A challenge for Islamic psychologists

Published at November 10, 2018 01:06 AM 0Comment(s)3486views

Our worldview gives us faith in how the world around us works and this faith can’t be discarded



A challenge for Islamic psychologists

Dr Eshrat Ara

When one is on spiritual journey, the most essential requisite that matters is Honesty and same is the requirement for research.  We are social scientists and we must have the scientific vigour. But scientists are also humans. Their cultural values not only shape their values and beliefs but also their research questions and methodology they use.

People spend their energy in what is valued in their culture. Then why are they being evaluated on criteria that are of value to the western cultures. 

Ours is an age of anxiety and restlessness. A change is overtaking the world.History tells us that such ages of restlessness have also been periods of birth for new movements and cultures.

We need to follow what is happening in the world because the world is ever changing and if we don’t keep up with the changes, we will fall in the trouble.

A significant feature of the present century is the new and widespread trend of Islam revival. After a long period of stagnation the world of Islam is rising from its stupor.

A new awakening has appeared on the horizon; a new life is being infused into the community of Islam. This trend is visible in every country (for example Malaysia, Canada, etc) and at every place and has within it the possibilities of its becoming the indicator of a new age.

This revivalist trend has become the messenger of a new as it is accompanied by an intellectual revolution-a thorough appraisal of the intellectual and cultural heritage of Islam (for example on 7 of August 2018 Google Doodle celebrated the life of philosopher-scientist IbnSina or Avicenna on his 1038th birthday; October is celebrated as Islamic History Month across Canada; etc) and its representation to the world in the language of today (for example the International Institute of Islamic Thought [IIIT], Washington DC; Research Centre for Islamic Legislation and Ethics [CILE], Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Qatar; Zaytuna Institute in Berkeley, California, US; etc).

Part of the academic culture in Europe and US is to deal with the community. It is well-known there, “public or perish”. The keenness to be involved in and to contribute to the community is positive.

But in this part of the world, being in the government sector and that too education department is everything to be achieved and attained - where one does not even need to work for survival not to think of any contribution towards the society.

We also live in a Muslim community. Islam is part and parcel of our identity and culture. We should also be concerned about the challenges that our society is facing.

We should also address the major questions and we can’t avoid them. We cannot afford to raise the same issues and discuss on them again and again. We should raise the issues that will decide the future of our society and nation and work for the transformation of our society.

We should try to employ all the elements that will lead to the development of our society in a comprehensive, balanced and a sustainable way.

We must try to eliminate this unpleasant dichotomy that we are living with as a believer and as a professional. And actually many of these intellectual battles are sometimes unnecessary. If we go outside we don’t find that people have problem of identity and modernity.

Our problem is exaggeration. Our westernized-secular-minded intellectuals and professionals think that believing in Islam or any other religion affects objectivity. If one is committed to Islam and is observant to Islamic teachings, it shows his/her un-objectivity.

So the person should be a priest (Mawlana) in a Madrasah and not an academician. A Hijabi woman is perceived as problematic by our westernized-secular-minded Muslim professionals.

If an individual speaks about Indigenization or Islamic Adaptation of Psychology, he/she is bombarded with the questions (criticism) like what is the psychology of the people behind 9/11 attacks, what is the psychology of suicide bombers, etc. because the person seems to be committed to the culture and the religion, which does not appeal to the westernized-secular-intellect and taste.   

Our westernized-secular-minded professionals boast about the technological advancement of the other (west). Nobody can deny that advancement and we are all consumers of that technology but the use of technology is not changing the worldview of people.

And the lures of modernity can be consumed in culturally appropriate ways. People move from ideology to tradition to common sense, and consumption and adoption of technology is motivated by common sense, but ideology and tradition still have their grip on people.

We have a worldview different from the scientific worldview adopted by the western-secular-humanists. Our worldview gives us faith in how the world around us works and this faith can’t be discarded.

And my point is justified by a single example of medicine, that when it comes to healing process we are witnessing faith and science coming to an interesting confluence.

Being an academician or a social researcher, if one is committed to Islam and is being engaged in the society, it is positive. It is a blessing from God that one can take both the perspectives and can be benefitted. So the person does not need to be worried about getting marginalized, instead the person must focus on the journey.  

There are many around the world, who don’t want to copy the west and it is being increasingly and seriously realized by the committed professionals belonging to any culture and any faith that there is no need for those meaningless limitations. They possess an independent intellectual thinking.

Islam is not just an intellectual pursuit but a way of life and it does not make an individual a biased researcher or a problematic teacher; instead it makes an individual an informed researcher and a civilized teacher, because such an individual writes and teaches both as a thinker and a practitioner. When an individual represents his/her culture, it indicates that the person is aware of his/her role and responsibility and that role is recognized by the people too.

 Islam is not all about conversions or certain rituals; it is also about sharing an alternative reality- an alternative approach to life. And if this alternative works better, then what is the problem in acceptance.

Taking care of it, supporting it and promoting it, is not just because of belief in its intrinsic significance but also due to its instrumental significance. It is suggested to these westernized-secular-minded Muslim professionals to go through your own psychology; either you might be suffering from inferiority complex or identity crisis. It can also be a sheer ignorance and lack of knowledge of your past, present progress around the world and the short-sightedness regarding the future.

Being social scientists or researchers or professionals on reputed positions, we need to question ourselves what is our relationship to Muslims and Muslim community or society.

We need to self-ponder what service we are rendering to this community. Is this only about being parasites on this community by drawing huge money through these positions to live self-centred luxurious lives?


Author has Doctorate in Psychology and is Lecturer in Psychology at Government Degree College Ganderbal



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