In Fitra Part I we defined the Islamic concept of Original Virtue from the Arabic root fa-ta-ra. To review briefly, the word Fitra is derived from a verb which means, “to split, to cleave asunder, to knead or shape like dough.” It also connotes repetition. From the Islamic paradigm we are born with Original Virtue which includes both an instinct for right action and knowledge of God in preexistence. One of the Divine attributes of God is Al Fatir, meaning “The Originator” which is derived from the same Arabic root. So it could be implied that God is the One who splits, cleaves asunder, and kneads like dough in order to create. To understand this connection we must delve into some pivotal verses about creation itself, both creation of the Universe and creation in the womb.
Creation of the Universe
(21:30) “Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were once joined together as one unit of creation, before We clove them asunder?”
Many believe that this verse describes the Big Bang in the Quran. To take a brief tangent, physicist Georges Lemaître originally termed his theory the, “hypothesis of the primeval atom” which described all the mass of the cosmos expanding from a single point before which time and space itself could not exist. Such an event cannot accurately be described as a “bang” because sound waves require the vibration of particles. If viewed from outside, which only God could have done, the “Big Bang” would first appear as a flash of light.
The heavens and the earth were created when The Originator clove them apart from a single unit. The Fatir created the Fitra. In a very real way the imprint of this divine attribute is engraved upon the creation, just as the fingerprint of the sculptor is imprinted upon the clay. So we know that Fitra is not only a human condition, but the natural state of all creation. As the Quran tells us:
(17:44) The seven heavens and the earth, and all beings therein, declare His glory: there is not a thing but celebrates His praise; And yet you understand not how they declare His glory! Verily He is Oft-Forbear, Most Forgiving!
(2:116) To Him belong all that is in the heavens and on earth: everything renders worship to Him.
In the Islamic paradigm all of creation is viewed as coming from a common Source, and therefore all creation testifies to the oneness of the Source, and reflects the attributes of the Source. In a metaphysical sense all creation, whether animate or inanimate, worships one God.
(39:6) He makes you, in the wombs of your mothers, in stages, on after another, in three veils of darkness.
Many believe that these verses describe embryology in the Quran. In Arabic the word for “womb” is rahm, which is derived from ra-ha-mim, the same root as the Divine attrbute Al Rahim, meaning “The Merciful.” In this sense the Original Virtue of the womb, and by association the mother, is mercy. What mother does not have a natural instinct for mercy? But there’s something more amazing going on here. Remember, among the meanings of fa-ta-ra is “to create,” just as God created man from an extract of clay. Another meaning is, “to split,” just as the cells in the womb split in repetition. Yet another meaning is, “to knead or shape like dough,” just as the fetus grows and takes form inside the womb. So, just as the heavens and earth are imbued by these divine attributes, so too is the human being at every phase of embryonic development. So, we know that Fitra is the human condition even prior to the advent of consciousness. As the Quran tells us:
(32:9) Then He fashioned him in due proportion, and breathed into him something of His spirit. And He gave you the faculties of hearing and sight and feeling and understanding. Yet how seldom are you grateful!
In the Islamic paradigm, we come from the same common Source as all creation, and therefore we testify to the oneness of the Source down to our bones, and reflect the attributes of the Source during the inanimate phases of our development. But when the soul (ruh) enters the body the human being is distinguished from the rest of creation by our intellect (aql) and our freewill (iradah). With these ingredients in the cauldron the Fitra transforms from a passive potential to an active inclination toward the Divine attributes. The Original Virtue produces an impulse in the heart of every child to come to know the Originator and embody these virtues. Without the nefarious influence from the outside the child would continually manifest those attributes, but mankind is born into a crucible where Original Virtue is tested.