Freedom of opinion in Islamic civilization
freedom of opinion means the right of the individual to choose the viewpoint s/he sees in a certain public or private matter and expressing that viewpoint and making it heard for others. freedom of expression is the person’s right to express his ideas and feelings with his own choice and will as long as there is no aggression on the rights of others.
freedom of opinion is one of muslim’s rights
the freedom of opinion in the islamic civilization is an unalienable right to a muslim because the islamic legislation approved it and what the islamic legislation has approved to individuals, cannot be vetoed or cannot be removed away. the freedom of opinion is rather a duty on a muslim that s/he should not abandon because god almighty ordered muslims to do amr-bil-ma’roof (ordering for acknowledged virtues) and nahi anil munkar (forbidding from sin). and these rights cannot be procured unless a muslim has the right to freely express his opinion. the freedom of opinion, thus, is considered a means through which he can assume these duties. and whatever helps us to do wajib (wajib is also something necessary, although of a slightly lesser degree than fardh) is in itself wajib.
islam has permitted the freedom of opinion in all religious affairs whether they are public or social. one example of this is shown when sa’d ibn mu’az and sa’d ibn ubada were consulted by the prophet (pbuh) to clinch a truce with ghatafan provided that he gives them one-third the fruits of medina to get out of the coalition they had with the clans. abu hurira said: al-harith al-ghatafani came to the prophet (pbuh) and said: oh muhammad, let’s divide the fruits of medina into two halves; one for you and one for us. the prophet (pbuh) said: “let me first consult the sa’ds.”he sent to sa’d ibn mu’az, sa’d ibn ubada, sa’d ibn al-rabie, sa’d ibn khaithama and sa’d ibn mas’ud (my allah be pleased with him), he said: “i knew that the arabs have thrown you from one bow and al-harith asks for half the fruits of medina. if you don’t mind, would you give him this half this year until you see what you can do latter?”they replied: “oh allah’s messenger, is it revelation from heaven so we obey or is it your opinion so that we follow you? if you want us to survive, we swear to god that we used to be equals with them and they never dare to get any fruit unless they pay for it or we give it to them as a present.
giving advice, amr-bil-ma’roof and nahi anil munkar
one of the texts that were mentioned in giving advice, amr-bil-ma’roof and nahi anil munkar god’s saying: “men and women, are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil.” [repentance: 71]. the prophet (pbuh) also says:“verily, the religion is advice.”they (companions) said: “to whom is that advice? he said: “to allah, his book, his messenger, imams of muslims and their general folk.”
imam nawawi said in his explanation of this hadith: “and as for the naseehah (advice) to the leaders of the muslims, then this involves helping them in the truth, and obeying them, and ordering them with the truth, and reminding them of it with kindness and gentle words, and notifying/advising them of that which they have neglected, and informing them of the rights of the muslims.”
the prophet (pbuh) also said: “a man should not be dissuaded by people’s prestige to say a word of truth if he knows it”and also said:“the best jihad is to speak a word of truth to a tyrant ruler."
the duty of amr-bil-ma’roof (ordering for acknowledged virtues) and nahi anil munkar (forbidding from sin) entails that they are free in choosing their opinion. and as god has ordered them to do this duty, this means giving them right to express their opinion in what they see as ma’roof or munkar and in what they order other people to do or not do. the duty of consulting other people also entails that the people he consults are free to express their opinions.
the freedom of opinion has been in place all throughout the islamic history. great companion al-habab ibn al-munzir expresses his opinion in muslims’ attitude in badr invasion although his opinion was the opposite of the prophet (pbuh). other companions also expressed their opinions in al-ifk (slander) incident and some of them urged the prophet (pbuh) to divorce his wife ayisha (may allah be pleased with him) however, the quran declared her innocent. the companions and those who followed them used to express their opinions freely in many situations.
hence, if expressing your views and the freedom of expression are unalienable rights in the islamic sharia, it is impermissible to hurt anyone simply because he expressed his view because the sharia permitted him to do so. a woman objected to what umar ibn al-khattab said in the mosque about dowry and he did not prevent her from expressing her view. moreover, he admitted she was right and said: "the woman is correct and umar is mistaken.”
honesty, truthfulness in giving opinion
a muslim should observe, when giving his opinion, honesty and truthfulness. s/he should say what s/he really sees even if the truth is bitter for him because the purpose from the freedom of opinion is to show what is true and right and benefits the hearer. the purpose of this is not to camouflage or hide the truth. the true purpose should be to tell the truth and not to intend from this riya (showing off in worship), reputation, gamming on those who are right, showing wrong deeds as right, depriving people from their rights, exaggerating the sins of rulers, downplaying their good deeds, belittling their importance, slandering them or inciting people against them to achieve certain goals.
according to this, the freedom of opinion as approved by the islamic sharia is an important means of civilization progress as well as a means for self-expression.
1. narrated by al-tabarni: al-mu’gam al-kabir (5416), al-haithami said: al-bazzar and al-tabarni’s men include muhammad ibn umr and his hadith is good and the rest of his men are trustworthy, look muga’mah al-zawa’id and manba al-fawa’id 6/119, and look: ibn al-qa’im: zad al-ma’ad 3/240
2. muslim from tamim al-dari: kitab al-iman (faith book), chapter about statement that religion is advice (82), abu dawoud (4944) and nissai (4197) and ahmad (16982)
3. al-nawawi: he is abu zakariya yahia ibn sharaf al-nawawi, muhie al-din (631-676 hijri/1233-1277): he was a master in fiqh and hadith, born and died in nawa, syria and named after it. his famous books include: minhaj in explaining sahih muslim, riyad al-salihin. look; al-bidayah and al-nihayah 13/278, al-zirikli: al-a’lam 8/149
4. al-nawawi: al-minhaj in explaining sahih muslim ibn al-hajjaj 2/38
. al-termizi from abi sa’id al-khudri: kitab al-fitan (seditions book), chapter about what the prophet has told his companions about the incidents of doomsday (2191), ibn majah (3997), corrected by al-albani, look: al-silsilah al-sahiha (168)
. al-termizi from abi sa’id al-khudri: kitabl al-fitan (seditions book), chapter about the best forms of jihad is to speak to a tyrant ruler (2174), abu dawoud (4344), nissai (4209), ibn majah (4011), corrected by al-albani, look: sahih al-jami (2209)
7. look: al-qurtubai: al-jami for ahkam al-quran (quran rules) 5/95