Personal Reflection on The Dilemma of Muslim Psychologists
by Sahara Iman
“You would tread the same path as was trodden by those before you inch by inch and step by step so much so that if they had entered into the lizard’s hole, you would follow them in this also”
These were the words the Prophet Mohammad (SAW) used to warn his companions about the wretched fate of Muslims who’d recklessly traded Islam for social norms. Similar to those who preceded them and deviated from Islam, they too would fall into a dwelling so revolting that darkness spills through its every corner, akin to a lizard’s hole. In his book, The Dilemma of Muslim Psychologists, Dr Malik Badri, an illustrious Muslim psychologist, forewarned fellow Muslim psychologists of their impending fate in lizard’s holes if they indiscriminately adapt to the ideologies of Western Psychology.
When I first read the cautionary advice of Dr Badri, as a Muslim who pledged a commitment to psychology, I impulsively retaliated, “How can our field contradict Islam if our stance on religion is impartial?”. When I reached the third chapter of his book, I decidedly closed my case and confessed my imprudence. So, what was my offence? Admittedly, I recognized models of human nature that spoiled our integrity as creations of Allah SWT. Freud, the most controversial figure in psychology, programmed an entire generation to believe that unconscious sexual drives fashioned human personality. Nonetheless, I tolerated these outlandish ideas and obscured the intuition to disagree. If not for Dr Badri, who debunked the atheistic ideologies behind these theories, I would never realize that I was heading into a lizard’s hole too. His revelations hit me hard.
His book hurled a series of uncomfortable questions. Altogether, too quick and forceful, these queries gave me no chance to dodge. First blow, straight into my fragile heart, “Did I believe in these un-Islamic ideas because my Imaan is weak?”. Aah! The twisting angst in my chest weakened my knees. Even before I could steady myself, the interrogation continued, “Was it convenient to be deaf and blind to the truth?”. By this time, I fell on the ground. Grass poking through every nerve on my skin, I could barely hear the allegation thrown at me, “Was I an ally of those who denied that God designed human nature?”. Sweat, icky and salty, trickled all over me. Exhausted, I said yes to them all!
Affirming that my calling is a misguided path is maddening. When one reaches a breaking point, the only sane choice is to search for a breakthrough. I found mine – Islamic Psychology. Alhamdulillah, even before I discovered the dangers in modern psychology, I already took the steps towards Islamic Psychology. I just never had to unlatch the strings of Western Psychology that dishonors the centrality of Islam and Imaan in human psychology. Although there are plenty of ideas in Western Psychology that exclude God from their formulation, there are more that provide sound theories and therapies that don’t harm our Imaan or mock Islam.
A Muslim psychologist must filter these ideas using the principles of Islamic Psychology or Ilm ul An-Nafs. It is a broad and coherent field of study that bases the understanding of human psychology in authentic Islamic knowledge, which is sourced from the Qur’an, the Sunnah, and the works of early Muslim scholars. It sounds normal for a Muslim to fully commit to Islamic Psychology. Why not, right?
Truthfully speaking, it is a choice that requires humility to admit ignorance of it, firmness to deviate from the normal mode of psychology, and courage to revive what is lost from the consciousness of modern Muslims. Reading The Dilemma of Muslim Psychologists turned into an immersive experience of what is within me. It served as a challenge to reflect on this calling to be a healer of minds and hearts. After all, the truth is uncomfortable. Gaining clarity is painful. Although, the idea it poses — which is that Islamic Psychology facilitates well-being through the basic principles of Tawheed – sustains me in spite of it all.
May the Ummah find relief and tranquillity in Allah’s mercy. Aameen.