Your foot slipped and you ended up with another sin on your deeds account. “Can’t really help it,” you say, “I’m just a sinful human being – unable to resist temptations.” But is the case really as simple as it appears? Are we really doomed to stumble from sin to sin, writing it off to the weakness and imperfection of human nature and our inclination towards the sin?
At times, even without being aware of it, many Muslims have unduly succumbed to the Christian idea of the inherent sinfulness of human nature, the history of which reaches back to the Fall of Adam (as) in Paradise. According to the Christian version of the story, Adam’s (as) disobedience stripped him of the original perfection Allah (swt) had created him with, and along with Adam (as), the whole of the human race was plunged into ruin and has since been in bondage to sin. Thus, according to this doctrine of original sin, every child is born in sin and in an impure state – inherently, unable to do good, please God or gain salvation. It is through the Christ’s obedience and his sacrifice on the cross (where he suffered and died for all the sins of the whole mankind) that Christians are restored to their original perfection. Salvation for Christians is based on faith in this sacrifice of Christ.
In contrast, for Muslims, it is inconceivable that any person should be punished for the sins committed by others. In Islam, every human being is responsible in front of Allah (swt) for his/her own deeds. Thus, salvation in Islam depends on both faith (Iman) and good conduct (Ihsan).
Christianity and Islam also differ on the notion of the inherent human nature. If Christians believe that every person is born in an impure state, then Islam advocates just the opposite. Every child is born in a state of Fitrah – natural purity and original goodness, which inclines a person towards right actions and submission to Allah (swt). Fitrah is our inherent disposition towards virtue, which endows us with the ability to differentiate between right and wrong.
Abu Hurairah (rta) has narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “Every child is born on Al-Fitrah [true faith of Islamic Monotheism (i.e., to worship none but Allah Alone)], but his parents convert him to Judaism or Christianity or Magianism, as an animal gives birth to a perfect baby animal. Do you find it mutilated?” (Bukhari)
Islam recognizes that all children, no matter if they are born to Muslim or non-Muslim parents, possess this original state of Fitrah, and if they die before attaining maturity, they go to Paradise. As the above Hadeeth states, it is the social circumstances after the birth that cause the child to diverge from Fitrah. Thus, if someone follows the wrong path, it is not because something is wrong with his/her innate nature, but because of the negative effects of social circumstances and the emergence of the person’s own Nafs (desires) after the birth.
Allah (swt) has not left us helpless in front of our Nafs. Tawbah or repentance has a very significant role in a Muslim’s life. Although we are born in a state of original goodness, all of us are subject to temptations. Allah (swt) has given us the ability and opportunity to repent our sins, which means that we are able to admit our errors and turn away from them towards Allah (swt). Awareness of the divine mercy of Allah (swt) and our own predisposition towards virtue gives us hope of salvation and increases our confidence about our own potential to do right and resist wrong. Instead of complaining about the flaws in our nature, we should stand firm on our Fitrah, resist temptations of Shaitan and turn our faces towards Allah (swt).
“So set you (O Muhammad (sa)) your face towards the religion (of pure Islamic Monotheism) Hanif (worship none but Allah Alone). Allah’s Fitrah (i.e., Allah’s Islamic Monotheism) with which He has created mankind. No change let there be in Khalq-illah (i.e., the religion of Allah – Islamic Monotheism); that is the straight religion, but most of men know not.” (Ar-Rum 30:30)