Islamic Psychology provides a balanced and comprehensive view of human nature. Islam provides a balanced focus between universal principles of human behaviour (with its universal laws and Shari’ah or divine laws) and individual differences. The universal laws may include biological law, unconscious instinctual law, socio-cultural law, and the law of perception and cognition. The Qur’an and Hadith provides guidance and basis to the laws of human nature. These laws can be used as the foundation to develop theories about human nature based upon the writings of Muslim scholars and contemporary research findings.
Islam also pays attention to phenomological techniques and processes to research and explore the underlying meaning or ‘essence’ of aspects of human experience. The techniques of phenomenological reduction and bracketing-off of assumptions may prove very valuable for Islamic counsellors and Psychotherapists and influences a wide range of therapy traditions or models in providing a means of getting beyond the clients immediate description of his or her problem and inviting exploration of underlying layers of meaning. The science or the knowledge of tasawwuf in Islam was used by practioners and scholars to help people in their journey of discovery.
It must be noted that any research that contravenes the principles of Islam contained in the Qur’an and Hadith will be ignored from the Islamic perspective. Thus the Qur’an and Hadith are the first sources of reference for finding any ‘law’ or ‘fact’ about human behaviour. In studying the Qur’an and Hadith, ‘law’ and ‘fact’ can only be deduced from dalil qat’i – evidence that are definite in terms of their sources [thubut] and definite in terms of their interpretations [dilalah]. If the evidence is conjecture [dhanni] with respect to their sources and interpretations, we can only deduce ‘theories’. That is why once theories about human behaviour are deduced, they may be challenged or put to the test by other social science researchers, just as the fiqh (the theory of behavioural rulings) can be challenged by other fiqh experts.
Below is a quick overview of the differences between the Islamic view of human nature and contemporary psychological perspectives adopted from Feldman (2001).
There are generally five perspective issues when it concerns research into human nature. 1) Nature vs Nurture, 2) Conscious vs Unconscious, 3) Observable vs Internal, 4) Free will vs Determinism, 5) Individual vs Universal.
There are generally five schools of theory when it comes to understanding human nature and behaviour: 1) Biological, 2) Psychodynamic, 3) Cognitive, 4) Behavioural, 5) Humanistic
The Biological perspective or school of thought bases its theory when it concerns Nature vs Nurture only on Nature, when it concerns Conscious vs Unconscious only on the Unconscious, in regards to the Observable vs Internal only on the internal, when it relates to Free-will vs Determinism only on Determinism, and when it concerns the perspective of the Individual vs the universal only on the Universal. The Psychodynamic perspective predicates its school in the same foundations as the Biological.
The Cognitive school bases its theory when it concerns Nature vs Nurture on both, in regards to Conscious vs Unconscious on both too, in regards to Observable vs Internal only on the Internal, in relation to Free-will vs Determinism only on Free-will, and in respect to Individual vs the universal on both.
The Behavioural school builds its theory when it concerns Nature vs Nurture only on Nurture, when it relates to Conscious vs Unconscious only on the conscious, when it concerns Observable vs Internal only on the Observable, when it relates to Free-will vs Determinism only on Determinism, and when it concerns Individual vs the universal on both.
The Humanistic school builds its theory when it relates to Nature vs Nurture only on Nurture, when it relates to Conscious vs Unconscious only on the Conscious, when it concerns Observable vs Internal only on the Internal, when it relates to Free-will vs Determinism only on Free-will, and when it concerns Individual vs the universal only on the Individual.
The Islamic school builds its theory and processes when it relates to Nature vs Nurture on both, when it relates to Conscious vs Unconscious on both, when it concerns Observable vs Internal on both, when it relates to Free-will vs Determinism on both, and when it concerns Individual vs the universal also on both perspectives.
There have been attempts in the conventional psychological field to synthesise at least two psychological perspectives to form new sub-discipline or area of research in psychology such as biological and cognitive perspectives in the form of cognitive neuroscience, biology and behaviourism in the form of socio-biology, and behaviourism and cognitive perspectives in the form of social cognition.
The Islamic perspective is the most comprehensive school. Islamic Psychologists and researchers will need to incorporate the spiritual aspect of human nature because this is the main distinguishing factor from the contemporary perspective of human nature. From this the Islamic Psychologists can develop an Islamic theory (or theories) of human nature which can be used as a guide for research, to be empirically tested and eventually accepted as an alternative psychological perspective by the scientific community.
Islamic Psychology department, Alif Institute, UK.