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Concept of Psyche in Islam

Submitted by Ghulam Mohiyuddin (not verified) on 29 October 2009 - 12:37am.

Study of psyche in Islam is not a valid sphere of study. Psychology is a science. There is no such thing as Christian psychology or Hindu psychology. Certain defects in the mentality of Muslims, e.g. accepting things blindly without questioning, over reacting to real or perceived insults to the Prophet or the Quran, excessive resort to violence, intolerance towards other religions and resistance to modernism are not the fault of Islam but the result of centuries of bad religious leadership and faulty teaching.


IslamiPsychology based on DivineRevelation not humanspeculation

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on 28 October 2009 - 11:11pm.

The main factor which distinguishes Islamic Psychology from secular or modern Psychology is its source. Islamic Psychology is based on Divine Revelation, not human speculation. The two primary sources of Islam are Quran and Hadeeth (or Sunnah). The former is the direct Words of God revealed to Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, (salutations and peace be upon him) via the archangel Gabriel.


The latter is the explanation of the Quran, theoretical as well practical. It is also considered a source in its own right, which was also brought by Angel Gabriel but spoken in the words of the Prophet (salutations and peace be upon him). Hence, we will be using these two as our base in this field.


Since Islam is based completely on the blessed Divine Law (Ar. Sharee'ah) of God, which is incorporated in the Quran and Sunnah, it leaves no room for human conjecture, fancy or speculation, even when it comes to the study of the soul (Ar. nafs). Here, I would like to point out an important matter. Let’s define Psychology; let’s look at it linguistically. If we look into the term, we find the Greek word "psyche" - which means the "soul." It's remarkable that "modern" Psychology has been traditionally defined as "the science of mind/mental processes and behavior". I don’t have a problem with this definition; I only have a problem with the subjectivity and narrow-mindedness of the definition. This is where the heart of the problem lies. The root “psyche” literally means the soul. Yet, when we look at the definition of Psychology in any dictionary, we will never find the word soul. True, behavior and mind have a relationship with the soul, but why is the soul completely eradicated from this discipline? Some people might think that I want to bring back the philosophical approach to psychology. That is quite not true, even though I personally think that classical/philosophical psychology is closer to true psychology. I want to let the general public know from the outset that my intention is not to speculate, far from that. Speculation will lead to nothing but conjecture.


Well, let me clarify why our modern doctors have not put the study of soul in modern Psychology. They have transformed Psychology into a science, and by that I mean: 1) observation 2) experiment. Neither can you observe the soul, nor can you experiment with it. In other words, the soul cannot be studied scientifically (neither can the mind, for that matter). Only in that sense, it is not a science. The only exception to this is behavior, that is, it cannot be studied except through observation and perhaps by experimenting to an extent. Moreover, when I criticize their means of experimentation, I mean that modern Psychology has developed rules of experimentation which have no basis in the over all spirit of the discipline. Meaning, the criterion of experimentation itself is flawed. They have adopted man-made techniques of experimentation, as such, are not free from errors. Hence, Islamic Psychology is a science only in terms of knowledge.


Another problem with modern Psychology is that its promoters have deliberately sought to expand it in order to integrate various other sciences into it. What this does is that it loses the originality of Psychology. One can only wonder why they have included Biology, Physics and Sociology into Psychology. Even though these sciences might influence this discipline to a certain extent, they don't have to be included in them to such an extent that Psychology becomes a mixture of different sciences. Psychology is discipline by itself, it does not need external aid to develop itself. Speaking about external aids, it is unfortunate that Muslim psychologists have compromised Islamic Psychology by borrowing theories and models from such modern psychologists as Sigmund Freud, B.F.Skinner, Carl Jung, and others. Instead of developing our own models based on Quran and Sunnah, we have based our Psychology on the blueprint of secular psychology. Isn't Divine Revelation sufficient for us to deduce principles? Why can't we start from scratch in building our own models and conceptual frameworks? - Thus formalizing Islamic Psychology once and for all through those scholars of our ummah who have studied the soul in depth such as: Ibn Hazm, Ibn al-Jawzee, Ibn Taymeeyah, Ibn al-Qayyim, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbalee and the rest...May Allāh have mercy upon them all - aameen!


Turning to God is indeed incumbent upon humans when approaching this subject or any other subject, whether spiritual or mundane. Allāh says in the Quran:

“And indeed We have created man, and We know, what his nafs (soul/self) whispers to him; and We are nearer to him [by knowledge] than [his] jugular vein.” (Quran - 50:16)

The Messenger of Allāh, Muhammad, peace be upon him, (salutations and peace be upon him) said: “Allāh overlooks what [evil thought] occurs in the chests (i.e. the hearts) of [the people of] my nation so long as they neither speak about it nor act upon it.” [Reported by Al-Bukhāree, Muslim, at-Tirmidhee, Abū Dāwūd, an-Nasā'ee and Ibn Mājah]

As a short note: My putting Ethics as a branch of Psychology instead of Philosophy might have caught some people by surprise. Well, Ethics in fact belongs to Psychology, not Philosophy. Morality has a standard. There is nothing to speculate concerning the origin of morality. Furthermore it is innate, all of us have a sense of morality, except if out innate predisposition to goodness (fitrah) is corrupted. This brings us to the other branch. I am sure fitrah (Natural State of Purity) is a welcome-addition as well as a novelty for those who are not aware of Islamic Psychology. Likewise, Exorcism, and God knows best, must have shocked most people. This branch actually is within the branch of modern Psychology called “Abnormal Behavior”. Even though schizophrenia, for example, is attributed to biological and other internal causes, Islamic Psychology does not deem this to be a plausible explanation. It, in fact, generally speaking, attributes it to an external cause – a case of possession by species known as the jinn in Arabic. Often called evil spirits in Christianity.

In conclusion, I would like to point out to the readers that this webpage is very rudimentary and informal in terms of the information presented. This is basically due to 3 reasons:


1) Lack of information available on Islamic Psychology in the English language. As for the little which is available, it is by and large unauthentic, spurious and far-fetched.

2) Very little or gradual effort in translating material from the corpus of works written, whether direct or allusive, on this subject in Arabic, mostly by classical and a few contemporary scholars.

3) As of yet, lack of formalization with regards to Islam's Psychology.

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