Are Humans born as Theists?
Written by © Atabek Shukurov
Edited by Sonia Nisa
am pleased to say that my previous article regarding the two different Schools
of Islam (Quranic and Hadithi) reached my targeted audiences. Shortly, after a well-needed
break, I will release the second part of my article on "Geography of the divine
religions" if Allah the Al Mighty wills.
In this article, I will determine and discuss another difference between the Quranic and Hadithi school. I have immense hopes that this will open our minds and aid us in the route towards tolerance between the different Schools of Thought. Even though I am a follower of the Quranic School of Thought, which is addressed as "Early Hanafi", I have immense respect towards the Hadithi orientated Schools (Ja'fari, Maliki, Shaf'i, Hanbali and Latter Hanafis) and their learned Scholars. Unequivocally, all of the Scholars have immense knowledge, from whom I have been benefiting and will be so, in my future research and articles. Vice versa, I hope that the followers of the Hadithi Schools are benefiting from the Quranic School. I will ensure to present the Quranic School theology and jurisprudence in the purest possible way. In my previous article, I presented only one matter related to jurisprudence and the difference between the two Schools. However, today, I will discuss one of the most important issues concerning Theology and present the different disagreements.
Hope you enjoy it...
There is a wide spread rumour within the fundamentals of Islam, amongst the Muslims of our time and age. They believe that every single human is born as a Muslim and it is the default status. Nevertheless, any deformation that takes place in his later life is believed to be a side effect of the environment, the society, and all the other surrounding factors. To summarise the ideology it literally means, "Every single human is born as a Muslim and he is deformed as a non-Muslim because of his parents and other surrounding factors." Hence the widely term "Revert" used for when a person accepts Islam as opposed to "convert".
Personally, I believe it is a valid point, upon which we have a difference of opinion amongst the Hadithi theologians on one-side and the Quranic theologians on the other. It will be of much interest for majority of the Muslims to read and research upon this subject from both angles. I will try my best, to be un-biased, nor disrespect any of the Schools and just merely present my research and evidence. This leaves the reader to decide for himself/herself.
Nonetheless, let me summarise the question: Are we born as a Jew, a Christian or a Muslim? Is the default religion of all humans Judaism, Christianity or Islam?
Ja'fari School: Imam Ja'far Sadiq said, "The Humans are born as Muslims, Hanifs and Monotheists."
Maliki: Imam Malik bin Anas has two opinions: In one opinion, he agreed with Imam Ja'far Sadiq and in the second, he has confirmed that a Muslim is born as a Muslim, a non-Muslim is born as a non-Muslim, and everyone is born upon the condition in which he is going to live and die.
Imam Shaf'i: As of yet, I was unable to determine what Imam Shaf'i said regarding this issue. However, his chief followers have confirmed that every human is created as a Muslim (Baghawi, V 6, P 269). Some of his followers said that every human is created with the condition of being a monotheist who recognizes God (Ibn Kathir, V 6, P 313).
Hanbali: Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal supported the two opinions of Imam Malik. However, his latter position is that ''all humans are born as Muslims."
Latter (and contemporary) Hanafis: Latter and contemporary Hanafis likewise agreed with Imam Ja'far Sadiq and said: "All humans are born as Muslims, and later they may apostate to become Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians or anything else.
All of the above Schools have agreed that every human being is born as a Muslim and that our default status is Islam. Further, they have all used the term ''Fitrah.''
According to Imam Abu Hanifa and early Hanafis, humans are born with no religion what so ever. Being a member of any of the religions including Islam, Judaism and Christianity requires consciousness and awareness, which is impossible as a newborn child (boys and girls). Therefore, claiming that everyone is born following a particular religion is an illogical claim. Everyone is born like a "blank paper", concerning knowledge and religion. A newborn baby does not have the level of intellect, which would support him to contemplate upon different religions nor to choose any of them. Furthermore, the term ''Fitrah'' which is mentioned in Quran does not in form or shape mean Judaism nor Christianity nor Islam.
Proof of the Schools
As we have already understood from my previous article that the disagreement between these schools lies in the fundamentals. I mean, the reason for them to disagree is that they have different foundations for their Schools. Therefore, the Hadithi Schools adhere to the Hadiths as their main foundations, and likewise the Quranic School adheres to the Quran as their main foundation.
What is ''Fitrah''?
From the above discussion, it is evident that one of the main important aspects regarding this issue is the correct understanding of the term ''Fitrah'', which is mentioned in both, the Quran and Hadith. In this article, we are only concerned about the condition in which a human is born. That condition is called ''Fitrah.'' Therefore, I will ignore any other issues, which are not related to this condition. There is a large disagreement about its meaning, and we can review some of the opinions:
''Fitrah'' according to the Hadithi Schools
Imam Malik bin Anas. Scholars have attributed two positions to Imam Malik. One of his opinions was concerning the ''Fitrah'' which is mentioned in Quran and the second one is in the Hadith. He may have changed his opinion about this issue during his life.
