Individual Liberty and State Intervention

Individual Liberty and State Intervention

The ultimate goal of an Islamic Republic is to establish a society wherein people are able to fulfill their valuable physical, mental and spiritual potential in peace and security. In order to ensure peace and security in the society, the state must intervene for the protection of life, liberty, property, honour and dignity of the people, and also for their protection from exploitation or victimization by one another. The state must provide basic healthcare and education facilities for the physical well-being and mental/intellectual development of the people. The state must take measures for providing equal opportunities for personal development to all the people. The state also needs to establish an economic system which leads to equitable distribution of wealth and freedom from any kind of socio-economic exploitation. Following are some examples of cases where the Islamic State must intervene.

Protection of life: Killing of innocents is strictly forbidden in Islam[1]. Killing of a single innocent person (of any religion or creed) is tantamount to killing the entire humanity[2]. The state must intervene to protect the lives of the people and establish a system of fair retribution for unlawful killings (Qisaas)[3].

Protection of property: The Quran strictly forbids acquiring any wealth or property by illegal means[4]. The state must enforce punishments upon those who acquire wealth by stealing, robbery or corruption[5].

Protection of chastity: The Quran considers chastity as a permanent value and lays a great emphasis on restricting the sexual activities within the bounds of marriage. Based on the study of 80 primitive tribes and 6 civilizations through 5000 years, J. D. Unwin (a British Ethnologist and Anthropologist) concluded that there is a positive correlation between the sexual restraint and the cultural achievements of a people. Unwin stated it this way, “In human records there is no instance of a society retaining its energy after a complete new generation has inherited a tradition which does not insist on prenuptial and postnuptial continence”[6]. According to Aldous Huxley, “the societies exhibiting the least amount of energy are those where pre-nuptial continence is not imposed and where the opportunities for sexual indulgence after marriage are greatest”[7]. The Islamic State must take measures to impose restrictions on extra-marital sexual indulgence[8].

Protection from persecution: The Quran has declared persecution (fitna) a crime worse than killing[9]. It is the duty of the Islamic State to intervene to protect people from any social, political, religious or economic persecution.

Protection from disorder & terrorism: The Islamic State must take measures against those who challenge its writ and spread disorder, corruption or terrorism in the land (fasaad fil ardh)[10].

Protection from harassment: The Islamic state must enforce punishments upon those who harass men and women when they come out to participate in public life[11].

Protection from economic exploitation: Allah has declared the system of usury or interest as unlawful[12]. The Islamic state must take measures to establish an economic system that is free from any injustice to the lender or the debtor[13].

The Quran has mentioned punishments for only very few crimes (including some of the examples given above), although it has given many more commands and prohibitions. It is obvious that the spirit of the Quran is to put into effect some of the injunctions by enforcing punishments while others only through exhortation.  Had Allah intended implementation of every injunction by force, He would have outlined punishments for each and every violation to be meted out by the Islamic State to the people in the present world. On the contrary, Allah has made it clear in the Quran that there is certainly a sphere of life of people where Allah’s Messenger (s.a.w.) was not to be a dictator but only an advisor and admonisher[14],[15], and He was not supposed to compel or coerce them[16].

The Quran says that as the head of the Islamic State, Allah’s Messenger (s.a.w.) was the final judge, arbiter and supreme authority for all public matters, who must be obeyed by the Believers without any resentment[17]. However, in people’s personal matters, he was not a dictator but only an advisor and admonisher[18],[19]. The Quran has particularly mentioned an incident where Allah’s Messenger (s.a.w) advised his adopted son, Zaid,  not to divorce his wife but Zaid, not following the advice of Allah’s Messenger (s.a.w) did divorce his wife because it was his personal matter and the Divine Law allows the divorce in certain circumstances[20].

It may be deduced from the above that in public matters, the decision of the Islamic Authority/Court is final and must be obeyed without any resentment. But in people’s personal matters (which do not cause any harm to others) the Islamic Authority is not to compel, coerce or dictate people. It has only to appropriately advise and exhort them to follow what is good and right for them according to the Divine Guidance.

[1] Al-Quran Surah 17: Verse 33; Surah 25: Verse 68

[2] Al-Quran Surah 5: Verse 32

[3] Al-Quran Surah 2: Verse 178

[4] Al-Quran Surah 2: Verse 188; Surah 4: Verse 29

[5] Al-Quran Surah 5: Verse 38

[6] J. D. Umwin, “Sex and Culture”, Oxford University Press, 1934.

[7] Aldous Huxley, “Ends and Means”, Chtto and Windus, 1946.

[8] Al-Quran Surah 24: Verses 2-3

[9] Al-Quran Surah 2: Verses 119, 217

[10] Al-Quran Surah 5: Verse 33

[11] Al-Quran Surah 33: Verses 58-61

[12] Al-Quran Surah 2: Verse 275

[13] Al-Quran Surah 2: Verse 279

[14] Al-Quran Surah 88: Verses 21-22

[15] Al-Quran Surah 51: Verse 55

[16] Al-Quran Surah 50: Verse 45

[17] Al-Quran Surah 4: Verse 56

[18] Al-Quran Surah 88: Verses 21-22

[19] Al-Quran Surah 51: Verse 55

[20] Al-Quran Surah 33: Verse 37

Leave a Reply