Human Psychology and Salah


2113424309_1837fd21d6_bAs I navigate through my journey of self discovery, I have read books about psychology written by those whom society hails as the greatest of minds. My library is full of books from Greek mythology to modern psychology, the majority of which I haven’t read past the first couple of chapters. The material, however, is often too vague or abstract , and almost always unsatisfactory. Recently through the guidance of Allah, I have discovered more about the inner workings of the human mind and spirit in a different book – the verses of the Qur’an.

Rest assured dear brothers and sisters in Islam that Allah will never leave us alone, bewildered and unguided trying to figure out the path that would lead us to His grace and mercy. And that is why He sent the prophets and the messengers with messages of hope and guidance to lead humanity to the straight path. The Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) was sent to us with the final message intact and complete to help us understand ourselves; by reigning in our desires, we can become logical, spiritual people on the path to paradise insha’Allah.

The Qur’an is rich with examples of how Allah gives us a window into our own minds. He describes to us our nature and gives us tools and examples to improve the goodness that lies within it. One prime example is how Allah in Surah Al-Maarij gives us a glimpse into our nature as humans. He says:

إِنَّ الْإِنْسَانَ خُلِقَ هَلُوعًا

“Indeed, mankind was created anxious…” (70:19)

The word هَلُوعًا comes from the noun هَلُع which means excessiveness and being extreme. Allah explains to us further this state of the human psyche in the two ayahs that follow where man’s reaction to either good or bad is extreme on either end:

إِذَا مَسَّهُ الشَّرُّ جَزُوعًا وَإِذَا مَسَّهُ الْخَيْرُ مَنُوعًا

“When evil touches him, impatient, and when good touches him, withholding [of it]…” (70:20-21)

But neither one of those conditions is consistent with how the Prophet (pbuh) describes a mu’min when he says:

“عجبا لأمر المؤمن ، إن أمره كله له خير إن أصابته سراء شكر فكان خير له، وإن أصابته ضراء صبر فكان خير له”

“How wonderful is the case of a believer; there is good for him in everything and this applies only to a believer. If prosperity attends him, he expresses gratitude to Allah and that is good for him; and if adversity befalls him, he endures it patiently and that is good for him.” (Muslim)

So how are we to be thankful and patient while we, as Allah tells us, have been created reactionary and impatient? Well, as Allah has created us with this nature, He has also given us the tools to control and direct that nature towards that which pleases Him. And Allah answers this question for us in the very following ayah:

ِنَّ الْإِنْسَانَ خُلِقَ هَلُوعًا إِذَا مَسَّهُ الشَّرُّ جَزُوعًا وَإِذَا مَسَّهُ الْخَيْرُ مَنُوعًا إِلَّا

“Indeed, mankind was created anxious: when evil touches him, impatient, and when good touches him, withholding [of it], except…” (70:19-21)

إِلَّا means except, which implies the verses to follow are excluded from what has already been described. To continue:

إِلَّا ……الْمُصَلِّينَ الَّذِينَ هُمْ عَلَى صَلَاتِهِمْ دَائِمُونَ

“Except the observers of prayer – those who are constant in their prayer.” (70:22)

Except those who are devoted to prayer. Those who do not let anything deter them, stall them, or prevent them from performing their prayers. They are the ones that Allah has described in Surat An-Nur:

رِجَالٌ لَا تُلْهِيهِمْ تِجَارَةٌ وَلَا بَيْعٌ عَنْ ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَإِقَامِ الصَّلَاةِ وَإِيتَاءِ الزَّكَاةِ ۙ يَخَافُونَ يَوْمًا تَتَقَلَّبُ فِيهِ الْقُلُوبُ وَالْأَبْصَارُ

“…men whom neither commerce nor sale distracts from the remembrance of Allah and performance of prayer and giving of zakah (charity). They fear a Day in which the hearts and eyes will [fearfully] turn about…” (24:37)

We turn toward and meet with our Lord five times a day. We say “Allahu Akbar – God is greatest,” declaring that Allah is above all and that there is nothing that is worth more than being in His company. Prayers are a reflection of the fact that no matter what actions one performs in life, the most important is one’s relationship with Allah.

Prayer is balancing and tranquilizing. If performed properly it will have a lasting effect on the person. After finishing the prayer, the heart will be filled with remembrance of Allah. It will be fearful as well as hopeful of Allah and it will not want to move from such a comfortable position to one where it could  disobey Allah. Allah describes this aspect of the prayer in Surah Al-Ankbut:

إِنَّ الصَّلَاةَ تَنْهَى عَنِ الْفَحْشَاء وَالْمُنكَرِ

Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing. (29:45)

Prayers grant us such power to strive successfully against all kinds of evils and temptations.  It allows us to remain steadfast through trial and adversity, and protects us  from wavering too far to either end of the middle and moderate path.

