The Psychology of Faith

As a psychology student, I learn about different approaches/theories about the structure of personality and how defects in this can lead to mental health. Some evidence points to genetic causes, bad childhood, environmental stress etc. One of the most prominent approaches is Freud’s psychodynamic theory which is based on the Id, ego and superego. The Id contains our basic human drives such as aggression and sexual impulses, according to the psychodynamic model we are constantly battling with our Id impulses vs our superego which contains our moral compass. The Id is mentioned in the Quran centuries before the likes of Freud, Allah is constantly referring to our nafs, jihad al naf the constant struggle with our inner desires. The prophet (saw) said Blessed are those who have performed the minor jihad and have yet to perform the major jihad. When asked, what is the major jihad? The Prophet (s) replied: The jihad of the self (struggle against self) [Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 19, p. 182, hadith no. 31]. Islam acknowledges the dangers of the self and how we have these desires that constantly go against our moral code.

As Muslims and believers in religion in general have is a meaning to life. Recently I have been learning about an approach in psychotherapy called existentialism. Its therapeutic method is based on an underlying theory that unless man has meaning to his life he will suffers from neurosis and psychosis. The founder victor frankl claims that man’s primary concern is not self-actualisation as other theories emphasise on but fulfilment of meaning. The approach describes a phenomenon called an existential vacuum which is an inner emptiness the feeling of having lost the meaning of existence and the content of life. Subhannallah, sometimes as Muslims we don’t appreciate enough or realise how liberated we are that we have a meaning to our lives and without meaning we not only wouldn’t have a purpose i.e. Yolo living,but this could lead to mental illness. Allah says those who have faith and whose hearts find peace in the remembrance of god. Truly it is in the remembrance of god that hearts find peace 13:28. We all experience it when your Iman is good and you begin to feel tranquillity in your heart and sense of peace like you have never experienced before.  The Quran also says did you think that we created you without any purpose, and that you will not be brought back to us? This existential vacuum that people feel is largely due to a lack of purpose in their lives. That’s why some people being to have suicidal thoughts, self-harm and other psychological disorders if there is no purpose of living, then what is the point?  The Quran asks humanity to question why they are on this earth and what their purpose is, which is to worship him alone.

Islam understood the human psyche long before the advent of the discipline of psychology. As Allah created us then it’s only logically that our hearts will never be happy, content or satisfied until we fill that hole in our hearts with the love and worship of our lord. Allah is our source of peace (As-Salam), our sustainer (Ar-Razzaq) and our reliever (Al-Basit).

*originally written on my call of duty of a muslimah blog March 2015

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