decades, this problem was more political than either ethical or legal.

Although the influence of political motives, rivalries, and considerations have made difficult the correct formulation of this problem, but this should not prevent thinkers and genuine humanists from probing into this problem and ultimately obtaining a solution.

In the West, though the issue of human rights was raised by the thinkers of the post-Renaissance period, it is only since the last two hundred years or so that it became an issue of prominence among the political and social issues of the Western society and an issue of fundamental significance.

We Muslims, of course, know it very well that if the Western world and the Western civilization have paid attention to this matter in the recent centuries; Islam has dealt with it from all the various aspects many centuries back. The idea of human rights as a fundamental principle can be seen to underlie throughout Islamic teachings. And this does not need any elaboration for a Muslim audience.

That the verses of the Quran and the traditions handed down from the Prophet (SA) and the Imams of his Household (AS), each one of them emphasizes the fundamental rights of man something which has caught the attention of men in recent years- is known to Muslims, and there is no need for the scholars to be reminded about this fact.

However, I would say, that today it is big responsibility on the shoulders of the Islamic society to make this reality known to the world, and not to allow those essential teachings of Islam to be lost in the storm of political clamor and ballyhoo. There were some questions which can be raised in this regard, and to answer them is my principal aim today.

Have the efforts made during the decades since the Second World War, in the name of human rights been successful in their purpose?

 The addresses, the assemblies and the sessions held in the United Nations, and the claims made regarding human rights have they succeeded in bringing men closer to their genuine rights, or to at least the major section of the deprived humanity?

The answer to this question is not so difficult; for an observation of the present world conditions is enough to prove that these attempts have not been successful till now. A glance at the conditions of the underdeveloped societies of the world, who form the major part of the human population, is sufficient to reveal the fact that not only the major part of humanity could not achieve their true rights during the last fifty years, but the methods of encroaching upon the rights of the deprived nations have become more sophisticated and complex and more difficult of remedy.

We cannot accept the claims made by those who claim to be champions of human rights, while the bitter realities of the African and Asian nations and the hungry millions of the human race are before our eyes, and watch the constant spectacle of violation of the rights of several nations. Those who have been outspoken in advocating human rights during these last forty years have themselves grabbed the most fundamental of human rights from the people of the Third-World countries.

It is with their connivance that certain governments and regimes that deny men their most primary rights have managed to survive. The dictators of today’s world and also the despots of the last fifty years in Asia, Africa and Latin America- none of them could have established and preserved their dictatorships on their own without reliance upon the big powers. These big powers are exactly those who have coined most of the slogans concerning human rights; it is they who have brought into being the UNO, and even today the UN is at their service.

Consequently, we feel that the UN as the most significant outcome of the endeavor for human rights has proved to be an ineffectual and impotent element, which has been created as a consolation for nation that has no practical benefit. On account of the interference on the part of big powers, in cases it functions as their feudatory. We do not of course reject the UN; we believe that this organization ought to exist, and it must be reformed. We ourselves are its member.

However, what I mean to say is that after all that effort, after all that clamor and the hopes that were attached to this organization, you can see how inadequate and ineffectual this organization has remained in securing human rights in the world today. Hence, the answer to the first question has become clear. We can say that the efforts made for procuring human rights and the claims made in the name of human rights through the last several centuries and especially during the last few decades did not bear any fruit; they have failed to secure human rights.

Another question is whether, basically, these efforts had any sincerity? This question is of course historical in nature and may not have much practical value. Hence, I do not intend to discuss it at length. It suffices to mention here that, in our view, these efforts were not sincere. It is true that there were philosophers, thinkers and social reformers among the exponents of human rights, but the arena was dominated by politicians.

Even the efforts of those thinkers and reformers were taken into the service of the politicians. If, in the annals of history thinkers, sages, apostles of God, mystics and men are seen to raise the cry for rights of man, today when we behold politicians and statesmen to raise this cry vociferously, we are justified in serious doubting their sincerity. Look around and see as to who are those who plead the case of human rights.

We do not find any signs of sincerity in their efforts. Those who drafted the Declaration of Human Rights, and at their fore the USA, their aim was to extend their domination and hegemony over the world of that time. Their problem was not to safeguard the rights of men, the kind of rights that they had violated during the war, They are the same people who have wiped out tens of thousands of human beings by an atom bomb. They were the same persons who in order to fight a war which had nothing to do with the Asian and African nations had recruited the majority of soldiers from India, Algeria and other African and non-European countries.

We do not believe that Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin and their like had the smallest consideration for human rights in the true sense of the word and were sincere in forming the United Nations and drafting the Universal Declaration of human Rights. Accordingly, the answer to the second question is also clear: No! We do not believe that the efforts made by the politicians and the most vocal advocates of human rights were sincere at all.

Written by Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Khamene’i

Do We Have Something Called Freedom in Islam? (7)


Following God and freedom

The axis of the prophets’ call is to obey and worship God and not follow the taghut. God says:

(وَلَقَدْ بَعَثْنَا فِي كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ رَّسُولاً أَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللّهَ وَاجْتَنِبُوا الطَّاغُوتَ…)

“Certainly We raised an apostle in every nation [to preach:] ‘Worship Allah, and keep away from the Rebel’…”1

Given this, it cannot be accepted that Islam is based on non-obedience to others including God. Essentially, any religion that calls upon us to disobey God is false. As indicated earlier, the essence of the prophets’ call is absolute obedience to God from whom entire creation emanates and who is the Beginning, the End and Real Master—

“Indeed we belong to Allah, and to Him do we indeed return.”2

Now, once we recognize God as the Real Master of the universe and ourselves, how can it be accepted that He has no right to give orders and issue decrees to us? Is ownership other than that the owner can use his property in whatever way he likes? Therefore, it is inadmissible to claim that we have accepted Islam yet we have not subjected ourselves to the bond of servitude to God; for, absolute freedom is condemned by both religion and the intellect. Islam and religion are proclaimers of freedom. This is freedom from worship, and obedience of the taghuts and other than God, and not a deliverance from obedience to God. Man is created free and autonomous but he is legislatively and legally bound to follow God. He has the right to freely choose to obey or disobey God. Essentially, in the world of creation the seal of servitude is put on every phenomenon. Intrinsically, no creature exists without the mark of servitude to God:

