TEACHING HUMAN NATURE IN PSYCHOLOGY COURSES

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48

TEACHING HUMAN NATURE IN PSYCHOLOGY COURSES





ALIZI ALIAS

Department of Psychology

International Islamic University Malaysia

53100 Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia

03
-
20565096

alizi@iiu.edu.my



Paper submitted as a chapter
in a book tentatively entitled ‘Guide to teaching and
studying psychology: A Islamic perspective’, 2008.


INTRODUCTION


Laypersons and students alike sometimes turn to psychology to get a straightforward
simple answer about human nature and behaviour. The
problem is psychology cannot
agree on a lot of issues
concerning

human nature. The debates on the issue are still
ongoing and have led to various theoretical perspectives in modern psychology such as
psychodynamic, behaviourism, humanistic, physiolog
ical, and cognitive perspectives.
Using the issues of human nature outlined by Feldman (2007), this chapter explores how
Islamic scholars have interpreted these issues in relation to

the existence of the soul (
nafs
)
which is absent in contemporary
psychol
ogy
.

However,
this
chapter will
first consider
when

instructor
s
of psychology courses
should
discuss

issues of

human nature
,
and

examine
contemporary psychology
’s

varied
perspectives

on human nature.




WHEN DO WE TEACH ABOUT HUMAN NATURE IN PSYCHOLOGY?


Usually, the different theoretical perspectives
of

h
uman nature are taught in courses such
as personality psychology, history and philosophy of psychology, and seminar in general
psychology.

At the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), they are also
covered in courses such as Islam and psycholo
gy, and undergraduate seminar on the
Islamic perspective of psychology.

However, what many people do not realise is that
these psychological theoretical perspectives are embedded not only in every sub
-
discipline textbooks of psychology, but also in publis
hed journal articles in psychology.
Even though an author may not state clearly his/her philosophical belief about human
nature, he/she may have provided a theoretical background and theoretical interpretation
of the research results consistent
with

a
particular theory about human nature. The
author’s philosophical idea about human nature can also be unconsciously promoted
through his/her limited selection of references and his/her exposure to certain figures or
literature throughout his/her academic an
d/or professional life. Therefore, it is important
for all teachers of psychology to understand the extent to which modern theories about
human nature are Islamic, and to examine Islam’s view on human nature.



49

As mentioned, current psychological perspectiv
es on human nature include
psychodynamic, behaviourism, humanistic, physiological, and cognitive perspectives.
When

discussing

the issue of “which one is right?” Glassman (2000)
answered by saying
“all of them and none of them” (p. 414). This

chapter argues that “all of them are partly
right, we need to synthesise all of them, and add some more (spiritual factor).” The
human nature issues that are going to be discussed here are
the ones raised by
Feldman

(
2007)

and they include
: (
1) nature v
ersus

nurture, (2) conscious v
ersus
unconscious, (3)
observable behaviour v
ersus

internal mental processes, (4) free
-
will v
ersus

determinism,
and (5) individual differences
v
ersus

universal principle.

It is important for Muslim
rese
archers, teachers, and students to understand these issues and debates because they
are mentioned directly or indirectly in various discipline of psychology and may affect
how we perceived ourselves as
`abid

and
khalifah

of Allah in this world.


WHY
DOES
MODERN PSYCHOLOGY
HA
VE

DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES?


First
, we need to understand why psychology has different theoretical perspectives.
Glassman (2000) argued that theory formation is influenced by the theorist’s own
perceptual selection and i
nterpretations of reality
which
may
then
lead to a
biased

view of
human nature. Glassman also reasoned that scientific empirical evidence in psy
chology is
good
a
t

disproving theories but cannot tell anything about the truth.

Psychological
approaches or paradigms are never replaced by
a
newer approach simply because the new
approach is “more” popular. This is because it is not necessarily m
ore accurate.



Glassman (2000) also argued that the limitations of scientific methods in studying
human behaviour also lead to different approaches to psychology. The obsessions of
finding the causal factors (as in natural science) from unobservable be
haviour and mental
processes and the excessive usage of experimental methods without realising that both
the subjects and the experimenters are giving subjective “social” reactions to the
experimental procedures lead to the differences in understanding hum
an behaviour
(Badri, 1979; Glassman, 2000). Glassman and Badri also mentioned that culture
influences both the researchers’ conception about human behaviour and participants’
reactions to certain stimuli. This leads to various issues of bias and choice of
paradigm in
understanding human nature.



Since Muslims believe that Allah is all
-
knowing, perhaps we can use His words
and His prophets’ wisdom to reduce these different conceptions about human nature.
Although Islamic disciplines are full of different

views in the forms of
tafsir

(exegesis) of
Qur’anic verses,
sharh

(detailed explanation) of
hadith
, and
fatwa

(rulings)

in Islamic
shari`ah

(law)
, Islamic scholars have a relatively unified framework of reference for
relatively accurate understanding of r
eligious issues based on agreed principles.







50

HOW DO CONTEMPORARY PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORIES VIEW HUMAN
NATURE?


The blind men and the elephant


As mentioned
,

five of the dominant perspectives in psychology are biological
,

psychodynam
ic, behavioural, humanistic, and cognitive perspectives (although some
might want to add evolutionary and socio
-
cultural perspectives).
R
eaders are referred to
Glassman (2000) for detailed descriptions of each perspective’s central ideas. When it
come
s to understanding the various perspectives, Tavris and Wade (2001) in their
scientific review of Western psychological perspectives and Badri (1979) in his scientific
and Islamic criticisms of Western psychology, likened it
to

watching several blind
persons trying to describe an elephant by touching different parts of its body. Everybody
knows that the results of their descriptions are partially true about the
elephant. The
problem occurs when each of them claim
s

that the part of th
e elephant is the elephant
itself!

A secular person may
describ
e

human nature in whatever way he
/she

wish
es
, but it
is not correct for a Muslim to describe human nature against how Allah has explained it.



