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Our Philosophy – Ayatullah Muhammad Baqir as-Sadr

Introduction: The Social Issue


The world problem that preoccupies human thought today and touches its core reality is that of the social system. This problem can be summed up in the endeavour to give the most truthful answer to the following question: ‘Which system is good for human beings and provides them with a happy social life?’

Naturally, this problem occupies an important position, and is, with its complexity and variety of kinds of efforts for solving it, a source of danger for humankind itself. This is so because the system is an aspect of the consideration of human life and affects the innermost structure of its existence.

This problem is deeply rooted in the distant times of human history. Mankind has confronted is ever since it arose in actual social life. [Primitive] communal human [living] began exemplified in a number of individuals joined together, united by common relations and bonds. But these relations, which were formed to satisfy the requirements of instinct and nature, were, as a matter of fact, in need of guidance and organization. It is on the basis of the extent of harmony between such organization and human reality and welfare chat the stability and happiness of society depend.

This problem has driven humanity to plunge into a long struggle in the ideological and political fields, and into different kinds of conflicts, and of various intellectual doctrines (p. 12) that seek to establish and construct the social edifice, as well as to formulate its designs and to posit its principles. This is a delicate struggle full of tragedies and injustice, and overflowing with laughter and tears. Happiness and misery were linked together in it. All of this was due to the expressions of deviation and estrangement from the proper social condition that were represented in [various] social forms. Were is not for flashes of light that shone at certain moments in the history of this planet, human society would have been living in constant misery, and continuously swimming in overwhelming waves.

We do not wish at the present to discuss [all] the aspects of the human struggle in the social field. It is not our purpose in this study to write a history of human misery and environments in which for a long time humankind has experienced vacillation in fortune. Rather, we wish to accompany mankind in its present reality and in the objectives it has attained. By so doing, we know the end to which humankind’s march must lead, and the natural shore toward which the ship unavoidably pushes its way, and then, anchors at its [side]; so that it attains peace and goodness, and returns to a stable life full of justice and happiness, after a long painful struggle, and wide travels to various points, in different directions.

The Social Schools of Thought

The most important social schools of thought that pervade general human thought today, and that are ideologically or politically in conflict among each ocher, according to the relevance of their social existence to the lives of human beings are four in number. (1) the capitalistic democratic system; (2) the socialistic system; (9) the communistic system (p. 18); and (4) the Islamic system.

Two of these four systems partition the world today. The capitalistic democratic system forms the basis of government for a large region of the earth, while the communistic system prevails in another large region. Each of the two systems enjoys great political stature that protects it in its conflict with the other, and that arms it in the gigantic battle that its heroes fight to seize the leadership of the world and unify the social system in it.

Regarding the communistic and Islamic systems, they are in actuality purely ideological. However, the Islamic system was tried as one of the most magnificent and successful social systems. After that, it was crippled when the scene became bereft, or almost bereft, of principled leaders. The attempt continued at the hands of pile who neither embraced Islam nor felt the elision of its spirit and substance. Thus, it failed to stand defiant and to continue. Hence, the Islamic structure was destroyed. [With this], the Islamic system continued, [cherished] as an idea in the mind of the Islamic nation, as a doctrine in the hearts of Muslims, and as a hope seeking realization by the snuggling Muslim children.

As for the communistic system, it is an idea that has not yet been fully tried. Rather, a the present, its leaders attempt to prepare for it the (proper] social atmosphere which they failed to apply when they seized power. Then they proclaimed the socialistic system and applied it as a step coward reel communism.

Now, why concerns us about these systems? For what position must we devote our lives, and toward the shore of which poisition must we steer the ship? (p. 14)

I Capitalistic Democracy

Let us begin with the capitalistic democratic system. Thin system puts an end to a kind of injustice in economic life, to dictatorial rule in political life, and to the stagnation of the church and its ideational life. Capitalistic democracy tightened the reins of power and influence for a new group of rulers that replaced earlier ones, and adopted the same social role played by their predecessors, but used a new style.

Capitalistic democracy is based on unlimited confidence in the individual, and in the fact that the individual’s personal interests naturally ensure the interests of society in various areas. The idea of such a state is that it seeks to protect the individuals and their personal interests. Therefore, it is not permissible for it to go beyond the limits of this purpose in its activities and in the fields of its operations. The capitalistic democratic system can be summed up in the declaration of the four types of freedom: political freedom, economic freedom, ideational freedom and individual freedom.

