Aspects Of Islamic Faith - 80: Are We Born With Religion?
Islamic Perspectives - Muslim Journals
Arab News & Information - By Adil Salahi
Sometimes people wonder whether religion is inherited.
Could it be genetic? Is there something in man's
make-up that sways him to be religious, or to reject
religion? If so, is he influenced by his parents'
religion? What about the children of interfaith
marriages? The ready answer offered on the basis of
both science and reason is that belief in a religion
is not genetic.
It is something that we choose for ourselves,
influenced by various factors, no doubt, but there is
nothing in our make-up to make us lean toward a
particular religion. When we are born, we have no
knowledge of anything, whether religious or temporal.
God says in the Qur'an: "God has brought you forth
from your mothers' wombs devoid of all knowledge, but
He has given you hearing, and sight, and minds." (16:
78) Our knowledge is acquired, not inherent. Yet we
have the faculties of perception which will indeed
influence how we react to what we acquire of
This is indeed confirmed by the Prophet in the
following hadith quoted by Abu Hurayrah: "Every
newborn is born with sound nature. It is his parents
who bring him up as a Christian, a Jew or a
Zoroastrian. It is just like an animal is born whole:
you do not see any of them born with a cut ear." As he
reported this Hadith, Abu Hurayrah quoted the Qur'anic
verse that says: "(It is) the natural disposition
which God has installed into man. Nothing can change
God's creation. Such is the ever-true faith." (30: 30)
The Hadith stresses the fact that we are all born with
the same clear image of religion. It does not matter
what religion our families follow, we have the same
blank sheet at birth. We are just like clear and pure
water which has no taste, smell or color. When you add
salt, sugar or lemon juice to water, you make it
salty, sweet or sour. You can color it with whatever
dye you put in it. The Prophet gives the analogy of
cattle and how they are born complete: none is born
with a cut ear or nose. It is people who print their
marks on cattle, or cut their ears or noses to mark
them for identification.
The Prophet says that it is a child's parents that
make him a Jew, a Christian or a Zoroastrian. It is
how they bring him up. Thus, it is the family and
social environment that influence a child's identity,
giving him his religion.
When a child grows up in a religious environment, he
will follow the religion he is brought up in.
Likewise, if he is brought up in an atheist or
agnostic environment, he will not care about religion.
If we imagine someone growing up without any
environmental influence whatsoever in as far as
religion is concerned, he will retain his clear
nature. As such, he tends to believe that the universe
is created by a Supreme Being, and that Supreme Being
is one and has no partners. This is the religion of
clear human nature. This is the natural disposition
God has installed in man.
The more contemplation in the universe around us we
do, the stronger is our belief that everything in it
is controlled by its Creator, the Supreme Being we
call God in English, Allah in Arabic, and by other
names in other languages.