Some current introductory psy
chology textbooks (example, Huffman, 2006) argue
that at present, one of the most widely accepted and unifying themes of modern
psychology is the biopsychosocial model which believes that biological, psychological,
and socio
-
cultural factors interact with
one another to influence human behaviour. Can
this be the solution to the phenomenon of the blind men and elephant described above?
While this perspective has its strengths, it is still limited in providing a coherent
understanding of man’s behaviour on t
hree grounds. First,
th
is perspective
focus
es

on
only
two or three aspects of human nature while ignoring the rest (e.g.
,

biological and
cognitive perspective in a synthesised discipline called ‘cognitive neurosci
ence’
Glassman, 2000). Second,

even if

this perspective

consider
s

several
different
aspect
s

of
human nature
,

the
se

are
usually
combined with no proper theoretical justification
(e.g.
,

applying
an
eclectic approach
using behaviour therapy and cognitive therapy at two
different time
s

depending on the
nature of the
cases). Third, even if
various aspects of
human nature

are considered
, the spiritual aspect is still
missing.


Current efforts by Muslim scholars


If modern psychologists can accept a loosely developed model called biopsychosocial
approach, Mus
lim psychologists should be brave enough to provide
an
alternative. The
challenge

for them
is to

provide Islamic and scientific answers
to
to

the controversial
issues and debates in psychology.

Muslim scholars in social sciences an
d Islamic
disciplines have tried to describe human nature from both the psychological and
theological perspectives

but these

scholars have used different themes in describing
human nature. Some of them wrote
about
Islamic criticisms
of

modern psyc
hological
perspectives,
while

others have

used Islamic concepts and
have
described them from
modern psychological perspectives, and
still others
have

used the Qur’an,
h
adith
, and
early Muslim contributions as a starting point
to talk about human nature.

This complete
work
in the reference list of this chapter
should be utilised in the teaching of any course

51

in psychology.
Please note, however, that all the references listed vary in terms of

details,
quality, and
relevance.


In the next section, the paper
considers

how Islamic scholars have used
knowledge about religion to come up with a theory of human nature in line with the
issues and debates in contemporary psychology.


WHAT ARE THE ISSU
ES AND DEBATES ABOUT HUMAN NATURE IN
PSYCHOLOGY?


According to Feldman (2001), there are five issues that pertain to the study of human
nature. These are the debates between (1) nature versus nurture, (2) conscious versus
unconscious determinants of behavi
our, (3) observable behaviour versus internal mental
processes, (4) free
-
will versus determinism, and (5) individual differences versus
universal principles.
Islamic psychology should be able to tackle these issues in order to
be a viable alternative
to modern

psychology.

Each of these
issues and debates
is next
examined in light of
the
Islamic
perspective
about human nature.


First
,
Islam requires
Muslims
to
believe that human
s

are

created by Allah with
dual

nature (body

and spirit
;
Qur’an
,

23:

12
-
16).

A similar account (but more detailed)
has been reported in a
hadith

narrated by
Bukhari (Vol. 9, Book 93, No. 546).

When the
spirit enters the body, it is known as ‘soul’.

It gives life to the body and interacts wi
th
biological and environmental variables to produce various unique
human

behaviour
s

and
mental processes.

For example, the story of Adam
’s

(PBUH)

creation and his nature
revealed

a

unique
human
biological make
-
up
(
Qur’an
,

7:11), consciousness (
Qur’an
,

7:

20; 20:

117
,
120
), cognitive ability (
Qur’an
,

2:

32
-
33; 7:

20), development (
Qur’an
,

7:
25), motivation and emotion (
Qur’an
,

2:

35; 7:
,
19; 20:
,
120
-
121), social behaviour
(
Qur’an
,

2:

36; 7:

24; 20:

123), but most importantly, the s
oul gives human being
s

the
ability to choose between good and bad (
Qur’an
,

2:

36; 7:

22), and receive guidance and
make
repent (
Qur’an 2:

37; 7:

23; 20:

122).

More behavioural and cognitive issues are
revealed in the story of Adam

s

(PBUH)

two s
ons in terms of social behaviour (
Qur’an
,

5:

27), personality differences (
Qur’an
,

5:

28), abnormal behaviour (
Qur’an
,

5:

29
-
30),
sensation/perception (
Qur’an
,

5:

30), and learning (
Qur’an
,

5:

31).

Thus,
the
Qur’an
touche
s

briefly
on

major psychological topics when it talks about the first human event
i.e.
,

the creation of man after the spirit enter
s

the body and interact
s

with the
environment.

These psychological themes are described, explained, or illustrated further
(briefl
y and in detail
) throughout the Qur’an.


What contemporary psychology fails to
consider

are

the values of human
behaviour and mental processes; that people are capable
of

do
ing

good and
evil

(
Qur’an
,

91:

8
-
9), and that people nee
d to be guided to differentiate
between good and evil
(
Qur’an
,

90:

10).

Muslim
s believe that

these behaviours and mental processes are

manifestation
s

of the soul

as the result of interaction between body and spirit and the
extent to which
they

receive guidance on how to perform
their

duties

to Allah

as
His
servant
(
`abid
,

Qur’an
,

51:

56) and
His vicegerent
(
khalifah
)

in this world (
Qur’an
,

2:


52

30).

Therefore, the i
ssues and debates in contemporary psychology should be discussed in
light of the existence of the soul and how it provides
a
balanced view o
f

those issues.


1. Nature (heredity) versus nurture (environment)


“How much of our behaviour is due to heredi
ty (or “nature”) and how much is due to
environment (“nurture”), and what is the interplay between the two forces?”


(Feldman, 2001, p. 18).


Feldman
(2001)
provides a brief view
o
f

how each of the five psychological perspectives
view
s

this issue. In ge
neral, the biological and psychodynamic perspectives believe that
nature (i.e., genetic, n
euronal, hormonal, evolutionary
, and instinctual unconscious
factors) plays an important role in influencing much of our behaviour.

The behavioural
and humanistic pe
rspectives, however, believe nurture (i.e., environmental and self
factors) to have more influence on our behaviour. The cognitive perspective believes that
both nature (brain) and nurture (learning and cognition) influence our behaviour.

