Quranic PsychologyMustafa Mahmood,
To be moral, in a philosophical sense, is to be able to find a means of satisfying your desires without infringing
the rights of others to satisfy theirs. In this sense, therefore, morality is primarily a socio-materialistic concept, in so
far as its object is the equal distribution of pleasure.
The religious concept of morality is, however, diametrically opposed to this. To be religiously moral is to exercise
self-control by curbing your desires and restraining your passion in order to attain your exalted status as a human
being worthy of inheriting the Kingdom of God, and indeed, the whole world that has been put in your service. You
could never be worthy of being a master of this world until you have succeeded in mastering your own "self', that is,
being fully in charge of your inner kingdom.
Religious morality in this sense requires progress from the lower level of self-slavishness (being a slave to the self)
to the higher level of being closer to God. Rather than a call for a better distribution of pleasure morality is, in this sense,
a call for breading the shackles of pleasure. The two approaches, the philosophical and the religious, are
therefore totally different and they produce totally different human beings.
Materialistic philosophy, furthermore, has produced a materialistic man who seeks immediate pleasure, an
immediate materialistic reward for all human activity -hence his 'temporal' orientation, that is to say, his approach
to reality in terms of the 'pleasure of the moment', and what time has to offer. But moments are by definition
transitory and time perpetually flies, so that this kind of man inevitably feels he is being left behind, and,
paradoxically, with a lump in his throat. The greater the fulfillment of his desires, the greedier and hungrier
they get. He bets on time, with no assets for the future; for as a moral human being, he expects death to come,
unexpectedly; and, as the fleeting moments give him satisfaction only to take it away from him, he lives in anxiety,
pulled apart by conflicting desires, until death comes in the end.
A believer has a different psychological make-up, however, and a different sense of morality based on a
different human vision. He sees worldly pleasures for what they are transitory and, in a very real sense,
mortal. They constitute a test which, if passed, should admit him to higher ranks beyond this world. Indeed,
the whole world is nothing but a path of transition from this world to the other, with God as the only security
for such a trip. God is the only ruler who reigns supreme, and who determines His will and woe. If all people
decide to profit or do harm to him, they could not achieve anything that was not preordained, he believes,
and that is why he is neither overjoyed by material gain, nor over- dismayed by material loss. If things do not
go his way he would say to himself:
YOU MAY HATE A THING, WHICH IS REALLY GOOD FOR YOU, AND YOU MAY LOVE A THING
WHICH IS REALLY BAD FOR YOU: GOD KNOWS AND YOU KNOW NOT. (Quran, 5.2: V.216)
He would fight, audaciously, never flinching from death, chanting
WHEREVER YOU MAY BE, DEATH WILL OVERTAKE YOU, THOUGH YOU
SHOULD BE IN RAISED-UP TOWERS . Quran, 5.4 : V.78)
IT IS NOT GIVEN TO ANY SOUL TO DIE, SAVE BY THE LEAVE OF GOD, AT AN APPOINTED
TIME. (Quran, 5.3: V.145)
He neither envies nor covets the property of anybody; indeed, he pities the 'multitude who walk in darkness',
He listens to the whispers of his heart:
LET IT NOT DELUDE THEE, THAT THE UNBELIEVERS GO TO AND FRO IN THE LAND;
A LITTLE ENJOYMENT, THEN THEIR REFUGE IS GEHENNAM, AN EVIL ABODE . (Qur'an, 5.3: V.196)
WE GRANT THEM INDULGENCE ONLY THAT THEY MAY INCREASE IN SIN . (Qur'an, 5.3: V. 178)
NO AFFLICTION BEFALLS IN THE EARTH OR IN YOURSELVES, BUT IT IS IN A BOOK, BEFORE
WE CREATE IT; THAT IS EASY FOR GOD: THAT YOU MAY NOT GRIEVE FOR WHAT ESCAPES
YOU, NOR REJOICE IN WHAT HAS COME TO YOU; GOD LOVES NOT ANY MAN PROUD AND
BOASTFUL . (Qur'an, 5.57:V.22)
SAY: NAUGHT SHALL VISIT US BUT WHAT GOD HAS PRESCRIBED FOR US . (Qur'an, 5.9: V. 51 )
These verses combine to inspire the believer with a serene mood, and perfect peace of mind:
IN GOD'S REMEMBRANCE ARE AT REST THE HEARTS OF THOSE WHO BELIEVE . (Qur'an, 5.13:V.28)
Such a believer finds ample recompense for the conquered desires, warmth in his heart, and the sweet
sense of inner freedom and inward light.
