Man’s and Woman’s Independence in Islam
Don't be anyone's slave since God created you to be free." [Bihar al-Anwar, v.77, p.214]
Human Freedom and Independence
Mankind's creation is based upon his freedom in life, independence in carrying out daily affairs and in control over choices. No one has the right to make another his slave imprisoning that individual to serve his own needs. To deprive others of freedom and free will is a mortal sin, capital treason and a great crime.
Liberty and the control over one's affairs are ingrained in man's essence, whose nature was created with this truth in mind. Freedom and independence are the greatest blessings God has bestowed upon mankind. These are is the most excellent sources of growth, perfection and attaining higher worldly and spiritual positions. The field of freedom is the best area. The condition of having control over one's affairs and being free is the most wonderful condition for an individual.
One very important case of Islam's struggle against oppression concerns that of man's liberty. Islam fights like a tiger against those whose philosophy is based on colonization and exploitation and want to enslave men who have been created to be independent. Islam emphatically decrees that an all-out holy war (Jihad) must be made against oppression and the oppressors who have attacked freedom.
All of the damages imposed upon mankind's life throughout history are the direct result of depriving people of liberty and attacking their freedom. Listening to and putting up with bullying, accepting to be oppressed, and selling one's freedom are the greatest sins and will be the cause of being deprived of God’s Mercy. Also one's worldly and spiritual interests will be endangered.
It is absolutely necessary to protect one's freedom, the ability to make choices and one's free will; all of which God the Almighty has bestowed upon man so that he may develop, reach a state of perfection and his talents would blossom. Whenever these benefits are endangered, you must defend them even if it costs your very life.
A Strange Story About Freedom
In history it has been recorded that the Caliph Yazeed or one of his agents was on his way to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, when he entered the town of Medina, he sent for a Koreyshite citizen and when the man came, Yazeed (or his agent) asked him: "Confess that you are my slave! If I wish I will sell you as a slave and if not I will keep you as a slave."
The Koreyshite responded: "I swear to God that you are not any nobler than I am regarding family roots. Your father was not any better than my father in the Age of Ignorance and in the era of Islam. You are not at all superior to me regarding faith and religion. You are not any better than I am. Given that I possess all these characteristics, how do you expect me to confess to be your slave?"
The oppressor told him: "If you do not confess to this, I will order your execution."
The man responded: "Killing me is not any worse than killing Imam Husayn."
At this point, the order of execution was issued and he became a martyr for the sake of freedom and free will. [Ruzih i-Kafy, p.313]
The Commander of the Faithful stated:
O people! People were not born slaves. Verily all people are free."[Mizan al-Hikmat, v.2, p.351]
And he also stated:
Do not be anyone's slave since God created you to be free." [Bihar al-Anwar, v.77, p.214]
Then we must note that what is meant by freedom is freedom from slavery and worship of other men, freedom from lust, erroneous instincts and moral corruption. Man is born pure and innocent as a superior creature free from slavery with nobility and honor. In short, man is free from all vices and has free will. He is then guided by God, his own wisdom and nature, the Prophets, the Imams, the Holy Quran and the sages to use this freedom and free will in order to make the best choices and become prosperous in this world and in the Hereafter.
If an individual pays no attention to the above-mentioned explanations and turns his back on God's guidance, undoubtedly one will lose the pearl of freedom, free will and control when dealing with the tyrants and the Satans of the time. One will get involved in greediness, haughtiness, jealousy, instincts and lust. That person will be a slave to the world and other people. He/she will be a slave to lust and instincts, a prisoner of greediness and will not benefit from nobility, prosperity and the blessings of this world and of the Hereafter.
There are some who commit any crime and pollute themselves with any sort of lust and sin: They obey anybody and call this roguery "freedom." They are ignorant slaves, vile servants, contemptible bondsmen and poor creatures.
The Commander of the Faithful (Pbuh) stated:
Those who give up their unlawful desires are really free men.
He also said:
The world is simply a highway and the people on it are of two groups: The first have sold themselves to lust, materialism and dirty tricks. They are in danger of perishing. The second group have freed themselves from all those disgusting acts: They are free of any sort of evil in this world and punishment in the Hereafter."
Imam Sadiq (Pbuh) stated:
There are five characteristics which if a man does not have one, there would remain not much in him to benefit from:
1) Faithfulness; 2) Thinking about the future; 3) Modesty; 4) Being good-tempered; 5) Freedom, which is what causes all these characteristics to come together in an individual. [Mawa'ez Al-Adadieh, p.268.]
Imam Ali (Pbuh) said:
Do not let greediness enslave you since God has created you to be free. [Mizan al-Hikmat, v.2, pp.351-2]
He also stated:
One of the divine favors granted to the free individual is to legally earn his living. [Ibid]
An Important Matter
A person must pay strict attention to the truth and meaning of freedom, the worth of free will and control, and the fact that when man remains in the shade of God's guidance he will benefit from independence, free will and control. Then he shall attain lofty positions, efficient ranks, and truths which he thought he could never understand.
Let's try to preserve our independence throughout our whole lifetime, even in the face of all events and catastrophes. Doing so will make us happy and satisfy our Lord.