As can
be seen,
apart from
the
cognitive perspective,
the other

psychological perspectives favour
one issue over the other.


Islam believes in a balanced view of both nature and nurture in human behaviour
where the concept of nature (
fitrah
) includes not only the bio
logical and instinctual
unconscious aspects of behaviour, but also
the
spiritual aspect.

The
Qur’an mentioned
in
general

that all things are created in
(
biological
)

pairs (
Qur’an,
51
: 49,
13
: 3,
36
: 36,
43
:
12
). It also specifically mentioned about the pair being male and female (
Qur’an,

53
: 45
-
46,
75
: 39
,
76
:

2)
and that

both
(
chromosomes
)
are needed
to develop a
n

offspring
.

The
importance of nature’s role is
further emphasized when

the Qur’an
says
that Muslims are
forbidden from marrying close kin (
Qur’an
,

4: 23), suggesting that genetic factors may
influence physical and psychological features of the offspring.

In addition
,

several

hadiths

emphasized
the importance of choosing one’s spous
e based on lineage (most of
the
se

hadiths

are evaluated as
da`if
or weak, but strengthened one another to

upgrade
their

status to
hadith hasan
which are acceptable).

One
sahih

(sound)
hadith
, however,
list
s

lineage as one of the factors for choosing a spouse
: “A woman is married for four
reasons: her wealth, her lineage, her beauty, and her religion.

You should marry more
because of religion...” (narrated by

Bukhari, Vol. 7, Book 62, No. 027).

This shows the
important influence of genetic and biological factors on behaviour and mental processes.


Islam also
emphasises the

influence of environmental factors
on behavi
our
especially education.

This is supported by the famous
hadith

on
fitrah


Every child
is
born with true faith (
fitrah
). It is his/her parents
who convert him t
o Judaism,
Christianity, or Magai
nism…” (narrated by Bukhari, Vol. 2, Book 23, No. 441).

This

hadith

also
emphasises
the potential for all human being
s

to be good as Allah has
instil
led

in them (human nature) their
spiritual nature
(fitrah
)

(
Qur’an
,

30:30). Prophet
Muhammad
(PBUH)
also emphasised
choosing the right friends by saying: “The

example
of a good friend in comparison with a bad one, is like that of musk seller and the
blacksmith’s bellows (or furnace); from the first, y
ou would either buy musk or enjoy its
good smell while the bellows would either burn your clothes or your house, or you get a

53

bad nasty smell thereof” (narrated by Bukhari, Vol. 3, Book 34, No. 314).

This shows
that environmental factors (in this case the

friends that we choose to be with
) can
influence our behavio
u
r and mental processes
to a

degree.


Islam also requires us to believe that no matter how strong the biological and
environmental factors, it is the soul (self


as used by
humanistic perspective but without
the spiritual aspect) that is more powerful
in

thin
king

and reflect
ing

on what is good and
what is bad (under the guidance of the
Qur’an).

For example,
Prophet
Noah
(PBUH
)
ha
d

a son who did n
ot follow
in
his footstep
s

of truth and virtue, and was drowned by the
great flood (
Qur’an 11: 42
-
43).

On the other hand,
Prophet
Abraham
’s

(
PBUH
)

father
,
who pray
ed

to
idols

was not influenced by
h
is teachings and

remained a
polytheist

(
Qur’an
,

6: 74
-
76).

Th
ese examples
show

that
the
soul can control the biological and
genetic influence on behaviour.

Another example is the ability of Asiah (the wife o
f the
Pharaoh) to choose the truth and virtue despite living in
the

unIslamic environment of
Pharaoh’s castle (
Qur’an
,

66: 11).

On the other hand, the wives of Noah
(PBUH)

and Lot
(PBUH)
were not able to choose
truth and virtue despite livi
ng in the blessed
environment of the prophets’ home
s

(
Qur’an
,

66: 10
)
,
similarly
show
ing

that
the

soul can
also
control the environmental influence on behaviour.



In addition to
the influence of biological,
environmental
, and self

factors
on

human behaviour, Islam requires Muslims to believe that Allah is the ‘ultimate’ factor
that control
s

all the biological and environmental factors
.


But ye shall not will except as
Allah wills,

the Cherisher of the Worlds” (
Qur’an
,

81: 29).
This requ
ires a
n

Islamic
psychological perspective to include ‘soul’
(that profess
es

iman

or faith

and accept divine
guidance)
as an important
element
because it is the ‘soul’ that believes in the supremacy
of Allah.

Thus
, the spiritual nature (or th
e soul factor) plays a role despite
the
biological
and environmental factors
in

influenc
ing

human
be
haviour
.

To summarise
, in the issue of
the
nature
-
nurture debate, not only
does
Islam provide

a balanced view
,

but also
introduce
s
the
element
of the
soul

as a factor

that moderate
s

the issues of
the
nature and
nurture
debate.


2. Conscious versus unconscious d
eterminants of behaviour


“How much of our behaviour is produced by forces of which we are fully aware, and how
much is due to unconscious activity


mental processes that are not accessible to the
conscious mind?”

(Feldman, 2001, p. 19).


According to Fe
ldman

(2001)
, generally, the biological and psychodynamic perspectives
believe in unconscious determinants (i.e., unseen genetic, neuronal, hormonal,
evolutionary factors, and instinctual unconscious factors) of behaviour. The behavioural
and humanistic pe
rspectives, however, believe more
i
n conscious determinants (i.e.,
observable environmental and self factors) as determinants of behaviour. The cognitive
perspective believes in the factors which are considered as both conscious and
unconscious (decision
-
making, problem solving, language, thinking, memory,

54

intelligence, perception, etc.) as determinants of behaviour.

Therefore
, apart from
the
cognitive perspective,
the other
perspectives
tend to
favour one issue over the o
ther.


As mentioned
,
Islam requires
Muslims
to
believe

in the dual

nature of man (body
and spirit).

