|The Human Nature from a Comparative Psychological Perspective|
|Published by Abdul Ghani|
|Tuesday, 05 June 2012 11:01|
ByDr. Mustapha Achoui Professor of Psychology International Islamic University Malaysia
Dozens of books are available on the subject of “human nature” especially in English language, but most of them begin with a philosophical, moral, or religious perspective, or even a mixture of these views. It is also evident that studies which have a psychological approach to the subject are rather rare, even in the West, as most of those studies could be an introduction to the study of the psychology of human nature. Some scholars, like Wrightsman (1992), give the following reasons for the lack of interest in the subject among psychologists :
1- Western psychologists believe that it is futile to explain behaviour in terms of human nature and that only laymen tend to explain behaviour as a mere part of human nature.
2- Western psychologists are not concerned with the so-called “universality of social behaviour”, except recently. This can be seen in the studies of cross-cultural psychology. Their concern has been with the study of social behaviour in a framework of Western culture, rather than the study of human behaviour in a wider perspective of the human race.
3- Psychological research has centred on the study of experimental social psychology, and on the concepts that can be studied empirically rather than loose concepts which western psychology tried to avoid. This made laboratory research predominance in the western psychological research, as it forms an important part of empirical studies which are either descriptive or experimental studies.
Anyhow, Western scholars, whether philosophers, sociologists, or psychologists have become more and more interested in the subject of “human nature.” This has been felt by many scholars such as Stevenson (1974, 1987), Chaney (1990), Wrightsman (1992), and Schultz (1994). These authors have studied the subject of human nature from various viewpoints: philosophical, psychological, anthropological, and developmental.
Some books and studies were also published in Arabic, and from an Islamic viewpoint, following various approaches: philosophical, religious, moral, psychological, or anthropological. Among these are works by Al-Aqqad, Bint al-Shati (1982), Barakat Ahmad (1981), Ameer (1984), al-Farouqi (1984), Sayyid Mursi (1988), Akbar Ahmad (1990), and Al-Ani (1995).
This essay is a contribution to the field of psychology, hoping to form an introduction to psychological studies from an Islamic perspective. It has two-fold objectives:
An attempt to understand the human nature through the texts of some Quranic verses and hadeeth.
Adopting a comparative approach between the Islamic and Western perspectives of the human nature, with reference to postulates made by Schultz (1994) and other Western scholars. I have chosen the work by Schultz for two reasons: the first is that he put together six dimensions about a theme audits counterpart, like freedom and predestination; the second is his enumeration of various opinions by western psychologists on these dimensions, which facilitates a process of review and comparison.
PERSONALITY FROM A WESTERN PERSPECTIVE
In his “theories of personality”, Schultz (1994), asked several questions about the nature of “human personality,” saying and concluded that psychologists in the West are not agreed upon a single best on one theory of personality. That is why, he chose the title of Theories in the plural, rather than in the singular. Schultz further stressed that the way human nature is conceptualized by a theorist forms the most important aspect in any theory of personality. He presents 18 theories which he then grouped into nine categories or major tendencies, where each has its own approach, postulates, methods of research, concepts and dimensions of personality, and qualities of human nature. These will be the subject of our comparison.
Schultz advanced several reasons for the study of personality, foremost of which is his emphasis that major problems faced by human beings now, like famine, pollution, crime and addiction, are caused by “the human beings” themselves.
Schultz quotes Maslow’s theory of personality which says, “If we develop human nature we can develop everything, then we can eliminate the major cause of chaos in the world.” He says the “by sound understanding of ourselves and the others around us we can better coordinate with the problems of modern life. This is more important than producing new weapons or achieving new victories in the field of technology. History has shown several times that technological development may lead to serious consequences when handled by people who are stingy, selfish, cowardly and ill-hearted.”
Since the greatest hope of humanity, as mentioned by Schultz, is to improve its understanding of itself, the study of personality may be a major contribution to psychology to save humanity. Therefore, the human nature, seen in a comparative perspective, assumes a great importance on both theoretical and practical levels.
Can psychology in general, and in the West in particular, save humanity from current and probable future dangers in this world? Or, can psychology in general, and the Islamic approach in particular, have any role to play in saving humanity in this world and the hereafter? I do not claim that I can answer these two questions, but posing them shows the important role that can be played by psychology in understanding the human nature and personality, and the capability of such understanding to reach solution for some problems faced by humanity such as racism discrimination and violence.
Therefore, it may be useful to present an Islamic vision of human nature through the characteristics of human nature presented by Schultz as a vision of “personality”, in addition to other dimensions which I may suggest in this respect, bearing in mind that this is merely a relative vision, as it is only a human interpretation. Schultz points out that the psychological theories formulated around personality have no common grounds to answer questions about certain characteristics and their influence on human nature and personality -- questions like freedom or predestination, heredity or environment, past or present, individuality and uniqueness or universality, balance or growth and optimism or pessimism?
I have chosen to present an Islamic vision of these dimensions, depending on my understanding of some Quranic verses and hadeeth texts, adding some dimensions not mentioned by Schultz and other Western researchers. The objective is to formulate these dimensions into a comparative perspective, added to an image of the characteristics of the human nature and the understanding of human personality.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE HUMAN NATURE FROM
AN ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVE
I have intentionally chosen to say “an Islamic” not “the Islamic” to show that this is only a relative position, related to my own understanding of the texts, and I leave the door open for other research endeavours in this vital field where cooperation is a basic need. I would also like to point out that the Islamic vision of the human nature and its characteristics, and of the personality of man, is too vital and comprehensive to be summarised. All operations of amplification aim at making such comprehensive vision closer to understanding, in order to use it as a theoretical frame of reference for theorising and research in various human and social fields.
