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Books Section > Speeches, Articles and Sermons (Vol. II) by Imam Kalamazad Mohammed > Remembering our Fitrat (Nature)

Remembering our Fitrat (Nature):
by Imam Kalamazad Mohammed


Allah, Most High, created Prophet Adam (pbuh) and took a covenant from his descendants as we are told in 7:172 of the Holy Quran: And when thy Lord brought forth from the children of Adam, from their loins, their descendants, and made them bear witness about themselves: Am I not your Lord? They said: Yes; we bear witness. Lest you should say on the day of Resurrection: We were unaware of this.

However, as regards the fulfilment of this covenant, the descendants of Prophet Adam (pbuh) have been split into groups. The Holy Quran has mentioned three groups with their characteristics together with the consequences of remembering or not remembering this fitrat (innate) agreement.

The first class are the deviators of whom the Holy Quran says: Fa lamma zaghu azaghal-lahu qutlubahum [‘So when they deviated, Allah made their hearts deviate’ (61:5)]. This came about because they refused to fight in Allah’s way in ranks. Instead they rejected the prophets of Allah and even maligned them.

The Arabic word zagha means to decline; that is, to slip from the truth and to doubt it and so fall into error. And when this happened, Allah dealt with them in the same manner as they dealt with His guidance – He turned their hearts away from the acceptance of truth. Hence we are taught to pray in the Holy Quran: Rabbana la tuzigh qulubana ba’da idh hadaitana [‘Our Lord, do not let our hearts slip from the truth (or do not let us doubt it) after Thou hast given us guidance’ (3:7)].

An example of how doubt is cast into the mind from an external source and the ravages it can wreak on our faith in Islam is given to us by Dr. Basharat Ahmad in his book, Mujaddid-e ‘Azam (The Great Reformer). He identifies four methods used by Christian missionaries in their crusade with the pen against the religion of Islam:

1. They exploited the overly-elevated position given to Prophet Jesus (pbuh) by the ‘ulama of Islam. As a result of their wrong interpretation of the Holy Quran and the Hadith, they made the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) look superior to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and even unwittingly gave support to the Christian doctrine of the divinity of Prophet Jesus (pbuh). [Read: 'Muhammad & Christ' by Maulana Muhammad Ali]

2. They fabricated sayings of the Holy Prophet and also capitalised on the ‘ulama’s faulty interpretations of the allegorical verses of the Holy Quran to make some of the teachings of Islam appear ridiculous or contrary to modern science.

3. They targeted the intelligentsia and the youths of Islam by providing them with all the objections of the atheists and materialists against religion in general. As a result of the intellectual sterility of the ‘ulama, they could not provide satisfying answers to refute these objections of the atheists and so doubt about the truth of Islam gradually insinuated itself into the minds of the youths and the educated classes.

4. They published millions of pamphlets, magazines and books in which they deliberately falsified and distorted the true nature of the religion of Islam, the character of the Holy Prophet and the true teachings of the Holy Quran. They even went so far as to slander the wives of the Holy Prophet. This false propaganda still continues today.

In addition to these we can add the inducements held out to Muslims, especially the impecunious, to ease their conversion into Christianity – money, education, position, jobs, status, favour with the Government, etc.

Another powerful tool of their propaganda was to direct attention to the decadent condition of Muslims world-wide and to attribute this decay to Islam. They asserted that Islam was a barbarous religion, a spent force, a backward religion, outdated and not suited to the contingencies of modern civilisation. As a result, they succeeded in causing hundreds of thousands to deviate from Islam, to forsake it and to enter the fold of Christianity thus proving the truth of the verse quoted above (61:5).

Most times though, the temptation to deviate comes from within – from the inviter to evil within us who whispers evil to us and excites our vanity and promises immortality and a kingdom that decays not (20:20) only to deceive (7:22). He is our open enemy (36:60) and his avowed aim is to lead us astray from the guidance of our conscience and that of the messengers of Allah and to make us take religion as a sport and a play as he himself says: Certainly I will take of Thy servants an appointed portion. And certainly I will lead them astray and excite in them vain desires and bid them so that they will slit the ears of the cattle and bid them so that they will alter Allah’s creation (4:118-119).

Therefore, we are warned by Allah, Most High:

 O children of Adam, We have indeed sent down to you clothing to cover your shame, and (clothing) for beauty; and clothing that guards against evil – that is the best. This is of the messages of Allah that they may be mindful (7:26).

