Fitrah ( فطرة) is an Arabic word meaning nature, disposition, instinct. The root of the word is f-T-r, forming the verbal nouns fatrun, meaning to split, cleave, rend, and fatarahu, meaning “he created it”. According to Islam, all human beings are born with fitrah, as are animals and even non-animate things. Everything has a fitrah, and this fitrah is in perfect obedience to God’s will. This is why in Islamic theology all animals, plants, and earthly objects (such as mountains) are Muslim. A human being is “born Muslim”. Since the word muslim comes from the root S-L-M, meaning to submit, something that does not have the notion of free will can do nothing but submit to its inherent nature, it’s fitrah – and by logical extension, God.
What I seek to explore is the commonalities between creation stories and the nature of evil as it relates to fitrah. All creation stories begin the same way, with a human being’s movement away from fitrah and towards “human-ness”, thereby being subjected to evil and the curse of toil. This is not simply referring to creation stories of a religious nature – though they are included. However, the picture that Chris Harman paints in his creation story included at the beginning of “A People’s History of the World” is incredibly similar to man’s fall from grace in the garden. After roaming the earth for 100,000 years and living in balance with the elements, human beings settled down and began subsistence farming. What followed was the creation of capital, a sharp spike in human population growth and development, formulation of religion, global warming, and the atom bomb.
Jordan Peterson argues that evil (a purely human phenomenon) is as a result of humanity’s distance from God – rather, their exercise of “free will” – or perhaps a lack of fitrah which causes humanity’s decline. After all, who are we to say that going to the moon is worth the kind of wholesale slaughter of innocents that pushed technological advancement along? As we stand at the 21st century, as the West mainly forgets the bloody century that birthed our current situation, the crushing of communism and the enslavement of billions under a standardization of economics, politics, culture, and means of communication under globalization, a new method of standardization must be discovered to counteract this procedure.
Communism, a method attempted mainly in the last century, took the world by storm and was the pinnacle of human achievement thus far. Billions of people rallied under the banner of communism and shot themselves into space without the same brutal methods that were required of capitalism to achieve the same end. Racism, sexism, xenophobia, and classism were addressed in a serious way. Egalitarianism in many cases was little more than a slogan – yet, it was still a goal. However, communism failed to adequately challenge Capital and as a result, failed in its initial efforts less than 100 years after the creation of the Soviet Union.
Harman’s thesis is that the creation of Capital led to the major human miseries and achievements of history. Yet, the focus on economics and Capital as the source of human misery may have been short-sighted. Perhaps we should examine how our lack of fitrah, that which set us apart from the apes of the earth, has delivered us into such a position. War, poverty, famine, global warming, and the atom bomb are symptoms of a disease. Without treating the root cause of these problems, humanity will continue to suffer the symptoms.