Among the most intense discussions between philosophers, thinkers, politicians and even ordinary people is freedom of speech and its entitlements, limitations, benefits and drawbacks. Apparently, history has witnessed battles and wars being waged for the sake of this sacred right, which has been seized from many through the course of history. In addition, regardless of today’s technological advancements and various triumphs accomplished by some bright individuals, freedom of speech and tolerance is still debated and requested for many groups, who lack it. The United States, which is considered leader of the free world and other western nations are still suffering from racism, intolerance of certain ethnic, racial, sexist and religious groups. Therefore, if freedom of speech is such an important and crucial matter for the survival of humanity, then the best examples for implementing this notion must exist as well.
Dissecting the verses of the Quran will reveal the most tolerant and accepting existence in the universe is the almighty lord himself. However, it might be argued that conducting an analogy between the creator and the created might not be a suitable comparison, but considering the core nature and essence of the holy book will present the following notions:
The almighty narrated and presented narrations and stories for the sake of presenting a guideline for his subjects.
The verses and the examples given in the scripture are not taken out context, as the literal interpretation of the words and terms is used to derive conclusions.
The Quran holds astonishing examples of Allah’s tolerance toward opposition, challenge and questioning, as his reply toward many such cases can be discussed as a case of accepting freedom of speech. In addition, browsing through historical sources and narrations of different monarchies, dynasties, regimes and governments we’ll witness the history written by them always marginalize the oppositions and in some cases even eliminates their existence. Nevertheless, in the case of Allah the story is entirely different, as he narrated the details of many oppositions, challenges and questionings that were placed before him.
1st case of challenge & questioning
Creation of Adam & Eve: The story of Adam & Eve is among the many stories narrated by the Quran, which presents several details about the beginning of human race in this universe. The Quran narrates that once Allah created Adam, he told the angels: “Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority”. The reply of the angels to this statement by Allah was: “will you place upon it (earth) one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, while we declare your praise and sanctify you”.
Knowing the role of the angels and the nature of their existence will raise the question of, why would they question the will of their lord, if angels were created to only abide and cohere to the orders of Allah. However, the fact that concerns us from this 30th verse of Quran’s 2nd chapter, lays in the tolerance of Allah toward the notion of questioning him, when he replies: “Indeed, I know that which you do not know”. Then Allah certifies his intent to the angels and proves to them, his absolute wisdom and will. The 31st verse of Quran’s 2nd chapter continues the story and states: “And He taught Adam the names, all of them. Then he showed to the angels and said: inform me of the name of these, if you are truthful”.
The discussion between Allah and his angels continues in the 32nd and 33rd verses of Quran’s 2nd chapter: “They said: exalted are You. We have no knowledge except what you have taught us. Indeed, it is You who is the knowing, the wise”. “He said (Allah), O’ Adam, inform them of their names. And when he had informed them of their names, He said: Did I not tell you that I know the unseen aspects of heavens and the earths? And I know what you reveal and what you have concealed”.
Supposedly, this conversation is between the master of this universe and the angels, which he has created to cohere to his orders and wills. Nonetheless, although Allah was questioned about his intention to place a successive authority on earth by those coherent creations, he replied in calmness and proved his intention with certification and clarity. Therefore, aside from any internal interpretation that might exist about these verses by Islamic scholars, the verses reveal that Allah was very tolerant toward his subjects and freedom of speech was clearly practiced in that encounter.
Satan challenges Allah: Once the previous encounter between Allah and his angels is sealed, he commands his angels to prostrate to Adam. The 34th verse of Quran’s 2nd chapter states: “And mention when we said to the angles, prostrate before Adam. So they prostrated, except for Iblees (Satan). He refused”. The exact narration of this encounter between Allah and Satan is stated in the verses 71 – 84 of Quran’s 38th chapter: “so when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of my created soul, then fall down to him in prostration”. “So the angels prostrated – all of them entirely”. “Except Ibleed (Satan), he was arrogant and became among the disbelievers”. “Allah said: O’ Ibleed, what prevented you from prostrating to that which I created with my hands? Were you arrogant then, or were you already among the haughty?” “He said: I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay”. “Allah said: then get out of paradise, for indeed, you are expelled”. “And indeed, upon you is my curse until the day of Recompense”. “He said: My Lord, then reprieve me until the day they are resurrected”. “Allah Said: so indeed, you are of those reprieved”. “Until the day of the time well-known”. “Iblees said: by your might, I will surely mislead them all”. “Except among them, Your chosen servants”. “Allah said: the truth is my oath, and the truth I say”.
Considering the literal translation of this conservation between Satan and Allah, Satan is challenging the authority of Allah and his command to cohere to a specific order. Note, Allah enquires about Satan’s action and demands explanation for his refusal to follow an order, which others abided by. In addition, Satan replies to Allah and makes an analogy about the material, which he was created from and from, which Adam was created from. Ultimately, Allah expels Satan from the place, where he had been elevated to many years ago and tells him that he is not to return there anymore. Then Satan makes a demand to be reprieved until the day of resurrection and he challenges Allah again and promises to allure and mislead humans. In return, Allah grants Satan, what he demanded and he is granted leave.
This conversation itself portrays a perfect example of tolerance and freedom of speech being practiced by the created before the creator, not to mention Satan being compensated for his years of worship, by being reprieved until the day of resurrection.
There are hundreds of examples and cases, where individuals and tyrants challenge Allah and disobey every single order of his, but yet they are granted remorse and time. However, some thinkers believe that the power of will and choice, which God has granted to humans is a form of tolerance and freedom of expression itself. Humans commit wrongdoings, misdeeds and sins and yet God is generous and tolerant to a point that he grants the mercy of repentance. Allah’s tolerance goes to an extent, where he will willing to erase the entire misdeeds of a subject if he/she repents and asks for forgiveness. Well, if this is not tolerance and freedom of expression, then what is?