Psychology and Religion: Their Relationship and Integration from an Islamic Perspective (1998)*

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Amber Haque



Religion is a pervasive and influential phenomenon in the lives
of many people. Instances of religious behavior are easily found
in almost all societies and cultures of the world. However, psychology
as a behavioral science has largely ignored the study
of religion and its profound impact on human behavior. This
article attempts to explore the relationship between psychology
and religion and how these two disciplines interact. After a general
overview of the relationship between the two disciplines,
Islamization of psychology is suggested as a way out of the current
impasse between psychology and religion.

*This article was first published in the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 15, no. 4 (1998):

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y Dr. Amber Haque is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the
International Islamic University of Malaysia. He was a practicing psychologist in the
State of Michigan, USA, between 1983 and 1996. The author is indebted to Dr. Saiyad
Fareed Ahmad and Sabeena Watanabe for providing useful references for this article.
1 The term “religion” is a derivative from the Latin word legare, which means “to bind”
or “connect.” Religion then refers to “connecting,” but serious differences exist on its
definition. Connecting to what is also unclear. However, an etymological analysis
of the word religion connotes the idea that it involves people’s striving for a sense
of wholeness or completeness. See for example, R.F. Paloutzian, Invitation to the
Psychology of Religion (Mass: Allyn and Bacon, 1996). Some experts also prefer to
use the term “religious faith” and “religious tradition,” since religion by itself carries
little meaning apart from its human context. See D.M. Wulff, Psychology of Religion
(John Wiley and Sons, 1997).
2 Science can be defined as any body of knowledge that is systematically obtained, and
is subject to verification through objective means. The label “science” as applied to
psychology offers a framework of psychology that imitates the methodology common
to the natural sciences. This means that psychology studies (or should study, if considered
science) behavior in terms of variables that are subject to experimental scrutiny.
3 Politics of the professorate. The Public Perspective, p. 86-87, 1991.
4 It must be emphasized here that no worldly or scientific knowledge is dis-integrated
from revealed knowledge, in the first place. It is only the misperception or incomplete
knowledge of humans, which leads to view religion and science as separate.
When examined carefully, one would recognize that all scientific knowledge does
or will eventually lead one to confirm the revealed knowledge.
5 This attitude is perhaps inferred from the virtual absence of religion as a topic in
most psychology textbooks, and often a vehement opposition from some prominent
psychologists toward religion, from the scope of psychology. Even William James,
who wrote a separate treatise on the psychology of religion in 1902, neglected this
topic entirely in his classic 1400-page book, Principles of Psychology. See, C.G. Shaw,
“The Content of Religion and Psychological Analysis,” in Studies in Psychology:
Contributed by Colleagues and Former Students of Edward Titchner, (Worcester, Mass:
Louis N. Wilson, 1917).
6 The term “Western” is used here because psychology has its own place and image in
the East as well, which is varied in models inherent in the religious and moral philosophies
of the East. For a detailed description of “Eastern” traditions in psychology,
see James Brennan, History and Systems of Psychology, 4th ed. (Prentice Hall, 1994).
7 H. Vande Kemp. “The Tension Between Psychology and Theology: I. The Etymological
Roots.” Journal of Psychology and Theology. 10 (1996): 105-112.
8 K. Ramul, “The Problem of Measurement in the Psychology of the Eighteenth
Century,” American Psychologist, IS (1960): 256-265.
9 F.A. Rausch, Psychology, Or a View of the Human Soul: Including Anthropology.
(New York: Dodd, 1840). F.J. Delitzsch, A System of Biblical Psychology, R. E. Wallis,
trans. (New York: Ungar, 1867). O. Chambers, Biblical Psychology: A Series of
Preliminary Studies, 2nd ed. (London: Simpkin Marshall, 1900).
10 R.J. Watson, The Great Psychologists: From Aristotle to Freud (Philadelphia: Lipincott,
11 National Academy of Sciences, Science and Creationism: A View from the National
Academy of Sciences (Washington, IX. 1984), 6.
12 I. Barbour, Myths, Models, and Paradigms (New York: Harper & Row, 1974).
13 D.M. Wulff, Psychology of Religion (John Wiley and Sons, 1997).
14 S. Freud, Totem and Taboo: Some Points of Agreement Between the Mental Lives of
Savages and Neurotics, in J. Strachey (ed. and trans.) The Standard Edition of the
Complex Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. 21 (London: Hogarth Press and
the Institute of Psychoanalysis). 1-56. (Original work published in 1927.)