(تُسَبِّحُ لَهُ السَّمَاوَاتُ السَّبْعُ وَالأَرْضُ وَمَن فِيهِنَّ وَإِن مِن شَيْءٍ إِلاَّ يُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدَهِ وَلَـكِن لا تَفْقَهُونَ تَسْبِيحَهُمْ…)

“The seven heavens glorify Him, and the earth [too], and whatever is in them. There is not a thing but celebrates His praise, but you do not understand their glorification.3

In connection with the servitude and worship of creatures, God also says:

(أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَالطَّيْرُ صَافَّاتٍ كُلٌّ قَدْ عَلِمَ صَلَاتَهُ وَتَسْبِيحَهُ…)

“Have you not regarded that Allah is glorified by everyone in the heavens and the earth, and the birds spreading their wings. Each knows his prayer and glorification.”4

Yet, due to the possession of reason and intellect, man has been created free and autonomous. God, the Exalted, has shown him the way to guidance or misguidance, but he is free in choosing his way. Almighty Allah says:

(إِنَّا هَدَيْنَاهُ السَّبِيلَ إِمَّا شَاكِرًا وَإِمَّا كَفُورًا)

“Indeed We have guided him to the way, be he grateful or ungrateful.”5

He has to take into account the purpose and philosophy of his creation and know that he has to engage in servitude and submission to God. The legislative law of God does not permit him to move along the path of obedience to Satan and other than God. Man has to worship God and perform his duties to Him because God has created him for such a purpose:

( وَ ما خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَ الإِْنْسَ إِلاَّ لِيَعْبُدُونِ )

“I did not create the jinn and humans except that they may worship Me.”6

Now, since worship of God is harmonious with the system of creation, discharging of divine duties, acting upon one’s obligation and responsibility toward Him and being thankful to the All-merciful Creator who gives us life and endows us out of His grace and favor with wellbeing and innumerable blessings is necessary—just as God says in the tongue of Hadrat Ibrahim (Abraham) (‘a):

( الَّذِي خَلَقَنِي فَهُوَ يَهْدِينِ. وَ الَّذِي هُوَ يُطْعِمُنِي وَ يَسْقِينِ. وَ إِذا مَرِضْتُ فَهُوَ يَشْفِينِ. وَ الَّذِي يُمِيتُنِي ثُمَّ يُحْيِينِ )

“(It is God) who created me, and it is He who guides me, and provides me with food and drink, and when I get sick, it is He who cures me; who will make me die, then He will bring me to life”7

How can we afford to refuse to follow Him. Is it fair and righteous for us to say that modern man does not believe in duty and obedience and is only interested in his rights? Does Islam accept this logic? Undoubtedly, such thinking is devoid of rationality and far from humanity, let alone having an Islamic basis.

Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi Written by

Mansoor L. Limba Translated by


  1. Surah an-Nahl 16:36.
  2. Surah al-Baqarah 2:156.
  3. Surah al-Isra’ (or Bani Isra’il) 17:44.
  4. Surah an-Nur 24:41.
  5. Surah al-Insan (or, ad-Dahr) 76:3.
  6. Surah adh-Dhariyat 51:56.
  7. Surah ash-Shu‘ara’ 26:78-81.

Do We Have Something Called Freedom in Islam? (6)


Expressing the above question through a different approach

Some say that considering the development and evolution in the various stages of human life as well as new beliefs, outlook, ways of thinking, and requisites of the present civilization, today’s religion should be concerned with human rights, and not duties and mandatory orders.
In reality, modernism and the modern civilization have created a tall wall between us and the past people who were servants and slaves serving others.

As such, modern man has wound up the case of acceptance of duty and responsibility which belonged to the age of barbarity and intransigence, and is striving to reclaim his rights. Nowadays, to talk about duty and discharging of responsibility is retrogression and a return to the pre-modern age. In this age of human rights, when by the blessings of democracy, man was released from the bondage of slavery and colonialism, the time has come for us to abandon the ancient religions which were consistent with the age of slavery and turn our attention to new religions that talk about human rights.

In a bid to realize their statement and objective and draw the attention of society, especially the youth, to such statements, the skeptics utilize various means. But we shall reply to them on the basis of correct and firm logic.

Reply to the above question

The claim that today’s man is only looking for his rights but not his duties is an idle and false claim. As legal philosophers say, “No right can be established for a person without there being a duty established for others. For example, if the right of using clean and fresh air is established for a citizen, other citizens are duty-bound not to pollute the air. So, if everybody has the right to pollute the air, the right to use clean air loses meaning.

Similarly, if a person has the right of possession to his properties, others must be obliged not to embezzle them; otherwise, the right to benefit from one’s possession will not be actually realized. In the same vein, every right established for a person has a corollary duty he has to discharge toward others. If a person has the right to benefit from public utilities as he really has, he is obliged in return to serve the society, accept duties and responsibilities, and not to burden others. Therefore, rights and duties—in both senses—are correlative and to say that people demand rights without responsibilities is inadmissible.

Considering that all religious and non-religious scholars as well as legal philosophers, in general, acknowledge the existence of duty and commitment, we conclude that what is meant by duty in the statements of the skeptics is divine duty. The essence of their statements is that God should not set any duties for us. On the contrary, according to them, social duties are not within the framework of rights that individuals possess because these duties are acceptable to all rational people. This confirms that the master-servant relationship, the master’s issuance of an order, and, the exigency of obeying him, are consistent with the culture of slavery and, therefore, irrelevant today.