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14 Comments

  1. Adam Al-Fransi says:

    No doubt, prayer helps us remember our purpose. No Muslim would deny that.
    But, how can we reject modern sciences- whilst acknowledging that we have come to that conclusion having only read the first chapters of these books?
    When rejecting anything, we must have evidence. We must bring up points as to how and why we have rejected the material in question- and what that material is, exactly. Making broad statements about an entire science and it’s ‘failure’ isn’t enough.
    Rather, we should try and use the modern sciences and the language it has provided us with to complement our knowledge of the Quran.

    wallahu a’lam.

    • Nomad78 says:

      Salam Br. Adam,

      I am not rejecting modern science, I am a scientist myself. All I’m saying is that these books although very interesting and I enjoy reading them, I am still left with a big void. I believe that is a problem with science that is dictated by secularism. If you shed a light of faith on this science it would make much more sense and satisfy the inquisitive mind.
      Nomad78

  2. Aziza says:

    Now that’s what I call Human Psychology!
    When I read the verses from Surat Al-Maarij, it hit me: this is how a human being reacts! With all due respect to modern day psychology, but the Qur’an tells it like it is. There’s no trying to find the hidden meanings or tap into your subconscience or anything with state of the art hypnosis or revolutionary psychology treatment to try and find a reason to our reactions and personalities, it’s all there in the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

    Jazak Allah khayr Nomad78 for this great article.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Excellent article, jazakAllahu khairan for allowing us to understand the Quran with a little more depth.

  4. Omar says:

    reminder: I hope the sheikh can comment on this. While the Qur’an is deeper than all social sciences put together, it gives us the essential message of life that we can’t find anywhere. However, we should watch out for being overly emotional with slight hints on “replacing psychology” etc… As someone who studied psych a little I find that many imams, activists, and religious people can find alot of benefit in psychological techniques, models, and analysis that will help us connect better with people, traing in a very creative and deep way, and add to our traditional and Islamic sciences and circle very interesting group and individual techniques rather than monotonous or outdated methods that sometimes we still see in khutbahs, lessons, etc. In fact I think sheikh Suhaib has been probably seen many zealous youth use “classic” defense mechanisms that are all over pyschology books and same with “cognitive disorders” that we usually bring out while discussing topics like politics or parenting… hope I’m not offending anyone, just something to reflect over.

  5. Shaf'i says:

    I understand the frustration the author alludes to when reading psychology or related sciences, Initially I found the same when studying Addictive Behaviour. It seemed like there were thousands of research papers on one minute aspect of behaviour but many of them saying different things and often in contradiction to each other.

    However I discovered many beneficial researches and models related to understanding human nature. After all empirical research is simply the interpretation of observation of events. There are two main problems; firstly the interpretation always has some element of bias as one of my professors said all research is biased, some more than others. Secondly observation of behaviour cannot always accurately reveal the reality of the psychological realm. This is where the definitive knowledge from the Quran and Sunnah can give you a foundation upon which to develop and test theories or analyse and criticise them.

    However I think overall there are many aspects of these sciences that are clearly proven as true due to many decades of research and studies. I believe our role is to study these sciences and to be able to synthesise the proven aspects of these sciences with the Quranic paradigm so as to bring about a meaningful discourse that is both beneficial and acknowledging of truth wherever it may be found. In this approach we improve and expand our own understanding of the Quran / Sunnah as well demonstrate the relevancy of our texts.

  6. shakib says:

    when we had an appetite for knowledge, did we not consume anything, from questioning the notion of Greek rationality to imagining the infinite numbers between 0 and 1? why are we looking for quick-fix solutions in the Quran then? have we become too knowledge-corrupt that our hearts don’t respond to wonderment anymore, or are we suffering from too much of a world-weary-wayward-soul historical narrative that we are content with our worked-solutions. Could it be that we are showing the signs of losing our ability to communicate, like a tribe or species who have been studied beyond recognition? a community of people trapped between two different semiotic and cultural spaces where symbols are failing to make meaning anymore? after all our linguistic sense-making was our first tool of unity, and if the books are telling the truth then it also holds the potential of our imminent fall. To answer if we (muslims) think any differently or alike others one needs to know where the stress is working at the sentence level. The answers could be as much or more than the following:

    1. IS there an islamic way of thinking?
    2. is there AN islamic way of thinking?
    3. is there an ISLAMIC way of thinking?
    4. is there an islamic way of THINKING?

    Do muslims still think like they did in the past? Have not muslims evolved (not in a darwininan sense) intellectually with knowledge, technology and change? Ofcourse they have. Then to consider that Islamic thinking, if there are any such knowledge-making convention, works for the rhetorical purpose of a community bound by a rigors of domain specificity is akin to separate al khawarizmi’s mathmetical models, from al haitham’s treatise on optics and imagine a leap to the information age.

    The second question hints at the possibility of multiple voices at work that subvert the notion that whatever that way is, it is not singular, at least not semantically. there are as many interpretations of what is an authentic islamic experience, outside of the fold as there are inside. There may be arab, american, bengali, malaysian ways of thinking but to call them as islamic is an cultural impossibility.

