There are several verses in the Quran which prove that the knowledge of God and inclination toward the Divine are part of natural tendencies of mankind. Two verses are often cited in this regard. We shall discuss them now.
فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفًا ۚ فِطْرَتَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا ۚ لَا تَبْدِيلَ لِخَلْقِ اللَّهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
So set thy face to the religion, a man of pure faith‑God’s nature upon which He originated mankind. There is no changing God’s creation. That is the right religion, but most men know it not. (30:30)
Now, we shall see what this `religion’ is, turning towards which is regarded as a natural human inclination. `Religion’ may be interpreted in one of the two following ways:
a) Agreement and harmony of human nature with the principal and basic tenets of religion. Religious instructions such as the command to eat pure and good things and to abstain from impure and corrupt things, to be kind and benevolent to others, especially one’s father, mother and other relatives, to lead a wholesome married life, to act with justice, to refrain from tyranny and repression, to refrain from taking into possession any property belonging to orphans, to refrain from doing harm to anybody, especially the weak, to be humble before the creator and to worship Him, to refrain from jealousy, malice and hypocrisy, and to cultivate a purity of heart and sincerity of mind‑all these things, specially the worship of God, are among the most important tenets of religion that are in complete conformity and harmony with our nature. We are constantly attracted towards its doctrines and teachings consciously or unconsciously, even though it may appear that we do not show any considerable interest in them.
b) The state of absolute obedience and submission before God is named by the Quran as ‘Islam’ and one committed to it is called a `muslim’. Ibrahim (‘a) is reported to have said:
رَبَّنَا وَاجْعَلْنَا مُسْلِمَيْنِ لَكَ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِنَا أُمَّةً مُّسْلِمَةً لَّكَ وَأَرِنَا مَنَاسِكَنَا وَتُبْ عَلَيْنَا إِنَّكَ أَنتَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ
Our Lord, make us submissive to Thee, and of our seed a nation submissive to Thee ….(2:128)
Ya’qub (‘a) is quoted as addressing his sons:
وَوَصَّى بِهَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ بَنِيهِ وَيَعْقُوبُ يَا بَنِيَّ إِنَّ اللَّهَ اصْطَفَى لَكُمُ الدِّينَ فَلاَ تَمُوتُنَّ إِلاَّ وَأَنتُم مُّسْلِمُونَ
….God has chosen for you the religion; see that you die not save in [a state of] surrender [to Him].(2:132)
Even the most implacable Pharaoh, as he is engulfed by waves in the sea, says:
وَجَاوَزْنَا بِبَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ الْبَحْرَ فَأَتْبَعَهُمْ فِرْعَوْنُ وَجُنُودُهُ بَغْيًا وَعَدْوًا حَتَّى إِذَا أَدْرَكَهُ الْغَرَقُ قَالَ آمَنتُ أَنَّهُ لا إِلَهَ إِلاَّ الَّذِي آمَنَتْ بِهِ بَنُو إِسْرَائِيلَ وَأَنَاْ مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ
….I believe that there is no god but He in whom the Children of Israel believe; I am of those that surrender [to Him]. (10:90)
There are many instances like these in the Quran, and everywhere it means the same state of absolute submission, veneration, and humbleness before God Almighty. The religion of Islam (lit. submission) has its name because it stands for absolute submission and resignation towards God’s command and will‑something which has been a characteristic of all the prophets of God from the first to the last.
This call for submission to Divine will has underlain all prophetic missions, although it has received its most articulate and pronounced form in the religion brought by Prophet Muhammad (S).
If we consider the two above‑mentioned interpretations of the term `religion’, there are two meanings which can be attributed to the statement that `religion’ constitutes a natural tendency ingrained in the nature of every human being. It may mean that inclination to worship the Almighty and to obey His commands is ingrained in the human nature.
It may also mean that the human being, by nature, has a prior knowledge of God. Now, the question arises whether, in addition to the above‑mentioned tendencies, the knowledge of God is, also, a natural attribute? Our answer to this question is in the affirmative; because the existence of every kind of tendency implies some kind of awareness of the object of attraction.
Attraction can take place between two objects devoid of consciousness‑such as between a magnet and a piece of iron‑or between a conscious being and something which may be either a being endowed with consciousness and awareness or something devoid of it. In the second condition, it is not possible that the attraction should occur without some kind of awareness and knowledge about the source of attraction.
So, on this basis, when we accept that affinity to God is natural to man, we must also admit that the knowledge of God, which it necessitates by the presence of that affinity should. also be natural. Because it is not acceptable that an inclination towards something should be natural, while its knowledge and awareness, which is its necessary counterpart, should be unnatural and an acquired one.
Thus, it is evident that natural `theophilia’ in man requires and necessitates instinctive `theology’ as well, and both are ingrained in human nature. It should be remembered that this kind of `knowledge’ is distinct from knowledge in its usual sense and must not be confused with it; because it is something similar to animal instinct which fulfils its function without any prior training or learning.
Adapted from: “Three Topics in Theological Philosophy” by: “Dr. Ahmad Ahmadi”