Disobedience to God in the past

It is not only modern man who refuses to submit to God, religion and divine duty. Many people throughout history did not submit to divine duties but engaged in rebellion and violation of law. To say that man is looking for his rights and not duties is not new. In the very beginning Qabil (Cain), the rebellious son of Adam (‘a) openly disobeyed divine ordinances. His violation of law and selfishness led him to murder his own brother Habil (Abel):

(وَاتْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ نَبَأَ ابْنَيْ آدَمَ بِالْحَقِّ إِذْ قَرَّبَا قُرْبَانًا فَتُقُبِّلَ مِن أَحَدِهِمَا وَلَمْ يُتَقَبَّلَ مَنَ الآخَرِ قَالَ لَأَقْتُلَنَّكَ قَالَ إِنَّمَا يَتَقَبَّلُ اللّهُ مِنَ الْمُتَّقِينَ)

“Relate to them truly the account of Adam’s two sons. When the two of them offered an offering, it was accepted from one of them and not accepted from the other. [One of them] said, ‘Surely I will kill you.’ [The other one] said, ‘Allah accepts only from the God-wary’.1

The historical accounts of the prophets of Allah (‘a) mentioned in the Qur’an indicate that most people used to belie their own prophet. Not only did they reject his prophetic call but also wrongly accused him. They used to ridicule and mock their own prophet and even kill or expel him from their city. If a prophet would say something beneficial for them by prohibiting them from doing wrong, for e.g., weighing wrongly—“And do not cheat the people of their goods”2—they would say to him in return:

(قَالُواْ يَا شُعَيْبُ أَصَلاَتُكَ تَأْمُرُكَ أَن نَتْرُكَ مَا يَعْبُدُ آبَاؤُنَا أَوْ أَن نَفْعَلَ فِي أَمْوَالِنَا مَا نَشَاء…)

“They said, ‘O Shu‘ayb (Jethro), does your worship require that we abandon what our fathers have been worshipping, or that we should not do with our means whatever we wish?… ’”3

It may possibly be said here that the opposition and hostility to the prophets and saints [awliya’] of Allah throughout history has been the result of idol-worship, polytheism and satanic rebellion. Our point is that man should neither wear the yoke of servitude to every object of worship [ma‘bud] nor follow the idols and Satan.

But this statement is unwise from the authentic viewpoint of revelation [wahy], because according to it, man is situated between two ways—servitude to God or servitude to the taghut4—and it is impossible not to choose one of them. If a person chants the slogan that “I am nobody’s servant,” in reality he is a servant of the taghut and his own carnal desires. As such, the Qur’an says:

(اللّهُ وَلِيُّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ يُخْرِجُهُم مِّنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّوُرِ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَوْلِيَآؤُهُمُ الطَّاغُوتُ يُخْرِجُونَهُم مِّنَ النُّورِ إِلَى الظُّلُمَاتِ…)

“Allah is the Master of the faithful: He brings them out of darkness into light. As for the faithless, their patrons are the Rebels [taghut], who drive them out of light into darkness…”5

In another place, God says:

(أَلَمْ أَعْهَدْ إِلَيْكُمْ يَا بَنِي آدَمَ أَنْ لا تَعْبُدُوا الشَّيْطَانَ إِنَّهُ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ مُبِينٌ ٭ وَأَنْ اعْبُدُونِي هَذَا صِرَاطٌ مُّسْتَقِيمٌ)

“Did I not exhort you, O children of Adam, saying, ‘Do not worship Satan. He is indeed your manifest enemy. Worship Me. This is a straight path’?”6

The verse does not mean that after abandoning the worship of Satan, man is no longer in need of obeying and worshipping another being. In fact, he has to worship God. Just as in the formula of monotheism, “There is no god” [la ilaha] is followed by the phrase, “but Allah” [illallah]. Therefore, those who have woken up from the slumber of negligence by the light of revelation and have realized that they have to worship God for He is their real Creator and Master, in His hand is life and death, youth and old age, wellbeing and ailment. For them, to worship Him is the highest honor. His ordained duties stem from the spring of infinite wisdom and mercy, and acting upon them bring human felicity and perfection.

Realizing that refusal to accept the truth, duty and responsibility are caused by man’s lack of nurture [tarbiyyah], bestiality and following of Satan, and have always existed in history and not only found in modern man. In fact, it is modern man who has desisted from the essentials of civility and turned toward the age of ignorance and savagery, and become the intransigent. On the contrary, those who have been trained in the school [maktab] of the prophets (‘a) have desisted from bestiality and savagery and have chosen civility through the rule of law and acceptance of duty and responsibility in the true sense of the word.

Civilization and civility are the opposite of savagery and their main requisite and condition is the recognition of law. Therefore, how can some people say that modern civilization demands that man should not accept any duty?! Is this civility, or savagery? Basically civilization is based on the acceptance at limitation, law and assuming responsibility; otherwise it has no difference with savagery.

Thus, he who refuses to accept the law, duty and responsibility actually advocates a return to savagery and barbarism. Certainly, he who has such an idea and disposition can never be the saintly vicegerent of Allah, who is our model.

Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi Written by

Mansoor L. Limba Translated by


  1. Surah al-Ma’idah 5:27.
  2. Surah ash-Shu‘ara’ 26:138.
  3. Surah Hud 11:87.
  4. The term taghut applies to any idol, object, or individual that prevents men from doing what is good, and leads them astray. The term has been used eight times in the Qur’an. Prior to Islam, taghut had been the name of one of the idols of the Quraysh tribe. This name is used also to mean Satan. Moreover, the term is used to indicate one who rebels against lofty values, or who surpasses all bounds in his despotism and tyranny and claims the prerogatives of divinity for himself whether explicitly or implicitly. [Trans.]
  5. Surah al-Baqarah 2:257.
  6. Surah Ya-Sin 36:60-61.

Do We Have Something Called Freedom in Islam? (5)


Expressing question on the foundation of historical development of man

This question is formed based on the historical development and diversity of human culture and civilization and the transformation of social orders. It must be acknowledged that the social life of mankind throughout history has passed through many critical stages and moments. In a certain period in human history, slavery was the issue of the day, and the preservation of human civilization and advancement required that weaker and inferior human beings would be slaves of others and subjected to forced labor by the latter.

