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The Meaning of Innate Nature (Fitra)
Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri
According to the Qur`an, the creation began with the divine command, 'Be!' (Qur`an 16:40; 19:35; 36:82).
Within that command is contained the entire book of Reality. From the Sufi point of view, every 'heart' contains a blueprint of truth. Most people know what happiness and unhappiness are, what contentment and discontentment are. How do they know this? How do I know that I am not content? How do I know that I am
now disturbed? My body may be completely out of balance, and yet I will still know what balance and tranquility are, and what discord and imbalance are.
There is something within the core of everyone which reveals the truth. That something does not change, for it is primal and sub-genetic. Physically, everyone appears to be different, but that which is ingrained sub-genetically in man is his innate nature, as we mentioned earlier. The word in Arabic for innate
nature is Fitra. The original blueprint of divine laws is preserved in this innate nature of man. If that blueprint is not tarnished or obscured, then it is easier for a man to recognize and acknowledge the messengers and Reality. In other words, if a person is brought up in a clean, natural and healthy environment, then his chance of discovering the truth and the way to freedom is better than that of others who are caught up within adverse environmental, racial or cultural constraints.
The Sufis always say that if you follow your 'heart', you will be all right. God also says in the Qur'an that the 'heart' never lies. How does one distinguish between guidance coming from the 'heart', and that which is coming from one's emotions, desires, fears and imagination? How does one distinguish one's original innate nature from one's imagination? The innate nature in each one of us has been tarnished to varying degrees, due to family and other influences during our early life. In order to return to our original state of innate nature, we need again the
guidance of the outer code of divine law. This is why original Islam is much more easily followed by people who have not been educated or trained to analyze, doubt and debate.
In olden times, in China, India and the Middle East, we find that there were many prophets and saints. They all reflected the primal truth, which is that we have come from one Reality and our physical existence is not a permanent reality but only a shadow which we have to learn to transcend and, by so doing, discover within us that which is timeless and permanent. The
early simple folk of tribes and villages in olden times could more easily reflect the ultimate truth behind creation. The great Sufi master, Ibn Arabi, says that the first group of people who will be submitted to the Garden of Paradise after death will be the simple folk.
Our innate nature is something with which every human being is endowed. It is like a spring of fresh, clear, cool water, or a well of sweet water. During a person's upbringing, however, and because of the intellectual clutter and culture which is gradually accumulated, the well begins to fill up with rubbish,
and the time comes when it is found that there is no more fresh water flowing, because the well of his innate nature has been filled with debris. Many of those who live in crowded modern cities or in urban, industrialized societies have to do a lot of digging and archaeological work before reaching the original
foundation and the source of the spring in the well.
These people need more discipline and hard work, such as meditation, reflection and intellectual de-brainwashing, than people who live in simple rural settings open to nature where material needs and competition are less, and whose innate nature is preserved so that part of the original blueprint of
divine laws is still readable.
The difference between the wise simple folk who still have access to their innate nature and the prophets is that the latter receive the divine teaching through revealed ways, whereas the former receive understanding through witnessing, reflection and insight. Many others also are endowed with inspiration whenever there is a crack in their veil, the veil
being nothing other than the lower self, and once it is removed, there are strange and wondrous glimpses of reality.
We have seen that Islam, the original divinely intended way of conduct which, if adhered to, leads a person towards his Creator, is not a religion that came into existence some 1,400 years ago, but rather, is the Adamic way, molded on the first creation from the beginning of humanity. With the rise of Adamic
consciousness, there arose parallel to it an inner crack, or innate knowledge or understanding, regarding how to behave in this existence so as to avoid being confused.
The way of Islam is the Adamic way of behavior. Every prophet, every man of awakening and freedom, has been in submission and is therefore a Muslim. Every thinker, philosopher and wise man has been a Muslim to varying degrees of clarity and consciousness. All human beings in fact are born in submission to natural reality and therefore in Islam. It is the society and
the parents who often then corrupt that innate Islamic state. There are people all over the world who discover Islam in themselves during some period of their lives, and not as a result of having come across the conventional religion Islam. Rather, it is an echo of something far deeper and pre-creational which is centered in the hearts of all human beings. However
the conventions, both behavioral and conceptual, which society, community and personal habit impose upon a person, veil recognition of this reality. Hence we need divine laws to guide us to lead a life which is unified and which leads to knowledge of unity.
Original Islam has existed right from the beginning of humanity and it was revealed in different degrees until the totality of it was revealed through the Prophet Muhammad in such a way that God promised to people that it would be preserved forever.
Accordingly, no one has any excuse if they try to distort or change it. The differences that exist between the various Muslim schools of law on matters of Islamic Law are minor and insignificant. However if people want to see differences, then they see great differences, and this often happens to those who do not have access to their innate nature.