15 B.F. Skinner, Science and Human Behavior (New York: Macmillan, 1953).
16 In a personal interview of B.F. Skinner conducted by the author during the Behavior
Analysis Convention (1983) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Skinner mentioned religion
as an amazing creation of the civilizations, because “people need to look forward
to someone in times of need and thank someone when their needs are met.” See
A. Haque, An Interview with B.F. Skinner, Behavior Analysis Annual Convention,
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1983, unpublished manuscript.
17 J.H. Leuba, The Psychology of Religious Mysticism (New York: Harcourt-Brace, 1975).
18 G.B. Vetter, Magic and Religion: Their Psychological Nature, Origin, and Function
(New York: Philosophical Library, 1958).
19 A. Ellis, “There ls No Place for the Concept of Sin in Psychotherapy,” Journal
of Counseling Psychology, 7 (1960): 188-192. A. Ellis, Reason and Emotion in
Psychotherapy (New York: Lyle Stuart, 1962).
20 L.R. Propst, “Psychotherapy with Religiously Committed People,” in Edward P.
Shefranske (ed.) Religion and Clinical Practice of Psychology, 1996.
21 A. Ellis. “My Current Views on Rational-Emotive Therapy and Religiousness,”
Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 10 (1992): 37-40.
22 C.G. Jung, Concerning the Archetypes, with Special reference to the Anima Concept,
in H. Read, M. Fordham. & G. Adler (eds.) The Collected Works of C.G.Jung, vol. 9,
Part 1, 2nd ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968), 54-72. (Original
work published 1954.)
23 E.H. Erikson, Childhood and Society. 2nd ed. (New York: W. W. Norton, 1963).
(Original work published 1950.)
24 Although humanistic psychologists have favored religion, or more accurately,
“spiritual experience” in the study of human personality, they promoted their own
spiritual vision rather than developing an outlook on psychology of religion. See
H. Kung, Freud and the Problem of God (trans.) E. Quinn (New Haven, Conn.: Yale
University Press. 1979).
25 P. London, The Modes and Morals of Psychotherapy, 2nd ed. (Washington DC:
Hemisphere, 1986).
26 D.S. Browning, Religious Thought and the Modern Psychologies (Philadelphia:
Fortress, 1987).
27 Every scientific inquiry begins with a question and hypothesis, which often leads
to more questions and hypotheses. This leaves the scientist groping in the dark
about what’s next. Science always keeps changing due to this uncertainty, whereas
religion is always fixed and firm in its principles.
28 H. Rolston, Science and Religion (Temple University Press, 1987), 22.
29 Paloutzian, Invitation to the Psychology of Religion also explains this phenomenon by
saying that it is not essential to rule out the validity of one discipline because you
accept the validity of the other, as disciplines are not mutually exclusive. He says
that the modem philosophy of science has now made it clear that the “either-or”
approach is unnecessary, and instead of perceiving the other field as a threat, experts
should “draw upon and crossfertilize
the research and experiences of the other.”
30 D.S. Browning, “Can Psychology Escape Religion? Should it?” The International
Journal for Psychology and Religion 7 (1997), 1-12.
31 While the two disciplines interact, they are not necessarily integrated. To interact
is rather casual and informal, but to integrate is to consider both as an offshoot of
a united whole and value the importance of the systemic perspective where knowledge
is analyzed in a highly complex and interpersonal environmental context. The
integrator “holds things together” or works to bring things together, which is the
function of religion based on the root ligare. Progoff (1956) in his attempt to integrate
psychology with religion states: “The ultimate task of the new psychology is
to re-establish man’s connection to life fundamentally and actually as an evident
fact of modem existence” (p. 265).
32 S.L. Jones, “A Constructive Relationship for Religion with the Science and Profession
of Psychology,” American Psychologist 49 (1994): 184-199.
33 M. Paine, Physiology of the Soul and Instinct as Distinguished from Materialism (New York:
Harper, 1872). F.J. Boudreaux, God Our Father (New York: Catholic Publications Society,
1873). H. Maudsley, 1886. Natural Causes and Supernatural Seemings (London: Kegan Paul,
Trench, 1886). E.D. Starbuck, The Psychology of Religion (London: Walter Scott, 1899).
34 H. Yande Kemp. “Historical Perspective: Religion and Clinical Psychology in
America,” in (ed.) Edward P. Shefranske, Religion and Clinical Practice of Psychology,
p. 72, 1996.