The conscious elements of human nature come

from the fact that
the
body
is

created from clay (
Qur’an
,

18:

37; 22:

5; 30:

20; 35:

11
; 40:

67; 38:

71; 6:

2, 7:

12, 23:

12; 32:

7; 37:

11; 38:

71
,
76
)
whereas the unconscious elements of human nature
originate
s

from the
spirit breath
ed

unto it (
Qur’an
,

32:

9; 15:

29; 38:

72)
,
show
ing

that
human behaviour and mental

process are products of both conscious and unconscious
factors.



Usually, w
e are

awa
re of
our own behaviour and
the reason
s

behind
it

(
Qur’an
10:

41;
5:

105; 6:

60; 9:94
,
105
)

a
s well as

our mental processes
and the rea
son
s

underlying
them
(
Qur’an
,

34:

46; 2:

219
,
266
;

6:

50; 3:

191
)
.
S
ometimes,
however,
we
think or do
things
w
ithout much awareness

or
reason
(
Qur
’an
,

2
:

80
,
169; 3:

66;
16:

74),
which may
include
be
ing

influenced by the
devil
(
Qur’an
,

114:

4
-
5; 7:

27; 35:

6; 17:

62; 2:

169; 5:

91; 7:

16
-
17)
or

our own lust (
hawa
)

(
Qur’an
4:

135; 37:

26; 7:

176; 18:

28; 20:

16;
2
8:
50)
.

In fact, Islam even acknowledges the unconscious sexual motives (which would
be of interest to psychodynamic perspective) as illustrated by the wife of Al
-
`Aziz who
wanted to seduce Joseph
(PBUH)
but
eventual
ly
the soul
triumph
ed

over

the
bas
e

sex
ual
desires (Qur’an
,

12: 23
, 32
; see also 24:
33).

Thus
, despite our behaviour and
mental
processes
being

influence
d

by conscious or unconscious factors,
ultimately
, our
behaviour and
thoughts
are
guided by
the

soul

(
Qur’an,
16:

93; 27:

84
,
90; 29:

8
-
9
,
55;
31:

15;
32:

13
-
15; 36:

54; 37:

39; 39:

7; 43:

72; 45:

28; 66:

7; 77:


43
-
44)
.


In most of the Qur’anic verses mentioned
, it is the
iman

or faith (
closely related to
the

soul
) that plays a stronger role

leading
to
conscious behaviour and mental processes.

I
n most of the Qur’anic verses too,
Allah has remi
nded
human being
s

to be
aware of
conscious and unconscious
influences.

There are several
hadiths

in the book of Sahih
Muslim that encourage us to ask for Allah
’s

forgiveness for
the sins that we have done,
conscious
ly

or unconscious
ly
,

and that Allah
knows better what is in our unconscious
(e.g.
,

Book 4, No. 0980, No. 1691, No. 1695, No. 6563).
Eventually
,
it is
the

conscious
effort of performing supplicati
on (
du`a’
),
to ask for forgiveness, and
to seek
divine
guidance (
hidayah
) is what matters.

In a famous
hadith
, the Prophet
(PBUH)

said:
“There are three (persons) whose actions are not recorded: a sleeper till he

awakes, a boy
till he reaches puberty, and a lunatic till he comes to reason” (narrated by Abu Dawud,
Book 3, No. 4389)
, implying that

Islam acknowledges the unconscious factors when
assigning rewards and punishment to behaviours.


In
t
he
previous sections, it
was

mentioned that Islam
emphasise
s

genetic and
biological factors (which are in the realm of
the
unconscious) and also self and
environmental factors (which are in the realm of conscious
ness
).
Therefore,
Islam
give
s
a
balanced view
of

the factors that we are aware

of
(self, environmental factors, and some
cognitive factors)
and unaware
of
(unconscious motives, biological, and some cognitive
factors)
,
and

also
introduce
s
the

element
of the
sou
l as a factor

that can moderate
the
se

influences
for better understanding.


55



3. Observable behaviour versus internal mental processes


“S
hould psychology concentrate solely on behaviour that can be seen by outside
observers? Or should it focus on unseen thinking processes?”


(Feldman, 2001, p. 19).


Feldman wrote that only
the
behavioural perspective focuses on observable behaviour
while th
e others focus on internal mental processes, i.e., biological (neuronal and
hormonal activities), psychodynamic (internal unconscious conflict), humanistic (internal
self
-
actualisation), and cognitive (internal cognitive processes).

Thus
, n
one of the
psychological perspective
s

has a balanced view when it comes to observable vs. internal
issues.


As a

human
being is

created from both observable element (clay) and
unobservable element (spirit), it is expected
that
it would also give a

balanced focus on
observable behaviour and internal mental processes.

Allah
,

in
the
Qur’an (7: 33)
forbid
s

all shameful deeds either observable (
zahir
) or internal (
batin
).

W
hether human being
s

hide their words or

publicise
them
, He has ful
l knowledge
of
them (
Qur’an 67:

13).

As
early as Chapter 2 (al
-
Baqarah),
the
Qur’an
divide
s

human being
s

into three categories
based on
their behaviour and mental processes.
The
se
are
:

al
-
Muttaqin

or
the pi
ous
(
Qur’an
,

2:

2
-
5)

who received divine guidance from Allah by behaviourally performing
salat

(prayers)

and
zakat

(alms
-
giving)
and
cognitive
ly
accepting the Qur’an, the
previous sacred revealed books, and the
existence of the
hereafte
r
;

al
-
Kuffar

or

the
disbelievers

(
Qur’an: 2: 6
-
7) who re
j
ect the divine guidance behaviourally and mentally
;

and
al
-
Munafiqin

or the hypocrites

(
Qur’an 2:

8
-
20) who
do

not receive divine guidance
and
show acceptanc
e
to it
only

behaviourally
.

T
hese consistencies or inconsistencies
between behaviours and mental processes depend on the soul factor.


Islam emphasises
harmony between observable behaviour (
`amal
) and internal
mental processes

(
iman
)

and these two words can be repeatedly found in the Qur’an
in

pairs.