It is also necessary to mention at this point that comparison is of a relative (attitude of Western psychologists) to a relative (Islamic understanding of my own), despite the fact that Western psychologists have a starting point from a religious or philosophic background, which they often hide, though they are affected by those bearings, consciously or unconsciously.
Moreover, this theoretical vision, which stems from an understanding of Islamic texts, must be supported by empirical research using (Muslim and non-Muslim) samples, taking into consideration such background variables as age, education level, and gender. Other basic points to study are the relationship between theoretical vision and actual behaviour, which stems originally form such theoretical vision, in one way or another. In addition to all this, we have to consider the following aspects:
(1) To formulate an Islamic vision about the characteristics of human nature and the personality as a modern (Western) psychological concept, we have to clarify the Islamic attitude about three major dimensions with their ramifications: The Creation of Man, The Life of Man, and The Destiny of Man (in the hereafter). (2) The study of man from an Islamic perspective should recognise three more dimensions, closely related to the previous ones, with a possible mutual effect. The relationship among these dimensions may not be causal, but could be relative in a statistical sense. These dimensions are: spiritual, physical-biological, and behavioural.
The Spiritual Dimension: What is meant by “spiritual” here is the aspect of “faith”; that is, the belief in Allah (swt), His angels, messengers, scriptures, the day of judgement, and destiny (good or bad). These are the articles of faith which bear no discussion or compromise. But “faith” is higher in degree than “Islam”, as it is what is settled in the heart and endorsed by deed. There is no room in Islam of talking about faith that is separate from deeds and behaviour. The Holy Quran reproached the believers for expressing their “belief” and stopping short of action. “O, ye who believe! Why say ye that which ye do not? Grievously odious is it in the sight of Allah that ye say that which ye do not.” (61-al-Saff, 2-3). It is clearly evident that the Quranic verses that deal with faith are all coupled with actions and deeds. There is no room in Islam for abstract talk about faith, (e.g., “faith” resides in the heart alone) and that the religious relationship is a private matter between the worshipper and his Lord alone. That “faith” is what is settled in the heart, confessed in words and endorsed by “deeds” is attested by a Hadeeth of the Prophet (p.b.k.h.): “Faith is some and seventy, (or some and sixty) branches: the highest is to say there is no God but Allah, the last is to remove obstacles of the road.” (accepted hadeeth by consensus). This is what we mean by the spiritual aspect.The metaphysical aspect of faith is a basic dimension, but it cannot be measured, as it is within the knowledge of Allah. However, the actions can be observed and measured.
The Formative Dimension (physical-biological) The Holy Quran specifies that the first man (Adam) was originated of clay. “He who has made everything He has created most Good: He began the creation of man with clay.” (32,Al-Sajda, 7). Also, “Man We did create from a quintessence of clay.” (23,al-Mu’minun, 12). Indeed, the Holy Quran repeats seven times the fact of creating man out of clay. The origin of propagation in man is the drop of sperm, as it is clearly stated in Surah Al-Insan and Al-Qiama. Several Holy verses describe the physical-biological dimension in the creation of man, in the embryonic and other stages of life.
“We have enjoined on man kindness to his parents: In pain did his mother bear him, and in pain did she give him birth. The carrying (of the child) to his wearing is (a period of) thirty months. At length, when he reached the age of full strength and attains forty years, he says “O my Lord! Grant me that I may be grateful for thy favour which Thou hast bestowed upon both my parents, and that I may work righteousness such as Thou mayest approve; and be gracious to me in my issue. Truly have I turned to Thee and truly do I bow (to Thee) in Islam.” 46, Al-Ahqaf, 15.
The Holy Quran has also described the creation of hearing and sight and other physical characteristics and functions. “Have We not made for him a pair of eyes and a tongue and a pair of lips and shown him the two highways?” (99 Al-Balad, 8-10.)
Modern psychology is broadly concerned with the study of behaviour. Thinking is a form of behaviour, so is remembering or writing or any other form of activity performed by man, be it simple or complex, concerned with worship or common transactions.
The behaviour of man, his education, development and change is the objective of heavenly messages to ascertain the worship of the creator. The study of this behaviour by observation, experimentation, analysis and induction is the concern of various branches of psychology.
The Holy Quran is concerned, from the very beginning to end, with the behaviour of man in this world, and with his destiny in the hereafter (depending on his behaviour).
It is noticeable that all branches of faith except the principles of faith are concerned with behaviour and treatment. Even the bases of worship in Islam, like salat, fasting, zakat (alm-giving) and haj are all an expression of behaviour which has two sides: internal and external or spiritual and material. This expression is an interactive and complementary process which aims at moderation and balance in the behaviour of the Muslim and the believer. Good deeds represent a higher level of behaviour exercised by a man of faith, as the benefactor worships the Lord as if he can see Him, and is certain that Allah can see the man in the act of worship.
While the unseen is only known to Allah, the visible behaviour is the field of psychology. Anyhow, from the Islamic point of view, it is enough to judge by what is visible, leaving what is unseen to the will of Allah. In this connection a hadeeth by the Prophet (p.b.v.h) says, “When you see a man frequenting the mosques then say he is a man of faith.”
On the contrary, what is unseen is not a substitute for what is a visible behaviour. So when one openly commits a vile act, he cannot justify it by saying that the intention is good. There it is that actions are directed by intentions, but only when those intentions are good and do not lead to intended harm.
Following this definition of behaviour and the spiritual dimension, I believe that there is a difference between spiritual and metaphysical dimensions.
The definition of behaviour in modern psychology is rather inadequate, as it does not take into consideration the dimension of faith which depends on intention. Yet, modern psychology has recently become more interested in the cognitive (rational) aspects of behaviour, and even the spiritual aspect, though to a very small extent.
Therefore, we may add to these two dimensions (behavioural and cognitive) another dimension which we may call the faith dimension in behaviour, realising the role of intention in this dimension, and the reward a man may get when he behaves in a certain way, starting from an attitude of faith.