And we are ordered: 

And certainly We raised in every nation a messenger, saying: Serve Allah and shun the devil. Then of them was he whom Allah guided, and of them was he whose remaining in error was justly due. So travel in the land, then see what was the end of the rejecters (16:36).

To counteract the machinations of Satan, Allah, Most High, advises us to protect our fitrat: 

O you who believe, take care of your souls – he who errs cannot harm you when you are on the right way. To Allah you will all return, so He will inform you of what you did (5:105).

And keep goodly company: And keep thyself with those who call on their Lord morning and evening desiring His goodwill, and let not thine eyes pass from them, desiring the beauties of this world’s life. And follow not him whose heart We have made unmindful of Our remembrance, and he follows his low desires and his case exceeds due bounds (18:28).

In addition, constant remembrance of Allah keeps the devil at bay:

And if a false imputation from the devil afflict thee, seek refuge in Allah. Surely He is Hearing, Knowing. Those who guard against evil, when a visitation from the devil afflicts them, they become mindful, then lo! they see (7:200-201).

To help us to do so easily, Allah, Most High, has given to us the last two chapters of the Holy Quran, Al-Muwaddithan, which our Holy Prophet loved very much and which he recommended to us.

Those who comprise the second group are the ones who forget Allah. Believers are given a warning against them in the following words of the Holy Quran:

 Fa la takunu kal-ladhina nasul-laha fa ansahum anfusahum. Ula‘ika humul fasiqun [‘And be not like those who forget Allah, so He makes them forget their own selves (souls). These are the transgressors’ – (59:19)].

In his book, The Dilemma of Muslim Psychologists, Dr. Malik Badri criticises Freud’s pessimistic and anti-religious theories of human nature and leans towards some of the principles of the humanistic and existentialist psychologists of today – in particular those principles which he considers in keeping with the teachings of the Holy Quran.

In contrasting the theme of "will to meaning" (taken from Niezche’s famous statement: "He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how") of humanistic psychology, especially that of Dr. Victor Frankl, with that of existential anxiety and the encounter with nothingness, Dr. Badri touches upon the subject of the above verse (59:19), that is, the forgetting of Allah or the forgetting of our fitrat (nature). He writes:

"‘Will to meaning’ is then a basic human characteristic. Its frustration leads to existential vacuum, to an encounter with nothingness; with non-being. This manifests itself mainly in a state of boredom and ‘existential anxiety’ which may eventually lead to what Frankl calls a ‘noogenic neurosis’. This is a neurosis which emerges as a result of moral and spiritual conflict between various values, rather than a conflict between drives and instincts as psychoanalysts believe.

This concept of existential vacuum and non-being should remind Muslim psychologists of the Quranic verses which describe the dilemma of life without faith in Allah as a state of ‘spiritual non-being’ in which the atheist loses touch with his own self! God, in Islam, is the only True Reality of which man is only a reflection. Hence to forget God is to alienate one’s self from the very source of one’s being. The Quran says: And be not like those who forget God and He caused them to forget their own selves or souls (59:19).

Also, the Muslim psychologist should find himself on familiar ground when reading about the theory proposed by Frankl and other existential analysts that modern life with its material wealth may actually increase the chances of agony and existential anxiety for the modern man. Islam considers the spiritual meaning derived from submission to God as the only true meaning for man in this life. Furthermore, the Quran speaks of material wealth as a form of punishment to those who live in a ‘spiritual vacuum’.

Do not be dazzled by their wealth nor their (following in) sons. God’s plan is to punish them with these (material) things in this life before their souls perish in disbelief and denial of God (9:55).

As is expected, religion is highly placed in Frankl’s logotherapy since, as he says, it is the greatest force which gives meaning to man’s continued sufferings. Listen to what he has to say about the role of religion in concentration camps:

‘The religious interest of prisoners, as far and as soon as it developed, was the most sincere imaginable. The depth and vigour of religious belief often surprised and moved a new arrival. Most impressive in this connection were improvised prayers and services in the corner of a hut, or in the darkness of the locked cattle truck in which we were brought back from a distant work site, tired, hungry and frozen in our ragged clothing.’" (pp. 107-109.)

