Translation & Commentary of Verses from Surah al-Rum (No. 30) [30 – 32]

[30] So set your face steadfastly to the religion, upright – Allah’s original, upon which He originated mankind.39There is no changing Allah’s creation.40 That is the Straight Religion,41 but most of the people know not.42


39. Fitrah, rooted in Fatarah has several meanings. One is to split. Another is to create, but, more specifically, to originate. Ibn `Abbas said that he did not know this meaning until he heard a Bedouin claiming watering rights to a well say, “I originated it.”

Fitrah then is the original, uncorrupted state, or, “a frame of mind that has belief in God laid deep down at its sub-conscious level.” (Au.)

Ibn Zayd and Mujahid have said that the allusion by the words “Allah’s original” (Fitrata Allah) is to Islam (the religion of submission) – a faith planted into every individual, to which Allah alluded in (7: 172):

And when Your Lord took from the loins of Adam’s children their offspring and made them testify concerning themselves, ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They replied, ‘Yes. We do testify’…” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir)

Accordingly, points out Razi, “If you ask them, who created the heavens and the earth, they will surely say, “Allah.” But this instinctual belief (Fitri) is not sufficient to win salvation.

However, points out Qurtubi, another possible meaning of ‘Fatara’ is creation. Several Qur’anic usages can be cited as examples.

Ibn Jarir and Ibn Kathir also report that `Umar (ra) happened to pass by Mu`adh ibn Jabal. He asked him, “What is the mainstay (Qiwam) of this Ummah?” He answered, “Three; and they are the means of deliverance too: Sincerity which is the Original (Fitrah) upon which Allah (swt) created the creation, Prayers, which (leads to the establishment of) the Ummah, and obedience which is the safeguarding (mechanism).” `Umar remarked, “You spoke the truth.”

40. Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, `Ikrimah, Qatadah, Sa`id b. Jubayr, IbnZayd and Ibrahim have all interpreted the textual word ‘Khalq’ as the religion of Allah (swt). [IbnJarir]

This is how Bukhari understood it. And, on the topic of Allah’s creation created on the faith of Oneness of Allah (swt), we have several reports coming down from the Prophet. One is in Nasa’i narrated by Aswad b. Surayye.`

He said: Al Aswad b. Sari’ reported, “Once I went to the Prophet and participated with him in a battle. I struck (someone) in the back. A lot of people were killed that day until even children were killed. The Prophet was informed. He remarked, ‘What’s wrong with the people that they overdo in fighting to the extent that they kill even children?’ A man said, ‘Messenger of Allah! Are they not progeny of the idolaters?’ He answered, ‘No. The best of you are progeny of the idolaters.’ Then he added, ‘Do not kill children! Do not kill children!’ He said further, ‘Every soul is born on Fitrah until its tongue begins to express for it. Thereafter its parents Christianize it, or Judaize it.’”

The Sahihayn have a report according to which the Prophet was asked about the children of the pagans, (i.e., where will they be after death?) He answered, “When Allah (swt) created them, He knew how they would act.”

Another report of Ahmad and Muslim is worth reproducing. `Iyad b. Himar al-Mujashe`i reported that Allah’s Messenger said while delivering a sermon:

“Lo! My Lord has commanded me that I should teach you that which you are ignorant of. Out of what He taught me this day (are the following): All that I have conferred upon My slaves is lawful for them. I have created My servants as those with a natural tendency (to the true religion) but it is Satans who turn them away from the right religion and make unlawful for them that which has been declared lawful. And they command them to ascribe partnership to Me, although I have not sent down any authority for that.

“Verily, Allah (swt) looked at the peoples of the world and He strongly disliked them: the Arabs of them and the non-Arabs of them, except for a few remnants from the People of the Book. And He (further) said to me: ‘I have sent you in order to put you to test and put others to test through you. And I have sent a Book to you which cannot be washed away with water, that you may recite while awake or asleep.’

“Verily, Allah (swt) commanded me to burn the Quraysh. I said: ‘My Lord, they will break my head (like the breaking) of bread.’ Allah replied: ‘You turn them out as they turned you out. You fight against them. We shall help you in this. And, you spend, you will be conferred upon. You send an army and I shall send an army five times greater than it. Fight against those who disobey you in the company of those who obey you.’”

