What is freedom? What does it mean? 

If you ask this question to a conservative Muslim scholar or an Islamist intellectual, it is probable that you may get an answer like this: 

We must first define real freedom, as taught by Islam. It is not the freedom of the materialist West where it means license to follow your selfish ambitions and carnal desires. This false freedom makes people slaves to money, sex, fame, and other human beings. No, real freedom is being saved from the yoke of all these created things, and to seek refuge in only the Creator. Real freedom, therefore, is slavery to Allah.

The last verdict, ‘Real freedom is slavery to Allah’, is in fact a motto one comes across often in the Muslim universe. In Turkey, it was the topic of a 2017 sermon given in all mosques in the nation. It is endlessly repeated on the internet and social media. 

There is certainly some truth to this view, because ‘slavery to Allah’, in the sense of voluntary submission to God, can really save a human being from the weight of worldly fears and anxieties. Relying on God, or tawakkul, gives a sense of relief against the ups and downs of life, while belief in the afterlife makes death less frightening. Religious practice also helps self-discipline, guarding one against obsessions and addictions. Therefore, true believers in Islam really may achieve a sense of ‘real freedom’.

It is not just Islam, though. Other religious traditions offer a similar bliss to their believers. Christians, especially those who have a ‘personal relationship with Christ’, also feel liberated, as their faith offers ‘freedom from sin, from law, from corruption and death’. No wonder Roger Olson, a devout Christian author, defines ‘real freedom’ as ‘being a servant to Jesus Christ’. Meanwhile, Buddhism also preaches its own ‘real freedom’, which is defined as ‘freedom from thinking, freedom from all attachments’. Buddhist monks pursue that peculiar freedom by living a life of absolute poverty. 

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