Islamic Self and personality theory

Islamic Psychology literature is under current development (Rasool, 2015; Amer & Awad, 2015; Utz, 2012; Haque, 2004a; Haque et al. 2016; Kaplick and Skinner 2017; Rothman & Coyle, 2018) and mainly relies on Medieval achievements of traditional scholars and current advances in psychotherapy. The prototype of Islamic Psychology, stands from philosophical achievements of a time and is referred to as Ilm al-Nafs, and comprises of both a medical, physical, spiritual and philosophical component of human nature (Yuusuf, 2012).

Ilm al Nafsiat referring to Islamic Model if the Self, derives from the Arabic word the Nafs (soul), which represents the essence of human experience and is characterised by flexibility and non-heterogeneity. All aspects of the soul are intertwined in relationships and create a lasting effect on the holistic wellbeing of humans (Abu Raiya, 2011). Accordingly, to the majority of opinions, the self is a combination of Aql – Intellect, Qalb – Heart, Ruh – Spirit, and Nafs – Soul/Psyche (Zarabozo, 2003; Utz, 2011; Haque, 2004; Abu-Raiya 2012; Keshavarzi & Haque, 2013; Rothman & Coyl, 2018 ). Some scholars are recognising Ruh, Nafs and Fitrah (nature) as different aspects of the Islamic Self (Ghazali,2007; Sina, 2005), however, for the purpose of this study, they will be used interchangeably when discussing identical situations (Zarabozo, 2003).

Components of the Self

Aql stands for intelligence, cognition and reasoning. Fitrah is the natural inclination of human beings towards Tawheed – worship of one God (Sudan, 2017; Munsoor, 2015). Ruh represents non-changeable element, a spirit, and has many components, including Fitrah (Muhammad, 1996; Munsoor, 2015). It is argued by scholars, that the Ruh had been given to humans from God (Qur’an 18:85, 38:71-2, Zarabozo, 2003); similarly other, non-Islamic traditions might recognise it as life force. Qalb means the spiritual heart and represents the seed of the spiritual existence as well as being characterised by changing nature (Sudan, 2017). The Nafs means the soul and psyche (Jawzi, 2011; Tayamiyyah, 2010), and goes through the same stages of moral and spiritual changes (purification) as the Qalb. There are three types of soul and heart, recognised also as self-development stages in Islamic teachings: Nafs al Ammarrah (Qur’an 12:53) a soul (and heart) that is prone to commit sins, and is predominantly occupied with fulfilling its basic needs (food, procreation, safety). Nafs al Lawammah (Qur’an 75:2) is the conscious soul, characterised by changing nature, and alternating between choices of committing sins or making changes (Abu-Raiya, 2012). This stage of the development, the soul is self-reflective, and in its relationship with God Almighty it experiences the repentance and plans for self-reformation. This stage, of conscious reestablishment of the morals, spirituality and rebuilding relationship with God Almighty, is recognised in the Quran as the most honourable of all (Quran 42:54). Nafs al Mutmainnah (Qur’an 89:27), the soul that reached the stage of self-contentment, peace and happiness, is characterised by spiritual connectedness with Allah. This stage is recognised as a peak of the self-development, and can be studied in the biographies of major prophets in monotheistic religions.

Components of the Self

Aql stands for intelligence, cognition and reasoning. Fitrah is the natural inclination of human beings towards Tawheed – worship of one God (Sudan, 2017; Munsoor, 2015). Ruh represents non-changeable element, a spirit, and has many components, including Fitrah (Muhammad, 1996; Munsoor, 2015). It is argued by scholars, that the Ruh had been given to humans from God (Qur’an 18:85, 38:71-2, Zarabozo, 2003); similarly other, non-Islamic traditions might recognise it as life force. Qalb means the spiritual heart and represents the seed of the spiritual existence as well as being characterised by changing nature (Sudan, 2017). The Nafs means the soul and psyche (Jawzi, 2011; Tayamiyyah, 2010), and goes through the same stages of moral and spiritual changes (purification) as the Qalb. There are three types of soul and heart, recognised also as self-development stages in Islamic teachings: Nafs al Ammarrah (Qur’an 12:53) a soul (and heart) that is prone to commit sins, and is predominantly occupied with fulfilling its basic needs (food, procreation, safety). Nafs al Lawammah (Qur’an 75:2) is the conscious soul, characterised by changing nature, and alternating between choices of committing sins or making changes (Abu-Raiya, 2012). This stage of the development, the soul is self-reflective, and in its relationship with God Almighty it experiences the repentance and plans for self-reformation. This stage, of conscious reestablishment of the morals, spirituality and rebuilding relationship with God Almighty, is recognised in the Quran as the most honourable of all (Quran 42:54). Nafs al Mutmainnah (Qur’an 89:27), the soul that reached the stage of self-contentment, peace and happiness, is characterised by spiritual connectedness with Allah. This stage is recognised as a peak of the self-development, and can be studied in the biographies of major prophets in monotheistic religions.