You know that the atom is made up of neutrons, protons and one or several electrons. By God's will the electrons are attracted to their own central axis orbiting at the specified speed and in the specified order. As long as this speed and rotation continue based on that especial order and the forces of attraction and repulsion, the atom is beneficial wherever it may be and whatever it may do. However, when the forces of attraction and repulsion are removed, the electrons lose their special order and separate from the central nucleus, the result will be nothing but destruction.
We can compare man to the atom. His nature, his search for God and his monotheistic belief are like the atom's nucleus. And the continuation of his existence is dependent upon all his body parts and his internal states being attracted to God and his actions being based on God's decrees.
His actions should never be void of submission to God. Separation from God and leaving the domain of attraction of His Love and Knowledge, or in other words leaving God's orbit, will result in corruption in man's physical parts and his inner being.
The Holy Quran states:
As to those who reject faith, I will punish them with terrible agony in this world and in the Hereafter, nor will there be anyone to help them. [Holy Quran: Al-i-Imran 3:56]
One of the factors in controlling man from indulging in some types of corruption is the very important program of marriage. When man has the required worthiness - meaning that he benefits from faith, morality and action to the extent of his capabilities - and also finds a good match in life, his appearance and internal states are controlled. His independence will be preserved and he will be safe from being enslaved by unlawful lust, corrupt programs and unsuitable friends.
There are so many men - who having faith, good dispositions and nobleness - helped their spouses to attain divine status, positions and humane nobleness. Also there are so many women, who being aware and insightful, have helped their husbands to attain lofty human status and magnificent, heavenly positions.
A Dignified and Worthy Spouse
In the year 60 A.H. (681 A.D.), Zuhayr Ibn Qayn Bijali went on the pilgrimage to Mecca with a few of his attendants and performed the necessary ceremonies there. He was the head of this small caravan which had set out from his house to the House of God (Ka'aba) in Mecca and would then return home. Zuhayr thought he would return home, but this was not to be his fate. Zuhayr was traveling from the House of God to God, but he himself was not aware of the fact. Zuhayr's small caravan did not wish to stay at the same way-station as the caravan of Imam Husayn (Pbuh). He did not want to join up with Husayn (Pbuh).
If Husayn's caravan stopped at that way-station, then Zuhayr's would pass by it and stop at the next way-station. And if Husayn did not stop at that way-station, then Zuhayr would stop and rest there. Zuhayr would do his best not to come face to face with Husayn (Pbuh). Why was this so?
Zuhayr's social status necessitated that he would do so since he was not one of the companions of Ali (Pbuh) and his household. He had nothing to do with Ali's household. Zuhayr was one of Uthman's supporters, a strong backer of Yazeed's government and an ally to the existing governmental system. On one hand, he knew Imam Husayn (Pbuh) and held especial respect for Ali's household. He did not want to be partner in the assassination of Ali's son - Husayn (Pbuh). He wanted to remain impartial in the matter: he wanted to preserve his friendship with the Ummayyad clan [Uthman's clan] while at the same time not fight with Husayn (Pbuh). Therefore he could not come face to face with Husayn (Pbuh), since such an occurrence would be reported to Yazeed. If Husayn (Pbuh) requested Zuhayr to help him, what would Zuhayr do? If he helped Husayn (Pbuh), he must cut off relations with his allies and fellowmen. And if he did not help Husayn (Pbuh), disobeying Husayn (Pbuh) was not allowed.
Husayn is the son of Ali (Pbuh) and Fatimah (Pbuh): He is eminent and the only remembrance of the Prophet of Islam. How could Zuhayr not obey Husayn's order? What would he have to say to God? How could he handle the fire of Hell? Remaining impartial was the best way out, so Zuhayr's caravan should stop at a way-stop in which there was the least possibility of Zuhayr meeting Husayn (Pbuh). Zuhayr wanted to do one thing, but fate determined something else.
The way-stations in the dry, hot wilderness of Arabia are very far apart, so the caravans must stop at the closest way-station whether they want to or not. Zuhayr's caravan had to stop at the same one as Husayn's caravan did: The place which converted the followers of the Caliph Uthman into the followers of Ali (Pbuh), and the followers of Yazeed became the followers of Husayn (Pbuh). The tents of Zuhayr and his companions were set up in one place and the harem curtains of Husayn's caravan were hung up beside those tents. Husayn (Pbuh) knew that Zuhayr was brave, generous, well-known, an eloquent speaker and an able person. What a waste it was that he had all these worthy qualities, but was far away from true human beings and was subject to animals like the Umayyad clan! What a waste for an enlightened man not to benefit from freedom! This worthy pearl did not deserve to be amongst ruins and not be an outstanding human being.
At this way-station, Zuhayr also took the necessary precautions not to confront Husayn (Pbuh). Husayn (Pbuh) had revolted against Yazeed's government and Zuhayr was one of the government's supporters. The government expected its supporters to be enemies with its enemies and to subdue any rebels. Coming into contact with those mutinous fellows was considered to be the greatest offense.
