Are Children Born With Good or Bad Instincts?

17 August, 2016
Q I read the following article: which is suggesting that babies have more good than bad instincts. Is there anything in Islamic literature, Quran or Hadith, mentioning about this subject?


Salam Dear Brother,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

Initially, I will summarize the quoted article for our readers which is titled Are We Naturally Good or Bad? by Tom Stafford and dated January 14th, 2013.

Mr. Stafford talks about an experiment to detect human instinct towards good or evil that was conducted on babies by physiologists, since little ones are innocent and are not yet influenced by society due to their limited speech.

I will not go into the details of how the experiment was conducted, however, I quote the result:

“At a minimum though, it shows that tightly bound into the nature of our developing minds is the ability to make sense of the world in terms of motivations, and a basic instinct to prefer friendly intentions over malicious ones. It is on this foundation that adult morality is built.”

From an Islamic perspective, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has mentioned something to that respect:

Narrated Ibn Shihab: The funeral prayer should be offered for every child even if he were the son of a prostitute as he was born with a true faith of Islam (i.e. to worship none but Allah Alone). If his parents are Muslims, particularly the father, even if his mother was a non-Muslim, and if he after the delivery cries (even once) before his death (i.e. born alive) then the funeral prayer must be offered.

And if the child does not cry after his delivery (i.e. born dead) then his funeral prayer should not be offered, and he will be considered as a miscarriage. Abu Huraira, narrated that the Prophet said, “every child is born with a True Faith (i.e. to worship none but Allah Alone) but his parents convert him to Judaism or to Christianity or to Magainism, as an animal delivers a perfect baby animal. Do you find it mutilated?” Then Abu Huraira recited the following verse from the Quran:

{(O Prophet and his followers), turn your face single-mindedly to the true Faith and adhere to the true nature on which Allah has created human beings. The mould fashioned by Allah cannot be altered. That is the True, Straight Faith, although most people do not know.} (Quran 30:30).

(Bukhari, Book 23, Hadith 440)

So from the above hadith, we may conclude the same as the quoted article that children are born innocent until they grow-up, and the environment they live in influences them either positively or negatively.

The Quranic verse quoted within the hadith also emphasizes this idea by mentioning that Allah created people on fitra, innate disposition of human nature, where we start our lives sinless.

In Islam, a person is accountable for his sins when he or she reaches puberty; that is the beginning of adulthood. Before that time, if one has evil inclination, it is only the effect of the environment he or she lives in; God surely didn’t create us evil-spirited.

I hope this helps answer your question.

Salam and please keep in touch.