Interactive nature of the Self

The main goal of self development, is to incorporate various interventions towards a balanced aspect of the Nafs, Ruh, Aql, Fitrah and Qalb (Carter &Rashidi, 2003; Guthrie, 2012). Haque et al. (2016) argues, that the level of the Islamic Model of the Self implication is determined by the client presentation, goals and context of the therapy and clinician’s intuition.

Some people might be particularly strong in their Aql, therefore, prime towards cognitive – behavioural interventions. Cognitive interventionist level of the Aql creates opportunity to modify the thoughts and behaviours, but also a chance to evaluate them from the prophetic tradition (Guthrie, 2012). The self-accountability exercise carries a potential to further the ability of self-judgments and refining own congruence and credibility (Munsoon, 2015; Ahmed & Amer, 2013).

Ghazali (2015) alluded of the benefits in one’s consciousness of one’s behaviour, thoughts and feelings and connected this to Taskiya processes. The preconceived ideas about the self can also be accessed in situations where relationships issues are presented. A person could use the self-reflection in one’s own behaviour in comparison to the prophet’s selflessness and God centredness (Sudan, 2017). The modelling of one’s behaviour and thoughts, impacts strong egoistic inclinations of the Nafs, as well as creating religious readiness to act without expectations from others, with the intention purely for the sake of Allah (Utz, 2011). Muslim scholars explain that the shape of personality and character can be altered by focusing on Nafs development, lifting it from al Ammarrah (animal soul) through Nafs al Lawammah (rational soul) to al Mutmainnah (tranquil soul) (AI Attas, 1993). The ultimate state of human development – the Nafs al Mutmainnah elevates ones relationship with the inner Fitrah, and consequently orienting the client towards attaining proximity with Allah.

Metaphysical use of self awareness

The Self-concept incorporates the autonomy of internal components as well as the influence of the supernatural entities such as Angels, Jinns and Satan. A survey by Abu-Ras & Abu-Bader (2009) presented that 98% of the respondents perceived life complications as a direct test of faith, but at the same time 84% believed in the black magic, the ‘evil eye’ (Sihr, Nazr) and the Jinn possessions. According to clinical findings of other researchers, the tendency to self-assess to Sihr is the universal phenomenon (Spoonet, 2004; Rassool &Gemaey, 2014; Lim, Hoek, Ghane, Deen & Blom, 2018). According to Islamic scholars, Jinn possession is possible, but only in the rare circumstances, and may induce similar symptoms to anxiety, obsessions, insomnia, disassociation, psychotic disturbances, altered consciousness, somatic symptoms, hyperactivity or seizures (Al-Ashqar, 2003; Al-Habeeb, 2003).Incorporation of the Aql component in work with the evil eye phenomena, seems to bring most effective therapeutic results, build bridges between mental health taboos in Muslim communities as well as calls for further referrals to traditional healing specialist – Sheykhs, Raqis and Hakims (Haque, 2004a, 2004b; Rassool, 2015; Ahmed & Amer, 2013).

To conclude, the Islamic Self-concept recognised interactive components of Aql, Ruh, Qalb, Nafs and Fitrah. The process of working with self knowledge, had been always closely correlated with Taskiya directives developed by medieval scholars, such as Ghazali (2007), Jawzi (2011) and Taymiyyah (1994, 2010). The Islamic tradition of Taskiya had been long interpreted as purification of the soul, and if used in combination with awareness can serve as a useful tool in building relationships and connection with own spirituality and God.

Metaphysical use of self awareness

The Self-concept incorporates the autonomy of internal components as well as the influence of the supernatural entities such as Angels, Jinns and Satan. A survey by Abu-Ras & Abu-Bader (2009) presented that 98% of the respondents perceived life complications as a direct test of faith, but at the same time 84% believed in the black magic, the ‘evil eye’ (Sihr, Nazr) and the Jinn possessions. According to clinical findings of other researchers, the tendency to self-assess to Sihr is the universal phenomenon (Spoonet, 2004; Rassool &Gemaey, 2014; Lim, Hoek, Ghane, Deen & Blom, 2018). According to Islamic scholars, Jinn possession is possible, but only in the rare circumstances, and may induce similar symptoms to anxiety, obsessions, insomnia, disassociation, psychotic disturbances, altered consciousness, somatic symptoms, hyperactivity or seizures (Al-Ashqar, 2003; Al-Habeeb, 2003).Incorporation of the Aql component in work with the evil eye phenomena, seems to bring most effective therapeutic results, build bridges between mental health taboos in Muslim communities as well as calls for further referrals to traditional healing specialist – Sheykhs, Raqis and Hakims (Haque, 2004a, 2004b; Rassool, 2015; Ahmed & Amer, 2013).

To conclude, the Islamic Self-concept recognised interactive components of Aql, Ruh, Qalb, Nafs and Fitrah. The process of working with self knowledge, had been always closely correlated with Taskiya directives developed by medieval scholars, such as Ghazali (2007), Jawzi (2011) and Taymiyyah (1994, 2010). The Islamic tradition of Taskiya had been long interpreted as purification of the soul, and if used in combination with awareness can serve as a useful tool in building relationships and connection with own spirituality and God.