It is natural that consistent with that period, the relationship between man and God used to be described within the framework of master-servant relationship because some were masters and sovereigns while some were their servants and slaves, and human relations used to be assessed within the framework of the master-servant relationship. As such, just as the weak were considered slaves and servants of the strong and mighty, all human beings were recognized as servants of God, He being the Master. However, as the system of slavery is now abolished, comparisons to that period are no longer relevant.

Nowadays, man does not feel obedient and subservient. He feels he is his own master. So, he says that we are servants and God is the Master, but regards himself as the vicegerent of Allah. He who is the vicegerent of God has no feeling of servitude and is not inclined to receiving orders and obeying God. Rather, he has a feeling of Lordship. God is dismissed and he replaces Him. He does whatever he likes. This is the age of modernism and the dominance of a new civilization over mankind.

We have attained a level of awareness, growth and advancement in which we cannot afford to accept mandatory order, subservience, obedience, and submission to a great entity. We are in pursuit of lordship and mastership. We have gone through the period of obligation and sense of responsibility. Even if orders, commands and duties are mentioned in the Qur’an as they are, these are related to the age of slavery because when the Prophet (s) began his apostleship [risalah], a great system was prevalent, and the initial structure of Islam and the relationship of God and the Prophet (s) with the people consistent with that system.

Sometimes they say that today man is not looking for duties. He is rather seeking his rights. It is no longer inculcated in his mind that he has any duty, responsibility and obligation to perform. He has to demand his rights and claim them from others as well as God. In short, those who talk from the religious perspective about the exigency of obeying and following the Prophet (s), the infallible Imams (‘a) and their deputies are doing so in consonance with the social system fourteen hundred years ago.

The social system, however, has been transformed, and it is no longer relevant to talk about obedience, submission and duty. Instead one needs to talk about human rights. The people have to be informed that they have the right to live in whatever way they like. They have the right to wear whatever style of dress they like, and to appear in public in whatever manner they like.

Reply to the above question

We shall approach the reply to the above question from the ontological [takwini] and legislative [tashri‘i] angle as we are facing these two stances. In other words, it is the stance of “beings” and realities and the stance of “dos and don’ts” and duties. From another perspective, it is the world of realities while the other one is the world of values. (Of course, the above expressions are equal in substance but because of different levels of understanding various expressions have been presented.)

Now, ontologically, it must be examined what our relationship to God is, because if a person does not believe in God in principle, to assume any relationship with God will be senseless in his view. But if a person has faith in God, he, at least, accepts that it is He who created him. He acknowledges the Creatorship [khaliqiyyah] of God, which is the lowest level of faith in God, and regards himself as among His creatures and phenomena. (Of course, in Islam mere belief in the Creatorship of God is not enough for a monotheist [muwahhid]. In fact, belief in the ontological and legislative Lordship [rububiyyat-e takwini wa tashri‘i] of God is also necessary for belief in monotheism [tawhid]).

Based on monotheistic belief in creatorship [tawhid fi’l-khaliqiyyah], the statement of one who claims that he is not a servant and slave of God is inconsistent with the belief in the Creatorship of God. The first step in monotheism is to accept that we are God’s creatures and that we owe our existence to Him. This is the same as servitude [‘ubudiyyah] to God. ‘Abd [servant] means to be a slave and in possession of another. So, if a person regards himself a Muslim who believes in God but refuses to accept servitude to Him is in explicit contradiction, because the requisite of belief in God is to regard oneself as His slave and servant. It is for this reason that in their most essential and eminent forms of worship, viz. the salah [ritual prayer], all Muslims say: “I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and apostle” [Ashhadu anna Muhammadan ‘abduhu wa rasuluh].The most outstanding and honorable station of the best human personality is to be a servant of God. As such, God says:

﴿سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي أَسْرَى بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلاً مِّنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الأَقْصَا…﴾

“Immaculate is He who carried His servant on a journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque…”1

Yes, because of the lofty position of servitude to God, in the Qur’an God has repeatedly used the elegant term “‘abd” and its derivatives, regarding utmost servitude as the loftiest station of human perfection when He says:

﴿يَا أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ ٭ ارْجِعِي إِلَى رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً مَّرْضِيَّةً ٭ فَادْخُلِي فِي عِبَادِي﴾

“O soul at peace! Return to your Lord, pleased, pleasing! Then enter among My servants!”2

From the legislative angle, to say that freedom of man is inconsistent with subservience to law and assumption of responsibility will lead to savagery, barbarity and chaos. This notion that being free man can do whatever he likes and even defy the law he himself approved of is inapplicable even in the jungle because there also are certain laws observed by the animals! We, beating the drum of civilization and civility, have to accept that the first pillar of civility is the acceptance of responsibility and observance of law. Through unconditional non-acceptance of restrictions and responsibility, one can not claim modern civilization. Rather, he should find himself drowned in the lowest firm if barbarity.

In other words, the most eminent human faculty is reason, which insists that man should accept responsibility and regard himself bound ‘to do’ and ‘not to do’ certain things. Based on this, if a person wore a dress as he pleased, or appeared naked in public, uttered gibberish nonsense, who would treat him as being in the right frame of mind? Will he not be considered insane, stupid or even savage? If asked, “Why are you behaving thus?” he replies, “I am free and freedom is the hallmark of humanity. I just feel like that,” is there anyone who will accept him?

It follows that the hallmark of humanity is the intellect and the corollary of rationality is the acceptance of responsibility and observance of law, for there is no civility without legality. If there is no sense of responsibility, humanity will also not be realized. That man is free, i.e. to have the power to choose, does not mean that legislatively he should not submit to laws, decrees and mandatory orders and not accept any limits and boundaries in his social life. As such, it should not be imagined that religion’s assumption of wilayah is opposed to human freedom, because freedom is the most eminent feature of man and a requisite for being the viceroy of Allah!

Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi Written by

Mansoor L. Limba Translated by


  1. Surah al-Isra’ (or Bani Isra’il) 17:1.
  2. Surah al-Fajr 89:27-29.

Do We Have Something Called Freedom in Islam? (4)


Question on alleged contradiction between government authority and man’s divine vicegerency (khilafah)

The other question they have expressed is that, as stated in the Qur’an, man is the vicegerent of Allah [khalifat Allah]. It means that he is the viceroy of God on earth and acts like God. Just as God has created the universe, man also has to create phenomena. Just as God administers the world as He wills, man also has to do whatever he likes on earth

Reply to the above question

The reply to the above question is that the meaning of divine vicegerency [khilafat-e ilahi] should be properly understood and it must be noted that the title “khalifat Allah” mentioned in the Qur’an for Hadrat1 Adam (Adam) (‘a)2 is not applied to all the Children of Adam because the Qur’an calls some of them “devils” when it says:

﴿وَكَذَلِكَ جَعَلْنَا لِكُلِّ نِبِيٍّ عَدُوًّا شَيَاطِينَ الإِنسِ وَالْجِنِّ﴾

“That is how for every prophet We appointed as enemy the devils from among humans and jinn.”3

Undoubtedly, the human devil is neither a viceroy of God nor among those before whom the angels had to prostrate when God said:

﴿وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلاَئِكَةِ إِنِّي خَالِقٌ بَشَرًا مِن صَلْصَالٍ مِن حَمَاءٍ مَسْنُونٍ ٭ فَإِذَا سَوَّيْتُهُ وَنَفَخْتُ فِيهِ مِن رُوحِي فَقَعُوا لَهُ سَاجِدِينَ﴾

“When your Lord said to the angels, ‘Indeed I am going to create a human out of a dry clay [drawn] from an aging mud. So when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My spirit, then fall down in prostration before him’.”4

The vicegerent of Allah possesses great distinction and qualities such as knowledge of the Names—“And He taught Adam the Names, all of them…”5 Also, the viceroy of God must be capable of implementing justice on earth. So, the wicked man who sheds blood in the world and does not refrain from committing any crime, or the one who does not possess any sense of justice cannot be the viceroy of God. Is God an oppressor that His vicegerent is also an oppressor?

The vicegerent of Allah is he who manifests divine qualities in his private and social life, and not just any two-footed being walking on the surface of the earth. Therefore, those who are striving to misguide people and overthrow the Islamic government are not only unqualified to be divine vicegerents but they are the same human devils who are regarded by God to be viler than animals, and about whom He says:

﴿إِنَّ شَرَّ الدَّوَابُ عِندَ اللّهِ الصُّمُّ الْبُكْمُ الَّذِينَ لاَ يَعْقِلُونَ﴾

“Indeed the worst of beasts in Allah’s sight are the deaf and the dumb who do not apply reason.”6

To say that human dignity lies in freedom and that anything which limits this freedom is condemnable and unacceptable is a deceptive slogan chanted by the Western world. Without paying attention to its corollaries, some people in other countries have also pursued it and are regularly insisting on it. Undoubtedly, to deal with this slogan and the objectives it tries to attain requires a lengthy discussion on which we shall embark in the future.

But for the meantime, let us briefly pose this question: What does it mean by saying that man should be absolutely free and have no restrictions at all? Does it mean that there should be no mandatory law? This is something which no rational person will ever accept because it implies that everyone is free to do whatever he likes—everyone is free to commit murder, transgress upon the chastity of women, and create havoc in society! Certainly, the first harm and mischief of such an outlook will be tasted by its proponent. Could there possibly be a society where such freedom is prevalent? Obviously there is no concept of unrestrained freedom and man is not free to do whatever he likes.

Clarifying that freedom has limitations and restrictions, the question arises: Who should determine the extent and limit of freedom? And, what is the extent of freedom? If every person is supposed to determine the scope and extent of freedom, everyone would do whatever he likes which will manifest the same problems indicated in relation to absolute freedom. So, there is no option but to consider a legal reference in order to describe and determine the scope, limit and boundary of freedom.

In this case, if a person acknowledges the existence of God and believes that He knows better than him what is beneficial and harmful to man, and Who does not acquire any benefit from the lives of people and only wishes what is good for His servants, for him, is there anyone worthier than God in determining the limits of freedom? Thus, there is no contradiction in the intellectual and ideological system of the Muslims because they believe in God who knows best what is beneficial and harmful for human beings. It is He who has stated the limits and boundaries of freedom.

But if we do not believe in God, or believe in monotheism but do not recognize God as the authority determining the limits of freedom and believe that the people themselves should determine the limits of freedom, we will be afflicted with thousands of evils, because people will never arrive at a consensus. Even if the majority determines the limits of freedom, how will the minority that does not accept the limits of freedom determined by the majority exercise its rights? So, freedom is an elegant and pleasant term but it is not absolute and unrestricted. No one can claim absolute freedom.

Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi Written by

Mansoor L. Limba Translated by


  1. Hadrat: The Arabic word Hadrat is used as a respectful form of address. [Trans.]
  2. In this regard, God says:

﴿ وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلاَئِكَةِ إِنِّي جَاعِلٌ فِي الأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً قَالُوا أَتَجْعَلُ فِيهَا مَن يُفْسِدُ فِيهَا وَ يَسْفِكُ الدِّمَاءَ وَنَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ قَالَ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ ﴾

“When your Lord said to the angels, ‘Indeed I am going to set a viceroy on the earth,’ they said, ‘Will you set in it someone who will cause corruption in it, and shed blood, while we celebrate Your praise and proclaim Your sanctity?’ He said, ‘Indeed I know what you do not know’.” (Surah al-Baqarah 2:30)

  1. Surah al-An‘am 6:112.
  2. Surah al-Hijr 15:29-30.
  3. Surah al-Baqarah 2:31.
  4. Surah al-Anfal 8:22.

Do We Have Something Called Freedom in Islam? (3)


Propagating the question through an extra-religious approach

We have so far replied to the question raised by someone posing to be a religious Muslim who, by citing the Qur’an, concludes that Islam should neither have mandatory orders nor interfere in the lives of people because it is inconsistent with the accepted principle of freedom in Islam. Now, we shall reply to the question in the meta-religious and extra-religious form and approach.