Political freedom dictates that the words of every individual be heard, and that his evaluation of the general life of the nation be respected, [as in] laying down the nation’s plans in its legislation, [6] and in assigning the powers entrusted with its defense. This is because the social system of a nation and its ruling organization is a maser directly related to the life of every one of its individuals and has a great influence on his happiness or misery. It is, therefore, natural that every individual has the right to participate in constructing the system and government.

If the social condition is, as we have already stated, a matter of life and death and a matter of happiness and misery for the citizens to whom the laws and general systems are applied, it is then also natural not to evolve its responsibility upon an individual or a specific group (p. 15) of individuals, regardless of circumstance, as long as there is no individual above emotions and errors because of his unblemished intentions and his weighty mind.

It is necessary, therefore, to advocate complete equality of political rights among all citizens; for all citizens are equally subject to the effects of social conditions, and equally submit to the requirements of legal and executive powers. It is on the basis of this [equality] that the right to vote and the principle of a general election were established. These ensure that the ruling organization, in all its powers and members, comes from the majority of citizens.

Economic freedom relies on confidence in a free economy, and is determined to open all channels [of opportunity] and to prepare all fields. In the economic field the citizen is permitted ownership [7] of both consumption and production. This productive ownership, from which capital is formed, is available to all people equally, without limitation or restriction, and to all of them equally. Thus, every individual ]gas the full freedom to pursue any approach and to take up any path for acquiring, enlarging and multiplying his wealth in accordance with his personal interests and benefits.

Some of the defenders of this kind of economic freedom make the following claims. Firstly, the laws of political economy that are naturally concordant with general principles insure the happiness of society and the retention of its economic balance. Secondly, personal interest, which is a strong incentive and a real goal of the individual in his work and activity, is the best insurance of the general social welfare. Thirdly, the competition that takes place in the free market as a result of producers and merchants exercising their equal right to economic freedom is alone sufficient for realizing the spirit of justice and fairness in the various contracts and deals. Thus, natural economic laws almost mechanically intervene – for example, to conserve the normal price level. That is, if the price becomes higher than its normal and just limits, the demand falls, in accordance with the natural law that dictates that a rise in price affects the fall in demand, and that the fall in demand leads, in rum, (p. 16) to a lowering of the price, in order that another natural law is satisfied. The fall in demand persists in this fashion, until it brings the price down to its previous level. With this, deviation is eliminated [in the long run].

Personal interest always requires the individual to think of ways to increase and improve production, while decreasing its cost and expenses. This fulfills the interest of society, when at the same time it is also considered something proper to the individual.

Competition naturally requires the fixing of the prices of goods and the salaries of employees and service personnel justly, and free from wrongdoing and prejudice. For every salesman or producer is weary of raising the price of his goods or lowering the salaries of his employees, because others, including salesmen and producers are competing against him.

Ideational freedom dictates that people must have a life of ideological and doctrinal freedom. That is, they must be able to think in any manner that they see fit and that appeals to their intellects; and uphold whatever [views] they have arrived at as a result of their own efforts or the inspiration of their desires and inclinations, without being hampered by the government. It also dictates the freedom of expressing one’s thoughts and doctrines and of defending one’s points of view and interpretations.

Individual freedom expresses the liberation of the personal conduct of a human being from various kinds of pressures and limitations. Thus, he has control over his will and its development in accordance with his own desires, regardless of the complications and consequences that may occur as a result of his exercise of this power over his personal conduct, as long as his power does not conflict with others’ powers over their conduct. Hence, the final limit on the individual freedom of everyone is the freedom of others. Thus, unless the individual misuses this kind of freedom, he will not be harmed by living in any manner he pleases, and pursuing the various habits, traditions, slogans and rituals that he seeks to enjoy, because it is a matter of his existence, his present and his future. As long as he has this existence, he has the power to manage it as he wishes.

Religious freedom in the opinion of capitalism that calls for it is nothing but (p. 17) an expression of ideational freedom in its doctrinal form, and of the individual freedom in the practical form, that is related to slogans and conduct.

One can conclude from this exposition that a major ideological point in this system is that, as mentioned, the interests of society are embodied in the interests of individuals. Thus, the individual is the basis on which the social system must be established. The good state is that organization that can be used for the service and for the sake of the individual, and that is a strong instrument for preserving and protecting his interests.

These are the basic principles of capitalistic democracy due to which a number of revolutions have occurred, and for whose sake many people and nations struggled under leaders who, whenever they spoke of this new system and enumerated its advantages, it was [as though] they described the heavens with its paradise and its happiness, as well as the liberty, well-being, dignity and richness that it promises.

Later on, a number of amendments were added to this kind of democracy, but they did not affect its innermost substance. Rather, it continued with its most important principles and fundamentals.

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