By Ferdousy Akhter Tani
Do you ever get that guilty feeling after you do something wrong, like you become shy to look up and think of God? Or do you ever in spite of yourself, completely involuntarily, seek Him? That’s fitrah!
Fitrah is the natural inclination to believe in one God. It is said that if a child were left alone to himself, he would grow up believing in one God. (Philips, 2005)
It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that he used to say the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “There is no child who is not born in a state of Fitrah, then his parents make him a Jew or a Christian or a Magian, just as animals bring forth animals with their limbs intact, do you see any deformed one among them?” Then Abu Hurairah said: “Recite, if you wish: Allah’s Fitrah with which He has created mankind. No change let there be in Khalqillah.” (Sahih Muslim, Vol. 7, Book of Qadr, Ch. 6, Hadith 6755)
This natural disposition to believe in one God has been imprinted into all human beings because of the covenant Allah took from all of mankind.
Allah says in the Qur’an:
And [mention] when your Lord took from the children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants and made them testify of themselves, [saying to them], “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Yes, we have testified.” [This] – lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, “Indeed, we were of this unaware.”
Or [lest] you say, “It was only that our fathers associated [others in worship] with Allah before, and we were but descendants after them. Then would You destroy us for what the falsifiers have done?” [7:172-173]
So all children are upon the fitrah, and it is in many cases their parents who raise them opposing it and make them follow their own customs instead, by providing them a non- ‘fitrah-friendly’ environment to grow up in.
Neuroscience research supports the idea that the brain is primed to ‘believe’, says Jordan Grafman, PhD, director of the cognitive neuroscience section at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (Azar, 2010)
Professor Andrew Clark, from the Paris School of Economics, and co-author Dr Orsolya Lelkes, from the European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research are of the view that religion in general, might act as a “buffer” that protects people from life’s disappointments. Professor Leslie Francis, from the University of Warwick believes that the benefit might involve the increased “purpose of life” experienced by many believers that may not be as strongly felt among non-believers. (Sato, 2009)
Believing in God has several psychological benefits:
- It helps one seek assurance from a “higher power” during different crises of life
- It helps to cope with adversity when times are difficult
- It works as a barrier to harming others and oneself because of the accountability towards God, which in turn prevents a person from getting into trouble
- It bolsters one’s confidence to face challenges in life by seeking help from God
- It makes a person aware that his actions have consequences
- It aids in coping with anxiety and fear that faced in one’s life
- It makes a person motive-driven, as he knows that life has a purpose
Fitrah is a true gift from God, as it keeps a person in check, increases his self-control, and makes him conscious of his actions. It is like a fire alarm that goes off whenever the smoke of misdeeds reaches us, and our heart buzzes with what we called ‘guilt’. It is the belief that we are constantly under supervision, all day every day, and nothing escapes Him, the One who sees and hears everything.
It is because of fitrah we stop ourselves from straying off the path in our journey to success even when things are difficult, or seem impossible. People with a religious mindset tend to deal with the loss of loved ones, of wealth, or of job much better than people with no religious beliefs – as they understand that there is a reason for the loss, and if dealt with patiently, it will only lead to a greater good.
Fitrah also pushes us towards goodness. A person believing in one God and believing in the purpose of life, which is to worship Him alone, will strive to please Him. So believers tend to contribute more to the society, help people in distress and support others in times of need – all for His sake. This results in a positive effect on the overall society.
On the other hand, a person who has wandered off from his fitrah, has lost the anchor to goodness. He is like a person who has been plunged into total darkness without any direction. This person may walk towards mischief that harms not only him but the society as a whole. He may not care to check his speed limit when the police or any surveillance camera is not around. He may not care to hand over the cash he picked up off the street to the lady who dropped it if no one is watching. He may live a life not caring to contribute to the society if there isn’t anything in it for him. He may simply live life – just for himself.
Fitrah acts as a lighthouse which keeps us from getting lost. It protects us from self-destruction. One who can hold onto their fitrah amidst all struggles is the one who is protected. And in essence, nurturing the fitrah is what contributes to the physical and mental well-being of a person and protects him from harm’s way.
(n.d.). Retrieved August 24, 2017, from https://www.pinterest.com/taniaelizabeth/newborn-props-inspiration/
Azar, B. (2010, December). A Reason to Believe. Retrieved August 24, 2017, from American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2010/12/believe.aspx
Cook, H. K. (2016, June 18). Renunite In Fitrah And Forgiveness, Making Peace. Retrieved August 24, 2017, from http://childhoodspeech.com/2016/06/meeting-ramadhan-fitrah-forgiveness/
Gloss, T. (2009). Faith in a Higher Power: The Study of Religion in Psychology. Retrieved August 24, 2017, from Association For Psychological Science: https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/faith-in-a-higher-power-the-study-of-religion-in-psychology
Merwe, K. v., Eeden, C. v., & Deventer, H. J. (2010). A Psychological Perspective on God-belief as a Source of Well-being and Meaning. Retrieved August 24, 2017, from AOSIS Publishing: http://www.hts.org.za/index.php/HTS/article/view/332/764#20
Philips, B. (2005). The Fundamentals of Tawheed. International Islamic Publication House.
Sato, R. (2009, August 23). Does Belief in a “Higher Power” Make People Happier? A Galaxy Classic. Retrieved August 24, 2017, from Daily Galaxy.com: http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2009/08/does-religion-make-people-happier-scientists-search-to-explain-why-people-believe-in-a-god.html