Believing in one God makes for inner unity: he receives inspiration from a single source; he fears one
authority , hopes to please one power, and seeks to establish a permanent relationship with one ideal.
Such, unity of source and target has a unifying effect on the soul, His character develops internal harmony
which precludes all possibility of conflict or discord within.
This is the clue to Ouranic psychology: it has immediate ethical and behavioristic implications which contrast
sharply with Freudian psychology. Indeed, what is it that Freud has taught?
Freud believes that guilt is a kind of disease, that repentance is regression, that control of desires is repression,
that regret is the outcome of a complex, and that forbearance is apathy.
Freud looked at all action in terms of behavior and motive, in disregard of the real intention and sincerity.
He could only see the animal inside man, and dealt with human motivation within the framework of base
appetites and lust. He believed that all dreams could be interpreted in this way: whatever was round,
such as a cave, a ditch, a hole or a ring, stood for the female; while anything upright, such as a pen,
a sword, a tower, a stick (and even a serpent) stood for the male; and all movement, such as walking,
running, climbing, flying and swimming, stood for the sexual act.
He looked on the soul as completely isolated from its metaphysical sources but he could not recognize
the devil's temptation, angelic whispers, or divine afflatus.
Of a child's attachment to his mother, he spun out an Oedipus complex--- an unconscious desire to kill the
hated father, which assumes in the child the conscious behavior of flattering him and endeavoring to rape him.
In the world of adults, however, this is compensated for by worship of the heavenly father, which,
according to Freud, represents a redemption of their unconscious desire to kill the earthly father.
Freud believed that human character assumed its final shape in the first five years of one's life;
subsequently it became the destiny of the individual, and all psychiatry could do, would be in the
nature of providing sedatives or helping the repressed feelings and desires to have an outlet.
Freud could not see, in short, any other areas of the soul except the base, animalistic region.
The chief weakness of Freudian psychology is, however, its reluctance to recognize the possibility
of change. Quranic psychology establishes this as a norm; cure is always possible because it involves
a restoration of the original soundness of the human soul, the removal of extraneous element--- such
as hate, malice, envy, lust etc.
According to the Ouran, there are many levels of the human spirit apart from the low, animalistic one: the
soul has seven 'grades' which proceed from temptation and expiation, to inspiration, and peace, to harmony
and content, and finally, to perfection. Man can proceed from one grade to the next, higher and higher still,
through obedience to God and genuine worship. Moderation has been established by the Qur'an as the
ideal mode of behavior.
We are met, everywhere, by instructive examples of the change within the soul from darkness to light, even
instantly, by God's guidance. A prominent example was that of Omar Ibn-al-Khattab who, during the life of
the Prophet, (pbuh) instantly changed from a life of pagan cruelty and iniquity to one of exemplary and
WE HAVE STRIPPED AWAY ALL RANCOR THAT IS IN THEIR
BREASTS. (Qur'an, 5.15: V.47)
Such is the kind of instant psychological cure which we learn from the Ouran and which is not to be found
in any other secular discipline.
Article printed with permission from Dr. A.R. El-Gendy, Secretary General Assistant, Islamic Organization
for Medical Sciences (IOMS)
Please Check out IOMS's website which contains a wealth of information on health/medical issues for Muslims at: