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The Human Nature and the roots of the Socio-political Order



Sheikh al Islam M. Tahir Ibn ‘Ashur


Posted May 26, 2009

Filed under: Islamic Political Thought, Maqasid Sharia'h |

Depending on their views of human nature and the place of man in the universe and in the wider context of existence, individuals and groups have developed their own understanding of values and worldview from which they formulate ideas, concepts and theories about individual and collective human life, and from which they devise and plan social and political institutions and thus implement their understanding or philosophy of life.



From the Islamic perspective or the Qur’anic view of the world. Muslims have developed a unique and unprecedented philosophy of life, basing their worldview of the understanding of the concept of al-fitra, we, the Muslims, are in a unique position to unify the nations and repel any future international conflicts that we have witnessed in the past.


Imam Ibn ‘Ashur dealt with the concept of al-fitra extensively in three of his major works, including his magnum opus on the exegesis of the Qur’an entitled tahrir wat tanwir. The term fitra refers to the natural disposition [khilqah] or the system [nizam] that God has put in every creation. Thus, man’s fitra is the inward [batin] and the outward [zahir] states in which man has been created. That is to say, that man was created to recognise God and thus implement His commandments and prohibitions, both individually and collectively.


As Imam Ibn ‘Ashur and other notable scholars have mentioned, the Shar’iah injunctions are meant to restore human nature in all aspects and free it from all that has encroached and impinged upon it. For example, marriage, cooperation for the common good and survival of the species, protection of life and lineage all flow from the spring of human nature. Building a righteous humane civilisation and pursuing useful knowledge are also a manifestation of that same nature. Thus, because Islam is closely linked to what is confirmed and fixed by human nature and agreeable to it, it has been considered as man’s fitra as if it were that nature.


The Islamic view of human nature as expressed by the notion of fitra is closely linked with another concept which is integral in understanding the place of man and his role in this universe, namely the concept of mithaq or covenant. The Qur’an emphatically testifies to a primordial event before the creation of the universe, which occupies a pivotal place in the Muslims creed [‘aqidah], that God called upon the them [human] to witness about themselves: ‘Am I not your Lord [alastu bi-rabbikum]? They all answered categorically: ‘’Yes, we do bear witness’’. This ontological covenant, points to man’s essential nature and the maqsad [purpose] of his dunyawiy [worldly] existence both as God’s servant [‘abd] and vicegerent [khalifah] on earth.


In conclusion, in the fundamental idea of the original covenant and the Islamic conception of human nature is the core of man’s role and his noble position on earth as the only creature to bear and be responsible for God’s trust or amanah, hence the expression al-Islam din al-fitrah. The only way of bearing witness and carrying out that noble and powerful responsibility [amanah] is by implementing Islam wholly and comprehensively, both individually in our private life, and collectively in our social, economical, spiritual and material life.




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