In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.
'Aisha narrated this hadith: "Usama approached the Prophet on behalf of a woman (who had committed theft). The Prophet said, 'The people before you were destroyed because they used to inflict the legal punishments on the poor and forgive the rich. By Him in Whose Hand my soul is! If Fatima (the daughter of the Prophet ) did that (i.e. stole), I would cut off her hand'." (Sahih Bukhari)
AT the height of the conquest of Persia, the Muslim general, Sa'ad ibn Waqqass carried out Caliph Umar Al-Khattab's will and sent Rustum (or Rustam), the Persian great general, a number of his companions lead by Asim ibn Amir to call him to follow Islam and Allah's path.
The conversation between them and the Persian leader lasted long. Finally they ended their talk by telling him, "Allah has chosen us to turn whom He chooses of His creatures from paganism to monotheism, from the narrowness of life to its freedom, from ruler's injustice to Islam's fairness. Whoever accepts our offer, we will leave him alone and will refrain from hurting him. Whoever fights us, we will fight him until we fulfil Allah's promise."
During our country's one month 'Merdeka' celebration (until 16th September), I heard several 'ustaz' (religious teacher) discussing the points elaborated by Asim to Rustum to define the meaning of 'merdeka' (freedom). It was regarding 'transforming' people from paganism to monotheism, from the narrowness of life to freedom and from ruler's injustice to Islam fairness.
In Islam, each of us is equal in the eyes of Allah SWT. There is no difference between a rich and a poor man. Yes, only 'takwa' (fear of Allah) differenciate people for He had said in the Qur'an: "O mankind! We have created you from a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable of you with Allah is that who has At-Taqwa. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware." - (Surah Al-Hujurat, verse 13)
I prefer to discuss the topic on fairness ('merdeka' from practicing favoritism) based on the hajj 'manasik' (rites and ceremonies performed at hajj); well our pilgrims are back and are in the best mood to perform their obligations and duties in Islam.
In the meeting with Rustum, Asim was quoted as saying: "Allah has chosen us to turn whom He chooses of His creatures from paganism to monotheism..." then hajj is about 'returning to your source - the hajj is not a journey of going (to Makkah); it is a journey of returning. The pilgrim is not going to Makkah, he is returning to his source, Allah The source of Everything. (Hajj of the Heart, Orina)
It noted that "we are from Adam (peace be upon him - a.s.), he was from 'Jannah' (heaven), and it is where we are heading, 'insya-Allah' (God willing). The hajj is a reminder of 'heading home'; it is recognizing our true origin."
The road to His paradise should be open and available to all (perhaps that's why Asim insisted that Rustum give way because he was the stumbling block of his people from accepting Islam) by saying "whoever accepts our offer, we will leave him alone and will refrain from hurting him. Whoever fights us, we will fight him until we fulfil Allah's promise."
So in my opinion 'merdeka' means that we are free to practice all our religions obligations and as Muslims we have the rights to implement all of Allah SWT commands including hudud law (because it is mention in the Qur'an) and preventing ‘mungkar’ (sins). Having reservation on any of Allah SWT’s commands is a clear violation of our oath, the ‘syahadah’, that we will submit and obey all of Allah SWT’s commands.
Some scholars even say having such an attitude will nullify our ‘syahadah’ and is sufficient to make a person ‘kafir’ (a non-believer). And Allah SWT has given us warning on this matter in Ayah 85 Surah al-Baqarah (...Believe ye in part of the Scripture and disbelive ye in part thereof?...)where Allah SWT warns us not to become like the Children of Israel who disobey some of Allah SWT’s commandments in the Taurah.
Muslims should be reminded that they would lead a meaningless and ruined life unless they are guided by the Qur’an, the world of God. But are our lives truly guided by the Qur’an; from the moment we wake up from bed in the early morning till we are in bed again at night are all our actions in acordance to the Qur’an?
Or are we good in taking what we think are good to us and ignoring what we feel bad? In that Ayah 85 of the Surah al-Baqarah Allah warns us, that to accept some part of the Qur’an and to reject some is to reject all of it. There is no room for partial acceptance in your relationship with the Qur’an; there cannot logical be.