In this connection, Al-Shatibi says, ”Actions are governed by intentions, and these in behaviour are considered forms of worship and habits. There are numerous proofs to this. Suffice it to say that intents differentiate between habits and worship; and in worship between what is obligatory or otherwise, and in habits between what is mandatory or elective; what is permitted or considerable and prohibited; what is sound or unsound, etc. One action may have a certain intent and is considered a form of worship; then it may have another intent and it becomes blasphemy, like falling prostrate to Allah or to an idol. Moreover, when a deed is joined to an intent, the prescribed judgements are joined likewise. When actions are devoid of intent then judgements are equally unattached, like the acts of a man in his sleep or those of the unconscious or the deranged.” (Al-Shatibi,Al-Muwafaqat, II, 323-4)
If the intent is basic in worship, then the psychological study of behaviour is not basically carried through the study of the intention but through the study of the observable behaviour, its results and consequences. When the intent is in itself an intrinsic behaviour, then it could be studied through interview and questioning or other techniques of psychological research. In fact, behaviour is often a reflection of intentions.
THE SPIRITUAL DIMENSION
In Islamic studies, the spiritual aspect is usually taken to mean “faith and worship” and their effect on behaviour. We have already pointed out that faith is “some and seventy branches” and that it may increase or decrease. Therefore, this aspect is open to objective study based on observation, measurement, description and experiment.
THE METAPHYSICAL DIMENSION
This dimension, as I see it, deals with aspects that the Muslims should not be overoccupied with, as it is enough to believe in them in the manner they were described in the Holy Quran and in the text of hadeeth. These aspects are the belief in resurrection, heaven and hell, angels and jinn, blowing the spirit into man, etc. These two sources give enough information to make further research unnecessary.
Throughout my contemplation of the Holy Quran, I have not found a single verse that encourages the Muslim to ponder over the metaphysical aspects. In fact, the entire Quran is a call to ponder over the creation of the Almighty (earth, mountains, clouds, stars, animals, and man himself) so this observation could serve as a proof of the existence of the Creator, first, and to use those creations in the service of man, second. Therefore, the “spirit” in the metaphysical sense of the word is not open for pondering and scientific research. “They ask thee concerning the spirit. Say the Spirit is a concern of my Lord: Of knowledge it is only a little that is communicated to you.: 17, Al-Isra’, 85. The third point is that this concept of the various dimensions of the human nature has three further dimensions, namely: past, present and future.
I would further point out that this comparison, between the Islamic vision and the western visions of the human nature, is a comparison of my relative understanding of the Islamic perspective with another relative understanding of the Western psychologist, concerning the human nature and personality, based on their philosophic and religious background: Christian or Jewish. It is not a comparison of the absolute with the relative or the divine knowledge with human interpretation.
The following are some of the basic issues I want to use in comparing the modern psychological attitudes about the characteristics of human nature and personality, with the Islamic attitude, based on the Holy Quran and the Hadeeth texts. I hope to enlarge this study so it becomes a basic reference in an attempt to understand the human nature and its characteristics, the human personality and its dimension from a comparative psychological perspective. This would be done by constant reference to the Holy Quran and the hadeeth texts, the basic references to western thought which gave rise to psychological concepts about the characteristics of human nature and personality:
1- Does man have free will in belief, opinion and behaviour, or is he governed by predestination?
Is man eternal or destined to nihility?
Does man have two dimensions (material-spiritual) or one dimension only (material)?
Does man have an absolutely good or absolutely evil nature? Or does he have a nature open to good and evil attractions at the same time?
Is man’s behaviour based on intentions alone, on deeds alone or on both?
Is man’s past more influential in his behaviour, or is it his present, or future, or all of these?
Is optimism the basis of human nature, or is it pessimism?
Does man try to achieve balance, or is he in a state of constant growth?
Is the environment (learning) more influential in the behaviour of man or is it heredity?
Is every man unique in qualities and character or are there universal and comprehensive qualities in human nature and character dimensions?
The above are the basic questions in visualizing a model of human nature from an Islamic perspective. Therefore, I shall try to answer these questions one by one about this vision, comparing it to other visions within a modern psychological frame, with special reference to the basic personality theories discussed by Schultz (1994). I shall use this book in its treatment of the various visions of the major theories about the psychology of personality like: the analytical, the behavioural, the traits, the humanistic, and the cognitive. These theories are found in most texts about general psychology or modern books on the psychology of personality. In this respect, I do not find it necessary to go beyond Schult’z book on the subject.
FREE WILL OR DETERMINATION
Allah the Almighty created Adam in the best of models. He endowed him with mind and set him above all other creations, giving him knowledge of what he did not have *the names) and gave him complete freedom in paradise on one condition that he should not taste the fruit of a certain tree. Adam failed the test. Perhaps the aim of that test was to show Adam that his knowledge was limited, and that he was open to forgetfulness and temptation.
If man has a limited knowledge, he must have a limited freedom; he must have limited knowledge. The fact that Adam was limited by one condition in paradise denotes his freedom had limitations. His forgetting and tasting the fruit of that tree is a sign that his knowledge was limited too.
The question of free will and determinism was discussed in Kalamology (Islamic philosophy) and the various Islamic schools of thought are not in agreement about it. There are numerous details about the argument in major books on the subject. But we have to be satisfied with what the Holy Quran clarifies that freedom carries its own consequences and responsibilities; and that if man has a choice between faith and disbelief then he has to bear the responsibilities of that choice. If he is free in his behaviour, then he should also bear the consequences of his chosen behaviour. Thus, we read in the Holy Quran: “Say, the Truth is from your Lord”; Let him who will, believe, and let him who will, reject. For the wrongdoers We have prepared a Fire whose (smoke and flames) like the walls and roof of a text will hem them in: if they implore relief they will be granted water like melted brass that will scald their faces. How dreadful the drink! How uncomfortable a couch to recline one!” 18, Al-Kahf, 29.