In addition
, good deeds are evaluated based on the internal
inten
tion
as mentioned
in a famous
hadith

“The
(r
ewards of
)

deeds depend on the intention...”
(narrated by al
-
Bukhari, Vol. 1, Book.1, No.001)
.

In another
hadith
, the importance of
a
l
-
Islam

(the
observable behavioural component),
a
l
-
Iman

(the internal cognitive component), and
al
-
Ihsan

(the internal
affective compo
nent) (narrated by
Muslim, B
ook 1, No. 0001)

is
highlighted showing the balanced treatment that Islam gives to not only observable
behaviour and internal mental process
es
, but also
to
the
emotive
-
spir
i
tual aspect
.

At
times, Islam seems to emphasise mental processes when reward is
given to those who
inten
d

to do good
deed
s
, but
are
not capable of doing it; at another time Islam seems to
de
-
emphasise mental processes when sin is not given to
those who
inten
d

to do
a
bad
deed

but choose not to do it
(
based on a
hadith

na
rrated by
Muslim,
Book 1, No. 0234).

Internal mental processes
are

also an important element as mentioned in a
hadith

“Verily,
Allah does not look to your bodies nor to your faces but He looks to your hearts...”
(narrated by Muslim, Book 32, No. 6220).

All these mental processes do not only refer to

56

simple and limited cognitive activities such as information processing but also deep
spiritual understanding that can only be understood if we accept the existence of
the
soul
.


In

a more applied exa
mple such as

punishment for a murder case (
qisas
), most
Islamic scholars or
`ulama

ha
ve
divided murder cases into three: intentional,
unintentional, and
seem
ingly

unintentional, operationalised by the contextual factors and
the ‘murder’ weapon.

This
distinction
shows that Islam considers both observable
behaviour and internal mental processes when making judgement about people.

This is
further supported by two
qawa`id fiqhiyyah

or Islamic legal maxims
;

t
he
first
emphasises
observable

phenomena “we make rulings based on the observables (
zawahir
), and Allah
knows the secret (
sara’ir
) underneath it

, while the second

emphasises
on
internal mental
process
es

“acts are judged by the intention (
maqasid
) behind it.”


Therefore
,
Islam provides a balance

between o
bservable behaviour and internal
mental processes,
unlike contemporary psychological perspective
s

which give

too much
focus
to

internal mental processes

(except behaviourism)
.

These internal mental
processes, as discussed before
,

include

biological
activities, unconscious motives,
cognitive processes and the conscious self.

In Islam, it is the soul
that

provides
the
link
between
behaviour and mental processes.


4. Free
-
will versus determinism


“How much is behaviour
a matter of free will (choices made freely by an individual), and
how much is subject to determinism, the notion that behaviour is largely produced by
factors beyond people’s wilful control?”

(Feldman, 2001, p. 19).


According to Feldman, the humanistic a
nd cognitive perspectives
hold

that behaviour is a
matter of free
-
will (self
-
actualising, decision
-
making, problem solving, etc.) whereas the
other perspectives
hold the

behaviour
is

subject

to biological (biological perspective),

environmental (behavioural), and unconscious sexual and aggressive (psychodynamic)
factors.
Thus
, none of the psychological perspective has a balanced view when it comes
to the issue of freedom of choice and determination of behaviours.


Islam requires Muslims to believe that human

beings


behaviour

is

determined by
Allah’s will, but it depends on
their own freedom of will

(
Qur’an,
18
:

29;

25:

29;

74:

37;
76
:

30,
74
:

54
-
56;

81
:

27
-
29).

There are numerous Qur’anic verses that indica
te
a
human
being’s freedom of choice
despite what has been ‘determined’ by Allah through
H
is
knowledge, will

and power
(
Qur’an,
73
:

19
;

92
:

5
-
10,
6:

148;

11
:

101,
29
:

40)
.

At the
same time, human beings are reminded that Allah
too
has His own wil
l

which is, unlike
human beings’,
limitless and not bound by time and space, thus making the term
‘determinism’ somewhat a misnomer

(
e.g.
,

It is not right to say that Allah has ‘pre’
-
determined human beings’ behaviour

‘in advance
’ because that i
s indirectly claiming that
Allah is bound by time and space
[which He is not]
and thus, rejecting Allah’s Godly
attribute or wors
e

making
Allah’s attribute
s

similar

to

human attribute
s
)
.

In most

57

Qur’anic verses
, it is clearly in
dicated that
the
soul
(i.e.
,

iman

or faith)
influence
s

human
beings’ freedom of choice.


There are several Qur’anic verses that
state

that ‘Allah knows what will happen’
(
Qur’an,
10:

61, 6:

59), ‘anything that happens is based
on the will of Allah’ (
Qur’an,
2:

253), and ‘Allah had written all that will happen’ (
Qur’an,
6:

38, 57:

22, 3:

154).

The
Prophet
(PBUH)

said: “... The good deeds are made easy for the blessed, and bad deeds
are made easy for the wretched.” Then he re
cited the verses: “
A
s

for him who gives (in
charity) and is Allah
-
fearing and believes i
n the best reward from Allah…
(Qur’an,
92:

5
-
10)


(narrated by Bukhari, Vol. 2, Book 23, No. 444)
, suggesting that

whatever
behaviour
s

ha
ve

been ‘determined’ are actually chosen by human beings out of their own
free
-
will.
Compare the deterministic perspective of
Iblis

when he blam
ed Allah for his
wrongdoings (
Qur’an
,

15:

39) and Adam
(PBUH)

who accepted that his wrongdoing is
based on his own free

choice without denying Allah’s will (
Qur’an
,

7:

23). In other
words, having a deterministic perspective in psychology is akin

to
Iblis


perspective
.


Islam also does not deny the influence of worldly factors


though not to the
extent of total determinism


in influencing human behaviour

and mental processes

without neglecting the soul
.


