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Feb 14, 2023

Do What Thou Wilt?

Do What Thou Wilt?

A discussion between two scholars—Mohammad Fadel and Hasan Spiker—on an understanding of freedom that permits us to direct our selves and our societies toward the common good.

Freedom conveys differing notes of meaning depending on its context and usage. In our politics, we are inspired by movements dedicated to freedom, sometimes freedom from the shackles of authoritarian regimes, but most often in liberal societies, the freedom to live and act, within reason, guided by our conscience.

But when we sit in our mosques, churches, synagogues, and temples, we're often reminded about the necessity of self-discipline, of constraining the freedom of our lower selves and about how unchecked freedoms—sexual, economic, and personal—can easily devolve into licentiousness, to the “Do What Thou Wilt” code of the occultist Aleister Crowley, and thereby presage our deterioration and downfall.

What’s needed, it’s evident, is a stable understanding of freedom, one that permits us to direct our selves and our societies toward the common good.


Mohammad Fadel is a professor of law at the University of Toronto, and the former Canada Research Chair for the Law and Economics of Islamic Law. His research areas include business corporations, economic analysis of law, Islamic law, and political philosophy and theory. He has published numerous articles in Islamic legal history and Islam and liberalism and has also edited and translated the recently published Royal Moroccan Edition of the Muwatta of Imam Malik, the first written treatise of Islamic law. He received his PhD from the University of Chicago and his JD from the University of Virginia School of Law. Read his Renovatio articles here.

Hasan Spiker, a philosopher and comparative scholar of Islamic, Greek, and modern thought, is a lecturer in philosophy and logic at Zaytuna College. He has studied the works of Plotinus, Dionysius the Areopagite, Kant, and Hegel at the University of Cambridge, where he received his MPhil in philosophy and is carrying out his doctoral research. He also studied the Islamic sciences, focusing on the school of Ibn ʿArabī and late kalām theology, in the Middle East for several years. His new book Hierarchy and Freedom: An examination of some classical metaphysical and post-Enlightenment accounts of human autonomy will be released shortly.


Paul Williams, who studied philosophy and theology at the University of London, is the creator of Blogging Theology, a popular YouTube channel which introduces academic and scholarly content to the subject matter of comparative religion, especially concerning the Abrahamic faiths. His guests include leading scholars in biblical studies, Islamic/Christian theology, and the philosophy of science from the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Yale, Princeton, and Zaytuna College, amongst many others.