Imam an-Nawawi on the Fitrah

Abu Hurayrah narrates that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said,

مَا مِنْ مَوْلُودٍ إِلاَّ يُولَدُ عَلَى الْفِطْرَةِ فَأَبَوَاهُ يُهَوِّدَانِهِ وَيُنَصِّرَانِهِ وَيُمَجِّسَانِهِ كَمَا تُنْتَجُ الْبَهِيمَةُ بَهِيمَةً جَمْعَاءَ هَلْ تُحِسُّونَ فِيهَا مِنْ جَدْعَاءَ

“No child is born except on the Fitrah and then his parents make him Jewish, Christian or Magian. Just as an animal produces a perfect young animal: do you see any part of its body amputated?”

Then Abu Hurayrah said, “And recite if you wish:

فِطْرَ‌تَ اللَّـهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ‌ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا ۚ لَا تَبْدِيلَ لِخَلْقِ اللَّـهِ

“The fitrah of Allah upon which He has created [all] people. No change should there be in the creation of Allah.” [30:30]

[Muslim #6423]

Imam al-Nawawi writes in his explanation of Sahih Muslim about this hadith:

قوله صلى الله عليه وسلم : ( ما من مولود إلا يولد على الفطرة ، فأبواه يهودانه وينصرانه ويمجسانه كما تنتج البهيمة بهيمة جمعاء ، هل تحسون فيها من جدعاء ؟ ثم يقول أبو هريرة : اقرءوا إن شئتم : فطرة الله التي فطر الناس عليها لا تبديل لخلق الله الآية وفي رواية : ما من مولود يولد إلا وهو على الملة وفي رواية ليس من مولود يولد إلا على هذه الفطرة حتى يعبر عنه لسانه قالوا : يا رسول الله ، أفرأيت من يموت صغيرا ؟ قال : الله أعلم بما كانوا عاملين وفي رواية : إن الغلام الذي قتله الخضر طبع كافرا ، ولو عاش لأرهق أبويه طغيانا وكفرا وفي حديث عائشة : توفي صبي من الأنصار ، فقالت : طوبى له ، عصفور من عصافير الجنة ، لم يعمل السوء ، ولم يدركه . قال : أو غير ذلك يا عائشة إن الله خلق للجنة أهلا خلقهم لها وهم في أصلاب آبائهم ، وخلق للنار أهلا خلقهم لها وهم في أصلاب آبائهم . .

His statement (ﷺ), “No child is born except on the Fitrah and then his parents make him Jewish, Christian or Magian, as an animal produces a perfect young animal: do you see any part of its body amputated? Then Abu Hurayrah said, “And recite if you wish:’The fitrah of Allah upon which He has created [all] people. No change should there be in the creation of Allah.'” And in another narration, “No child is born except upon the millah“, and in another another narration, “Every child is born on this Fitrah so long as he does not express himself with his tongue” They said, “What is your opinion about him who dies in infancy?” He said, “It is Allah alone Who knows best what they would be doing”. And in another narration, “The young man whom Khadir killed was a kaafir by his very nature and had he survived he would have involved his parents in defiance and unbelief.” And in the hadith of ‘Aaishah: A child from the Ansar died, so she said, “Glad tidings for this child who is a bird from amongst the birds of Paradise for it committed no sin nor has he reached the age when one can commit sin” So he (ﷺ) said, “‘Perhaps it may be otherwise, O ‘Aaisha, because Allah created for Paradise those who are fit for it while they were yet in their father’s loins and created for Hell those who are to go to Hell. He created them for Hell while they were yet in their father’s loins.”

أجمع من يعتد به من علماء المسلمين على أن من مات من أطفال المسلمين فهو من أهل الجنة ; لأنه ليس مكلفا . وتوقف فيه بعض من لا يعتد به لحديث عائشة هذا ، وأجاب العلماء بأنه لعله نهاها عن المسارعة إلى القطع من غير أن يكون عندها دليل قاطع ، كما أنكر على سعد بن أبي وقاص في قوله : أعطه إني لأراه مؤمنا ، قال : ” أو مسلما ” الحديث . ويحتمل أنه صلى الله عليه وسلم قال هذا قبل أن يعلم أن أطفال المسلمين في الجنة ، فلما علم قال ذلك في قوله صلى الله عليه وسلم : ما من مسلم يموت له ثلاثة من الولد لم يبلغوا الحنث إلا أدخله الله الجنة بفضل رحمته إياهم وغير ذلك من الأحاديث . والله أعلم

The majority of Muslim scholars have confirmed that whoever dies from the children of the Muslims, then he is from the people of jannah, because he is not legally responsible. But some of them did not confirm that position because of the hadith of ‘Aaishah, and answer of the scholars is that perhaps he (ﷺ) wanted to prevent her from rushing to a conclusion without having had the evidence for that, just as he corrected Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqaas when he said, “Verily I see him a mu’min”, so he (ﷺ) said, “or a Muslim.” And perhaps he (ﷺ) said this before he knew that the children of Muslim are in jannah, for it is known that he (ﷺ) said, “Any Muslim who loses three children before they reach the age of maturity, will be granted Jannah by Allah, the Exalted, out of His Mercy for them” and elsewhere in other ahaadith. And Allah knows best.

