Fitrah


Fitrah

In Islamic philosophy, Fitrah (فطرة) is the inherent disposition towards virtue in humanity, and what endows people with the ability to differentiate between right and wrong. According to the Quran, it is the original state in which humans are created by Allah (God). [J. Esposito p.87]

Linguistic information

The noun "fitrah" is commonly translated in English dictionaries as "creation," while its plural form ("fitar") is translated as nature, innate character or instinct. It comes from the root of the verb "fatara", which describes the action of creating (among other usages). Related words include "fitrī" (natural) and "fitrīya" (innate manner resulting from natural character). [J. Cowan p.842]

Background and usage

The Quran describes the "fitrah" of the human soul by saying: "…and by the soul and He who perfected it! Then He inspired to it (the ability to understand) what is good for it and what is evil for it. Successful is he who purifies it, and failure is he who corrupts it". [ [http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/005.qmt.html#091.010 Qur'ān, Chapter 91, Verse 10] ]

Muslims believe every child is born with "fitrah", including those in non-Muslim communities, and that without external influence, these children would come to worship Allah on their own. As such, every child is born Muslim. The Islamic prophet Muhammad emphasized this in a "hadith" where he said: “Every child is born with the believing nature (al-fitra), it is his parents who make him into a Jew or a Christian.” ["Sahih Bukhari", Vol. 2 (Beirut: Dãr al-Fikr, 1401) p. 104]

"Sunan al-Fitrah"

"Fitrah" has a physical component as well as a spiritual one. The "fitrah" of the human body is its beauty and perfection as created by God. Although created perfectly by God, humans are permitted to enhance their appearance through means approved by God, such as clothes, bathing, and perfumes. These are changes to surface appearance, but not to one's essential "fitrah."

However, radical changes to one's body to suit personal taste or social fashion are condemned as unlawful changes to "fitrah." Procedures to remove or hide deformities resulting from disease or injury are seen as restoring "fitrah," rather than changing it, and are therefore allowed. [Further discussion of the medical implications of "fitrah" can be found at: http://omarkasule-03.tripod.com/id702.html]

The "sunan al-fitrah" (lit., "customs of nature") are a collection of hygienic or cosmetic practices enjoined by the Prophet [saas] as consistent with "fitrah:"

'A'isha reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Ten are the acts according to fitra: clipping the moustache, letting the beard grow, using the tooth-stick, snuffing water in the nose, cutting the nails, washing the finger joints, plucking the hair under the armpits, shaving the pubes and cleaning one's private parts with water. The narrator said: I have forgotten the tenth, but it may have been rinsing the mouth.("Sahih Muslim", II.502) [USC "Compendium of Islamic Texts," retr. 11 Oct. 2008: http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/fundamentals/hadithsunnah/muslim/002.smt.html#002.0502]

Certain other practices, "e. g." tattooing, plucking the eyebrows, wearing wigs or hairpieces, or filing down the teeth, were specifically discouraged or forbidden by the Prophet [saas] as contrary to "fitrah."

Notes

References


*J.M. Cowan (1994), "The Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic"
*John Esposito (2003), "The Oxford Dictionary of Islam"
*M. Masud (1996), "Islamic Legal Interpretation: Muftis and Their Fatwas"
*Imam Ali, "Nahjul Balagha: Sermons, Letters & Sayings of Imam Ali"
*Al-Kulayni, "al-Usul mina ‘l-Kãfi", vol. 2, p. 13; al-Bukhãri, Sahih, vol. 2 (Beirut: Dãr al-Fikr, 1401) p. 104

External links

* [http://www.islamworld.net/fitrah.html Maintaining the Characteristics of the Fitrah]
* [http://omarkasule-03.tripod.com/id702.html Islamic medical lecture on "fitrah"] (includes discussion of cosmetic & reconstructive surgery)
* [http://islamicteachings.org/forum/sunan-al-fitra-and-rules-for-cleanliness-in-islam-p1024.html Sunan Al-Fitra and Rules for Cleanliness in Islam]


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