- Imam Abu Walid Baji and Imam Ibn Hajar Asqallani transmitted that Imam Malik believed that ''Fitrah'' is the religion of Islam (Baji, V 7, P 231, Asqallani, V 3, P 250) and it is supported by a group of Maliki scholars (Baji, V 2, P 33). Others also accept this position such as, Abu Huraira (the junior companion), Imam Ibn Shihab Al-Zuhri, Ibn Zaid, Mujahid, Ikrimah, Hasan Basri, Qatadah, and Dhahhak. This opinion is supported by the vast majority (actually consensus) of the [Hadithi] Scholars of tafseer amongst the first three centuries of Islam. They provided evidence for their position using the hadith, which is narrated by Iyad bin Himar Al-Mushaje'i. The Prophet (PBUH) said to the people, ''Do you want me to inform you what God has told me in his Book? God has created Adam and his descendants as Muslims and he gave them the Halal wealth with no haram in it...'' (Ibn Abdulbarr, V 18, P 72, Qurtubi, V 16, P 422, Asqallani, V 3, P 248).
- The second opinion of Imam Malik bin Anas is that the ''Fitrah" means the condition upon which God has predestined each of us. For example, God has created a group of people and has destined them to be rich or poor, but on the other hand, He (God) created some people to enter into Hell and some to paradise etc... this condition here is called Fitrah. Based on this definition, Fitrah is not of one type, but each person has a different Fitrah. For instance, the Fitrah of John Smith is that he is white Irish, tall, blond, poor, intelligent, poor health, no family, going to paradise etc.. Similarly, other people have their own ''Fitrah''. Abdullah bin Mubarak also followed this opinion. This position was the initial stance of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (Ibn Abdulbarr, V 18, P 78, Qurtubi, V 16, P 423, Asqallani, V 3, P250). They have supported their position with some of the Hadiths. For example, in Sunan Tirmidhi Hazrat Aisha (RA) narrates a hadith, where the Prophet (PBUH) was invited to attend the funeral of an immature child. She said, "O Prophet (PBUH), how amazing is it that he is one of the sparrows of Paradise, for he never has committed any sin!" The Prophet (PBUH) replied, ''Do not say that because you do not know! God has created people [and sentenced them] for Paradise whilst they were still in the back spine of their fathers. Also, God has created people [and sentenced them] for the Hell whilst they were still in the back spine of their fathers'' (Qurtubi, V 16, P 424). Abu Abbas Al-Qurtubi (d 1258 AD) one of the Maliki scholars has confirmed that the opinion of this group is only the correct one concerning the ''Fitrah'' which is mentioned in Quran. However, the ''Fitrah'' which is mentioned in the Hadith collections hold a different meaning because the Quranic Fitrah does not change, whereas the Hadithi definition and meaning is variable (Abu Abbas, V 6, P 675). To bring to back to light, the various opinions of the different schools are as follows, with a few extra proofs:
Imam Shaf'i: As of yet, I was incapable of determining what Imam Shaf'i said regarding this issue. However, his chief followers have confirmed that every human is created as a Muslim (Baghawi, V 6, P 269). Some of his followers said that every human is created with the as a monotheist who recognizes God (Ibn Kathir, V 6, P 313).
Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal: He has two opinions:
- In his early position he deemed ''Fitrah'' the second opinion of Imam Malik.
- However, his last opinion was that ''Fitrah'' is the religion of Islam (Ibn Abdulbarr, V 18, P 78, Qurtubi, V 16, P 423, Asqallani, V 3, P248). It is also one of two opinions of Imam Malik as we have learnt.
Imam Jafar Sadiq: He believed that 'Fitrah' is Islam, Tawhid and recognition of God. It is also the position of the rest of the Imams of Ahl Bait (Qummi, P 349, Majlisiy, V 3, P 203).
Some other scholars said: ''Fitrah means Islam'', and the difference between the opinion of this group and the opinion of Malik, Ahmad and Ja'far Sadiq is that the first group believe that the Fitrah is changeable and deformable. However, this second group believe that Fitrah is unchangeable; therefore, they confirm that God has granted the Fitrah only to the Muslims (Qurtubi, V 16, P 424). This means that the non-Muslims were not created with the Fitrah within them. It is evident that the last two opinions belong to the scholars who do not believe that humans have a free will (Jabri-Hadithi Schools of Thought).
