Islamic concept of human nature

By Tousif Raza 

Islam and Christianity, are the two religious systems with massive following, projects polarized conceptions of human nature. The attitude of Christianity and Islam towards the creation of man is diametrically opposite. Christianity believes that man is the product of sin: he is genetically tainted, he is congenitally flawed. But Islam rejects this attitude. It believes that the creation of man is positive achievement; he is created in the divine image. His birth is immaculate and untainted. He is an accomplishment, not an aberration; he is the realization of divine will, not deviation from it; he is the materialization of a purpose, not a refraction from it. This bipolarity in the two religious attitudes is reflected in the attitudes of a practitioners of these religions. The Islamic phraseology al-fitrah means nature, creation means but it is not creation of genetic sense: it reduced to its essentially human parameters. Thus it relates to the specifically human creation and excludes from its orbit other forms of creation. We are therefore primarily concerned with human nature, and not with other varieties that may stake out their claims as natural products, apparently with a matching degree of aggression and flexibility. An eminent Muslim scholar Imam Ragib Asfhani observes “Nature is the creation and origination of thing vested with apparent capacity to perform an act.”

Thus human nature is fundamentally the capacity to opt for any particular conduct, positive or negative that is vested in a person at the time of his creation.

The term ‘fitrah’ literally derives from ‘fitr’ it means ‘to open’. Quran declares:
“The heavens shall rend; thereby his promise is ever brought to fulfilment “.(73:18)

‘Fitr’ and ‘Iftar’ share the same etymological origin: they signify the act of eating and drinking at the end of the fast. The action of Iftar is a two pronged phenomenon: at one level it suggests the termination of the existing situation and the initiation of a new one. The period of time extending up to the sunset represents the existing order, the order of restraint and prohibition, while the act of Iftar represents the resumption of eating and drinking: it is in fact legally and morally permissible dissolution of prohibitory checks and controls imposed by the existing order.

More clearly it is a replacement or substitution of a previous condition by a new condition. At the second level, it is fulfillment of Allah’s will, the performance of an obligatory act as He has ordered the Muslims to conclude the fast by sundown. Therefore, the term ‘fatara’ or ‘fitrah’ flashes out a non-existing entity with the reality and corporeality of a form or a shape and is an obvious fulfilment of the divine will. That is why creation of human beings is known as ‘fitrah’.

Quran has elaborated the concept of creation of mankind at many places. For instance
“Then set your face steadily and truly to the faith: (establish) God’s handiwork according to the pattern on which He has mankind. There is no change in Allah’s creation. That is the standard religion (the right path), but among mankind do not understand “. (30:30) 
The Quranic statement is supplemented by prophetic remark reported by Aswad bin Saree (RA) “every child is born with right nature “. (Masnand Ahmad v:3 p:432) 
It is further reinforced by the words of Jabir bin Abdullah (RA):” Every child that is born confirms the true path “. (Tafseer Ibn Kabeer). It means that every child is vested with fitrat-e -saleema at the time of his birth; he is born with a potential capacity to act fairly. It is immaterial weather his birth takes place in the house of a Muslim or that of non-Muslim. What really matters is the configuration of his nature at the juncture of his birth. And this nature is potentially patterned on the right path. This is in fact the birth-right of a child, irrespective of his racial, tribal and ethnic affiliations. And there is no possibility of modification or alteration in this design because it is divinely ordained and no human being has the power to upset the divine apple- cart. Human beings possess the talent and force to damage human schemes and projects but divine purposes and intentions are beyond human scrutiny and access, affirming the utter helplessness of human beings.

Abu Hurerah (RA) has also narrated a prophetic declaration which lends further conceptual strength to the statement and clearly endorses the divine articulation:
“No child is born but follows the right nature, then his parents make him a Jew, or a Christian or a Magian, as a beast is born with all its limbs or intact (or without a defect); do you see one born maimed and mutilated? ” (Bukhari V:1 P: 185)
The holy Prophet (pbuh) repeatedly stressed the point that human nature is patterned on the right path and no human being holds the power to alter or modify the course sanctioned by Allah.

Islam has introduced the doctrine of unity and equality of mankind which imparts further credibility to the idea of positive human creation:
“O people! Don’t neglect (your duty) to your Lord, who created you from a single being. “(Quran 4:1) It finds added support to another statement ” All people are basically a single nation, so Allah raised prophets as bearers of good news and as warners”. The holy Prophet (pbuh) addressed the people on hijjat ul wida in these words” O people! Allah says: O mankind! We created you from a male and female couple and split you into tribes and nations to distinguish you from one another. Truly, in the eyes of God, the most righteous among you is the most honoured of you “. (Quran 49:13)

These Qur’anic statements and prophetic declarations clearly reveal the equal, unexceptional and indiscriminatory attitude of Islam towards human beings and their creations. In the light of statement it is absolutely baseless to suggest that some of the human beings are created with bad nature or are born with inherent criminal tendencies. Islam the religion of peace and declares the unity of human beings is essential at every aspect. Every human is same in the light of God, so Islam enhances everyone to be good because you are born with rightness.

(The author is from Tangmarg area of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district.)

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