Belief and disbelief are two types of behaviour connected with the freedom of the mind and the will. We cannot talk about the freedom of will without having the ability to choose between belief and disbelief in the general sense of the words and in the religious sense as well, nor can we talk about responsibility devoid of the freedom of will and mind, or the freedom of behaviour. Therefore, the hadeeth testifies that no responsibility is imposed on a boy until he becomes of age, or the sleeper until he wakes, or the mad man until he regains his normal senses.
This freedom of behaviour between belief and disbelief, with all that goes between positive and negative behaviour (irrespective of absolute value judgement) may explain to us why man is variously described in the Holy Quran: some of these descriptions are positive, some are negative.
Therefore, man’s liberty entails responsibility. And, despite this complete freedom in belief and behaviour, the Holy Quran tells man very clearly that his abilities are limited, and consequently his freedom is also limited in certain fields. Man cannot choose when to be born. “In pain did his mother bear him, and in pain did she give him birth” (46, Al-Ahqaf, 15). Nor can man choose when or where to die. “When their term is reached, not an hour they can cause delay, nor (an hour) can they advance.” 7, Al-A’raf, 3. “Nor does anyone know in what land he is to die.” 31, Luqman, 34.
While we find the Holy Quran calling to adopt the causes and laws of Allah in society and the world in general, the Muslim entertains a decision conviction that there is a cause of all causes Who is not caused by any cause, and that is Allah the Almighty, Who has power over everything, and on Whom all depend, to Whom all matters refer, and Whose Will comes above every will. Therefore, the behaviour of the Muslim should not be separated from this vision, even though he has to adopt the causes. “Nor, say of anything: I shall be sure to do so and so tomorrow, without adding: so please Allah. And call they Lord to mind when thou forgetest, and say: I hope that my Lord will guide me ever closer than this to the right road.” 18, Al-Kahf, 23-24.
So, how do theories of psychology stand on this subject?
If we were to look into theories of personality in modern psychology, we should find lack of agreement on the subject. The Freudian theory for instance, believes that man has no free will. That is to say that man is controlled by the unconscious, being in constant struggle with the unconscious forces like the instincts (such as sex and aggression) which he can never conquer. The role of the ego, according to freud, is to coordinate between the pressures of the Id (instincts and desires) and those of the super ego (conscience and morals). This freudian attitude about the freedom of man is not accepted by a neu-Freudian, Eric Fromm (1900-1980). Though he was a follower of the psychoanalytic approach. Fromm has a positive attitude towards the free will of man, as he believes that personality is not formed by social, political and economic factors alone, since man has certain psychological characteristics which can help to form his own nature (personality) and his society as well.
The Behavioural school shares the analytical school in their belief in determinism. Skinner (1904-1990) as a forerunner of modern behaviourism, though not in agreement with Freud about the existence of internal forces that control personality, believes that man’s behaviour is like a pre-programmed instrument whose activity and function are decided beforehand. Therefore, man has no freedom in behaviour or spontaneity, as his behaviour is controlled by stimuli received from his environment.
While the two schools, the Analytical and the Behavioural, do not believe in man’s freedom, despite their different theoretical starting points. The trait theory, represented by the American psychologist Gordon Allport (1897-1967) holds a moderate attitude. Allport believes that man is capable of controlling his future with a degree of freedom. But he also believes that the behaviour of man is defined by traits and personal inclinations that are difficult to change once they were formed.
If we turn to the Humanistic theory, we find that its upholders, like Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) stress the free will of man, who is potential of choosing the way to satisfy his needs and realize his capabilities. Therefore, man, according to this theory, is responsible about the degree or level of the growth he achieves.
The Cognitive theory, represented by modern psychologists led by George Kelley (1905-1967), believes that man is free in choosing, controlling, and modifying his behaviour when there is a need for that. He is also free to revise his old concepts and replace them by new ones. According to this theory, man is always looking towards the future.
Finally, the theory of social learning, represented by Albert Bandura (1925- ) holds a moderate attitude about the freedom of man. Bandura believes that people are not powerless entities monitored by the forces of society, nor are they absolutely free that they can do anything they choose to do. Man and his environment mutually affect each other.
To sum up, we find wide disagreements among modern theories of psychology about the freedom of man. Most of these theories hold a moderate attitude, and say that the behaviour of man, though stemming from a will, yet there are hereditary forces (biological) and social forces (environmental) that influence that behaviour and direct it despite man’s will. In fact, most psychologists agree that the major determinants of personality are biological as well as environmental factors.
An overall observations of the above indicates that existing theories ignore the will of Allah in directing and determining the destiny of man. They also ignore the spiritual determinants (belief in Allah) and their affect on personality and behaviour. To correct this shortcoming, one may refer to the Quranic vision explained above. For more details, one may also refer to the various Islamic schools of thought like the Mu’tazilite, The Ash’arite etc..
ETERNITY AND NIHILITY
Schultz does not approach this dimension, nor do psychologists in general, as they consider it a metaphysical subject, within the realm of philosophy. Though basically a metaphysical subject, eternity forms a variable influential on the behaviour of man.
The man who has a firm belief that he is answerable about his behaviour before Allah, and that he will be held accountable for his deeds on the Day of Judgement, which will destine him to eternity in paradise or in hell, will certainly have a different behaviour from a man who has no belief in paradise or hell, nor in eternity either. When no difference is detected in reality between the behaviour of the believer and the non-believer in eternity, then that difference may be ascribed to various factors, among which is a weak belief in the Day of Judgement, or to other factors which cover the signs of basic differences in the behaviour of the believer and the non-believer in eternity in paradise or hell.
Does Man have One Dimension (material only) or
Two Dimensions (Material-spiritual)?
