What is Islamic Psychology?
Psychology, as it is generally practiced, only represents a part of the whole. Often the soul is not taken into account. Islamic psychology is a holistic approach that endeavors to better understand the nature of the self and the soul and the connection of the soul to the Divine. It conceptualizes the human being with a focus on the heart as the center of the person more so than the mind and is grounded in the teachings of the Qur’an, Prophetic teachings, and the knowledge of the soul from the Islamic tradition. Islamic psychology embraces modern psychology, traditional spirituality, metaphysics and ontology.
In the body there is a piece of flesh: if it is sound, the whole body is sound, and if it is corrupt then the whole body is corrupt, and indeed that is the heart.
- The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)
Islamic Psychology is different from conventional Western psychology in that it approaches the person from the belief that God is the One who heals and it is only through our deeper connection to Him and our understanding of our relationship to Him that we can truly overcome the trials and tribulations of life. While Western psychology is rooted in a secular paradigm which often puts the self before God, psychology from an Islamic paradigm seeks to submit the self to God. Therapeutic directives in Islamic counseling are modeled on the holistic model of human wholeness as exemplified by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Conventional counseling practices can be helpful for people to cope with difficulties in life, however there is often times more to our struggles than simply coping with them. With God’s help it is possible to actually move through and transcend the pain and struggle of life in the dunya (temporal world) by unlocking the wisdom inherent in the struggle, and healing the heart.
Professor Rasjid Skinner, IAIP Senior Director
Islamic Psychology is distinct from Muslim Mental Health in that it is concerned with the theoretical orientation to the approach of psychology more than it is concerned with cultural or external factors that affect people’s particular experience of life. Therefore Islamic Psychology approaches the conceptualization of human psychology from a distinctly different set of philosophical underpinnings than conventional Western psychology as they relate to human nature. Islamic psychology embraces and builds upon the work of classical scholars from the Islamic tradition (such as al-Ghazali, al-Balkhi, al-Harith Al-Muhasibi, and others) and brings it into the context of modern clinical psychology, with a focus on practical application.
The IAIP's efforts toward the development of Islamic Psychology are underpinned by 3 main objectives:
The first objective is to reorient the philosophical and epistemological worldview governing conventional Western psychology.
This view of the human being, which has been collectively adopted by the modern Western world, predominantly conceptualizes the human condition from a materialist perspective. Rather than acknowledging a soul as the core identity that defines a person’s nature, it seeks to define human nature based on measurable factors such as behavior, cognition and environmental conditions, and/or genes, hormones and the nervous system.
The second objective is to delineate the Islamic paradigm within which Islamic psychology is constructed.
The view of human nature that includes the soul and its innate spiritual predisposition necessitates the development of a new kind of theoretical Islamic positive psychology.
The third objective is to work from within this Islamic paradigm to create new Islamically integrated therapeutic approaches.
These clinical practices and techniques should be derived from the vast resources within the Islamic tradition and brought into the context of modern clinical psychotherapy in an integrative manner. Such therapeutic practices can then be learned and applied with clients to improve not only mental health, but spiritual health in a more holistic view of psychology.
Islamic Psychology in Practice
Islamic Psychology practitioners assist people in understanding their struggles in life within the context of an Islamic paradigm and help them to chart their way through these difficulties toward increased equilibrium through a deeper connection with God using the support and guidance of the Qur’an and the Sunnah (Prophetic tradition) as a guiding light and a systematic framework for approaching life situations. This process is effective for treating DSM diagnoses, trauma and marriage counseling, as well as general personal growth. The techniques and therapeutic approaches are derived from traditional wisdom and healing practices within the Islamic tradition constituting a modern form of indigenous psychology.