Modern Psychology and Islam

“Your struggles aren’t a reflection of your faith. Islam values compassion, empathy, and taking care of yourself. And guess what? That includes your mental health.”

“Your struggles aren’t a reflection of your faith. Islam values compassion, empathy, and taking care of yourself. And guess what? That includes your mental health.”

Let’s talk about something that weighs heavy on many hearts — mental health in the Muslim community.

If you’re feeling the weight of depression and anxiety, it’s okay to seek help, really. In fact, it’s brave and smart. But sometimes, the fear creeps in, right? The worry that seeking help somehow makes you less connected to Allah, or a ‘bad’ Muslim. 

But here’s the truth: being human is tough, especially in a society that puts a lot of pressure on cultural norms rather than true Islamic practices. Your struggles aren’t a reflection of your faith. Islam values compassion, empathy, and taking care of yourself. And guess what? That includes your mental health.

You’re not alone in this battle. Here is the detailed version so that you can understand the true teachings of Islam and especially modern psychology. 


Psychology, as the study of behaviors, encompasses both everyday actions and deeper facets of the mind, shaping a healthy soul capable of free will and conscious actions.

This viewpoint suggests harmony between Islam and psychology, implying no conflicts for practicing Muslims. With Islam’s promise to fulfill all human faculties, the Muslim world, embracing this idea, should ideally foster a psychologically sound populace, aligning spiritual teachings with psychological well-being for a balanced society. 

The Need to Understand Psychology in Muslim Societies

Imagine yourself in similar situations when you are reading these cases, also these cases are not exclusive to just Islamic societies and the main reason is the socio-cultural political economic, and regional dimensions. 

  1. War and Trauma: Children in conflict zones witness family and friends dying in clashes, impacting their psychological development and leaving lasting trauma.
  2. Religious Secrecy and Guilt: Some Muslims hide religious practices to avoid societal rejection, leading to feelings of guilt and inferiority, particularly affecting children and adolescents.
  3. Forced Marriages and Emotional Turmoil: In certain regions, girls endure forced marriages, struggling emotionally and often facing suicidal thoughts, perpetuating a cycle of revenge and trauma for their children. 
  4. Familial Dynamics: Children growing up with absent emotional support, lack of appreciation from fathers, and witnessing disrespect toward mothers may perpetuate similar patterns in their own families, impacting their parenting styles and spousal relationships. 

Modern Psychology

Modern psychology, developed largely in the West, faces challenges in applying universal principles due to inherent subjectivity within social sciences. Variations in defining ideals and societal conditions necessitate distinct approaches for each community, as highlighted by Richard Nisbett’s studies revealing cognitive differences between Easterners and Westerners.

The Western-centric approach doesn’t wholly represent Eastern perspectives, impacting psychological treatments. Additionally, psychology’s view of faith and religion as statistical elements contrasts sharply with cultural and spiritual significance in societies like Islam, posing limitations in aligning treatments with Muslim beliefs and experiences. 

Some Muslims misunderstand psychology to uphold their ego leading to misinterpreting Islam. Examples include misrepresenting Freud’s focus on sexuality, misinterpreting behaviorism as negating free will, and the mismatch between ego-centric self-improvement techniques and Islamic truths.

While not universal, these misconceptions fuel a rejection of psychology among some individuals lacking in-depth understanding. 

Muslim Scientists’ Work in Psychology

Medieval Muslim philosophers like Al-Kindi, Abu Zayd al Balkhi, Al-Farabi, Ibn-Sina, and Al-Ghazali made pivotal contributions to psychology. They explored the soul’s functions, differentiated physical and psychological disorders, and delved into social psychology, mind-body relationships, and cognitive aspects.

Abu Zayd al Balkhi explored physical and psychological disorders in his book ‘The Sustenance of the Body and the Soul.’ Meanwhile, discussed human psychology, detailing mind-body relationships, sense perception, and related cognitive facets in his renowned book, ‘Kitab al Shifa.’

Al-Ghazali’s masterpiece, ‘The Revival of the Religious Sciences,’ particularly enriched the understanding of human psychological development. Their works served as foundational concepts, influencing modern psychological theories and practices, and shaping the landscape of contemporary psychology. 