Schultz does not particularly mention this point when dealing with aspects of human nature treated by various psychologists, as he did with other points. Yet, a survey of opinions by psychologists on this point shows lack of agreement. Some are concerned with physical and biological aspects only. Others add the behavioural aspect to these two. The spiritual aspect connected with faith hardly finds many followers in modern psychology. Yet, the American Psychological Association recognizes religious psychology as one field in modern psychology.
To look at man as a being of various dimensions--physical, biological, spiritual and behavioural--, in an interactive and integrative manner, may fill in a gap in modern psychological theories which look at man from a narrow viewpoint, limited by biological factors (hereditary and biochemical), and social and environmental determinants.
Does man have an Absolute Good or Absolute Evil Nature
Again, Schultz does not approach this point in his above mentioned book. This is probably due to the fact that this is a philosophical and moral question, and not a psychological one. To deal with it would entitle a value judgement and a moral attitude, which many psychologists try to avoid. It is also due to a strong desire to separate psychology in subject and method from philosophy and ethics. Yet, it is not possible to separate psychology from philosophy and ethics completely. Therefore, I believe that the Islamic vision of man is an objective one, since it books at man from various perspectives. Man is not all good or all evil, but is claimed by forces of good and evil, and he is always fighting against the evil tendencies. The Islamic view of man is concerned with individual differences in this field, and with the aspect of faith in the nature of man. No matter how good the man may be, he cannot be immune to evil; and, no matter how evil the man may be, he cannot be completely deprived from any good. But the type of education, the environment, the biological effects and values held by man are the factors that direct man towards good or evil, where one tendency would be dominant. Some Muslim scholars add to this the Satanic inducement and its negative effect on man’s behaviour, which may lead him to committing evil deeds. To avoid such inducement, one has to pray for divine protection against the accursed Satan, by word and deed. This behaviour, again, does not fall within the frame of Western psychological theories.
In brief, man is not all good or all evil. He is a mixture of angelic and satanic qualities. Therefore, he is a different being, neither an angel nor a devil...He is a Man.
To explore the attitude of modern psychologists about the relation of good and evil to man, we find Maslow in his Humanistic theory affirming that the innate human nature is basically good, but Maslow does not rule out the existence of evil among the human beings. Freud was extremely pessimistic. He maintained that he “could find nothing good among the human beings.” Freud had a positive belief that aggresion and sex are two instincts of a biological origin, and that they form a basic component of the human nature (Schultz, 1994).
Is the Behaviour of Man Based on Intentions and Deeds; on Intentions Alone; or on Deeds Alone?
The question of intention is not a concern of psychology, as it is a religious concept, connected with the practice of worship in behaviour; and intention is basic in any form of worship in Islam. Since we are told in the Holy Quran that the purpose of creating man and jinn is to worship the Creator, the concept of worhsip in Islam becomes comprehensive of all forms of behaviour, when the intention is to come closer to Allah and worship Him. This relation was qualified by the quotation from Shatibi. Though modern psychology is not concerned with intentions, it does not ignore drives and incentives and their influence on behaviour. But Schultz does not mention this dimension in the vision of human nature by various psychologists, or its influence on behaviour and personality.
We are told by the hadeeth : “Deeds are by intentions, and everyman is requited in accordance with what he intended.” So, the intention decides the reqard to any behaviour by the Muslim. But in Islam, especially in jurispredence, consideration is of deeds and their consequences, not of intentions. The intention is basic in owroship only, and the reward is in the hands of Allah. This distinction is basic to avoid misbehaviour on the pretext of good intention. These intentions cannot be judged by persons or organizations, irrespective of their status.
Briefly, then, all deeds in worship are seen through channels of intentions, which are known only to Allah and the door of those deeds. The rewards or punishments of the human being are seen through consequences of deeds, not through intentions. The more the deeds match the intentions, the better the reward.
Which is More Influential in Man’s Behaviour: His Past, Present,
Future, or all there?
Modern psychological theories about personality vary a great deal about the influence of the past or the present on the formation of the individual’s personality. Some theories lay more emphasis on childhood (from birth to 12-13 years). Other theories feel that personality is free from influence of the past, as it may be influenced by events and experiences of the present, and by hopes and aspiration of the future.
The Analytical theory, especially the Freudian tendency, feels that the past of the individual is basic in forming the personality, and that the Id, which is the major part in forming the personality, is an inherited physiological factor, and that the stages of psycho-sexual development is also inherited. It is well-known that the Freudian theory lays more emphasis on the Id, the unconscious, in the formation of personality. It believes that the psycho-sexual stages of development which the child experiences from birth to puberty are basic in the formation of personality, for the present and the future. Freud rather thinks that the first five years are the primary factor in forming the personality of the adolescent person.
In addition to this emphasis on heredity, the Analytical theory does not deny that part of the personality is acquired by learning at the early stages of life, and through interaction with the parents in particular.
It is also well known that Freud’s pupils and early followers like Afred Adler and Karl Jung were strongly opposed to Freud for his extremist vision of personality and his over-emphasis on the sex and aggressive instincts in their decisive formation of the types of personality. This is no place to review all criticism of Freud, but we may point out that Adler, for instance, has a more balanced view, as he holds that the formation of personality is a result of the past and the present of the individual. Similar to this attitude is that of Jung, Eric Fromm and Eric Ericson, as they all see the importance of the various stages of life, not the early stages alone, which is the Freudin stand.
The Traits theory, led by Gordon Allport, puts more emphasis on the present in the formation of personality. Therefore, Allport thinks that personality is more influenced by present events and by the look to the future more than what happened in the past.
The Humanistic theory, led by Maslow, has a balanced attitude on this subject. He recognizes the importance of early childhood experiences in enhancing or obstructing the development of personality. But he does not think that we are victims of those experiences. Maslow is one of few psychologists who lay more emphasis on various stages of life, especially the middle period.
