Despite the multiplicity of perceptions and contexts about freedom, it is important that we come up with an operational definition of the term. The Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary provides many definitions of the term freedom. Among these definitions is that freedom means “the right to do or say what you want, without anything stopping you”; “the state of being able to do what you want, without anything stopping you” and the “permission to use something without restriction”. From these definitions, it can be seen that while freedom is primarily a “right” not a privilege, it is also a “state of being”. Freedom is therefore not a theoretical thing, it is practical.
Religious freedom can be seen as the right of the citizens to practice the belief system and teachings of their religion without any person or any authority stopping them from doing so. These religious practices may include those done individually or collectively, those done privately or in public and the ones practiced occasionally or frequently. It involves both verbal and physical religious acts. It also entails the right to use religious symbols and to own and control places of religious worship just as also it includes the unhindered right to propagate religion through peaceful and constitutionally guaranteed means. There cannot be development without peace, and there cannot peace without religion and that religion cannot prosper without freedom to practice and propagate it. There is therefore an organic relationship between peace and prosperity on one hand, and religious freedom on the other. For the adherents of the Islamic faith, the Glorious Quran is the impeccable source of guidance. It represents the everlasting revelation that serves as source of inspiration for the Muslims. The Quran guidance is a special gift which man has no hand in, because it is not within his ability and jurisdiction, but by God’s grace. The Qur’an (24: 46) declares that:
“We have indeed sent down signs that make things manifest: And Allah guides whom He wills to a way that is straight”. (Abdullah Yusuf Ali, 2007)
One pertinent query to ask is; are rights and freedom qualified or unqualified, restrained or unrestricted? This question is vital given the manner freedom and human rights are being misconstrued and abused. In law, it is said; ‘The right of a person stops from where the right of the different begins’. And if not, the result would be that society will become chaotic, and consequently ungovernable.
Islam as a faith is no longer solely worried about rights alone; it is involved with addition of responsibilities. While man is entitled to a range of rights, he is also shouldered with responsibilities. The implication of this is that while pursuing one’s right, one is predicted additionally to be aware of his responsibilities toward his Creator and also his fellow creatures. It is in line with this that Islam sets two basic limits to man’s freedom. The first restriction is that a person’s freedom does not enable him to interfere into the rights of God Who created him and consequently is aware of him the most. Anything that challenges the authority of God, or betrays the herbal laws of God is against the freedom granted to man, and, hence, in accordance to Islam, it needs to be checked. Islam for instance, does now not be given debasing human values in the name of freedom. It consequently prohibits lesbianism, homosexuality and identical sex marriage, because they are virtually oppose with the legal guidelines of God.