The Prophet also said,

‘The inmates of Paradise are (of) three (kinds): One who wields authority and is just and fair; one who is truthful and has been endowed with power to do good deeds. (A second) who is merciful and kind-hearted towards his kin and (towards every) Muslim. And (a third) who does not stretch his hand in spite of having a large family to support.’

He also said,

‘The inmates of Hell are five: the weak one who lacks power to (avoid evil): the (carefree) ones who pursue (everything irrespective of the fact that it is good or evil) and who do not have any care for their family or for their wealth; the dishonest ones whose greed cannot be concealed even in minor affairs. And those who betray you morning and evening, in regard to your family and your property.’ He also made mention of the miser and the liar and those who are in the habit of abusing people and using obscene and foul language.’ (Muslim –Ibn Kathir)

The report of Muslim is also mentioned by Qurtubi in passing who has a somewhat detailed discussion on the topic of children born on Fitrah. What exactly does it mean? Are they who are born as Muslims believers in Tawhid?

He prefers the opinion of a sizable number of scholars who have thought that the allusion is to belief in Allah (swt) as the Lord God of the world. He presents his own master’s opinion: Allah (swt) creates the hearts of Adam’s progeny prepared and ready to accept the truth as He creates their sensory organs ready to hear or see.

So long as the hearts remain on their original creation, they accept the truth when it becomes evident. This is supported by the hadith which says, “At birth (infants are) just like the young of the animals when they emerge. Do you see any one of them severed of earlobes or mutilated?” That is, just like animals are born whole, but their masters mutilate them, human beings take birth on fitrah. It is their parents (the term ‘parents’ has here the wider meaning of ‘social influence’ or ‘environment’ – Asad), who turn them Christians, Jews or Magians.

Mufti Shafi` summarizes Shah Waliyullah’s exposition in Hujjatullahi al-Baligha to the effect that Allah (swt) has placed natural instinct or disposition in all His creations. He said (20: 50):“He gave everything its instinct and then guided (it).”

It is by this instinct that a bee knows how to collect nectar and convert into honey. In a similar manner, He places in every human He creates a natural disposition to belief in Him. This is the fitrah.”

Also see Yusuf Ali’s note below.

41.The textual “Qayyim” has been understood to mean “Mustaqim” i.e., straight, correct, upright, etc. – that which has no crookedness in it.” (Ibn Jarir)

42. Yusuf Ali seems to sum up the thoughts of many scholars on the topic: “As turned out from the creative hand of Allah (swt), man is innocent, pure, true, free, inclined to right and virtue, and endowed with true understanding about his own position in the Universe and about Allah’s goodness, wisdom, and power. That is his true nature, just as the nature of a lamb is to be gentle and of a horse is to be swift. But man is caught in the meshes of customs, superstitions, selfish desires, and false teaching.

“This may make him pugnacious, unclean, false, slavish, hankering after what is wrong or forbidden, and deflected from the love of his fellow-men and the pure worship of the One True God. The problem before the Prophets is to cure this crookedness, and to restore human nature to what it should be under the Will of Allah (swt).”

[31] Turning in repentance to Him, fear Him (alone). Perform the Prayer (in good spirit), and be not of the idolaters.

[32] Of those who split their religion and are sects: every group rejoicing in what they have.43


43. Allah (swt) describes those who committed Shirk as “those who split up their religion and are sects: every group rejoicing in what they have.” For, of the Mushirkin, there are kinds and classes. There are those who associate the Jinn in divinity; those who associate angels; those who associate their forefathers in divinity; those who associate their kings and rulers; those others who associate priests and religious leaders in divinity; yet others who associate stones and trees.

Then, there are those who associate stars and planets in divinity; others who associate fire; those others who associate (the phenomenon of) day and night; yet others who associate false values, personal inclinations and greed.

Thus, there are endless varieties of Shirk. And (23: 53), “Every group rejoicing in what it has” while true values are unchanging and inalterable which lead their adherents to none other than one Allah (swt), by whose command the heaven and earth remain in place, to whom belong all that is there in the heavens and the earth, and to whom have surrendered all that are therein.” (Sayyid)


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