The Behavioural theory has a similar balanced attitude like that of the Humanistic theory on this subject. The forerunner of modern behaviourism, Skinner (1904-1990) believes that past experiences have an equal influence on our behaviour and personality as present experiences. This makes the behavioural attitude another balanced attitude on this subject.
The Attitude of Islam
Islam pays great attention to the childhood period as it has a vital role in the formation of personality and behaviour. Yet, pondering the relevent texts does not indicate that the individual is destined to remain a prisoner of his past. The historical Islamic experience clearly shows that Islam was able to change the behaviour and personality of the Prophet’s companions who embraced Islam out of belief and conviction, leading them in a new direction. Islam could also radically change entire nations and civilizations in the field of creed and belief in particular. While man is answerable about his past, there is room for repentance to change the consequences of that past if it was marred with sins and bad deeds. This change could be achieved by performing good deeds, quitting sins and evil deeds and proclaiming repentance. Islam views the period of childhood as the time for learning and training. It is the period when the person is not held answerable until he reaches puberty.
The future is an important dimension in the formation of the personality of the Muslim. This is because the future in Islam is not limited to this world alone, but it extends to the Day of Judgment. Therefore, the future is a significant dimensions in the formation of the Muslim personality and directing it to good deeds in the present and the future.
The best summary of the Islamic attitude on this subject may be found in the following holy verse:
“But seek, with the (wealth) which Allah has bestowed on thee, the Hone of the Hereafter, nor forget thy portion in this world: but do thou good, as Allah has been good to thee.”
(28, Al-Qasas, 77)
It is also expressed in the wisdom of “Do for your present world as if you were to live forever, and for your life in the hereafter as if you were to die tomorrow.”
Does the Environment (Learning) or the Heredity Have More
Influence on Man’s Behaviour?
Islam reconized the influence of heredity (the biological factor) in the nature and personality of man. Man is created of a sperm, a mixture of man’s and woman’s sperm. Modern science has shown that this drop of sperm carries the hereditary qualities inflential on man in various stages of his life. This is the content of the holy verse: “It is He Who has creted man from water; then has He established relationship of lineage and marriage: for thy Lord has power (over all things); (25, al-Furqan, 54). The Jalalain exegesis reads “water” to denote “sperm”, and the relationship of “lineage” to point the father side, and “marriage” to denote the mother sides: the biological (hereditary) and the social (caused by marriage).
In addition to heredity, Islam puts great emphasis on the role of parents and society in the formation of the personality of man. The hadeeth tells us that “No one is born except on innate character: his parents turn him into a Jew, a Christian or a Magian.” The hadeeth shows the influence of both heredity and environment in the formation of personality. The Holy Qur’an reproached the unbelievers in following their forefathers in their behaviour in general and their deviate beliefs in particular, without resource to reason. “When they do aught that is shameful, they say ;”We found our fathers doing so”; and “Allah commanded us thus;” Say:” may, Allah never commands what is shameful: Do ye say of Allah what ye know not?’ (7, al-Araf, 28).***
Judging by several experiences in the hisotry of individuals, groups and nations, it is clear that man’s personality is capable of learning, change and excellence in various stages of life. There are several examples to prove that, foremost among these are the change effected by Islam in the souls of people of various ages, and in the conditions of tribes and nations when they embraced Islam. Therefore, Islam does not endorse a belief in the decisive influence of the past, but it keeps the doors open for oul-searching to accomodate and align oneself with the teachings of Islam. So Islam discards what same before, and open, through repentance and asking forgiveness, new horizons which restore hope to man. Nor does Islam encourage a belief in a decisive influence of environment and learning: it holds that both heredity and learning have their own significant effect.****
Yet, a general overview of the texts would show an apparent Islamic concern with learning and environment more than with heredity. This indicates the role of will and capability to change on various levels: individuals, communal, and societal; as it shows the importance of learning and teaching in effecting the change.
The Stand of Modern Psychological Theories
There is a large discrepency among psychologists on this issue, to a degre of contradution at times. Some would give more importance to heredity, denying the significant influence of the environment. Others would give the environment all influence in the formation of personality and relevant psychological qualities like intelligence, incentives and emotion. But this conflict was lately brought to an end by adopting a coordinate attitude which recognizes the influence of both environment and heredity in the formation, accomodation and change of personality and behaviour.
This coordinate, interactive, integrative attitude recognizes the influence of traits and individual needs in addition to the influence of environment in the formation of personality and behavior. This attitude was adopted after 20 years of disagreement among Western psychologists, from the 1960s to the 1980s (Phars, 1991)
Is Optimism or Pessimism Basic In Human Nature
When Allah created Adam, and informed the angels about this new creation who was to become videgerent the earth. The angels asked the Almighty how cold He put on earth someone who would cause evil and bloodshed. “Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: “I will create a vicegerent on earth.” They said: “Wilt Thou place therein one who willmake mischief therein and shed blood? Whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name).” He said: “I know what ye know not.” 2, Al-Baqara, 30. Though the angels wondered about the wisdom in creating Adam, the Almighty ordered the angels to fall prostrate before Adam as Allah the Almighty knows what the angels do not know about the creation of Adam.
Although Adam forgot the order of the Almighty while he was in paradise with his wife, Allah pardoned Adam after he repented. And even after the fall of Adam and Eve from paradise, and after the death of Abel at the hands of his brother Cain, and after the bloodshed and disobedience committed by man against a fellow man thgoughout the ages, man is not all evil or all good. Man’s deed differ between good and evil according to nature (biological or hereditary determinants) first; then according to education and learning; and thirdly according to deeds and faith. Despite pressures and difficulties of life, the Holy Quran is wholly an encouragement to do good deeds and to realize the vicegrency of Allah on earth. We find in the text of hadeeth that the Prophet (pbh) encourages optimism and discourages pessimism. “No omen but the good one. They said: “and what is a good omen?” He said: “The good word you may hear. (Related by Al-Bukhari in The Book of Medicine). Another hadeeth related by Bukhari says “I like the good omen : The good word.”
