From WikiIslam, the online resource on Islam
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Under construction icon-yellow.svg

This article or section is being renovated.

Lead = 1 / 4
Structure = 1 / 4
Content = 2 / 4
Language = 1 / 4
References = 2 / 4
1 / 4
1 / 4
2 / 4
1 / 4
2 / 4

Fitrah (فطرة) is a term in Islamic theology which has many interpretations. The most popular interpretation today is that it's a natural human disposition to believe in Islam.

In the Quran

The word fitrah is usually translated as "nature" without looking at other words derived from the same root.

There are 20 words from the root فطر in the Quran and the vast majority carries the meaning of "creation", not "nature" [1]. Allah himself is called faatir (فاطر) many times (it's also a name of sura 35) and it was translated as "creator" or "originator".

The word فطرة can be found in the verse 30:30 if we read the Quran in the modern Arabic script. But in the older Uthmani script it was written as فطرت (fitrat) with the letter ت and not with the letter ة.

Uthmani script: فَأَقِمۡ وَجۡهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفٗاۚ فِطۡرَتَ ٱللَّهِ ٱلَّتِي فَطَرَ ٱلنَّاسَ عَلَيۡهَاۚ لَا تَبۡدِيلَ لِخَلۡقِ ٱللَّهِۚ ذَٰلِكَ ٱلدِّينُ ٱلۡقَيِّمُ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكۡثَرَ ٱلنَّاسِ لَا يَعۡلَمُونَ

Imla'i script: فاقم وجهك للدين حنيفا فطرة الله التي فطر الناس عليها لا تبديل لخلق الله ذلك الدين القيم ولكن اكثر الناس لا يعلمون

Sahih International: So direct your face toward the religion, inclining to truth. [Adhere to] the fitrah (فطرة or فطرت) of Allah upon which He has created (فطر) [all] people. No change should there be in the creation of Allah . That is the correct religion, but most of the people do not know.

It's worth noticing that it literally says فطرة الله ("nature of god"). So god created people upon his nature. And also notice that the word "created" is فطر (fatara) which is from the same root as fitrah, which might indicate that the word fitrah means "creation".

Quranic commandment against natual, fitrah disposition

The verse 2:216 says that fighting is prescribed by Islam, although the believers disposition is such that they hate it:

Fighting has been enjoined upon you while it is hateful to you. But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.

In the hadith

The following is one of the most frequently cited hadith regarding the fitrah:

حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدَانُ، أَخْبَرَنَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ، أَخْبَرَنَا يُونُسُ، عَنِ الزُّهْرِيِّ، قَالَ أَخْبَرَنِي أَبُو سَلَمَةَ بْنُ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ، أَنَّ أَبَا هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏"‏ مَا مِنْ مَوْلُودٍ إِلاَّ يُولَدُ عَلَى الْفِطْرَةِ، فَأَبَوَاهُ يُهَوِّدَانِهِ أَوْ يُنَصِّرَانِهِ أَوْ يُمَجِّسَانِهِ، كَمَا تُنْتَجُ الْبَهِيمَةُ بَهِيمَةً جَمْعَاءَ، هَلْ تُحِسُّونَ فِيهَا مِنْ جَدْعَاءَ ‏"‏ ثُمَّ يَقُولُ ‏{‏فِطْرَةَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا لاَ تَبْدِيلَ لِخَلْقِ اللَّهِ ذَلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ‏}

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "No child is born except on Al-Fitra (Islam) and then his parents make him Jewish, Christian or Magian, as an animal produces a perfect young animal: do you see any part of its body amputated?" Then he rec 'The religion of pure Islamic Faith (Hanifa),(i.e. to worship none but Allah), The pure Allah's Islamic nature with which He (Allah) has created mankind. Let There be no change in Allah's religion (i.e. to join none in Allah's worship). That is the straight religion; but most of men know not..." (30.30)

It's worth noticing that the translator added the word "Islam" 3 times although in the Arabic original it appears 0 times.

But there is hadith that says literally "fitrah of islam" (فطرة الإسلام). Here the translators translated the word fitrah as "true faith" and not as "nature":

Narrated Ibn Shihab:

The funeral prayer should be offered for every child even if he were the son of a prostitute as he was born with a true faith (فطرة) of Islam (i.e. to worship none but Allah Alone). If his parents are Muslims, particularly the father, even if his mother were a non-Muslim, and if he after the delivery cries (even once) before his death (i.e. born alive) then the funeral prayer must be offered. And if the child does not cry after his delivery (i.e. born dead) then his funeral prayer should not be offered, and he will be considered as a miscarriage. Abu Huraira, narrated that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Every child is born with a true faith (i.e. to worship none but Allah 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?" Then Abu Huraira recited the holy verses: 'The pure Allah's Islamic nature (true faith i.e. to worship none but Allah Alone), with which He has created human beings.' " (30.30).