The Middle Path of Islam

Psychology can benefit Muslims when aligned with teachings from the Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad’s practices, untouched by cultural influences. Some things accepted by Muslim communities might not align with true Islamic teachings, while others perceived as conflicting could be acceptable.

Counseling without Islamic guidance may maintain the status quo, but combining psychology with Islamic principles can lead to meaningful improvement. For instance, Islam encourages unity in diversity, valuing differences rather than enforcing uniformity.

Approaching psychology through Islamic values, like exploring childhood memories’ impact or using behaviorism for positive change, can help Muslims grow while staying true to their faith. 

Quran and Human Psychology

The Quran emphasizes compassion, understanding, and caring for one’s mental well-being, dispelling misconceptions that mental health issues are foreign or absent within Islamic teachings. Understanding the Quran’s teachings reveals the importance of empathy, support, and seeking help for mental health struggles within Muslim communities. 

Islam incorporates psychology through spiritual practices, emphasizing the significance of mental well-being, utilizing the Quran as a guiding source for those facing emotional distress, aligned with the belief in divine remedies for all ailments. 

When we hear the word ‘No,’ an fMRI reveals a rapid release of stress-inducing hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain. These chemicals disrupt regular cognitive processes, hindering logical reasoning, language comprehension, and communication. Prolonged exposure to destructive language leads to persistent rumination, damaging key brain structures responsible for memory, emotions, and feelings. Consequently, this disruption can cause changes in sleep patterns, appetite, and the ability to experience happiness. 

The Quran’s psychological language, centuries ahead of Western psychology, defines inner conflict as ‘nafs al-ammara,’ offering guidance to transcend this state, attaining inner peace or ‘nafs al-mutmainna,’ providing a blueprint for emotional and mental equilibrium. 

The Qur’an describes the nafs, or self, as operating out of one of three states: nafs al-ammara (commanding self); nafs al-lawwama – accusatory self; and nafs al-mutmainna (peaceful self). The Qur’an explains how these states command our psyche and tell us what to do, they control us and dominate us.

If we have nafs al-ammara, it means we are subjugated by the self, we listen and follow its commands. This stage describes the part of us that requires material possessions and sensual desires. With nafs al-lawwama we are conscious of our imperfections and, inspired by our hearts, we see the results of our actions and our weaknesses and aspire for perfection. Finally, nafs al-mutmainna implies contentment and peace, there are no immoral desires. This is the ideal state of ego, there is tranquillity and peace. 

When the emotional needs of a human being are poorly met, the nafs al Amara begins to control our emotions, thoughts, and actions. There are many spiritual practices to weaken this bad nafs (Nafs Al Amara). When it leads and takes control, we start taking things personally, assume negativity in every situation, and start believing that the situation will not be changed for the better. 

When our inner conscience, known as ‘nafs al-lawwama,’ signals something’s amiss in our emotions or actions, we can challenge negativity to reach a more serene state, ‘nafs al-mutmainna,’ using Quranic techniques like ‘Alif-Lam-Mim.’ This process aligns with mindfulness, a modern concept emphasizing self-awareness and thoughtful behavior, even amid our desires and impulses, aiding us in being mindful of ourselves and others. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) shares parallels with Quranic teachings by exploring the connections between thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Its primary goal is to alleviate distress by guiding individuals to experience more adaptive thinking patterns and behaviors. CBT stands as one of the most extensively studied and supported psychotherapeutic approaches, reflected in clinical guidelines recommending it for various mental health issues. 

The Quran underscores psychological well-being, urging a societal shift towards love, humility, and an environment free from stigma and hate, fostering a collective pursuit of mental health acceptance and support. 

Recent studies affirm religion’s impact on behavior, enhancing physical, mental, and spiritual health, while denying spirituality entirely yields adverse outcomes. American Psychological Association APA acknowledges religion’s psychological dimensions within Division 36, highlighting its significance in holistic well-being. 


Understanding psychology within Islam can help us become better Muslims and address bigger issues like conflicts, injustice, and poverty. By learning how our minds work in line with our faith, we can use self-improvement as a way to serve and rely on God.

To make this happen, we need an education that blends psychology with Islamic values, empowering us to change and serve our communities for the better.