The 'big' question is why are we practicing 'favoritisme' in implementing the words of Allah SWT. Ooo Allah, please forgive us for this; we had being cruel to ourselves. We are the 'great liars' - we are actually the great 'favoritisme practitioner', instead we are pointing our fingers at others!
Have a good look at Ayah (Ayat) 178 and 183 of Surah Al-Baqarah (Cow); why we fully accepted God’s commandments regarding fasting but we were reluctant to his laws of ‘qisas’. Ayah 183 reads; “O ye who believe! Fasing is prescribed for you, even as it was prescribed for those before you that ye may ward off (evil),” while Ayah 178 reads; “O ye who believe! Retalation is prescribed for you in the matter of the murdered; the freeman for the freeman, and the slave for the slave, and the female for the female. And for him who is forgiven somewhat by his (injured) brother, prosecution according to usage and payment unto him in kindness. This is an alleviation and a mercy from your Lord. He who transgresseth after this will have a painfull doom.” (The Meaning of the Glorious Qu’an, translation by Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall)
Unfortunately we are now leading a secular life; our country, our societies and our families were not governed by His laws. We were placing man’s made laws (whats more they were enemies of Allah SWT) in number one position; thus pushing Allah SWT’s laws aside.
All Muslims should keep in line with the teaching of the Prophet (pbuh) at all times for Allah SWT says: “Verily, Allah enjoins Al-Adl (i.e. to be consistent in performing your duties to Allah SWT, and giving (help) to kin, and forbidden Al-Fahsha (i.e. all evil deeds) and Al-Munkar (i.e. all kinds of oppression).
“He admonishes you that you may take heed. And fulfill the Covenant of Allah (SWT) when you covenanted, and break not the oaths after you have confirmed them – and indeed you have appointed Allah SWT your surety. Verily, Allah knows what you do.” (An-Nahl: 90-91)
‘Hajjis’ and ‘hajjas’ are ambassadors of good faith; they are highly respected and are look upon as examples in society. In the Holy Land, almost all pilgrims put in practice all the basic principles of Islam such as fairness and equality and avoid favoritisme.
For example when pilgrims are in the state of 'ihram' - it is a powerful reminder that wealth, power and status have no meaning in their movement in the direction of Allah The Merciful. All stand as equals in the hajj.
In the Holy Land, almost all ‘hajjis’ and ‘hajjas’ follow strictly the word of Allah The Greatest (SWT) and the Prophet (s.a.w.) in order to be rewarded ‘hajji mabrur’ (hajj that would be accepted by Allah SWT and the reward which is none other than ‘jannah’, but sadly upon returning home, some come go back to their old ways.
If during ‘hajj’, they follow word by word whatever penned down and instructed in hajj guidebooks, but in life they fail to adhere to the greatest manual given by Allah SWT to human beings, that is the Qur’an. We tend to adhere to some orders of Allah SWT but fail to practice in life His law such as ‘hudud’. We should know that our lives will remain meaningless and ruined unless they are guided by the Qur’an, the word of God.
So, what's the way out or the solution to all of our problems including the rampant practice of selectiveness where nowadays Muslims are not only being prosecuted in foreign lands by non-Muslims but also in Muslims dominated countries such as Egypt and Syria by leaders who claimed to be Muslims?
The answer is return to the words of Allah SWT and His final Prophet, Muhammad s.a.w. Surrender only to Him; only He could provide us the way out as mention in the 'talbiyah' chanted by hajj pilgrims: Labbayk, Allahumma, Labbayk, Labbayk, La Shareeka laka, Labbayk Innal-hamda wan n’mata laka wal-mulk, La shareekala – (Here I am at Your service, O Lord here I am, No partner do You have, Here I am, Truly the praise and the favour is Yours and the dominion. No partner do You have).
Remember what Asim ibn Amir had told Rustum: "Allah has chosen us to turn whom He chooses of His creatures from paganism to monotheism, from the narrowness of life to its freedom, from ruler's injustice to Islam's fairness." Well this simplifies the meaning of 'Merdeka'!