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Introduction to Islamic Psychology

In Western thought, Psychology is widely understood as the scientific study of human behaviour,
and the way it is taught at colleges and universities very much reflects this definition. Western
Psychology focuses on the experimental method as a means of analysing human behaviour where
evidence is derived through reasoning and rationality. Without this approach, the discipline could
not be seen as a ‘science’.

However, if we look at the root word ‘Psyche’, we find that it has been derived from Greek 
which, when translated, means ‘Soul’. Hence Psychology is the study of the soul and not what
secular education has promoted it to be – a study of human behaviour. Even Sigmund Freud
(1856-1939) who is widely regarded as the founder of Psychoanalysis in the West did not use the
concept of ‘psyche’ in its proper term. It is therefore not surprising that the Psychology taught in
colleges and universities in the West does not reflect the true meaning of the word. Students are
 being taught how to understand human behaviour exclusively from observable characteristics of 
the person - thereby removing the Psyche from the curriculum. This is an attempt to maintain the
scientific credibility of the discipline.

Ideally, any serious study of human behaviour and interaction in society would be incomplete if 
the whole
whole of the human - includ
ing the soul
soul - is not includ
ed. Such a study
study render
renderss itself 
discredited from the outset. It is like studying the functions of a car without an engine. In Islam
the study of human behaviour is approached in a holistic way. It includes characteristics of 
 behaviour interlinked with the soul – the psyche. This is referred to as Islamic Psychology.

Islamic Psycholog
y is based on divine revelation,
revelation, not human speculation.
speculation. The two primary
sources of jurisprudence that govern the whole way of life in Islam are the Quran and the Sunna.
The Shariah (derived from these two sources) is what is used to study all aspects of human life,
including the soul. Whereas a sub-discipline of Western Psychology teaches that there is no real
‘truth’ and everything is socially constructed, Islam gives us guidance through the Shariah and so
acts as the benchmark against
a gainst which versions of truth can be tested.
The Shariah needs to be incorporated into all disciplines of psychology – clinical, educational,
occupational, counselling and many others. Because Muslim psychologists derive their 
understanding from the Quran and Sunnah, their vision is different from Western psychologists.

Faith and spirituality play crucial parts in conditioning human behaviour, the study of which are
vital components of psychology. These are often neglected in the western models; although Jung
did consider the role of religion to be an important factor in the process of psychoanalysis. He
appears to be a voice in the wilderness. Obviously the methodologies used by these two forms of 
Psychology will be different – as one views the human being as the centre of existence, denying
God and spiritual values, whereas the other, looks towards the eternal truths and recognises divine
revelation as superseding the limited human reasoning capability as a source of knowledge.

 By Zeenat Ghumra

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