Freedom is achieved when one realizes the qualities of shame and humility, and empties oneself of their opposites (shamelessness and arrogance). With these qualities come true freedom, wealth and dignity, which require manumission from the bonds of one’s whims.
People may claim to be “free”, yet cannot control themselves from gluttony in the presence of food or from illicit sexual relations when the opportunity presents itself. Such a notion of freedom is devoid of content.
Freedom has real meaning, for example, when a situation of temptation arises and one remains God-fearing, steadfast, and in control of one’s actions. This holds true even when the temptation produces flickers of desire in a person who nonetheless refrains from indulging. Imam Al-Ghazali speaks at length about the stomach and the genitals as the two “dominant ones”; if they are under control all other aspects of desire are kept in check.
It is common for people to dislike impoverishment or humility because they perceive these in qualities abjectness. Yet the Prophet ﷺ chose poverty over wealth: he did not have money in his home, and he slept on the floor upon a bed made out of leather stuffed with palm fibers: he did not have jewelry; he had two pillows in his room for guests. In much of today’s culture, living this way would be considered extreme poverty, but dignity with God comes to those who are humble before Him, who place prime value on how they are perceived by their Maker and not by how they will be judged by the ephemeral norms of people.
Hamza Yusuf, Purification of the Heart. pp 16-17.