People have always talked about freedom. There is an overall and broad perspective about freedom and then there are individuals who give their personal definitions about it. Let us see the dictionary definition of freedom:
Definition of freedom (Merriam Webster)
1: the quality or state of being free: such as a: the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action b: liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another: independence c: the quality or state of being exempt or released usually from something onerous freedom from care d: unrestricted use gave him the freedom of their home e: ease, facility spoke the language with freedom f: the quality of being frank, open, or outspoken answered with freedom g: improper familiarity h: boldness of conception or execution.
This basically defines freedom as independence and liberation from any kind of outside constraints and the total absence of any restraint at the personal level.
Therefore, according to this definition a person is considered free when he or she is able to do or say (express) just about anything without any external or internal force prohibiting it.
When we speak of freedom to do or say anything we do not disregard the same right that others have. Therefore this freedom is not actually freedom when we still have to think of its repercussions on the individuals and the society that we coexist with. It is actually something that the people and groups have used as a handle to misuse their right to expression and action. If we think over it a little we can easily understand that no individual can claim to have the complete freedom from his surroundings which include humans, nature, animals and objects. He can never be free from dependency on all of them at various levels. So talking of freedom to express oneself is undesirable when one disregards the rights of others while practising it.
Freedom is just one façade. People hide behind it just to practice their whims and fancies and those who become slaves of their desires and uncontrolled thoughts. Actually those who say that they are liberated, free and independent are actually chained to their desires that have no direction and they function at the animal level.
What do they want freedom from? Where can they go when they are so-called free? They are actually chained in freedom. They wander with this chain and do not find any direction.
The real freedom is the freedom to choose. The freedom is to choose right from wrong, good from evil and lawful from unlawful. This is freedom. The real freedom is to have the choice to seek the Truth. When we believe in something we are free to live with it. There are numerous religions and ideologies in the world and each has its own values and beliefs. No one can be forced to believe in any religion or ideology but when one is convinced of his belief and the Truth he is free to practise it and to enlighten others about it.
According to the verse 256 in Chapter 2 of the Noble Quran:
There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing.
Let us see what some famous personalities have said about real freedom:
“When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.”
― Nelson Mandela
“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.”
― Søren Kierkegaard
“True freedom is impossible without a mind made free by discipline.”
― Mortimer J. Adler, How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading
Freedom of Thought and Religion are Paramount
The Quran provides an environment where people can fully enjoy freedom of thought and freedom of religion and allows people to live by the faith and values they believe in. According to Islam, everyone has the right to live freely by his beliefs, whatever they may be. Anyone who wants to support a church, a synagogue or a mosque must be free to do so. In this sense, freedom of religion, or freedom of belief, is one of the basic tenets of Islam. There is always freedom of religion wherever the moral values of the Qur’an prevail.
That is why Muslims also treat Jews and Christians, described in the Qur’an as “the People of the Book,” with great justice, love and compassion. God says in the Qur’an:
“God does not forbid you from being good to those who have not fought you in the religion or driven you from your homes, or from being just towards them. God loves those who are just.” (Surat al-Mumtahana, 8)
So, basically freedom is not the license to do whatever you wish rather it is the choice of matters that you make about yourself keeping in mind the rights of others.
People think that they should be set free to do whatever they desire. This is not how it works. You are not living alone on this planet. You have to have the sensitivity for others. Moreover, what makes one think that he should be free to do anything when he did not have the freedom to choose when and where he will be born. He does not have the freedom to choose the date and day of leaving this earth. How can he suppose that he can live the period between his birth and death howsoever he fancies? The One who sent him to this earth and will take him back has all the right to dictate his life but despite that He says that there is no compulsion! You have been shown both the ways; the right course and the wrong one. Now the freedom of choice is yours. Choose your course. You are free but still chained in that freedom.
According to one hadith, this world is a prison for the believer and a paradise for the non believer. This is so because a believer knows that like in a prison one has to behave in a particular way, there is discipline, there are time limits, rules and laws to be followed, particular dress code and many such regulations; he has to do that in this world. You are free but inside certain laws of Allah. You do not have to cross those boundary walls. But the non believer does not believe in such set limits. He wanders wherever he wishes and feels like. No codes and no regulations. Life for him is to enjoy to the maximum because he is unaware of the promises of the Paradise that the believer gets due to his obedience to Allah. A believer puts aside all his whims and fancies for his later life when he will get whatever he wishes for.
The freedom that one enjoys here is limited but the freedom that one will enjoy in Paradise is never-ending and unlimited and even unimaginable!