Briefly, then, Islam is all a call for optimism and rejection of submission of dejection, even the those who had gone too far in sin. “Say: “O my servants who have transgressed against their souls: Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgiveness all sins for He is of-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (39, Al-Zumar, 53.)
THE ATTITUDE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORIES
ON THIS ISSUE
The Analytical School
Freud is extremely pessimistic about human nature. He describes man in negative terms, saying that he is destined to struggle with his inner forces (instincts) all the time, and is doomed to become a victim of struggle, restraint, and anxiety. Contrary to this, Karl Jung is optimistic about the human nature, as he sees man capable of growth, improvement, and development. The same attitude is adopted by Adler, Eric Fromm, Murrey and Horney.
The Traits School
Allport describes man in optimistic terms. He believes in man’s capability of improvement, and in social reform. Raymond Catell (1905 - ) has a slightly different attitude from Allport. In his youth, Catell was more optimistic about man’s ability to solve the problems facing society, through gaining the knowledge necessary to control the environment. But reality was not up to Catell’s aspirations, so he came to the conclusion that both human nature and society have both deteriorated.
The Humanistic School
Followers of the Humanistic school have a positive attitude towards this issue, as they are all optimistic about the human nature. Therefore, they emphasize the psychological health rather than the psychological disturbances; the growth and development rather than stagnation and fossilisation, the positive aspects of man rather than his weaknesses and shortcomings.
The Behavioural School
Though Skinner and other behaviourists believe that the environment controls the behaviour of man, they affirm that man is responsible for designing this environment and the formation of its various aspects, like buildings, tools, clothes, food, government institutions, social system, language, habits, etc. Therefore, man can introduce modification into that environment to realize his own interests. Therefore, man becomes controller and controlled at the same time. Or, according to Skinner, man designs a controlling culture, but he ultimately becomes a product of that culture.
The Cognitive School
Represented by its forerunner George Kelley (1905-1967) this school believes that man is a rational being who can form concepts through which he can see the world, and formulate a unique approach to reality. Kelley believes that man himself plans his own destiny, and that he is not a victim of that destiny.
Does Man Endeavour towards Balance or
is He in Constant Development?
We gather from the Holy verses that man is in constant growth physically and psychologically (emotionally and mentally) until he becomes forty years old. Then he gradually deteriorates, also physically and psychologically, until he dies.*** “If We grant long life to any, We cause him to be reversed in nature: Will they not then understand?” (36, Yaseen, 68).
Despite this general law of growth, the Holy Verses and the hadeeth texts all encourage the search for knowledge and the education of the soul in the various stages of life, though responsibility begins with puberty and ends with death. The various schools of psychology have the following stands:
The Analytical School:
Freud believes that man is forced to restore balance and keep a state of physiological equilibrium, in order to protect the organism against stress and strain. This is an instinctive force which constantly leads the organism to feel the stress, and therefore tries to lessen that stress and achieve pleasure, and so on. Contrary to that, Karl Jung believes that man is in a state of constant growth, and that major changes in personality begin to appear around the middle of the age, between 35-40 years.
Adler believes that man is in constant endeavour to achieve supremacy, and that such endeavour increases rather than decreases to stress. Contrary to Freud, Adler believes that to relieve stress in not the only drive that man has, because the endeavour towards excellence demands greater effort, which is opposite to the state of balance characterized by relief of tension and stress. Moreover, Adler believes that the endeavour for excellence is an individual and societal process. Briefly, all followers of psychoanalysis, except Freud, emphasize growth rather than balance as a quality of human nature and personality.
The Traits School
Allport thinks that the main object of life is not to release tension, as Freud used to think, but to raise that tension which sets man looking for new aims and new challenges. When man achieves one objective he has a new drive to face another challenge for another objective. The reward in the process, according to Allport, is not the achievement itself, but the process of meeting the challenge. The same holds true in the endeavour to reach an objective. What matters is the effort, not reaching the objective. Therefore, man is constantly in need of new objectives to move and drive him, and to keep a necessary level of tension in the personality.
The Humanistic School
The followers of this school believe that man is in a state of constant growth and development. Maslow thinks that man is driven by innate needs which graduate, in a pyramid fashion, from basic physiological needs like food, drink, propagation, sleep and breathing up to the need for safety, for a sense of belonging, love, appreciation and up to the need for self realization, which lies at the top of all needs. Maslow further thinks that this final need is not realized except in the middle of a lifetime, and only to a small percentage of successful people.
The Behavioural School
The behaviourists are not concerned with inner drives and tensions which move man to realize objectives or make some achievement, because they believe that behaviour is formed by learning, which, in turn, is formed by external factors. This leads to the denial that innate (hereditary) or internal (subjective) factors drive man to achieve some objectives. An objective, according to Skinner, is not individual, but social. Though behaviourists affirm that basic behaviour is formed in the childhood, they do not deny the possibility of modification or change of that behaviour during adolescence which lead to acquiring new forms of behaviour. Briefly, then, the behaviourists have a moderate attitude towards the issue of “balance-growth.”
Does the individual have a Distinctive Quality
and Personality, or is there Universality in the Human
Nature and Personality?