Zuhayr was sitting in his tent busy eating a meal with his relatives when suddenly the tall figure of Imam Husayn's representative appeared, greeted Zuhayr and said: "Zuhayr Abu 'Abdullah! Husayn (Pbuh) born of Ali (Pbuh) requests you to come to him!"
Zuhayr had come face-to-face with exactly what he was afraid of. Being terribly frightened, he could not utter a single word and could not think of what was suitable to do. He had not thought that such a situation would come up and was perplexed about what to do. Should he ignore Husayn's message and disobey his command, or should he turn his back on Yazeed and go over to Husayn's side. Both actions would not be considered to be impartial which was his goal. Now the situation does not allow him to be impartial.
A heavy silence fell upon those present. Eating and talking were forgotten. Husayn's messenger stood looking at the scene. He was confused and asked himself why they were so quiet. Why didn't Zuhayr come with him and why didn't he say he wouldn't come? Husayn (Pbuh) had not put any pressure on Zuhayr and Zuhayr was free to answer as he liked.
A few minutes passed in silence and Zuhayr couldn't make a decision. Should he say yes or no? The light of guidance was needed to free Zuhayr from his dark state of doubt and wondering and help him make up his mind. That was the most important moment in Zuhayr's life: the moment to choose between life and death. He was aware of the government’s power. Zuhayr was familiar with Husayn's companions and knew that Husayn (Pbuh) and everyone with him would be killed. He knew that Husayn's family would be captured. He knew why Husayn (Pbuh) had sent for him and that Husayn's path led towards Heaven and Yazeed's to Hell: the former ends in prosperity and the latter in destruction.
Suddenly a lady's voice broke the silence and enabled him to make a decision. She was Zuhayr's wife, Delham, who said: "O' Zuhayr! The son of the Prophet (Pbuh) is calling you and you do not go? Glory be to God! Go and see what he has to say. Listen to him and return." How wonderful is a good wife.
Zuhayr got up to go to Husayn (Pbuh). A short time later he returned smiling with no signs of sorrow on his visage. No one knew what Husayn (Pbuh) had told him in that short period of time.
When Zuhayr returned to his own tent, he said: "Take down my tent and set it up next to Husayn's (Pbuh)." A river joined the sea. Zuhayr who followed Yazeed, became a follower of Husayn (Pbuh). He was released from oppression and reached the domain of justice. The follower of the Caliph Uthman went and the follower of Ali (Pbuh) came back. See how prosperity envelopes man. Zuhayr faced his companions and said: "Whoever is my follower shall join me or else, farewell!"
Zuhayr's cousin, Salman Bajly, joined Zuhayr and became a follower of Imam Husayn (Pbuh). And after saying the noon prayer with Imam Husayn (Pbuh), he was martyred on the Day of Martyrdom. Zuhayr rejected this world and whatever was in it, so he joined Husayn (Pbuh) and died with him. Just now Zuhayr is with Husayn (Pbuh) in the other world. Zuhayr said good-bye to his dear wife and stated: "You must go back to your family so that you will not be harmed because of me."
He returned her property to her and sent her back to her clan with her cousin. Delham cried and said good-bye to her worthy husband stating:
God be your helper and want the best for you! In this last moment of ours, I have a request for you. On the Day of Judgment when you are admitted to the presence of Husayn's grandfather - the Prophet (Pbuh), remember me and don't forget me! [Pishvaye Shahidan, p.328]
O' yes, freedom, thinking freely, choosing Husayn (Pbuh), and Zuhayr's free will had all been looted from him by the Ummayad clan, but his wife caused all these things to be returned to him. In the shade of freedom, Zuhayr was freed from the bonds of the ungodly and was embraced by ever-lasting prosperity. Therefore, it would not be an exaggeration to say that marriage guarantees freedom and free-will, and returns freedom to man.
Protect the spirit of Allah in you by getting married. Safeguard your position as God's representative on Earth (Caliph) from the looting of lust and corruption. Increase your faith and your own good deeds by marrying, thereby receive half of your religion. Protect the other half of your religion with piety and abstaining from the divinely forbidden acts. Men share in the blossoming of women's talents and women help men to rise in status.
Woman is a wise, deserving and able creature, so much so that the great sages have decreed she causes truth to appear in man's being. And man is honorable, of noble birth and a dignified creature, so much so that it has been said on his behalf that he causes woman to reach lofty ranks.
Ali (Pbuh) stated that the first woman from amongst the women of this world who steps into Heaven is Khadijah. This implies woman has a divine spirit and she is in the position of being God's representative on Earth. And she possesses an excellent essence and human, moral and religious resources.
O' yes, a woman free of temptations, free of being a prisoner of the ungodly, free of lust and tendencies towards forbidden acts; together with a free man are two precious pearls and two lofty truths in this magnificent expanse of Creation.
Imam Husayn (Pbuh) has attributed Hurr ibn Yazeed's free personality to the noble mother of that martyr. And the Commander of the Faithful Ali (Pbuh) thought the greatness of Malik Ashtar to be the very reflection of his mother's chastity and godliness.
At home, the man must be the example of all good acts for woman and vice versa. And both should be excellent models and a good example for their children.