35 One such recent attempt took place in the form of a major international conference
on counseling and psychotherapy from the Islamic perspective held in Kuala
Lumpur, Malaysia in 1997, which gave birth to the International Association of
Muslim Psychologists (IAMP). In the 1980s, a similar conference was held in Lahore,
Pakistan. See Z.A. Ansari (ed.), Qur’anic Concepts of the Human Psyche (Islamabad,
Pakistan: International Institute of Islamic Thought, 1994).
36 An important question, however, is whether religion is taught within the
Introduction to Psychology course. This would be a more prudent way to judge
the treatment religion is getting in psychology today, as authors in an introductory
textbook would presumably write whatever is most important in that field at the
time of their writing. A recent study on the use of religious content in introductory
books in psychology reveals substantial progress in the 1980s compared to the 1970s.
See, E. Lehr and B. Spilka, “Religion in the Introductory Psychology Textbook: A
Comparison of Three Decades,” Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion, 28 (1989),
37 A catalog explaining the integrated psychology program can be obtained from the
Department of Psychology, Faculty of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human
Sciences, International Islamic University, P.O. Box 70, Jalan Sultan, 46700 Petaling
Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia.
38 L. Meier, Jewish Values in Psychotherapy (New York: University Press of America,
1996), 72. H. Vande Kemp, “Religion and Clinical Psychology in America,” in Edward
P. Shefranske (ed.) Religion and Clinical Practice of Psychology (1996), 72.
39 See S.A.A. Rizvi, A Muslim Tradition in Psychotherapy and Modern Trends (Lahore,
Pakistan: Institute of Islamic Culture, 1988). F.A. H-L. Abou-Hatab, Mental Health
from the Islamic Perspective. a paper presented at the International Conference
on Counseling and Psychotherapy from the Islamic Perspective, Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia, 1997.
40 W.D. Lax. Narrative, Deconstruction and Buddhism: Shifting beyond Dualism, a paper
presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Aug. 1993.
41 A.E. Bergin and J.P. Jensen, “Religiosity of Psychotherapists: A National Survey,”
Psychotherapy 27 (1990): 3-7. E.P. Shefranske and H.N. Malony, “Clinical
Psychologists’ Religious and Spiritual Orientations and Their Practice of
Psychotherapy,” Psychotherapy 27 (1990). 72-78.
42 E.L. Worthington, Jr., “Psychotherapy and Religious Values: An Update,” Journal of
Psychology and Christianity 10 (1991), 211-223.
43 R.L. Gorsuch. “Psychology of Religion,” Annual Review of Psychology 39 (1988),
44 A.E. Bergin, “Values and Religious Issues in Psychotherapy and Mental Health,”
American Psychologist 46 (1991), 394-403.
45 S. Sethi and M.E.P. Seligman, “Optimism and Fundamentalism,” Psychological Science
4 (1993), 256-259.
46 E. Cohen, C.T. Mowbray, V. Gillette, and E. Thompson, “Preventing Homelessness:
Religious Organizations and Housing Development,” Prevention in Human Services
1l (1991), 169-186. E. Eng and J.W. Hatch, “Networking between Agencies and Black
Churches: The Lay Health Advisor Model,” The Christian Journal of Psychology and
Counseling 11 (1991), 123-146.
47 S.Y. Tan, “Explicit Integration in Christian Counseling,” The Christian Journal of
Psychology and Counseling 2 (1990), 7-13.
48 American Psychological Association, “Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code
of Conduct,” American Psychologist 47 (1992), 1597-1611.
49 Isma’il Raji al-Faruqi started the Islamization of Knowledge (IOK) movement and he
also coined the term “Islamization.” In the words of Faruqi, IOK “in its entirety, is the
comprehensive, normative framework for individuals and society, for thought and
action, for education and practice, for knowledge and organization, for the rulers
and the ruled, for this world and for the world to come. By applying “Islamization” to
everything one does, a Muslim seeks the pleasure of God by practicing what is true
and just, through transformation and improvement, to achieve happiness, peace, and
security in this life as well in the life hereafter.” Islamization of Knowledge: General
Principles and Work Plan (Herndon, Virginia: International Institute of Islamic
Thought, 1995), 84.
