Reflection No. 284 on Q 7:157 – A Lesson in Freedom

وَيَضَعُ عَنْهُمْ إِصْرَهُمْ وَالْأَغْلَالَ الَّتِي كَانَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ
Wa-yada‘u ‘anhum israhum wal-aghlālal-latī kānat ‘alayhim
And releases them of their burdens and the shackles that were upon them
(Suratul A‘rāf, No.7, Āyat 157)

Freedom is the right of all human beings. The Almighty guided them to His obedience and gave them the freedom to make their own choice. All Prophets came to free mankind from being slaves of anything or anyone other than God.  Imam Ali (a) says: Do not be a slave of any other, indeed Allah has made you free.

The verse above is part of a verse that describes the qualities of those whom the mercy of Allah encompasses. They follow the Prophet who, among other things, releases them from the chains and yokes of slavery and makes them free. Tafsīr-e Namūne mentions the following types of freedom:
• freedom from ignorance and heedlessness through the invitation to seek knowledge
• freedom from polytheism through the worship of One God alone
• freedom from racism and disunity through the call to equality and unity
• freedom from many negative qualities through the spreading of nobility and virtue

One of the lessons from the uprising of Imam Husayn (a) is his freedom from all but Allah’s pleasure. He would not give in to Yazīd and his threats. He did not let others persuade him to do what he knew was not right. He even was free from the fear of death. In a sermon he gave in Mina he said: Death is inscribed on Adam’s children like a necklace on a girl’s neck. My passion to be reunited with my ancestors is like that of Jacob for Joseph, and the demise I shall soon meet is better for me.

On the day of ‘Ashūrā when he was severely injured and heard the enemies attacking the tents of the ladies, he said: O followers of the family of Sufyan. If you do not have a religion or do not fear the Day of Resurrection then at least be free in your worldly life. What this sentence implies is that freedom is a crucial part of religion, in fact an important part of being human being. To give in to others despite knowing they are wrong, due to fear or greed, is a sign of lost humanity.

This verse is a reminder that religion releases us from all forms of bondage except submission to the Creator. All other shackles must be opened and the individual released for true progress in the path towards perfection. The verse ends with a great promise for those who believe in him (i.e. the Prophet), honor him, help him, and follow the light that has been sent down with him; it is they who shall prosper (Q 7:157).

Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh;