The Human "Fitrah" 1

Reli­gio Nat­u­ralis of Man : The Human Fitrah”

The Def­i­n­i­tion of Fitrah

Mus­lims believe that God gave mankind an inborn nat­ur­al pre­dis­po­si­tion which can­not change and which exists at birth in all human beings, the reli­gio nat­u­ralis. This is called in Ara­bic as fitrah” (instinct). This fitrah” is the small voice inside each one of us which tells us this does not feel right.” When we pick up a gun for the first time in order to kill some­one, we have to fight might­i­ly in order to over­come our fitrah which tells us that killing is wrong. In a sim­i­lar man­ner, all mankind is born auto­mat­i­cal­ly know­ing that God is one.” As I recall, an athe­ist once said to me that God made me an athe­ist”. This is actu­al­ly not true. This fitrah pre­vents them ini­tial­ly from dis­be­liev­ing the exis­tence of God. They must real­ly fight them­selves for a long time and be con­tin­u­al­ly per­suad­ed by those who are around them to believe oth­er­wise. This is how they end up wor­ship­ping fire, stones, stat­ues, mul­ti­ple gods, and oth­er things. It is forced upon them in spite of their fitrah as they grow up.

This is affirmed by Qur’an 30:30 when we read that :

So set thy pur­pose (O Muham­mad) for reli­gion (deen) as a man by nature upright the nature (framed) of Allah in which He hath cre­at­ed man (fitrah). There is no alter­ing (the laws of) Allah’s cre­ation. That is the right deen, but most men know not.” 

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, obe­di­ence and sub­mis­sion, among oth­er meanings. 

Allah states that :

Who is bet­ter in obe­di­ence (in deen) than he who sur­ren­dereth his pur­pose to Allah while doing good (to men) and fol­loweth the tra­di­tion of Abra­ham, the upright ? Allah (Him­self) chose Abra­ham for friend.” (Qur’an 4:125)

There is no com­pul­sion in reli­gion (deen). The right direc­tion is hence­forth dis­tinct from error.” (Qur’an 2:256)

[bctt tweet=“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.”]

Ad-deen implies reli­gion in the widest sense of the word, embrac­ing both the prac­ti­cal aspects of the acts of wor­ship and ordi­nary trans­ac­tions of life, and the teach­ings of reli­gion ; and it is a name for that where­by one serves Allah.

    Lo ! reli­gion (deen) with Allah (is) The Sur­ren­derThe lin­guis­tic mean­ing of Islam in Ara­bic is sur­ren­der” (to His will and guid­ance).” (Qur’an 3:19)

Par­tic­u­lar­ly it means the reli­gion of al-Islam. The syn­onyms of ad-deen are ash-shari­ah (the law), tawheed (One­ness of Allah and wara’ (cau­tion). Ad-deen also comes from the verb dana, mean­ing he had indebt­ed”. This is sig­nif­i­cant, accord­ing to al-Attas, because man is indebt­ed to Allah for his exis­tence and sus­te­nance. The believ­er will realise that his spir­it acknowl­edged Allah in pre-exis­tence, and that the debt that he must return is his self, and this can be done by ser­vice and sub­mis­sion to Allah. This return implies a return to man’s inher­ent spir­i­tu­al nature, to his fitrah. The one who sub­mits to Allah is called abd (a slave) of Allah and his ser­vice is called ibadah (slave­hood or con­scious sub­mis­sion to the will of God). By wor­ship­ping Allah in such a man­ner, man in ful­fill­ing the pur­pose of his cre­ation and existence.

I cre­at­ed the jinn and humankind only that they might wor­ship Me.“1

Fitrah and Human Responsibility

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 or to be untrue to it and dis­please Allah 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, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, enjoins the right and law­ful things (ma’aruf and for­bids the wrong and unlaw­ful things (munkar). Man is respon­si­ble for his actions and account­able to Allah 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 (quot­ed below) 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 fitrah as orig­i­nal good­ness and the most basic of human con­cience, in my view, does not mere­ly con­note a pas­sive recep­tiv­i­ty to good and right action, but an active incli­na­tion and a nat­ur­al innate pre­dis­po­si­tion to know Allah to sub­mit to Him and to do right. This is man’s nat­ur­al ten­den­cy in the absence of con­trary factors.

In a hadith2, the Prophet(P) is report­ed to have said :

    Every new-born child is born in a state of fitrah. Then his par­ents make him a Jew, a Chris­t­ian or a Magian, just as an ani­mal is born intact. Do you observe any among them that are maimed (at birth)?”

In the con­text of the hadith, accord­ing to Abu Haytham, fitrah means to be born either pros­per­ous or unpros­per­ous (in rela­tion to the soul):

And if his par­ents are Jews, they make him a Jew, with respect to his world­ly sit­u­a­tion ; [i.e. with respect to inher­i­tance, etc.] and if Chris­tians, they make him a Chris­t­ian, with respect to that sit­u­a­tion ; and if Magians, they make him a Magian, with respect to that sit­u­a­tion ; his sit­u­a­tion is the same as that of his par­ents until his tongue speaks for him ; but if he dies before his attain­ing to the age when sex­u­al matu­ri­ty begins to show itself, he dies in a state of con­for­mi­ty to his pre­ced­ing nat­ur­al con­sti­tu­tion, with which he was cre­at­ed in his moth­er’s womb.3

The sit­u­a­tion is clear. 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 hadith is 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 shar­i’ah. He actu­alis­es his fitrah, and attains psy­cho-spir­i­tu­al inte­gra­tion and inner peace.

And only God knows best.Endmark

Cite this arti­cle as : Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi, Reli­gio Nat­u­ralis of Man : The Human Fitrah”,” in Bis­mi­ka Allahu­ma, Sep­tem­ber 14, 2005, last accessed Decem­ber 11, 2023, https://​bis​mikaal​lahu​ma​.org/​i​s​l​a​m​/​t​h​e​-​h​u​m​a​n​-​f​i​t​r​ah/
  1. Qur’an 51:56[]
  2. Sahih Mus­lim, Book 033, no. 6426[]
  3. Ibn Man­thur, Lisan al-Arab[]






One response to “Reli­gio Nat­u­ralis of Man : The Human Fitrah””

  1. Nabeel Avatar

    A very infor­ma­tive paper thank you.
    Could you please elab­o­rate on what the Quran and Sun­nah says about cir­cum­ci­sion in com­par­i­son to the nat­ur­al fitra of man.

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