Allah
said in the Qur’an
“.
..
except
that who is forced
[environmental factors], and whose heart is at rest with faith [
sou
l factors]...”
(
Qur’an,
16:

106
; see also 2:

173
). Allah
also said “And there is no sin on you if you make a
mistake, except in regard to what your hearts d
eliberately intend

[unconscious factor]
.
And Allah is Most Forgiving and Most Merciful

[soul factor]
” (
Qur’an,
33:

5).

Similarly,
t
he Prophet
(PBUH)

said: “There are three (persons) whose actions are not recorded: a
s
leeper till he awakes
(
unconsc
ious factor
)
,
a boy till he reaches puberty
(
biological
factor
)
,
and a lunatic till he comes to reason
(
cognitive factor
)

(narrated by Abu Dawud,
Book 3, No. 4389).

In another
hadith
, Prophet
Muhammad (PBUH)
said: “
Verily, Allah
will
fo
rgive people’s behaviour
s

which are unintentional
(
unconscious factor
)
,
out of
forgetfulness
(
cognitive factor
)
,
and out of being forced
(
environmental factor
)

(narrated
by Ibn Majah, No. 2045).


In
sum
, it can be said that h
uman beings have freedom o
f will, but their will
depends on the will of Allah who has the knowledge of all our wills and deeds, has
written all His knowledge in
Lawh al
-
Mahfuz

(
the
Preserved Tablet
)


and has the power
to allow human beings to perform their dee
ds.

The s
oul factor such
as
iman

play
s

a very
important
role

in influencing human behaviour

and mental processes.

At the same time
human behaviours are
,

to
an

extent
,

influenced by various worldly factors
such as
biological/physical activit
ies,
cognitive factors, their own selves, environmental stimuli,
and
unconscious motives.

In
addition,
these
factors can
still
be moderated by
the
soul
.



5. Individual differences (idiographic) versus universal principles (nomothetic)


“How muc
h of our behaviour is a consequence of our unique and special qualities and
how much reflects the culture and society in which we live? How much of our behaviour
is universally human?”

(Feldman, 2001, p. 19).


58


Feldman stated that
the
idiographic approach

is subscribed
to
by
the
humanistic
(uniqueness of self) and cognitive (uniqueness of each individual’s cognition)
perspectives
whereas
the
nomothetic approach is subscribed
to
by
the
biological
(universality of genes and physiology) and psychodynamic (uni
versality of unconscious
sexual and aggressive motives) perspectives. The behavioural perspective, on the other
hand, subscribes to both idiographic (people’s unique experience) and nomothetic
(people’s shared experience).

Thus
,
apart from
behaviourism
, t
he other psychological
perspective
s

favour one
approach
over the other.



Islam reminds us of the similarity that each person ha
s
to

the rest of human being.

But, Islam also highlights exceptions to show th
e uniqueness of each individual
. This
uniqueness usually stems from the
iman

(spiritual c
ognition) and
`amal

(spiritual

behaviour) of the individuals.

The
Qur’an in one of its most famous chapter
s

mention
s

that all human beings
(
nomothetic perspective
)

are

in
loss except
(
idiographic
perspective
)

those who have faith and do righteous deeds, an
d recommend
to

other
s

the
Truth, and
one another to patience (
Qur’an,
10
3
:

1
-
3).

There are many

verses in the
Qur’an that show

human beings’ inability to accept the truth, the difficulties in
performing certain desirable behaviours, or the tendency to be l
ed astray, except for those
who possess certain spiritual quality such as
khushu`

or humility

(
Qur’an,
2:

45),
acceptance of the divine guidance (
Qur’an,
2:

143), understanding (
Qur’an,
2:

269; 3:

7),
repentance (
Qur’an,
3:

89; 4:

146; 19:

60; 24:

5; 25:

7
0), patience (
Qur’an,
11:

11; 28:

40), have knowledge (
Qur’an,
29:

43), have faith and perform good deeds (
Qur’an,
38:

24), piety (
Qur’an,
43:

67), and devotion to
salat

(
Qur’an,
70:

22).
Therefore
, even
though all human beings generally behave in the same

way, each individual may differ
based on the influence of cognitive (e.g.
,

understanding), unconscious (e.g.
,

khushu`
), or
self (e.g.
,

repentence) or behavioural (e.g.
,

devotion to
salat
) factors.

The
distinction
between

contemporary psychology and Islam
is that, th
e
se factors are primarily spiritual
which further shows the importance of
the
soul in studying psychology.



From
the
nomothetic perspective,
the
Qur’an mention
s

several negative attributes
which are generalised to all human beings
(
which would

be of interest to
the
psychodynamic perspective
)

such as
being
aggressi
ve

(
Qur’an,
2:

30), ungrateful
(
Qur’an,
2:

243; 10:

60; 11:

9; 12:

38; 17:

67; 22:

66; 27:

73), weak in controlling sexual
desire (
Qur’an,
4:

28), unjust and ignorant (
Qur’an,
16:

38;
33:

72; 34:

28; 45:

26), selfish
(
Qur’an,
10:

12), rebellious (
Qur’an,
10:

23; 16:

4), disagreeable and arrogant (
Qur’an,
11:

118; 17:

83; 18:

54; 36:

77), inclined to evil (
Qur’an,
12:

53), hasty (
Qur’an,
17:

11;
21:

37), and miserly (
Qur’an,
17:

100).

Ho
wever, if one read
s

the
above
Qur’anic verses
closely
, one will see that
the
soul
factor
(
iman
) is more powerful than the natural
‘un
conscious’ instinct.

The
Qur’an also mention
s

several positive attributes which are
generalised to all human being
s

(
which
would be of interest to
the
humanistic
perspective
)

such as having
a
religious inclination (
Qur’an,
7:

87; 7:

172; 30:

30),

and

being
self
-
actualising (
Qur’an,
39:

53; 13:

11; 17:

17).

W
hile
t
hese attributes

are
considered
to be
in the realm of
the
unconsc
ious
they are

positive,
which is contrary to
the assumptions of the
psychodynamic perspective
.



59

I
t is generally accepted that Islamic law
s

and rulings should be applied to all
human being
s

(Qur’an
,

7:

3; 24:

1) with the assumption
that all

human being
s

hav
e been
awarded the same
`aql

or ability to t
hink and the freedom to choose.