The non-Muslim skeptic tries to show that mandatory religious orders and the call for the people to follow and obey are inconsistent with the essence and fundamental nature of humanity. Of course, this question has been expressed in different forms and shapes. We shall point out some of them below:

In the parlance of logic, freewill constitutes the essence of humanity. Now, if we deprive man of freewill and liberty and compel him, it means depriving him of humanity and likening him to an animal with a bridle on his neck to be pulled here and there. So, to respect man and protect his humanity requires that the right to choose be given to him. As such, religion should not have mandatory decrees that urge him to obey the Prophet, Imams and the successors and deputies of the infallible Imam (‘a), for in doing so, he is reduced to the level of an animal which is pulled here and there.

Hume’s question and the first reply to the above question

We shall give two replies to the above question and the first reply is linked with Hume’s question which is incidentally accepted by skeptics. Hume’s question holds that the perceiver of “beings” is the theoretical intellect while the perceiver of “dos and don’ts” is the practical intellect. Since the theoretical intellect is alien and has no relation to the practical intellect, one can not regard the objects perceived by the practical intellect—dos and don’ts—on the basis of the theoretical intellect.

This question of Hume drew the attention of Western philosophers and they made it the foundation and basis of many of their theories and scientific ideas. After the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran a number of the so-called intellectuals utilized this question. In their discussions they argued that we can never deduce “beings” from “dos and don’ts”. If a person has a distinct character and attribute, we cannot conclude that he should therefore be or not be so-and-so, because the perceiver of the former is the theoretical intellect while that of the latter is the practical intellect and these two are not related to each other.

The same people who accept this question of Hume say that compelling people is inconsistent with their humanity, and religion should not have mandatory orders for people because people are free and autonomous. They say at the outset that man is free, and then conclude that he should be set free and not forced. Therefore, from the free nature of man which is among the “beings” that are perceived by the theoretical intellect, they draw “dos and don’ts” which are perceived by the practical intellect, and this is in conflict with their own basis. They themselves do not accept that “dos” should be drawn from “beings”.

Of course, we believe that in cases where “beings” are the sheer cause of a phenomenon, one can arrive at “dos and don’ts”, but such a conclusion cannot be arrived at in our discussion because his freedom is not the sole cause of his being compelled. Rather, freewill paves the ground for duty, and the duty and obligation to do or not to do a certain act is based on the benefit or harm, as the case may be, that actions cause. So, the mandatory order to do a certain act is meant to secure the benefits embedded in it and the reason behind the prohibition of a certain act is the harms it entails.

Second reply—absoluteness and limitlessness of freedom

If we submit to the question—and say that since man is free, a mandatory law should not be imposed on him and no government should have mandatory orders for people; that they should be free to do whatever they like; and that imposition means deprivation of freedom which, in turn, means deprivation of humanity, and thus, no law is credible!! This actually means we accept anarchy and the law of the jungle. Basically, to be mandatory is the eminent feature of law.

In every system and structure, once a person accepts certain laws and orders, he has to act upon them under all circumstances. It is not possible for a person to accept the law but when he sees that its implementation is detrimental to him, he does not follow it without considering its benefit and harm. In this case, the system will collapse and no progress can be made. So long as a law is regarded as credible and official by the legislative authorities, all need to follow it even if it is found to be defective, it is not their prerogative but the duty of the concerned authorities to address the matter. Under the pretext of the defect in the law, the rest are not supposed to shrink from following it.

Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi Written by

Mansoor L. Limba Translated by

Do We Have Something Called Freedom in Islam? (2)


Reason behind the uniqueness of the Qur’anic approach

Once we scrutinize the two groups of verses, we will find that the tone and expression of the verses are different from each other. The first group of verses is in connection with those who had not yet embraced Islam. As such, God enlightens them with the truth of Islam and mentions the benefits of obeying Him.

Since He knows that the Prophet (s), who is the embodiment of divine mercy and compassion, is worrying about the people who refuse to accept Islam, the path of truth, and obey God, as a result of which they will taste chastisement in hell, God consoles him—Why are you endangering your life out of grief and sorrow for the people’s refusal to embrace the faith? We ordained Islam for the people to accept it out of their own freewill and volition. Had We only wished, We could have guided all the people:

(وَلَوْ شَاءَ رَبُّكَ لآمَنَ مَن فِي الأَرْضِ كُلُّهُمْ جَمِيعًا أَفَأَنتَ تُكْرِهُ النَّاسَ حَتَّى يَكُونُوا مُؤْمِنِينَ)

“And had your Lord wished, all those who are on earth would have believed. Would you then force people until they become faithful?1

God’s purpose in sending down the apostles (‘a) is to guide the people in recognizing the truth and the path of salvation. They have to accept the religion of truth out of their own freewill, and God does not want to compel and force people to accept the faith. Faith acquired through compulsion is of no value and inconsistent with human guidance, which expects human beings to recognize and accept the truth with awareness and understanding, and not submit to it out of coercion. As such, God says:

(لَعَلَّكَ بَاخِعٌ نَّفْسَك أَلَّا يَكُونُوا مُؤْمِنِينَ ٭ إِن نَشَأْ نُنَزِّلْ عَلَيْهِم مِنَ السَّمَاءِ آيَةً فَظَلَّتْ أَعْنَاقُهُمْ لَهَا خَاضِعِينَ)

“You might kill yourself [out of distress] that they will not have faith. If We wish We will send down to them a sign from the sky before which their heads will remain bowed in humility.”2

So, acceptance of Islam and faith depends on conviction of the heart. Such a conviction is acquired out of cognition and awareness, certain and solid proofs, and one’s freewill. It is not subject to coercion. As such, God says to His prophet (s), “You did your duty. Your duty was to convey Our message and signs to the people. You are not supposed to worry about the polytheists’ refusal to accept the faith and to think that you did not do your duty. It is not part of your mission to let the people become Muslims by compulsion and force, because We did not make you dominant over the polytheists to make them Muslims by force.