 وأما أطفال المشركين ففيهم ثلاثة مذاهب . قال الأكثرون : هم في النار تبعا لآبائهم . وتوقفت طائفة فيهم . والثالث ، وهو الصحيح الذي ذهب إليه المحققون أنهم من أهل الجنة ، ويستدل له بأشياء منها حديث إبراهيم الخليل صلى الله عليه وسلم حين رآه النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم في الجنة ، وحوله أولاد الناس قالوا : يا رسول الله ، وأولاد المشركين ؟ قال : ” وأولاد المشركين ” رواه البخاري في صحيحه . ومنها قوله تعالى : وما كنا معذبين حتى نبعث رسولا ولا يتوجه على المولود التكليف ويلزمه قول الرسول حتى يبلغ ، وهذا متفق عليه . والله أعلم .

But as for the children of the mushrikoon, then there are three opinions. Most say: they are in the fire, following their fore-fathers. A group from amongst them stopped [did not answer]. And third, and this is accurate, is that they are from among the people of jannah, and from the evidences for this is the hadith of Ibrahim al-Khaleel (ﷺ) when he was seen by the Prophet (ﷺ) in jannah, and he was surrounded by children. The people said, “O Messenger of Allah, even the children of the mushrikoon? He said, “And the children of the mushrikoon.” This is narrated by al-Bukhaari in his sahih. And another evidence is the statement of Allah, “And never would we punish until we sent a messenger” [17:15] and this does not apply to the child which is not legally responsible, as according to the statement of the Messenger, until he reaches maturity, and this is agreed upon. And Allah knows best.

 وأما الفطرة المذكورة في هذه الأحاديث فقال المازري : قيل : هي ما أخذ عليه . في أصلاب آبائهم ، وأن الولادة تقع عليها حتى يحصل التغير بالأبوين . وقيل : هي ما قضي عليه من سعادة أو شقاوة يصير إليها . وقيل : هي ما هيئ له هذا كلام المازري . .

And as for the fitrah which is mentioned in these ahaadith, al-Maazari said, “It is said, ‘it is what one clings to, in the loins of their fathers, and what was is born upon until his parents alter that.’ And it is said, ‘It is was has been decreed for him of joy or sorrow which will come to him.’ And it is said, ‘it is was is prepared for him’ and this is the statement of al-Maazari.”

وقال أبو عبيد : سألت محمد بن الحسن عن هذا الحديث ، فقال : كان هذا في أول الإسلام قبل أن تنزل الفرائض ، وقبل الأمر بالجهاد . وقال أبو عبيد كأنه يعني أنه لو كان يولد على الفطرة ، ثم مات قبل أن يهوده أبواه أو ينصرانه لم يرثهما ، ولم يرثاه ، لأنه مسلم ، وهما كافران ، ولما جاز أن يسيء فلما فرضت الفرائض ، وتقررت السنن على خلاف ذلك علم أنه يولد على دينهما

And ibn ‘Ubayd said, “I asked Muhammad ibn al-Hasan about this hadith, and he said, ‘that is in the beginning of Islam before the obligatory duties were sent down, and before the command for jihaad.'” And Abu ‘Ubayd said it is as if it means that if one is born upon the fitrah, then he dies before his father makes him a Jew or a Christian, he doesn’t inherit that from them, nor do they inherit something from him, because he is a Muslim and they are Kuffaar. And when he is able to sin, then I assign the obligatory duties, and I have decided the sunan over what contradicts it that he is born upon his parents religion.

وقال ابن المبارك : يولد على ما يصير إليه من سعادة أو شقاوة فمن علم الله تعالى أنه يصير مسلما ولد على فطرة الإسلام ، ومن علم أنه يصير كافرا ولد على الكفر

And Ibn al-Mubaarak said, “born upon what is destined from him of joy or sorrow, for whoever Allah knows will become a Muslim, he is born upon the fitrah of al-Islam, and whoever He knows will become a kaafir, he is born upon kufr.