Complementary to
Islam’s acknowledgement of the concept of universality
of human behaviour
,
the
Qur’an
also recognises individual differences and does not burden any indiv
idual

bey
ond his/her
capacity
(Qur’an,
2:

286; 23:

62).
The
Qur’an also acknowledges the subjectivity and
different level
s

of contributions made by different individual
s

(
Qur’an,
99:

7
-
8)
.

In fact,
Islam acknowledges the inability of certain individuals
to

follow

s
ome of Allah
comma
nds such as those who are weak
(Qur’an,
4:98), under compulsion
(Qur’an,
6:

119; 16:

106), or make unintentional mistake
s

(Qur’an,
33:

5).

Furthermore
, some Islamic
legal maxims consider individual differences in terms of difficulty (e.g.
,

‘Any difficulty
will

open the door to facility’)
,

harm (e.g.
,

‘Harm should be abolished
’ AND ‘Harm

will
lead to permissibility of the prohibited

)

and

culture (e.g.
,


Culture is considered when
making judgements and rulings
’)
. Therefore,
even if
the
majo
rity of human behaviour
s

can be influenced by various worldly factors,
the
soul still play
s

an important
role

in
making each individual a unique person.



To summarise
, Islam provides a balanced focus between
universal principles of
human behaviour (wit
h
its

universal natural law
s

and
shari`ah

law
s
) and individual
differences (w
ith its exceptional rules). Th
e

universal law
s

may include biological law,
unconscious instinctual law, socio
-
cultural law, and
the
law of perception and cognition.
However, thes
e laws do not influence human beings totally depending on the soul factor
particularly
iman
.

The
Qur’an mention
s
some distinct characteristics of human beings
who possess
iman

and at the same time highlights similarities among those who possess
iman

in ter
ms of positive behaviour and mental processes (cf.
Qur’an,
2:

132
-
135; 8:

2
-
4;
9:

111
-
112; 23:

1
-
10; 25:

63
-
77). I
t is the soul that
makes human being
s

similar to some
people and at the same time different from some other
s
.
The table below, taken from
Feld
man
, shows how the Islamic perspective

of

human nature compares
with
contemporary psychological perspectives.


Table
1
: Comparison between contemporary psychological perspectives and
the
Islam
perspective
regarding issues
relating to human nature



PERSPEC
TIVE

ISSUES

Biological

P/
dynamic

Cognitive

Behavioural

Humanistic

Islam

Nature vs.

Nurture

Nature

Nature

Both

Nurture

Nurture

Both

Conscious vs.
unconscious

Unconscious

Unconscious

Both

Conscious

Conscious

Both

Observable vs.
internal

Internal

Interna
l

Internal

Observable

Internal

Both

Free
-
will vs.
determinism

Determinism

Determinism

Free
-
will

Determinism

Free
-
will

Both

Individual vs.
universal

Universal

Universal

Individual

Both

Individual

Both


Source: Feldman (2001), p. 19.



60

WHAT ARE THE IMPLI
CATIONS FOR RESEARCH AND TEACHING IN
PSYCHOLOGY?


On the basis of the Qur’an and
h
adith
, the nature of man is complex, encompassing many
different aspects of the physical and the inner self. These sources also emphasi
z
e the
socio
-
cultural factors in shapin
g man’s nature. However, at present, Muslims have yet to
develop a coherent framework or approach that can incorporate all these different aspects
of man as an alternativ
e to the biopsychosocial model.

There has been an attempt in the
West to synthesise at

least two psychological perspective
s

to form a new sub
-
discipline
or area of research in psychology such as biological and cognitive perspective
s

(in the
form of cognitive
neuroscience
), biology and behaviourism (in the form of socio
-
biology), and behavio
urism and cognitive perspective
s

(in the form of social cognition).
It is difficult and rare to find any integration between psychodynamic and humanistic
perspective
s

with other more ‘scientific’ perspective
s

like
the
biological, cognitiv
e, and
behavioura
l perspectives
.



T
he alternative
Islamic

framework must incorporate the spiritual side of man
because this is what distinguishes the Islamic perspective of human nature from
contemporary perspectives

in psychology
. By acknowledging this spiritual presenc
e, man
concedes to be a transcendent being, created by God (and thus accountable to Him
)
.
Based on the framework, Muslim 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.


This Islamic psychological perspective should provide a better unified and
integrated model of psychology because it considers the biological, psycholo
gical, socio
-
cultural, and spiritual factors in describing and explaining human behaviour and mental
processes.
As mention
ed
, although
the
Qur’an touche
s

on all these perspectives,
their

relat
ionship with one another is not obvious

due to the organisation
of the
Qur’an itself
.

W
hat can be discerned is that these perspectives
are

united

by

the concept of
the
soul
(most notably, the concept of
iman
)
, which forms the umbrella under which all the
different perspectives

are subsumed.

Using this
alternative
frame
work, Muslim
res
earchers
and
students must conduct research to obtain

scientific evidence and then
interpret the research findings based on the general understanding of human nature as
stipulated in the Qur’an and
h
adith
.
E
xisting research from modern psyc
hology can
always be used to

support the Islamic framework.

The challenge is to further refine the
theories developed under this Islamic framework to make it more testable.


As suggested by Badri (1979), the Qur’an and
h
adith

should be used to guide us
to

the laws of human nature. These laws can be used as the backbone to build a theory (or
theories) about human nature based on the writings of early Muslim scholars and
contemporary research findings.

When teaching any
topic
s in psychology we need to
unders
tand the underlying philosophy of human nature of the
W
estern theories and its
applications. We can also (re)interpret any research result in the light of how Islam views
human nature. Finally, applications of psychological principles should also consider
our

61

understanding of th
e Islamic view of human nature.

This needs constant effort from
teachers and students alike in using Islamic perspective as the theoretical framework to
guide research on human behaviour and mental processes, and/or using it to expla
in and
make sense of research results
reported

by both Islamic and secular researchers.