50 See for instance, 4:28, 21:37, 50:16-18, 70:19-35, 75:31,40, and 95:4.
51 See 2:29, 14:33, 15: 28-29, 16:12, 31:20, 35:39, and 38:71-72.
52 See 2:112, 2:157, 3:7-9, 3:199, 5:125, 9:61, 17:23-29, 21:127, 23:57-61, 32:15, 33:21,
60:4-6, 68:4.
53 See 6:63, 8:172.
54 For a detailed explanation of the term al-fitra, see Yasien Mohamad, “Fitrah and
Its Bearing on the Principles of Psychology,” The American Journal of Islamic Social
Sciences vol. 12, no. 1 (1995): 1-18.
55 See 2:30.
56 For details on the description of the human soul from an Islamic perspective, see
S.M. Naqib al-Attas, The Nature of Man and the Psychology of the Human Soul (Kuala
Lumpur, Malaysia: International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization, 1990).
57 The article by Tariq Hamidi and A.M.H. al-Jadiry, in Shahid Athar (ed.), Islamic
Perspective in Medicine (American Trust Publication, USA, 1993). Islamic description
of the term “psyche” can be found in the edited book Quranic Concepts of Human Psyche
by Zafar Afaq Ansari (Islamabad. Pakistan: Islamic Research Institute Press), 1992.
58 A.A. Vahaab in M.G. Husain’s Psychology and Society in Islamic Perspective (New
Delhi: Institute of Objective Studies, 1996), 10-20.
59 Some of the relevant literature published on this theme recently includes, S.M.
Mohsin, Keynote of the Holy Quran (Seemant Prakashan, 1992), 155; M.Z. Azhar and
S.L. Varma, “Religious Psychotherapy-A Proposed Model Based on the Malaysian
Experience,” Journal of FIMA vol. l (1996): 118-123. M.G. Hussain, Psychology and
Society in Islamic Perspective (New Delhi: Institute of Objective Studies, 1996): 171;
S.M. Naqib al-Attas, The Nature of Man and the Psychology of the Human Soul: A
Brief Outline and a Framework for an Islamic Psychology and Epistemology (Kuala
Lumpur, Malaysia: International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization
(1STAC), 1990), 41; Proceedings on the Second Symposium on Islam and Psychology,
vol. 2, published for the Association of Muslim Social Scientists of USA and
Canada by the American Trust Publications, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1977, p.65; Z.A.
Ansari (ed.), Quranic Concepts of Human Psyche, Islamization of Knowledge 11
(The International Institute of Islamic Thought and Institute of Islamic Culture,
1992), 118; Manzurul Huq, “In Quest of a Meaningful Model of Human Self and
Behavior,” Intellectual Discourse vol. 2, no.I (1994): 1-18; Yasien Mohamad, “Fitra and
Its Bearing on Islamic Psychology,” The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences
vol. 12, no. 1 (Spring 1995), 1-18; A.H. al-Hashmi, “On Islamizing the Discipline
of Psychology,” in Social and Natural Sciences, eds. I.R. al-Faruqi and A.O. Naseef
(Jeddah: Hodder and Stoughton, 1981); Naumana Umar, “Psyche: A Traditional
Perspective,” Iqbal Review vol. 27, no. 1 (April-September 1986): 135-165; Abbas
Husein Ali, “The Nature of Human Disposition: al Ghazzali’s Contribution to an
Islamic Concept of Personality,” Intellectual Discourse vol. 3, no. 1 (1995): 51-64;
Aliah Schleifer, “Ibn Khaldun’s Theories of Perception, Logic and Knowledge: An
Islamic Phenomenology,” The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences vol. 2, no.
2 (December 1985): 225-231; A.N.M. Wahidur Rahman, “Rasa’il Ikhwan Al-Safa.
The Idea of Perfection of the Soul,” Hamdard Islamicus vol. 14, no. 3 (Autumn 1991):
25-48; Muhammad Saleem, ‘“Contemporary Study of Human Nature,” vol. 12, no. 1
(1989): 75-81.
60 The current issue of AJISS devoted to psychology is a proof, as well as Islamic psychology
offered as a subject of study in several places, including the Psychology
Department at the International Islamic University of Malaysia
61 Amber Haque, “Cognitive Restructuring of the Muslim Psychologist: A Prerequisite
for Islamization of Psychology,” Islamic Thought and Scientific Creativity vol. 7, no.
4 (1996).
62 Perhaps those psychologists interested in this task could create their own platform
or organization to facilitate communication and unify efforts at Islamizing
63 The International Islamic University of Malaysia already practices this model; other
interested universities can also follow suit.