وقيل : معناه كل مولود يولد على معرفة الله تعالى والإقرار به ، فليس أحد يولد إلا وهو يقر بأن له صانعا ، وإن سماه بغير اسمه ، أو عبد معه غيره والأصح أن معناه أن كل مولود يولد متهيئا للإسلام ، فمن كان أبواه أو أحدهما مسلما استمر على الإسلام في أحكام الآخرة والدنيا ، وإن كان أبواه كافرين جرى عليه حكمهما في أحكام الدنيا ، وهذا معنى ( يهودانه وينصرانه ويمجسانه ) ، أي يحكم له بحكمهما ما في الدنيا .

And it is said, “It’s meaning is that the child is born having the awareness of Allah and affirmation of Him. So there is no one born except that he admits that Allah is his Maker, and if he called by other than His Name, or worshiped others alongside Him, then the most accurate position is the meaning that every child is born prepared for Islam, so whoever has two or at least one Muslim parents, he will remain upon Islam in the rulings of the aakhira and the dunya, but if his parents are kaafiroon then their ruling becomes his ruling in the dunya, and this is the meaning of “his parents make him Jewish, Christian or Magian” , and he is judged according to their status in the dunya.

. فإن بلغ استمر عليه حكم الكفر ودينهما ، فإن كانت سبقت له سعادة أسلم ، وإلا مات على كفره . وإن مات قبل بلوغه فهل هو من أهل الجنة أم النار أم يتوقف فيه ؟ ففيه المذاهب الثلاثة السابقة قريبا . الأصح أنه من أهل الجنة . والجواب عن حديث الله أعلم بما كانوا عاملين أنه ليس فيه تصريح بأنهم في النار ، وحقيقة لفظه : الله أعلم بما كانوا يعملون لو بلغوا ولم يبلغوا إذ التكليف لا يكون إلا بالبلوغ . وأما غلام الخضر فيجب تأويله قطعا لأن أبويه كانا مؤمنين ، فيكون هو مسلما ، فيتأول على أن معناه أن الله أعلم أنه لو بلغ لكان كافرا ، لا أنه كافر في الحال ، ولا يجري عليه في الحال أحكام الكفار . والله أعلم

And if he attains maturity remaining upon the status of kufr and his parents religion, and unless the joy of submitting was written for him, he would not die except in a state of kufr. And if he died before he reached the age of maturity, is he from the people of jannah or the hell-fire or we do not know? Of the three opinions the last one is the closest. The most accurate position is that he is from the people of jannah. And the response to the hadith “It is Allah alone Who knows best what they would be doing” is that it is not a clear statement that they are in the hell-fire. And the reality of the wording is, “Allah knows best what they would be doing if they had attained maturity, and they did not attain the status of legal responsibility, which only applies to those of mature age.” And as to the boy in the story of al-Khidr, then an explanation is certainly necessary , because his parents were mu’minoon, so he was a Muslim. So this is explained by the meaning that Allah knew best that, had he reached maturity, he would have been a kaafir, and he was not a kaafir inherently, and the condition of the status of a kaafir did not apply to him. And Allah knows best.

 وأما قوله صلى الله عليه وسلم : ( كما تنتج البهيمة بهيمة ) فهو بضم التاء الأولى ، وفتح الثانية ، ورفع البهيمة ، ونصب بهيمة . ومعناه كما تلد البهيمة بهيمة ( جمعاء ) بالمد أي مجتمعة الأعضاء سليمة من نقص ، لا توجد فيها جدعاء بالمد ، وهي مقطوعة الأذن أو غيرها من الأعضاء . ومعناه أن البهيمة تلد البهيمة كاملة الأعضاء لا نقص فيها ، وإنما يحدث فيها الجدع والنقص بعد ولادتها .

And as for his statement (ﷺ) “Just as an animal produces an animal” – meaning just as an animal gives birth to an animal “whole” with all its limbs present, free from detraction, and you will not find in it any alteration, such as a slit in the ears or other than that from its limbs. And the meaning is that the animal gives birth to a whole and complete animal with all its limbs and no parts missing therefrom, and the alterations or amputations only occur after its birth.

[Sharh al-Nawawi ‘alaa Muslim #2658]

See also: All of you are astray except whomever I guide: Explanation of Ibn Rajab
See also: The meaning of al-Ma’roof and al-Munkar: Ibn Rajab
See also: “Consult your heart”: Clarification from Ibn Rajab

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5 thoughts on “Imam an-Nawawi on the Fitrah

  1. Pingback: “All of you are astray except whomever I guide”: Explanation of Ibn Rajab | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: The meaning of al-Ma’roof and al-Munkar: Ibn Rajab | Tulayhah

  3. Pingback: “Consult your heart”: Clarification from Ibn Rajab | Tulayhah

  4. Pingback: “There is no one who does not have a Qareen from the Jinn”: Sharḥ al-Nawawi | Tulayhah

  5. Pingback: Allah created His creation in darkness: Sharh al-Mubaarakfoori | Tulayhah

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