Tuesday June 12, 2012
Between freedom and moral values
IKIM VIEWS By Dr MOHD SANI BADRON
Through religion, God’s presence is remembered. And God’s presence means the purposefulness of life. On the contrary, forgetting God means a fragmented existence.
LIBERTINES promote the type of freedom that lets every individual live according to his fancy. Let every person act as he wishes for his own good as he sees it, as “man is the measure of all things”, and judgments of right and wrong are relative (see Ikim Views, April 10).
For libertines, the very same man is all: the perpetrator, the law and the judge. They believe that there should be no other standard and judgment that matters, even if it is God’s law and judgment.
They vehemently oppose any “intrusion” of religious considerations into the realm of practical affairs. In effect, they jest at religion. They aver that religion or faith is ‘good enough to fools” (their mockery is recorded in the Quran, 2:13).
Without moral perception, such conception of freedom is dangerous to our nation. Such freedom only concerns itself with the worldly life but not the ultimate consequences of individual and societal actions.
As religion is treated as a jest, there is no serious ground as to why one should be true to oneself. This habit leads to the flourishing of social and moral confusion in terms of false motives, pretence, deception and hypocrisy.
If religion is treated as such, no one will value the higher life earnestly. Left alone with his own fancy and subjective desires, man is apt to misjudge good and evil, right and wrong.
As God says in the Quran, “man covets what is immediate and abandons what is distant in time to come (ultimate life after death)” (75:20). Man can easily commit himself to utter self-abandonment to earthly joys.
Given that “selfishness is ever-present in human souls” (4:128), man tends to “gravitate down to the earth and follow his own desires” (7:176) and become a slave to wishful thinking.
Indeed, men are prone to deceive themselves in order to evade spiritual commitments. They tend to have misplaced confidence in their own deeds and pride themselves on their work or in their wishful thinking.
God warns in the Quran, “Say: Shall We tell you who are the greatest losers in their actions … and who, nonetheless, think that they have made wonderful achievements. These are the ones who rejected their Lord’s messages and denied that they would face Him [with their accountability]” (18:103-105).
These verses refer to people who have a smug sense of self-righteousness, that while they go on doing wrong, they think that they are acquiring merit. They think that they have a universal mission of peace when they do not even have a true perception of right and wrong.
In another Quranic verse, it is recorded thus: “When it is said to them: ‘do not corrupt the earth (with your negative deeds)’, they say: ‘we are but improving things!’ Beware! They are spreading corruption, but they do not perceive that.” (2:11-12).
By their blind arrogance, they depress the good and encourage evil in its stead.
The removal of God and religion from the concept of freedom means the removal of meaning and purpose from human freedom and life.
Those who forget God will eventually forget themselves (59:19).
God warns in the Quran, “Does man think that he is to be left to himself, free to do what he likes?” (75:36).
In other words, does man reckon that he is to be left uncontrolled, without purpose, without being held morally responsible for his doings, without being held morally accountable for his actions?
On the contrary, God creates neither man nor the universe in jest, mere idle play (23:115), without meaning or having no purpose (38:27).
That high, serious purpose (maqasid) refers to the implementation of the divine imperative for man’s own benefit, whether at the level of the individual, family, or society at large.
Religion promotes the safeguarding from human selfishness, which is a prerequisite of a prosperous, successful and happy state of individuality and society.
Through religion, God’s presence is remembered. And God’s presence means the purposefulness of life.
Such a remembrance ensures the consolidation of personality, where there are proper integration and harmonisation of all details of life and particulars of human activity, be it in education, language, economy, politics, law, technology or art.
On the contrary, forgetting God means a fragmented existence. In such a condition, life is secularised, personality left unintegrated, ethical vision narrowed, and moral faculties rendered numbed.
Eventually, this leads to a distracted life and disintegrated personality. With such a personality, there is an entrapment in the details at the cost of the whole, as the transcendental dimension provided by God through religion is no longer present.
Religion is all about attaining self-control, self-discipline and self-mastery so far as lower desires or base impulses are concerned.
Nurturing human ability to resist or turn away from capricious pleasures or gratification, religion is out and out about taming passions and appetites, which impinge upon economic, political and personal aspects of life.
Properly instilled, religion builds human capacity to follow the dictates of sound reason or moral duty and to overcome the promptings of passion.
Hence, right and wrong, integrity and corruption are not a matter of human subjective desires, “for whosoever perpetrates evil (su’) must get its requital and he shall find none to protect him from God, and none to bring him succour” (4:123).