I sometimes come across articles with statements such as ‘it is our nature to be loved’, ‘we are born to love beautiful things’, etc.. i’ve never come across an explanation of why it is so. and how does this relate to the tabula rasa concept. thus, I want to know what is meant by ‘fitrah’.
Answer (by Man in Black):
When Allah breathes His spirit into every human being as they are developing in their mother’s womb (perhaps at about 120 days) He blesses us with a God consciousness. That God consciousness includes the knowledge of Allah as the one and only God, love for Allah, knowledge of Allah as our Creator, an understanding of our responsibilities to Allah, the true knowledge of good and evil, the right to express some small number of Allah’s infinite attributes in some small degree of their power, and a basic goodness within. This basic goodness within is our ‘fitrah’. Our fitrah, original natural state, is to be born in a state of purity. the maintenance of this state of purity is the responsibility of the individual and the Muslim Ummah. The environmental influences, both from external social forces and from internal thought processes can result in the individual deviating from that original state of purity. If we deviate from the state of purity we are allowed to return to that pure state by our own efforts and the Mercy of Allah. This is fully consistent with the concept of the ‘tabula rasa’; we are born as a blank page to be written upon by the hand of the environment – although the new concept of the environment includes an internal aspect, our ‘inner speech’ by which we communicate with ourselves and by which we are blessed with the capacity for free-will.
Perhaps more specifically this time, yes it is our fitrah, our nature, to be loved and to love beauty. As with all natural characteristics we are born with, the way we express those characteristics is largely determined by the environmental influences that write messages into our consciousness as we develop. One main purpose of Islam is to provide direction for the expression of our innate characteristics. Allah gives us this direction by proclaiming a halal (acceptable) and a haram (forbidden) for us. Islam also describes for us the right manner of society we should have so the influences of that society upon us are consistent with what He has told us is halal and haram.
In Islam the expression of any natural characteristic outside of what Allah has deemed acceptable for us is a sin. It is a sin because it is harmful to us as individuals and harmful to all human society. Allah obviously desires that we be loved and that we give love, but only within the acceptable limits. Allah most definitely encourages us to have ‘love affairs’ but only with our husband or wife. Any ‘love affair’ outside of the marriage relationship is forbidden, not because Allah wants to keep us from enjoying ourselves, but because He knows the consequences of ‘love affairs’ outside marriage will cause us great harm as individuals and cause severe damage to our children, to our family life, and to all of human society. No person can claim justification for any ‘love affair’ outside the marriage relationship, neither can they deny responsibility for their wrong actions on the alleged basis that they are only acting according to their fitrah. Allah has given us the correct knowledge of what is right and wrong, and Allah has given us the free-will to successfully choose the right over the wrong in all situations.
I think what I have said about ‘love affairs’ could be easily generalized by the reader of this message to the other matters mentioned, such as indulging in mindless entertainment and dressing in excessively fashionable clothes. In hadith and in scholarly opinion there are numerous reference to the wrongness of both of those practices. No, wrong can never be justified by blaming our fitrah. Every Muslim should try to raise their nafs to its highest level, which is to be ‘satisfied’. A satisfied nafs loves everything that Allah loves, and dislikes everything Allah has said is wrong; and importantly, the satisfied nafs feels very happy to love what Allah loves, and feels very happy to dislike everything Allah says is wrong.