In other hadith Gabriel says to Muhammad that Allah lead him to fitrah. And the fitra was chosing milk instead of wine:

Abu Huraira reported that Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) was presented two cups at Bait al-Maqdis on the night of Heavenly Journey, one containing wine and the other containing milk. He looked at both of them, and be took the one containing milk, whereupon Gabriel (peace be upon him) said:

Praise is due to Allah Who guided you to the true nature (فطرة); had you taken the one containing wine, Your Umma would have gone astray.

The previous hadiths only mentioned the word fitrah. But the most important hadith should be the one that explicitly says what fitrah is:

Abu Huraira reported:

Five are the acts quite akin to the Fitra (الفطرة خمسة), or five are the acts of Fitra: circumcision, shaving the pubes, cutting the nails, plucking the hair under the armpits and clipping the moustache.

He says literally "Fitra is five" (الفطرة خمسة). And the five things are:

  • circumcision
  • shaving the pubes
  • clipping the nails
  • plucking the hair under the armpits
  • clipping the moustache

Hadith challenging the natural, fitrah disposition

A person has to act against his fitrah (nature) by doing what he dislikes, in order to get to the Islamic paradise:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "The (Hell) Fire is surrounded by all kinds of desires and passions, while Paradise is surrounded by all kinds of disliked undesirable things."

The insufficiency of the fitrah in children

The fitrah appears in this hadith to be an insufficient source of religious guidance and control in children's lives, and must thus be supplemented with parental instruction and beating.

Narrated Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-'As:

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: Command your children to pray when they become seven years old, and beat them for it (prayer) when they become ten years old; and arrange their beds (to sleep) separately.

Religions today

It would also appear that most people in the world are not upon their natural, fitrah disposition. This is from 2010: [2]

Religion Percentage Islamic classification Indoctrination of children
Christians 31.5% kuffaar misleading from fitrah
Muslims 23.2% Believers upon the fitrah
Unaffiliated 16.3% kuffaar misleading from fitrah
Hindus 15.0% kuffaar misleading from fitrah
Buddhists 7.1% kuffaar misleading from fitrah
Folk religions 5.9% kuffaar misleading from fitrah
Other religions 0.8% kuffaar misleading from fitrah

Only 23.2% are Muslims and the remaining 76.8% are kuffar. As a result, it would appear that what a person is naturally disposed to doing is not following the teachings and doctrines of Islam. One may further wonder whether so many people would today be Muslim if their environments were more permissive towards dissent, religious diversity, and apostasy.

The two biggest religions in the world, Christianity and Islam, are also both missionary religions. This verse from the Bible encapsulates the impetus behind their position atop the leaderboard (something adherents of either faith take great pride in):

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

The Bible, Mark 16:15-16

And in the hadiths:

It is reported on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah said:

I have been commanded to fight against people so long as they do not declare that there is no god but Allah, and he who professed it was guaranteed the protection of his property and life on my behalf except for the right affairs rest with Allah.

Ancient religiosity

The idea of the fitrah and of people's "natural disposition" is also imagined to extend to humanity at large. It is in this vein that Islam conceives of itself as returning mankind to its "original religion": This notion seems to contradict the reality, however, that most ancient peoples were polytheistic:

However, in the ancient world, the concept of monotheism as we understand it today did not exist; all ancient people were polytheists. They may have elevated one god as higher than the others (henotheism) but nevertheless recognized the existence of divine multiplicity.

Denova, R. (2019, October 17). Monotheism in the Ancient World. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

"Scientific proof" of fitrah

Christian scientist Justin L. Barrett (who was accused of being biased [3]) is frequently cited as having confirmed the Islamic idea of the fitrah.

Justin L. Barrett wrote on his blog (notice that the word gods is plural):

I do not say that religion is "hardwired" or "innate" – rather that children have propensities to believe in gods because of how their minds naturally work.

He found that children tend to see agency behind events. For example, when children are asked "What caused the first flood?", many children guess "someone". But such a finding is admittedly generic and is remote from demonstrating an innate preference for the specifics of the Islamic religion. Indeed, the cover of Barrett's book, "Born Believers", features the picture of a child raising its hand to symbols of different religions with the symbol of Christianity being the closest.

See also