CHALLENGES

FOR

MUSLIM
S

TO
ACCEPT THE SOUL AS

A
PSYCHOLOGICAL VARIABLE


Ev
en if Muslim psycholog
ists

accept the existence of the soul in psychology, there are
still
c
hallenges

that they will encounter.

The first is whether
iman

is a continuous
variable
(increase
s

and

decrease
s
)
or a discrete variable

(
either/or)
.

Sometimes
the
Qur’an use
s

the
word ‘
iman


(belie
f
)

to mean ‘acceptance of Islam as
a
religion
,

including th
e unseen’ as
opposite to ‘
kufr

(disbelief)
which is ‘total rejection of the truth’ (
Qur’an,
2:

255). As
early as
surah

al
-
Baqarah
,
the
Qur’an has already differentiate
d

the behaviours of
al
-
muttaqin

(the pious),
kuffar
(the rejector), and
munafiqin

(the h
ypocrites) based on their
acceptance and rejection of the truth (
Qur’an,
2:

1
-
20; see also 6:

20; 16:

106
-
107).

A
classic definition of ‘
iman
’ involves acceptance

of the
religion not only

with the heart,
but also
acceptance w
ith the tongue

and behaviour
.
C
lassic Islamic literature has also
listed behaviours and mental processes that can nullify the
iman/shahadah

which means
that
iman

can be interpreted a
s a discrete variable.

At the same time
the
Qur’an also
highlight
s

that a person who already possess
es

im
an

(
al
-
mu’min
) may realise that his
iman

may
increase and decrease (
Qur’an,
8:

2; 3:

173; 48:

4) without reaching the
kufr

level.

Abu Darda’
(
RA
)
, a companion of the prophet said: “One of the indicator
s

of a
person’s understanding is when he/she knows whet
her his/her
iman

increase
s

or
decrease
s
.”

Behaviours that lead to the increase of
iman

are, in general,
`amal

(good
deeds),
dhikr

(rememberance), and
tafakkur

(contemplation), just like any
ma`siyah

(bad
deeds) will lead to decrease of
iman
.

Therefore, psy
cholog
ists

need to differentiate
between
iman

as the opposite of
kufr

(discrete variable)
; and
iman

as
the

level
differentiating between a good
mu’min

and a bad
mu’min

(continuous variable)
.

As
mentioned,

even
the
iman

of a

good
mu’min

may

fluctuate from t
ime to time depending
on his
`amal

(behaviour).

Psychology teachers and students have to
be
able to
differentiate between these two different conceptualisation
s

of
the
soul when reading and
interpreting psychology literature, and when studying psychologica
l variables.


This bring us to the second
challenge regarding the

direction of
relation between
the soul and behaviour (also mental processes);
is the

soul
the only determinant of
behaviour and mental processes, or
can
behaviour and mental processes als
o influence
the soul
, or is there a
bi
-
directional
relationship between them?

Reading

the Qur’an
carefully
one
will notice that the term
`amal salih

(good deeds or behaviours)
is

paired
with the term
iman

more than 70 times indicatin
g their close relations
hip.

As discussed
in
various Qur’anic verses,
iman

plays an important role in influencing b
ehaviours and
mental processes.

Prophet
Muhammad
(PBUH)

said: “
Iman

is not just about hope and
observable decoration, but it is what grow
s

inside the heart
(
mental p
rocesses
)
and made
evidence

by the
(
observable
)

behaviour” (narra
ted by Ibn Najjar and Dailami).

On the
other hand
, behaviours and

mental processes can also
influence
iman
, as

mentioned by
t
he
Prophet
(PBUH)
,
“Purity is part of
iman
” (narrated by Muslim Vo
l. 2, No. 0432) and

62

his companion by
the
name
of `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud

“The slave continues to lie
(
an
observable behaviour
)

and a black spot grows in his heart
(
a
soul factor
)

unt
il all his heart
becomes black.

Then he is written, in Allah’s sight, among t
he liars” (narrat
ed by Malik,
Book 56, No. 018).

The
Qur’an also mention
s

that although the hypocrites behave
observably like the believers (including declaring their
iman

or faith), because their
mental processes (
Qur’an,
2:

8
-
9) are contradictory to thei
r observable behaviours, their
heart is full of disease and because of that
Allah increases their disease

(
Qur’an,
2:10)

indicating the
influence

of the behaviours

on the development of the soul
. Psychology
teachers and students have to
be
able to differe
ntiate between
the
soul as an independent
or predictor variable and
the
soul as a dependent or criterion variable when reading and
interpreting psychology literature, and when studying psychological variables.

There are
also other challenges that will nee
d to be dealt with such as the measurement of the
construct

soul
’ or
iman
,
its validation, and others.



CONCLUSION


Muslim psychologists need to be aware of the various psychological perspectives and the
underlying theories in contemporary psychology t
extbooks. We need to know how these
theories perceive human nature, and how similar
to
or different
from
the Islamic view on
human nature

they are
. While Islam has given its view on the various issues regarding
human nature, it is up to us as teachers and
students to critically think and carry out
empirical research to ensure that the Islamic psych
ological perspective is viable.

Finally
,
teachers should portray Islamically
-
oriented psychology as a balanced alternative
philosophical view of human nature as m
entioned in the Qur’an “In order that you ma
y
not transgress (due) balance.

So, establish weight with justice and fall not short in the
balance”
(55:

8
-
9)

and “Thus We made of you a nation justly balanced, that you might be
witnesses over all human being

(2: 143)
.

At the same time,
M
uslim psychologists need
to be aware
of
the challenges they will face in conceptualising and operationalising
the
soul as a variable and identifying i
ts relationship with behaviour

and
other factors such as
biolog
y
, environmen
t
,
the
unconsci
ous, self, and cogniti
on
. Through the hard work of
Muslim psychologists (behaviour), and the right Islamic mindset (mental processes),
guided by their
iman

(soul), it is hoped that a general Islamic framework (which allows
several sub
-
theorie
s) will one day
be a viable option

in contemporary psychology
textbooks and journals.



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