Question: “There is no greater title and position than servanthood to God. Even if there is, it must be freedom, which is actually another dimension of this servanthood.” In our age when everybody talks about freedom, what is freedom, from a believers’ perspective?
Answer: A person who becomes a true servant to God is freed from all types of servanthood which might sometimes even make them knock every door like a beggar and resort to mean ways. That person will similarly not be a slave to passing fancies and desires.
Obstacles to freedom
As for people who fail to be servants to God in the true sense, they may sometimes become slaves to their desires and lust and thus lead a bohemian life. Sometimes they give in to their greed and engage in different speculations for the sake of amassing wealth, without caring whether it is lawful or not. Sometimes, they give in to a desire for worldly status and titles and thus seek to allocate the people’s wealth for themselves by abusing their position.
People who do not lead their life with a profound consciousness of servanthood sometimes become slaves to their envy and cannot even tolerate people dedicated to good acts who try to conquer hearts. Because of this intolerance, they burn with a desire to sabotage their work. However, they actually do the greatest harm to themselves. As they eat their hearts out before the accomplishments of the people they envy, they also ruin their own deeds with respect to the Hereafter. Note that the noble Prophet stated that malicious envy consumes one’s good deeds, like fire consumes wood (Abu Dawud, Adab 44; Ibn Majah, Zuhd 22).
Fame is another pitfall for those who are not true servants to God. Seekers of fame try every means for the sake of being the center of attention and for receiving applause and appreciation. If such poor ones make the slightest achievement or make the slightest degree of sacrifice, they immediately expect some others to say, “the entire country is proud of you.” They do not talk without applause, and do not give anything without receiving compliments. They go through fits of delight and are enraptured in the face of applause. Such people with egotistic souls actually become servants and slaves to fame.
Other than that, there are also people who become slaves to ease and comfort, to money and wealth, to benefits and opportunism… Such unfortunate ones who fail to savor and appreciate the worth of the servanthood to God keep running after their own ambitions, greed, desires, passions, and addictions. They knock all doors and try every possible reference. However, they cannot feel satisfied nor find true happiness in any way. Actually, what lies in the root of idolatry is weakening of the feeling of servanthood to God. Since idolaters cannot properly be servants to God and cannot savor the delight of servanthood, they resort to different means in order to satisfy this hunger of theirs. With the added influence of some devilish considerations, they, for example, posted a stick on the ground hoping to make rain fall; they resorted to beseeching those in the grave for realizing some other wish; they wanted to realize their goals by means of pieces of cloth or candles they left in tombs; but they gradually fell into the pitfall of associating partners with God.
Some others objected to servanthood to God, claiming that this—God forbid—goes against human dignity. They claim that a person who observes servanthood to God becomes accustomed to servanthood and might be a servant before the created also. Namely, they mistook servanthood to God as contradictory to freedom. Actually, attaining true human freedom depends on this very point. A person can be freed from other servanthood only by becoming a servant to God. It firstly needs to be acknowledged that a person chooses faith with free will and believes in the essentials of faith with free will. The person similarly observes worship with free will. In short, a person observes servanthood to God out of free will.
In this respect, there is a very close relation between freedom, worship, and profound devotions. While those unable to throw off the shackles around the neck imposed by fame, hedonism, and the like cannot ever be free, they can neither be servants to God in the true sense. Namely, as freedom is crucial for the sake of thorough servanthood to God, attaining real freedom depends on being a servant to God in the true sense.
Given that God Almighty endowed humanity with a very significant dynamic like free will, it matters where and how we use it. One must aim for great wishes and demands with free will. Seeking simple worldly delights and pleasures would hurt human honor and dignity; running after trivial things would be a bad investment for the capital of a lifetime. What suits a proper human being is not to be captivated by physicality and carnal desires; instead, they should fear only God and no one else, never bow to this or that person like beggars, but bow only when necessary – namely, in the presence of God.
While this is the meaning of giving free will its due, it is the only way for real freedom. Only people who get rid of negative feelings like greed and envy, worldly expectations and fears are the ones who attain inner peace and relief. Since they are ready to leave this world as they came, they do not bend to any worldly power.
Is freedom in an absolute sense possible?
Some understand freedom as absolute liberty without any restrictions or conditions whatsoever. However, such liberty has never existed anywhere in the world to date. Neither in capitalist systems nor in liberal or communist ones, have people lived as they wished with unrestrained liberty. All systems sanctioned some rules to restrain freedom. For example, although communist systems broadened the limits of what is permissible and came up with an understanding alluring to passing fancies and desires, when it came to fidelity to the system, they acted strictly and tyrannically. They deprived people of their property rights, they killed the freedom for personal enterprise, and banned many actions that contradicted human nature and reason.
Likewise, although some states in our time have given much freedom to their citizens, they never allow any ideas that contradict the official ideology. They bring certain limitations regarding what they term as freedom of thought and conscience: they impose heavy sanctions when certain ideas that disagree with their worldview are voiced. No matter how much they refer to freedom, they cannot forbear the slightest degree of opposition to their own system.
