Class: 5 [C] Morning
Fitrah and Human Responsibility
Man is distinguished from the rest of the creation because he has been endowed with intellect (‘aql) and free-will (irâdah). 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‘rûf) 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 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, 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. 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 Shariah. He actualizes his fitrah, and attains psycho-spiritual integration and inner peace.