By Anas Zubedy
Peace be with you.
Liberalism is a ten-letter word but to many Muslim leaders and ulama, it’s a five lettered one – HARAM. As such, they see this word as a bad word and not in line with Islam, which is rather unfortunate.
Let me explain.
While the West and the world generally see John Locke, the 17th century English philosopher and physician, as the Father of Liberalism, I found my liberal role model in my Prophet, Prophet Muhammad. With all due respect to John Locke, to me, none in history can beat my Prophet in liberating humanity.
Let me give you 10 examples.
1. The Prophet liberated women (eg. Quran 2:228, 33:35, 16:97).
2. Gave rights to everyone to do business and be successful (eg. 2:188, 4:134, 53:39-40).
3. Liberated humans from ridiculous beliefs, or kepercayaan-kepercayaan mengarut, and instructed man to contemplate the wonders of creation (eg. 3:191, 2:164, 21:30, 24:45, 29:19, 21:33, 36:40, 39:5, 55:5, 27:88, 23: 12-14, and more).
4. Made the freeing of slaves and those in debt as part of Taqwa (2:177, 4:94,5:89, 9:60, 90:4-13,24:33).
5. Gave rights to education for all men and women and encouraged the pursuit of knowledge (96:1-5, 67:10,39:9,20:114).
6. The orphans, the poor and the needy have rights to the wealth of the nation (70: 24-25, 2:117, 9:60).
7. Announced that there is no compulsion in religion (2:256) and you cannot force or make everyone believe in one faith (10:99). Set the method to agree to disagree (109:1-6).
8. Stressed that Muslims must protect all places of worship (22:40).
9. Meaning giving rights to all ways of live to co-exist with Islam and that religious diversity is intentional (5:48, 11:118-9, 10:99).
10. That diversity is God’s sign for those with understanding (30:22) and there is no difference between one race to the other except in deeds (49:13).
I can go on and on.
How could we not make and see the Prophet as the compass, the role model, the father and icon of liberation? Remember, he was not only a theoretical man, he implemented and practised what he preached. And he did these 1,400 years ago. Yes, 1,400 years ago!
We need to change the preconceived notion of the word liberal. By liberal, I do not mean liberalism in the loose sense that is promoted by the hedonistic and freewheeling Western media-driven culture and the misunderstandings by a large segment of Muslim opinion makers. We are not asking or telling Malaysians to sunbathe or run around in the nude. That is not liberalism ala Prophet Muhammad. That is not the liberalism that is in line with our Rukunegara.
By liberal, I am suggesting the ideas of liberty and equality, not unrestrained freedom. We want to free Malaysians to discover their real potential and explore their talents. The type of liberalism that encourages people to listen to others, be our best and to feel empathy, just like the Prophet did. So, we all can try to be like the Prophet – as a mercy to all creations (21:107).
The Quran, in verse 39:18, suggests, “Those who listen to the Word, and follow the best (meaning) in it: those are the ones whom Allah has guided, and those are the ones endued with understanding.”
I humbly suggest we do the same with the word LIBERAL.
Anas Zubedy is a unity advocate and founder of Zubedy (M) Sdn. Bhd., a training provider with the mission to add value to society.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.