    Some might even argue that what we are looking at is a marxist, freudian, foucaultian explanation of societal formations which have an economic, cognitive or linguistic explanations of meaning-making transforming their moral, cultural or political capitals into benefit, profit or goods depending on to which school they belong. They might posit the need to understand the ethnographic meaning of islamic, borrowing from a wide range of foundational theories (from radical feminism to post-modernist) or even agreeing to go beyond that.

    The last question may allude to what we have are christian, confucius, buddhist or hindu theological practices that are different from one another. philosophically speaking there are distinct “sciences” of hermenutical practices or discursive strategies that have developed their own linguistic or historical explanations of “difference”. in that way we have scriptural patterns of thinking that help us link our present with our past, so a commonly agreeable future can be negotiated. in other words we are “storied” differently, intellectually so that we can “live” in unity.

  7. Nomad78 says:

    Salam,

    It is interesting how the active minds got caught up in interpreting the meaning of the first paragraph and the rest of the article was read in that frame of mind. This article is an invitation to explore the human psyche and to learn more and more about all forms of sciences but again when you shed a light of faith on it, it makes more sense and gives the heart serenity.
    Let me explain, when I was an undergrad doing my bachelors in Biology I was taught by professors that were pretty much all atheists. So when they look under the microscope they see the works of the cell and say that this explains life and there is no need for a God because we have a system in place and 1+1= 2. They are fooling their minds and souls.
    When I looked under the microscope I saw the intricacy of the creation that led me to say SubhnAllah there is a creator and it is amazing what He has put in place. I search even more exploring His might and His creation.
    Now I have been grappling with the whole sense of purpose and questions about my life over the past couple of decades and I have read and tried to read a lot of books that should help but was still left with a void that is being filled by reading this material in the light of Islamic teachings.
    Nomad78

  8. Amatullah says:

    jazaak Allahu khayran brother for the great article.

  9. Omar says:

    “All I’m saying is that these books although very interesting and I enjoy reading them, I am still left with a big void. I believe that is a problem with science that is dictated by secularism. If you shed a light of faith on this science it would make much more sense and satisfy the inquisitive mind”

    spot on… and although my earlier post was just a reminder not to shun the interesting findings and techniques nothing can fill the void of of the heart except One

  10. Muslima says:

    Thank you for such a helpful article. I’m a little lost in terms of my iman, a bit Depressed even. And wanted to find out if i can get a one on one counsellin and guidance as i couldn find a good muslim therapist. Thank you may allah bless you.

  11. Sheikh Muhammad says:

    May Allah reward you with the best for this wonderful reflection on the direction of the Glorious Qur’an. Really, I am happy to read this content in English.

  12. Dr. Raheela Khalid says:

    asslam o alaikum. it is a very nobel work you have done.In fact not only Salah,but fasting, performing Hajj,giving Zakat,every Ibadat in Islam has its impact on human life. what we need is to spread Islam’s message to human kind from this aspect.so that one could reform his behavior and improve his personality. May Allah almighty bless us all and guide to the right way, way of peace, harmony and unity. Regards

  13. Azhar says:

    I am very pleased to know that we have people among us who are looking deep into knowledge instead of scientific DISCOVERIES which is barely an iota of knowledge simply a visible surface. Truly, Allah is Samad and he don’t need our prayers; it is us who need it and true for the rest of Ibadaat. There are also many restraints in Islam that keeps us away from psychological traumas and those restraints are very controvercial even among muslims such as Alcohol, Music, Pictures, and Food for what we eat.
    Due to lack of space I cannot explain all of them, but Music for example can turn your body and mind balance upside down. Most of the instruments creating above 82 decibles noise can cause a huge negative shift in one’s thinking. Google it and you will see amazing discoveries by non-muslims that align with Islam.

    Finally, I must say the father of social psychology Floyd basis all his knowledge on one thing that human is born with defects and needs fixing. However, Allah says, Human are born with Fitra (Muslim) but they get corrupted by society and cultures. In order for a person to stay with his Fitra (nature) there are general directions in Quran that includes prayers and all five pillars and then the restraints. That makes one content and self satisfied with his life. Have you ever felt serenity in your heart after helping someone in need (monetarily or physically)?

    Although, human are created submissive to God (literal meaning of Muslim), but there are certain negative aspects that exist in all human beings:
    The very word Insaan in Arabic came for Nassia means forgetful. And human are Ujoola (hasteful).
    Hence being a practicing muslim makes you overcome those deficiencies.

    To majority of muslim: Ask yourself a Question. When was the last time you read Quran and ponder upon its meaning and tried to discover why this Ayat or Sura was revealed?

    We in south asia read quran to earn good deeds, or send reward to our deads, or in marriages placing above the head of a newly wed couple, or read to cure diseases or read to make the shaitan run. Ask yourself a question. Is this really what Allah would want you to do with Quran?

    Why take only a sip from an ocean when the whole ocean of knowledge is in your hand?

    Have you ever pondered why Abu Jehl the staunch enemy of Islam ended up prostrating after listening the Quran with Sajda Aya?

    Are we worse than Abu Jehl? At least, he paid attention what was being read?

    Very Alarming for all of us.

    Azhar

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