Still, when confronted with this verse of the Holy Quran, unbelievers seem nonplussed and in response they point to the detailed psychological, emotional, intellectual and physical profiles that are standard procedure in certain advanced countries of the West. These records indeed do exist but what they fail to realise that what they have forgotten is really the essence of their humanity (or fitrat) as is stated in the following verse of the Holy Quran: So set thy face for religion, being upright, the nature (fitrat) made by Allah in which He has created man (30:30).

What is the meaning of fitrat? According to Lanes’ Lexicon, fitrat means among other things: the nature or original disposition of a person; (fitrat comes from fatara which means to originate or to create for the first time). It also carries the significance of possessing the natural faculty of knowing God (and worshipping Him) with which He has created mankind.

Man is by nature a worshipping animal and this is his essence, his outstanding characteristic just as it is the nature of a fish to swim, or fire to burn or a bird to fly. Hence, fitrat refers to our God-given instinct of worshipping Him, of loving Him to the point of colouring ourselves with His colours, thereby rising from the lowest stage to the highest point of perfection for this is one of the meanings of the Arabic word, Rabb. And so in our most abject position we pray: Subhana Rabbiyal ‘Ala (Glory be our Lord, Most High). That is, we are beseeching our Rabb for those attributes of His that will beautify us and make us rise to surprising eminence.

But where the problem arises is when we forget Allah, this noble potential of ours is stifled and we become the lowest of the low although Allah has created us in the best make (94:4-5). It is true that we may possess great intellectual, scientific, technological and political power, but when we neglect our fitrat, our inner self is ruled by animal passions and we become like the one who clings to the earth and follows his low desires (hawa (desire) means what brings a person from a high position to a low position). His likeness, the Quran says, is like that of the dog – if thou drive him away, he lolls out his tongue, and if thou leave him alone, he lolls out his tongue (7:176); or we are reduced to the level of a creature of the earth who wounds people instead of helping them (27:82).

This point is elucidated in the following verse of the poet, Qasim Rizvi:

Admi ko mil gae, lekin insan na mile
We found men but we did not find men.

Admi refers to any descendant of Adam without regard to rank, status or nobility, whereas insan carries connotations of nobility, generosity, sympathy and love for fellow human beings, godliness with or without intellectual excellence.

In Arabic there are two words, khalq and khulq, which Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad explains thus: Khalq refers to the features which God bestows on man whereby man is distinguishable from other animals. Khulq means the inner qualities by virtue of which the essence of humanness is distinguished from the reality of animals. Thus all inner qualities which distinguish man from animals are contained in khulq with the highest manifestation of this reality being the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) of whom the Holy Quran says: Wa innaka la ‘ala khulqin ‘azim (Certainly thou hast the most sublime inner qualities (or morals) – 68:4).

In another illustration of this point Hazrat Mirza refers to a story related by the poet Sa’adi. He writes:

"Sa’adi, may God have mercy on him, has told a story in verse wherein he says that a foolish person was teaching a donkey and was working assiduously at it. A wise person asked him what he was doing and chided him for wasting time and mental energy on a useless task for the donkey was not going to change into a man. The wise man also warned him that by doing so, he, the fool, might become a donkey himself."

In other words, only man can advance morally and spiritually but this can only be done if he nurtures his fitrat. No other creature has that capacity for self-improvement.

This neglected truism has occupied the minds of philosophers, authors and poets throughout the centuries. Let us look at three examples in verse, one in Persian, two in Urdu.

Persian couplet:

Admi ra admiyat lazim ast
Ud ra gar bu, na bashad hezam ast

Humanity is an indispensable quality for a human being
If aloes wood has no sweet scent it is not aloes wood but firewood.

Mankind loses this "sweet scent" when it subscribes to this view: There is naught but our life in this world; we die and we live and we shall not be raised again (23:37). All our potential for nobility and beauty of character become stillborn and instead our base emotions gain the ascendancy. The result is destruction individually and collectively.

Urdu couplets:

Admiyat aur shai hai, ilm hai kuchh aur chiz
Kitna tuti ko parhaya, par who haiwan hi raha

Humanity is one thing and learning is quite another matter
Teach a parrot as much as you can, he will still remain a parrot. (Zang)

 

Admi ko ‘ajab Khuda ne rutbah bakhsha
Adna ke lie maqam a ‘la bakhsha

What a wonderful status has God bestowed on man,
The loftiest eminence is given to those considered the lowest. (Mir Anis)

However, when we forget Allah or we neglect our fitrat we fall from that elevated God-given position and we witness the results in imperialism, fratricidal civil wars, and nearer home, rabid fanaticism and internal schisms, hatred and bloodshed because of differences in minor points of religion. This forgetting of our essential nature is a curse that has bedevilled mankind throughout history.

