HUMANITY AND FITRAH
Fitraor Fitrah is an Arabic word meaning ‘disposition’, ‘nature’, ‘constitution’, or ‘instinct’. The fitrah is the innate disposition in human beings that have an affinity or conception for good and the existence and oneness of God (Tawheed).
The word fitrah comes from the Arabic fundamental ‘Fa Ta Ra’, the verbal noun being fatrun. The root action means, he clove, split, slit, rent or cracked it.
Fitra is also associated with Islam and being born as a Muslim. This is when fitrah is viewed in respect to Shahadah – that there is no god but Allah (Glory be to Him) and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah (May Allah honour Him and grant Him peace)– which makes a person a Muslim.
According to Islamic religion, human beings are born with an innate inclination of Tawheed (Believing Oneness of Allah in His actions, attributes and worship), which is encapsulated in the Fitra along with compassion, intelligence, ihsan and all other attributes that embody what it is to be human. It is for this reason that those who embrace Islam are called as reverts rather thanconverts, as it is believed they are returning to a perceived pure state.
It would suffice to say that linguistic and positive religious explanations have one thing in common: both define fitrah as an inborn natural predisposition which cannot change, and which exists at birth in all human beings. What makes our religious understanding positive is that it not only acknowledges Fitrah as a natural predisposition, but also one which is inclined towards right action and submission to Allah (Glory be to Him) the One and only True God.
Islam is also called deen al-fitrah, the religion of human nature, because its laws and its teachings are in full harmony with the normal and the natural inclination of the human fitrah to believe in and submit to the Creator. Like the word al-Islam, the word deen also means, according to Lane, obedience and submission, among other meanings. Allah (Glory be to Him) states:
Here in the religious context it has a more specific signification of the natural state of being called fitrah. In fact deen also means fitrah. Fitrah is the pattern according to which Allah (Glory be to Him) has created all things.
This meaning is affirmed by Qur’an:‘Set your face to the deen in sincerity (hanifan) which is Allah's fitrah (the nature made by Allah) upon which He created mankind (fatara’n-naas). There is no changing the creation of Allah (Glory be to Him). That is the right deen but most people know not.’ Qur’an.Surah Rum 30:30
Abu Huraira (R), narrated that the Prophet Muhammad (May Allah honour Him and grant Him peace) said, "Every child is born with a true faith (i.e. to worship none but Allah (Glory be to Him) Alone) but his parents convert him to Judaism or to Christianity or to Magainism, as an animal delivers a perfect baby animal. Do you find it mutilated?" Sahih Al Bukhari Vol 2:440
Man is distinguished from the rest of the creation because he has been endowed with intellect (‘aql) and free-will (iradah). The intellect enables him to discern right from wrong. He can use these faculties to complement his fitrah and to please Allah (Glory be to Him), or to be untrue to it and displease Allah (Glory be to Him). The choice is his. The prophets and Divine revelation are external sources of guidance to guide the intellect and will of man. The Qur’an declares that the Prophet Muhammad (May Allah honour Him and grant Him peace) , may Allah (Glory be to Him), bless him and grant him peace, enjoins the right and lawful things (ma‘ruf) and forbids the wrong and unlawful things (munkar). Man is responsible for his actions and accountable to Allah (Glory be to Him), for every atom of right and wrong that he does. It is in this sense of accountability that guides man to act in accordance with the Divine will. It empowers him to struggle against the wrong-doing of his lower self (nafs) as well as the negative influences of the social circumstances. The central hadith makes plain that it is the social circumstances after the birth of the child that causes the individual to diverge from fitrah. Hence if someone follows an aberrant path it is not because of any innate wrong within his nature, but because of the emergence of the lower self or nafs after birth, and negative effects in the social circumstances.
The concept of fitrahas original goodness, does not merely connote a passive receptivity to good and right action, but an active inclination and a natural innate predisposition to know Allah (Glory be to Him), to submit to Him and to do right. This is man’s natural tendency in the absence of contrary factors. Although all children are born in a state of fitrah, the influence of the environment is decisive; parents may influence the religion of the child by making him a Christian, Jew or Magian. If there are no adverse influences, then the child will continuously manifest his fitrah as his true nature. Since many infants are born with gross physical deformities, the maiming referred to in this hadithis not meant in the physical sense; it means that all children are born spiritually pure, in a state of fitrah. The reference to animals born intact in the central hadith should be viewed as an analogy to illustrate the parallel spiritual wholeness of children at birth.
It is precisely because of man’s free-will and intellect that he is able to overcome the negative influences of the environment and attain to the highest level of psycho-spiritual development, an-nafs al-mutma’innah, ‘the self made tranquil’. At this level, his inner and outer being, his soul and body, are able to conform to the requirements of his fitrah and the dictates of the Islamic shari‘ah. He actualises his fitrah, and attains psycho-spiritual integration and inner peace.