Most psychologists who wrote on the subject of personality agree that it is characterized by individuality and consistency throughout the time. But they disagree about individuality/universality, as a quality of human nature:
The Analytical School
Freud recognizes the quality of universality in the human nature, as he believes that everyone goes through the same stages of psycho-sexual development, as he is moved by the same forces and instincts (the Id). Yet, Freud affirms that a part of the personality is distinctive. Therefore, the ego and the super ego, though performing the same role for every individual to another, because they were formed through personal experiences, which differ from one person to another. Jung has a similar attitude to that of Freud, but he differs in explaining this dimension of personality. Jung believes that there is a difference in personality until the middle period of the life-time. After that, there is a universality in the formation of personality, as no distinctive types of personality appear after the middle period of age. Differing from Freud and Jung, Adler clearly affirms the distinction and individuality of the personality. Fromm stands in between. Fromm believes that there is a universal and comprehensive quality in the personality, which is seen in a common social quality within a certain culture. At the same time, Fromm believes that each individual is different from the other.
The Traits School:
Allport believes that each individual differs from the other, because each has his own traits and capabilities which clearly denote his character and set him apart from the others. Yet, Allport does not deny the existence of common traits among people.
The Humanistic School
Maslow believes that needs and drives are common among people (universal). But, the ways these needs are satisfied differ from one person to another, because this is a behaviour that can be learned. Therefore, Maslow and Rogers stand on the middle ground of this subject.
The Behavioural School
Because the formation of behaviour is one by learning, individuals differ from one another, as experience forms behaviour, and people have different experiences, especially in childhood. Therefore, we cannot find two persons behaving in exactly the same manner. That leads the behaviourists to say that distinctiveness is the basic quality of human nature and personality.
The Attitude of Islam
We clearly see from the Holy Quran that people were created out of one soul. This is repeated four times in Surah al-Nisa’, 1, Al-An’am, 98, Al-A’raf, 189, and Al-Sumar, 6. Yet, Islam recognizes differences among people, whether in physical aspects, psychological aspects, or both. Responsibility about deeds and behaviour in Islam is individual “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things) (49, Al-Hujurat, 13).
We may see by this verse that differentiation is on two levels: individual and societal (nations and tribes). The Almighty made the difference in colour and language a sign to those who are capable of thinking. “And among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the variations in your languages and your colours; verily in that are Signs for those who know.” 3, Al-Room, 22. About the difference of some people from others, which is now called “the individual differences’, we read, “Their Prophet said to them: “Allah hath appointed Talut as kind over you.” They said, “How can he exercise authority over us when we are better fitted than he to exercise authority. And he is not even gifted with wealth in abundancy?” He said, “Allah hath chosen him above you and hath gifted him abundantly with knowledge and bodily prowess. Allah granteth His authority to whom He pleaseth. Allah is all embracing, and He knoweth all things.” 2, Al-Baqara, 247.
We may conclude from the above holy verses that human nature and personality are based on differentiation, though the origin is one (one soul) and that this differentiation is based on physical, psychological, and spiritual levels (of the individual) and on social and racial groupings (tribes, nations, colours, and languages).
Finally, we can visualize the model of human nature from an Islamic perspective, and in accordance with the above-mentioned qualities and dimensions. The major aspects of this model are the following:
Emphasis on the spiritual aspect and its influence, as a belief concept, on behaviour.
The direct relation between faith and behaviour cannot be severed.
The integration and interaction among spiritual, biological and physical aspects determine the personality and behaviour of the individual.
Man has a free will in some issues and is predestined in others at the same time.
Apparently, the environment is more influential than hereditary in the formulation of behaviour and personality, thus recognizing the influence of both heredity and biological factors.
The Islamic view emphasizes the importance of growth, change, and learning in the formation of personality and behaviour rather than the realization of balance, which basically aims at relieving tension and achieving pleasure.
Despite the negative aspects in the personality and behaviour of man, the Islamic perspective of personality is more optimistic than that of some psychologists. It calls for optimism, the desertion of pessimism and ominousness and the surrender to despair, dejection, and bad dreams.
Despite the emphasis of the Islamic perspective on the origin of creation from one soul, the difference on spiritual, psychological, biological and physical levels is considered more important than similarity or typicality of personality and behaviour. The Islamic position calls for competition among people in the field of good deeds.
Islam considers the present and future of personality and behaviour more important than the past. The period from childhood until puberty is not accountable before the Islamic law (Shari’a). But this period in education, parents’ responsibility and social institutions is of basic importance in Islam.
It is difficult to put a conclusion to the issue of human nature from a comparative perspective. So, this is a conclusion to the essay and not to the issue. Yet, I do not claim that I have exhausted the subject, as the visions of human nature vary according to various philosophical, intellectual, religious, psychological, and societal schools of thought. Therefore, this issue needs further debate and discussion. Muslim scholars have, for a long time, ignored the study of human nature and human sciences, despite the importance of these disciplines in the development of civilization, and despite the fact that man is the centre of the Quranic message, as he is to establish the vicagerency of Allah on earth.
Though I claimed at the beginning of the essay that I shall run a comparison among various views and theories about human nature from an “Islamic perspective: psychological and comparative”, I did not always clearly show the similarities and differences among those views and theories, leaving that sometimes to the imagination of the reader.
However, this essay may help those interested in the subject to make postulates about the human nature, from a psychological perspective in general, and the relative theories on human personality and social behaviour in particular. These postulates must be liable to testing and empirical or logical study or both, and also liable to comparison among cultures an religious. This may form a theoretical basis for further studies on the subject, and to theoretical psychological and empirical studies relating to personality and social behaviour from an Islamic perspective.
In fact, the Islamization of psychology must begin with laying the theoretical bases of a psychological vision of human nature on the one hand, and defining the subject matter and methodology of psychology on the other. It is obvious that a vision of human nature from a psychological point of view cannot be separated from religious, philosophical and moral issues. Vision of that nature except for methodological reasons, provided that this separation should take the various fields in consideration.
Finally, there is a need for further studies to clarify the attitudes of various Islamic schools of thought on the issues related to a vision of the human nature. Muslim psychologists and others are required to lay the theoretical bases to the understanding of human nature in a manner helpful to induce theories and applications.