In contrast to the first group of verses, the other group of verses addressed to those who embraced Islam out of recognition, awareness and their own freewill, informing them that they have to act upon the commandments of Islam, to obey the Prophet whom they believe to be from God and whose decrees and orders are all from Him, to submit to his decision, and not to have any right and option vis-à-vis his orders. Before embracing the faith, man has the right to choose, but after embracing the faith he has to submit to all the injunctions of the Islamic law [shari‘ah]. He who has faith in only a part of the divine laws has been strongly condemned by God, thus:

(إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَكْفُرُونَ بِاللّهِ وَرُسُلِهِ وَ يُرِيدُونَ أَن يُفَرِّقُوا بَيْنَ اللّهِ وَرُسُلِهِ وَيقُولُونَ نُؤْمِنُ بِبَعْضٍ وَنَكْفُرُ بِبَعْضٍ وَيُرِيدُونَ أَن يَتَّخِذُوا بَيْنَ ذَلِكَ سَبِيلاً ٭ أُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الْكَافِرُونَ حَقًّا…)

“Those who disbelieve in Allah and His apostles and seek to separate Allah from His apostles, and say, ‘We believe in some and disbelieve in some’ and seek to take a way in between—it is they who are truly faithless…”3

The acceptance of a portion of the decrees and rejection of the rest, the acceptance of a part of the laws and rejection of the rest actually mean the non-acceptance of the essence of religion, because, if the criterion of acceptance of religion is acceptance of the commands of God, one has to act upon the kernel of divine ordinance, and divine ordinance requires acceptance of all decrees and laws. Even if the criterion of acceptance of religion is the benefit and harm embedded in the commandments of God, undoubtedly God is well aware of it. So, why accept only some of the laws?

Only he who has faith in God would believe in the Prophet (s), submit to his decision, decree and order, be pleased with them and not nurse a grudge in his heart:

(فَلاَ وَرَبِّكَ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ حَتَّىَ يُحَكِّمُوكَ فِيمَا شَجَرَ بَيْنَهُمْ ثُمَّ لاَ يَجِدُواْ فِي أَنفُسِهِمْ حَرَجًا مِمَّا قَضَيْتَ وَيُسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيمًا)

“But no, by your Lord! They will not believe until they make you a judge in their disputes, then do not find within their hearts any dissent to your verdict and submit in full submission.”4

The truly faithful are sincerely pleased with the order and decision of the Messenger of Allah (s) and do not worry about them because they believe that the Prophet (s) has been appointed by God and his decree is God’s decree for he does not speak without Divine guidance:

(إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ لِتَحْكُمَ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ بِمَا أَرَاكَ اللّهُ)

“Indeed We have sent down to you the Book with the truth, so that you may judge between the people by what Allah has shown you.” 5

After embracing Islam and expressing belief in it, the person who says, “I am free in acting upon the laws of Islam; I would do so if I like and I would not do so if I don’t,” is like saying that in a country where a democratic and liberal system exists, the people voluntarily participate in the referendum, and through a majority vote, choose their government, deputies and concerned authorities of the social system, but once they install the legitimate government they shrink from following it!

When that government levies taxes from the people, they say, “We will not pay taxes. We were free to elect a government, now, we are equally free to follow its orders, or refuse to discharge our responsibilities.” Obviously, no reasonable person will ever accept such attitude and behavior.

Yes, at the beginning no one will be compelled to accept Islam because basic acceptance of it is a matter of faith and conviction of the heart. By force no one will believe in Islam, God and the Resurrection. However, once he accepts Islam and is asked to pray and says that he does not want to pray or once he is asked to pay zakat and refuses to do so, no reasonable person will believe him (to have really embraced Islam). Is it possible for a person to accept a religion but not submit to its laws and act voluntarily upon them?

He who accepts Islam should be bound by its laws. Similarly, no government will accept a person who votes for it but in practice refuses to accept its laws and regulations. Commitment to contracts and obligations is the most fundamental principle in social life. If there is no commitment to promise, faithfulness to agreement, pact and treaty, and discharging of duties, social life will never be possible.

Therefore, there is no sense in a person saying that he accepts Islam and believes in the Prophet being sent by God, but neither acts upon his orders nor accepts his authority and guardianship. Undoubtedly, there is a blatant contradiction in the acceptance of Islam without following the Messenger of Allah (s).

It is clear that if we examine truly the verses of the Qur’an and consider the tone and style of the two groups of cited verses, we will not find any contradiction in the Qur’an and question on the incompatibility of submission and obedience to others with the principle of human freedom, also endorsed by the Qur’an, will be uprooted. Yet, sick hearts do not look at the Qur’an with sincerity, truthfulness and justice. They refer to the Qur’an for a basis for their deviant opinion, and as such, they tend to be selective without considering the important context of the verses. According to the Qur’an, the deviators abandon its definitive verses [muhakkamat] and intentionally emphasize its metaphorical verses [mutashabihat]:

(…فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ في قُلُوبِهِمْ زَيْغٌ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَابَهَ مِنْهُ ابْتِغَاء الْفِتْنَةِ وَابْتِغَاء تَأْوِيلِهِ وَمَا يَعْلَمُ تَأْوِيلَهُ إِلاَّ اللّهُ وَالرَّاسِخُونَ فِي الْعِلْمِ…)

“…As for those in whose hearts is deviance, they pursue what is metaphorical in it, courting temptation and courting its interpretation. But no one knows its interpretation expect Allah and those firmly grounded in knowledge…”6

Apart from looking for the mutashabihat, they quote verses out of context and then imagine that verses of the Qur’an are contradictory! We have said that the verses that speak about the lack of dominance of the Prophet (s) over the people are addressed to the unbelievers prior to their acceptance of Islam. The Messenger of Allah (s) could neither invite them to Islam by means of compulsion nor exert authority over them. Actually, according to those verses, the freedom of action and liberty in accepting the divine orders are prior to the acceptance of Islam.

After the acceptance of Islam, every Muslim has to accept the guardianship and authority of the Prophet (s) and Islamic rulers. He is obliged to observe the Islamic values. The Islamic state does not interfere in the personal and private life of individuals as well as in actions done in secrecy, but in relation to the social life and interaction with others, it requires everybody to observe the divine limits. It deals severely with transgression of chastity and divine values, defamation of religious sanctities, and spread of perversion and vices. This is actually a manifestation of the Islamic rulers’ guardianship over society, urging it to comply with the requirements of faith and Islam—Islam which they have accepted out of their own freewill.

Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi Written by

Mansoor L. Limba Translated by


  1. Surah Yunus 10:99.
  2. Surah ash-Shu‘ara’ 26:3-4.
  3. Surah an-Nisa’ 4:150-151.
  4. Surah an-Nisa’ 4:65.
  5. Surah an-Nisa’ 4:105.
  6. Surah Al ‘Imran 3:7.

Do We Have Something Called Freedom in Islam? (1)


Alleged contradiction between religious rule and freedom

A fallacious misgiving that has been raised in different forms to deceive people is that if religion wants to interfere in sociopolitical affairs and compel people to observe a certain pattern of behavior and obey a certain person, it is repugnant to freedom; man is a creature possessing freedom and autonomy to do whatever he wants to do and no one should compel him to do a certain thing. For religion to determine his duty and ask him to obey, nay unconditionally obey, is inconsistent with freedom.

Propagating the above question through a religious tune

In order to make this misgiving appealing to religious people, feigning religiosity and presenting oneself as a believer of the Qur’an, makes it appear religiously and Qur’anically based and claims that Islam respects human freedom; the Holy Qur’an negates the ascendancy and domination of others, and even the Messenger of Allah (s) has no dominance over any body and could not compel anyone; thus, by citing verses of the Qur’an, we are made to acknowledge that man is free and is not supposed to obey anyone.

The orientation of these misgivings and fallacies is to undermine the theory of wilayah al-faqih. The point it is trying to drive at is that obligatory obedience to the wali al-faqih is against human freedom, and this is contrary to the spirit of Islam which regards man as the noblest of creation and the vicegerent of God on earth. Let us quote below some verses cited by those expressing the misgivings:
While addressing the Prophet (s), God says:

(فَذَكِّرْ إِنَّمَا أَنتَ مُذَكِّرٌ ٭ لَّسْتَ عَلَيْهِم بِمُصَيْطِرٍ)

“So admonish—for you are only an admonisher and not a taskmaster over them.”1

Based on this verse, the Prophet (s) who occupies the highest human station has no dominance over the people; the people are free and not required to obey the Prophet (s) and he has no right at all to express opinion on the lives of people!

(وَمَا جَعَلْنَاكَ عَلَيْهِمْ حَفِيظًا وَمَا أَنتَ عَلَيْهِم بِوَكِيلٍ)

“We have not made you a caretaker for them, nor is it your duty to watch over them.”2

(مَّا عَلَى الرَّسُولِ إِلاَّ الْبَلاَغُ)

“The Apostle’s duty is only to communicate.”3

(إِنَّا هَدَيْنَاهُ السَّبِيلَ إِمَّا شَاكِرًا وَ إِمَّا كَفُورًا)

“Indeed We have guided him to the way, be he grateful or ungrateful.4

(وَقُل الْحَقُّ مِن رَبِّكُمْ فَمَن شَاء فَلْيُؤْمِن و مَن شَاءَ فَلْيَكْفُرْ…)

“And say, ‘[This is] the truth from your Lord: let anyone who wishes believe it, and let anyone who wishes disbelieve it’…”5

Replying to the above question

In contrast to the verses cited by the person expressing misgivings with the aim of negating the authority and supremacy of the Messenger of Allah (s) and the obligatory obedience to him, there are verses which are contradictory to the above verses, according to the incorrect understanding of the person expressing misgivings. Let us quote below some of these verses:

(وَمَا كَانَ لِمُؤْمِنٍ وَلاَ مُؤْمِنَةٍ إِذَا قَضَى اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَمْرًا أَن يَكُونَ لَهُمُ الْخِيَرَةُ مِنْ أَمْرِهِمْ… )

“A faithful man or woman may not, when Allah and His Apostle have decided on a matter, have any option in their matter…”6

The above verse has explicitly mentioned the exigency of obeying and submitting to God and His Messenger (s), saying that the faithful have no right to disobey and go against the Messenger of Allah (s).

(إِنَّمَا وَلِيُّكُمُ اللّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلاَةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُمْ رَاكِعُونَ)

“Your guardian is only Allah, His Apostle, and the faithful who maintain the prayer and give the zakat7 while bowing down.”8

(النَّبِيُّ أَوْلَى بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ مِنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ…)

“The Prophet is closer to the faithful than their own souls …9

Whether we consider the supremacy mentioned in the verse to mean guardianship [wilayah] or more worthy, the verse proves that the right of the Prophet (s) to decide for the people takes precedence over their right to decide for themselves. All the exegetes [mufassirin] point to this, and as such, the people have to accept the decision of the Prophet (s) over their own and have no right to oppose his decision and view. Of course, the verse states only the essence of wilayah of the Messenger of Allah (s) and not the limits of that wilayah—whether the limit of wilayah and preeminence of the Prophet’s decision applies only to social affairs or, in addition, also to personal affairs.

Undoubtedly, the skeptics who have resorted to the first group of verses in order to negate the wilayah of the Messenger of Allah and his successors cannot be expected to resolve the outward contradiction of these two groups of verses. Most of them are unaware of the existence of the second group, or do not accept the content of these verses. However, since we deny the existence of contradictions and inconsistencies in the verses, we should strive to resolve the outward contradiction of the verses. For this we need to pay attention to the particular course of both groups of verses by taking into account their contexts as well as the tone of the verses and their addressees in order to understand the real purpose of the verses.

Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi Written by

Mansoor L. Limba Translated by


  1. Surah al-Ghashiyah 88:21-22.
  2. Surah al-An‘am 6:107.
  3. Surah al-Ma’idah 5:99.
  4. Surah al-Insan (or, ad-Dahr) 76:3.
  5. Surah al-Kahf 18:29.
  6. Surah al-Ahzab 33:36.
  7. Zakat: the tax levied on various categories of wealth and spent on the purposes specified in Surah at-Tawbah 9:60. [Trans.]
  8. Surah al-Ma’idah 5:55.
  9. Surah al-Ahzab 33:6.