Nevertheless, and mercifully so, there is a third group and to this group belong those who remember their Creator and so are always in touch with their essential being. We must bear in mind that remembrance here is not merely a mental act but a complete dyeing of one’s fitrat in the colours of Allah. The Holy Quran tells us of them: 

Those who remember Allah standing and sitting and (lying) on their sides, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: Our Lord, Thou has not created this in vain! Glory by to Thee! Save us from the chastisement of the Fire (3:190).

They love Allah and Allah loves them (5:54).

The believers are stronger in their love for Allah (2:165).

We are further given a promise:

If you remember Me, I shall remember you (2:152).

Not only that – we are also shown the way to remember our Creator: 

Remember Allah as you remember your fathers, rather a greater remembering (2:200).

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad has explained the secret of this analogy thus:

"Allah, Most High, has imposed on man two kinds of obligations – firstly, the duties we own to Allah and secondly, those that are due to His servants, and these have been explained at great length in the Holy Quran. In a certain verse, Allah commands us: Fadhkurul-Laha ka dhikrikum aba ‘akum au ashadda dhikra (2:200). In this there are two secrets: Remembrance of Allah is compared with the remembrance of one’s father. For example, even when a mother beats her child he still continues crying out lovingly to her: ‘Ma! Ma!’ Thus Allah is teaching man in this verse to create in his heart a relationship with Allah based on natural love for Him. If we develop a love like that, then obedience to the commands of Allah becomes automatic. This is the true station of divine knowledge to which man ought to aspire. That is, to develop a personal and natural love for Allah" (Malfuzat, vol. VII, p. 248).

Further, we are apprised of one of the greatest benefits that come to us when we nurture our fitrat with the remembrance of Allah: 

Those who believe and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah. Now surely in Allah’s remembrance do hearts find rest (13:28).

Again, Hazrat Mirza expounds to us the deeper meaning of this boon of Allah:

"The common meaning of this is that with the remembrance of Allah hearts find peace. But the true meaning and philosophy of this is that when man remembers Allah with complete sincerity and perfect faithfulness and every second he is sure that he is living in the Supreme Presence, then, as a result of this, an awe of the greatness and majesty of Allah is born in his heart and that fear saves him from abominable and forbidden things. He then advances in taqwa to such a degree that the angels of Allah descend upon him and give him good news and the door of ilham (inspiration) is opened to him: Those who say, Our Lord is Allah, then continue in the right way, the angels descend upon them saying: Fear not, nor be grieved, and receive good news of the Garden which you were promised. We are your friends in this world’s life and in the Hereafter, and you have therein what your souls desire and you have therein what you ask for. A welcome gift from the Forgiving, the Merciful (41:30).

At this stage, he, as it were, begins to see Allah and he becomes a witness of Allah’s most hidden secrets. Also, neither fear nor grief can descend on his heart and his tabi’at (inner nature) is always suffused with pleasure and delight. In this way, he advances to a higher station. Nay, whoever submits himself entirely to Allah and he is the doer of good (to others), he has his reward from his Lord, and there is no fear for such nor shall they grieve (2:112).

If any tinge of fear remains then Allah, Most High, through His ilham (inspiration), either creates for his benefit external causes for the removal of this pain and anxiety or He bestows upon him extraordinary powers of endurance (to withstand the affliction)" (Malfuzat, vol. VIII, p. 1).

In conclusion, two lines from Mirza Ghalib’s poetry seem to echo the words of the Holy Quran given in 91:9-10: He indeed is successful who causes it (that is, his soul or his firtat) to grow, and he indeed is disappointed who buries it.

Says Mirza Ghalib:

Ishrat-e qatrah hai darya men fana ho jana
The happiness of the drop (of water) is to join the river and be lost in it.

Khak ka rizq hai woh qatrah ke darya na huwa
That drop that fails to be come a river (or join the river) is food for the dust.

May we, therefore, strive to the utmost to make this drop of water (our soul or our fitrat) join the river of God’s limitless love and may we never let it become sustenance for the worms of the earth.


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