Love cannot be a duty, because it is not subject to will. It is a gift from heaven, the best that heaven has to bestow. Those who shut it up in a cage destroy the beauty and joy which it can only display while it free and spontaneous. Here, again, fear is the enemy. He who fears to lose what makes the happiness of his life has already lost it. In this, as in other things, fearlessness is the essence of wisdom.
~ Bertrand Russell, On Education
We are a reflection of everybody. The people we meet, the personalities we love, the teachers who taught us, the parents who gave birth to us, are all reflected in our personality in one way or the other. We have a choice to hang out with the people we care about, to have ideals we like, and these ideals and people actually imprint on us not only their thoughts, they define our ways of thinking, they define our morals, our habits and each and everything that we do in our lives. Once I read this verse of Iqbal:
The individual is firm by nation’s coherence, otherwise nothing
The wave is only in the ocean, and outside it is nothing
I didn’t understand its meanings. But now I understand it, now I know that a wave cannot be outside the ocean. It is always inside. An individual’s life can not be, it must be in communion with others. The whole of the universe is in communion with itself. What purpose do you think it is fulfilling? It is I believe working for us, working for us humans.
There is however another aspect to it as well: Freedom. Freedom from merely reflecting the society, allows us to create, imagine and think of things that are not there in us and in fact they take us to another level of reflections. This apparent non conformity can be achieved if we have knowledge that is not shared by our society. This foreign knowledge enables us to be free from the shackles of norms. If this apparent non conformity is strong enough and it gathers enough support it can alter the course of history. Apart from knowledge, it is the will to seek more than accepted realities, that frees us from the reflections of the society.
These reflections are said to be of our soul, our rooh, our God. There is a presence of a soul in everybody that feels, it is not just a neurological machine that does all the thinking without a presence of something greater, something more human. This soul is what connects humanity together. That lets us feel the pain of people across the globe without any boundaries. The soul that tells us that this is right and this is wrong. This concept of right and wrong is not much different in different cultures and civilizations. It is the same. The grand unity of humanity will only result when we begin to hear more to our souls, to the part of our body that feels. Only then all the sufferings can end and humanity can move on to fulfill its destiny.
Is it then, the right behavior to non conform to a society we have been made from? The answer to this question provides us an insight to the problem of individual’s rights and collective responsibility. Both are necessary for the human life to continue. It is the inherent need of the human to non conform to the dogmas of the society, this freedom unleashes its potentials, while this freedom does not grant an individual the right to obstruct communal life of the society. True freedom will actually help both the society and the individual to grow. I think it is a bit confusing. But I think this is what Iqbal and some other scholars have agreed to and I am myself inclined to this idea.
We need freedom from the conflict between orthodoxy and modernism. We need freedom that resonates vitality in a society and an individual. One of the most visible barrier for this freedom is this conflict.
A slave’s heart is dead, frustrated and never sees the light of hope;
A free man’s heart is alive, full of zest and happiness.
A free man’s wealth, a shining heart and warm breath,
that of slave, only moist eyes.
Modernity and orthodoxy have been in conflict over many ages. Still they go hand in hand. Both have many names and many forms. Freedom of choice, freedom of speech, rights of women, logical positivism, are some of the things that constitute modernity. While, tradition, cultural conformity, social conformity, caste conformity, moral code of conduct, are some of the common names that are given to conformism.
It is an observable fact in Pakistan that people who are modern, tend to be free from social conformism and are likely to adopt lifestyle of their own accord. These people however, do not have any regard for religion. To them religion is a chain that restricts their so called ‘freedom’, they will speak with fervor against all the negatives of mullaism (traditional Muslim scholars) and they will go to lengthy debates about how religion has restricted all the development. If they have any religious associations they tend to keep that to themselves. They are supporters of everything new and all the imports from the Western world are their benchmark of quality and culture. They are usually more educated than other classes of Pakistan and their education has been in English medium schools. It is amazing that they condemn the very culture they are a part of. Few of these people hold true to their claims as they themselves become enslaved by the cultural inferiority complex and are constantly looking to evade anything that belongs to their own culture. Morality for them is nothing except freedom from all tradition. They hold sacred every scientific theory and are prone to knowledge of prophets of modernity; Freud, Nietzsche , Marx, Darwin etc.
The orthodox have their own ways of thinking, although, they are in majority, they live in fears, fear of people, fear of society, fear of poverty, fear of non-conformity. They constantly endeavor to make their lives according to their social construct and they are always ahead of defining tradition and convention by which ancestors of their ancestors lived by. They have strong moral standards which they impose on their children forcefully. They will, many a times ignore the moral dis-integrity of the society but still hold on to what people are thinking about them. They are actually living the life of the society and not their own. These people have medium level education. They have utmost regard for molvis and they celebrate all the religious rites. In their regard for everything sacred they usually do not want to hear a word against it. They are strict in their following of their sect. They do not remain neutral in religious debates rather they will detach from those in family who change their religious associations. For them sacredness of tradition and convention is all the morality.
Iqbal says about freedom:
The juniper in the garden is free as well as chained to the soil
You should acquire freedom within these constraints!
Truth lies somewhere in between, it is in the grey area. Humans are humans because they have control over their material urges. This control enables them to explore new possibilities. This controlled freedom or ‘growth of chained juniper’ is the freedom that can balance things out in this world. We need growth, we need freshness and innovation, but all this has to be achieved within the moral boundaries that ensure social development and growth. Truth cannot be utter freedom from all that is old, and it cannot be complete following of the old. True freedom is holding on to the fervor of growth while remembering moralities of the society. I would love to have your comments on this.
Despite of all the movements and all our history. We still need freedom. We still need to be free from the shackles of our lower self and rise high from the debris of all the slavery, we all have put ourselves in. To be human is the hardest task we are capable of accomplishing.
“And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, “Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority.” They said, “Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, while we declare Your praise and sanctify You?” Allah said, “Indeed, I know that which you do not know.” (Quran 2:30)