Imam Al-Hakim Al-Tirmidhi (d 854 AD) the Sufi Muhaddith said: Fitrah means poverty (Qurtubi, V 16, P 429). Obviously, this interpretation is according to some type of Sufi-Ishari School.
Latter and Contemporary Hanafis: The scholars of Hadithi type of Hanafi School said: ''Fitrah is the foundation of Islam such as Tawhid and similar things. Humans have been created with the foundations of Islam in their nature'' (Uthmani, V 5, P 383).
Some Scholars said that ''Fitrah'' which is mentioned in Hadith means a quality of the heart to detect the truth. It is similar to the quality of the eye to detect the colour and the ear to detect the sound etc. Similarly, that is how the heart of a human can detect the truth. This is the position of Imam Abu Abbas Al-Qurtubi (Abu Abbas, V 6, P 676).
We are aware that all of the Quranic Schools are vanished by various reasons except the Hanafi School, which was likewise deformed multiple times and lost its initial shape. Today, we are going to witness one of the scenarios of deformation of this school. Therefore, we will discuss Imam Abu Hanifa's response to the question, ''Are all humans born as a Muslim, a Jew, a Christian or even as an Atheist?
Imam Abu Hanifa said: ''God has created all humans free from disbelief (Kufr) and belief (Iman). Then he has given them his commands and prohibitions. The humans who disbelieve, they have done so by refusing and rejecting the truth but by God disowning him. The humans, who have believed in Him (God), have done so by accepting and submitting to Him but by Gods support. [There is an inserted text, which I will clarify later] God did not force anyone to believe nor disbelieve, nor has He created anyone as a believer or a disbeliever but rather, He has created him or her and given him or her the free will to choose. Each human has a free will, whether to be a believer or a disbeliever and God knows the disbeliever when he disbelieves. Then when he (the individual) starts believing, God is knowledgeable of that too, without any change occurring to his knowledge'' (Abu Hanifa, P 7).
The text is very clear, easy to understand and consistent. Imam Abu Hanifah is clearly confirming that God has created us humans, without them being Theist or Atheist and they have a free will to choose amongst the two. However, an unknown person, who inserted the narrative concept about God creating the humans before they were born, distorted this position (It is very obvious to the person who reads the whole text by contemplating its meaning). This concept is called ''Al-Methaq'' or can be translated into English as "The Primordial Covenant." (Please refer to my article, "Destiny with no free will or Al-Methaq" for a deeper understanding of this concept: https://www.maturidi.co.uk/l/destiny-with-no-free-will-or-al-methaq/ )
According to this concept, everyone has accepted God as his or her Creator and Lord. The proof for the distortion of this text is that the story of ''Al-Mithaq'' does not match and contradicts the texts before and after, both of which is confirming that humans were created free from belief and disbelief and that they choose to become one after refusing or accepting God. Another proof for the distortion is that Imam Abu Mansur is the main narrator of all the books in their authentic form. He is the scholar who has spread the theological school of Imam Abu Hanifa in Central Asia. However, he rejected the narrations regarding ''Al-Methaq'' and confirmed that it never happened (Maturidi, Bazdawi, P 218).
A question that arises is that based on the above point, what is the ''Fitrah'' according to this opinion?
''Fitrah'' according to them is nature and creation (Nasafi, Kharezmi). This means that God has created the humans in the nature of a human being, which is different to the nature of other animals. Humans have a brain, have speech, and encompass the remainder qualities, which are exclusively specific to humans. For example, only a human being can contemplate over the things, which are irrelevant to his survival (such as theological and philosophical or artistic points). Whereas the other animals can only contemplate about the animalistic needs such as survival, fighting, hunting etc...
Therefore, in the verse, God is ordering us not to deviate from the human nature, which will lead us towards the correct path because the nature which God has granted us is very unique. God orders us not to behave like the animals or animalistic characteristics, who only care about survival, hunting, eating, drinking and reproduction...etc
Some of the latter scholars of the Hadithi School of Thought have found this interpretation more reasonable. This group includes a group of Maliki scholars such as Ibn Abdulbarr Al-Andalusi (d 1071 AD), Ibn Atiyyah al-Andalusi (d 1146 AD), Imam Al-Qurtubi (d 1273 AD) and others (Ibn Abdulbarr, V 18, P 68, Andalusi, V 4, P 336, Qurtubi, V 16, P 427), even though their definition of the Fitrah is not comprehensive, as they believe: ''It is a condition in the child by which he can distinguish between the creation of God, to recognise the Lord Al-Mighty, and recognise His religious commands and believe in Him'' (ibid).
I have made this article in two parts (as I did with the previous one) because it requires a lot of deep thought to understand this issue. I will release the second half when I think is suitable inshaallah...
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