A society’s general welfare and harmonious continuity necessitate adopting certain disciplines. If freedom is perceived and practiced as unlimited satisfaction of all desires and fancies, then this will cause corruption of lineages, breaking up of families, and degeneration of society. Likewise, although “freedom” might seem to allow it, we cannot approve of acts like profanity against the sacred, verbal abuse against religion, and making fun of the nation’s values, for allowing these will cause all moral values to be ruined. It is similarly not possible to accept as lawful, acting against the country or nation under the name of freedom, for in such a case the concepts of nation and country will lose importance, and it will become difficult for society members to co-exist.
On account of all these reasons, almost all legal systems have passed laws to provide shelter for the essential rights of religion, life, lineage, property, and reason; they imposed heavy sanctions against any crimes posing a threat to these. Namely, all states felt the need to draw a frame for freedom through certain laws and regulations. In fact, even while describing freedom, it is pointed out that your freedom ends where the limits of others’ freedom begins. In other words, although all citizens own certain rights and freedoms, they extend to the limits where others’ rights and freedoms begin. If we take the issue from a believer’s perspective, we can express this fact that God and faith too have some rights upon the individual, and they set certain limits for them.
In this respect, the notion of unrestrained freedom does not exist even among animals. They have certain limitations and boundaries, and there are consequences when they are violated.
Animals lead their life with astonishing solidarity and mutual assistance. Take penguins in the Antarctic: we feel dizzy before their system. Had people been able to establish such a system among themselves, all of us would live in peace.
God instilled certain rules in the brains of animals to let them live in an orderly fashion. However, humans possess reason and free will. We can even say that these are the most essential and indispensable human qualities. A human is neither a pile of wood, nor a sunflower stem. In this respect, for the sake of being able to live with others in an orderly and harmonious fashion, a person is supposed to comply with certain rules by means of reason and willpower. This is very important in terms of giving free will its due.
By giving willpower its due, humans will not only live harmoniously together but will even surpass angels. The noble Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who used his free will to the best of his capacity, left the archangel Gabriel behind during his journey on the night of Ascension. Therefore, things like bidding for Paradise and being blessed with the honor of seeing God all depend on using one’s free will properly. On this path it might be necessary to sacrifice some aspects of freedom and to accept certain disciplines by means of free will.
Freedom is a great blessing God bestowed on people. If some people have lost such a divine blessing on account of their neglect and laziness, namely if they failed to retain their freedom, they will be held responsible before God. Furthermore, if they are not aware of being dominated by other ideologies, and not even endeavoring to be saved from this by refusing to regain certain opportunities they have lost, then they are not only betraying their freedom, but also their faith.
In this respect, appreciating the value of the freedom God granted us, upholding it and using it in the right way, are very important. In this respect, every nation needs to know well their era, have plans and projects for the future, and take promising steps as much as their cognition and circumstances allow.
Free thinking and science
Scientific thought has been shaped in the last few centuries by ideas based on positivism, materialism, and naturalism.
Scientific terminology has developed so extensively with these ideas that we are not able to think differently. And with these ideas we cannot reach the truth about our lives. For this reason, it is necessary for believing scientists to re-adopt free thinking as a principle and revise all their scientific conclusions. While doing this, they must be freed from attachment to the status quo and question everything, for it is not possible to establish something new without questioning. To this end, we need to consider that there is a possibility of being mistaken—be it a slight one—about the data we find before us. For example, a doctor specializing in medicine should be able to re-evaluate everything he or she has learned and re-test whether these are correct or not.
This surely is not an easy endeavor; it demands a very serious love for knowledge, research, and truth. Furthermore, it requires being able to dedicate a lifetime to this cause, to undertake very serious troubles and make serious sacrifices. If an industrial revolution happened in the West and serious distances were covered in science and technology, it happened thanks to the people who dedicated their lives to this issue. Some dedicated their lives to studying animal life, some to discovering the secret of historical relics, and some to decoding the tongue of natural phenomena. However, these studies of theirs ended up with materialism and naturalism. It is necessary to overcome this present situation and relate every truth about sciences to the One beyond existence and things. Like unweaving a sweater and re-weaving it with a new pattern, everything must be de-constructed and then re-constructed. While doing this we might sometimes be correct and sometimes err; we might take certain issues further than their present state and walk along with others at certain issues, and we even refer to their help.
However, these are not things to be realized by ordinary people. They require very serious resoluteness. But without such a struggle, it is not possible to be freed from dualism and to eliminate the contradiction between science and religion. Actually, while the origin of the Qur’an is Divine Speech, the Universe is similarly another divine book to be studied, as originated by His power and will. Given that these two books come from the same origin, it is not possible for there to be any contradiction between them.
Pursuing science under domination is no less painful than living under the rule of others’ domination. Merely quoting others but not being able to coming up with any new and original ideas should only be the growls of lowly souls surrendered to domination. Here I am saying like the poet Mehmed Akif did, “I have lived free and do live free for eternity/Who is to dare bring me under chains, I surprise, so crazy!” Actually every believer must possess this honor. They must look at their glorious past, turn to their spiritual roots, and then consider the present wretched condition and ask themselves whether or not it is shameful. Afterwards, they must absolutely set about being saved from these shames by building up their own world.
As souls under domination will not be able to realize such a revival, there is the absolute need for free thoughts. Actually, freedom begins in thinking. It is not possible to talk about freedom concerning people whose thoughts are dominated others.