The Research Center for Islamic Legislation and Ethics (CILE) held a seminar entitled "Islamic Ethics and Psychology" over three days from Saturday 22nd to Monday 24th November 2014 at Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies, Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Doha, Qatar. The seminar aimed at answering two central questions: 1) How to evaluate the main approaches to understanding the nature of human being in contemporary psychology and Islamic Heritage? 2) What is the position of the ethical pursuit in contemporary psychology and its applications? The seminar had the contributions of a group of scholars, thinkers and experts in psychology and Islamic studies from Britain, Malaysia, New Zealand, Tunisia, USA, Morocco, Ireland and Jordan. Other participants also include Prof. Dr. Tariq Ramadan, CILE's Director, and Chauki Lazhar, CILE's Deputy Director, and some of CILE's staff at Doha. The seminar was moderated by Sheikh Yasir Mohamed (Fazaga) from USA.
The Research Center for Islamic Legislation and Ethics (CILE), a member of the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies (QFIS) in Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), held a seminar titled “Islamic Ethics and Psychology” during the period of 22-24th of November 2014.
The aim of the seminar was to address the following questions:
1) How do you evaluate the main approaches to understanding the nature of human beings in contemporary Psychology and Islamic Heritage?
a) What are the limits of the moral responsibility of human actions from the perspective of contemporary Psychology and Islamic Heritage?
b) What is the role of the unseen in the psychoanalysis and psychotherapy?
c) What is the significance of the search for the objectives of psychology and the objectives of Shariah in the formulation of a new approach in psychology?
2) What is the position of ethical pursuits in contemporary psychology and its applications?
a) What are the main ethical dilemmas faced by the psychotherapist and the patient?
b) What are the ethical conditions of employing techniques of psychological influence on individuals and groups?
c) Is there a role for religion in mental health and psychotherapy?
Invited to the seminar to address these questions were: Dr Rasjid Skinner, Professor of Clinical Psychology at Karachi University and Consultant of Clinical Psychology at Bradford Teaching Hospitals; Dr Mamoun Mobayed, Consultant Psychiatrist and Director of the Program Department at Qatar Foundation for the Protection and Social Rehabilitation; Dr Colleen Ward, Centre for Applied Cross-cultural Research at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand; Sheikh Dr Moḥamed Naim Yasin, Professor of Comparative Fiqh and Islamic Policy at universities of Qatar, Kuwait, and Jordan; Dr Malik Badri, Professor of Psychology, Chartered Psychologist, CPsychol of the British Psychological Society and holder of the prestigious Chair of Ibn Khaldun in the Faculty of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences at the International Islamic University in Malaysia; Sheikh Dr Nourredine Al-Khadmi, Professor of Shariah, Former Minister of Religious Affairs in Tunisia and Member of International Union of Muslim Scholars Board of Trustees; Dr Saâd Dine El Otmani, Psychiatrist and former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Morocco; and Dr Rabia Malik, a Consultant Systemic Psychotherapist at the Tavistock Centre in London, and Researcher of the cultural construction of mental illness.
The seminar was moderated by Sheikh Yasir Fazaga the Religious Director of Islamic Society of Orange County, Southern California, USA. In addition, Professor Tariq Ramadan, CILE Director, and Chauki Lazhar, CILE Deputy Director were present. Also in attendance were CILE staff and faculty members.
The First day began with welcoming remarks by Dr. Tariq Ramadan, the director of CILE, followed by Sh. Chauki Lazhar who reminded the audience of the mission and vision of CILE.
The first presenter was Dr. Skinner addressing the first question dealing with what makes Islamic psychology unique and different from Western psychology. His main focus was Islam’s acknowledgment of man’s Fitrah and the fact that Islamic heritage is a Fitrah-based approach to understanding the nature of man. He offered a definition of Fitrah as:
“The disposition with the self, to return to the primordial connectedness to Allah (S.W.A), a nostalgia for the original witnessing of the reality and awareness of Allah.
Dr. Skinner also pointed out that Western psychology is limited while the Islamic heritage is encompassing. The Islamic heritage acknowledges man’s inner dynamics of: Qalb, Ruh and Nafs, something that Western psychology does not offer and shies away from.
Responding to Dr. Skinner’s presentation was Sheikh Dr. Mohamed Naim Yasin, who was in agreement with Dr. Skinner as far as the Fitrah-based Islamic heritage approach to the understanding of man.
Sheikh Dr. Yasin offered an additional definition of Fitrah provided by Ibn Attia: the disposition enabling the baby to know his Lord.
Sheikh Dr. Yasin suggested that if man has the capacity to understand and the ability to act then, in the sight of the Shariah, man is responsible for his actions.
Dr. Malik Badri offered the second presentation of the day. Dr. Badri began by asserting that “The nature of man is the backbone of worldviews” and “one can’t really understand the Western understanding of man unless a historical background is understood”. Cruelties committed by the church made people look away from religion and turned to science to answer their questions. The new God was science. Rather than man being a “sinner” as presented by the church, the new sciences asserted that man has no nature. He is neither good nor bad.
In addition to reacting to the church, the western world was also impacted by the work of Darwin and the work of Freud. This had four consequences in the understanding of:
Man stands alone (no God)
Man has no inherent nature (neither good nor bad),
Man is an intelligent animal (guilt is relieved), and
Man is god (in determining ethical principles)
Responding to Dr. Badri was Dr. C. Ward who acknowledged the fact that there is an “inherent incompatibility between Western and Islamic worldviews” and that “the Western acceptance of secular humanism is at the root of the conflict, and this must be understood in a historical context” Dr. Ward suggested that Muslims must contribute to the field. She pointed out that 80% of psychologists come from America. One cannot help but notice the impact of the American culture and its influence in the field of psychology. Dr. Ward strongly suggested that Muslims, like Latin Americans, must come up with their own understanding of psychology that reflects their beliefs. In other words: psychology of the Muslims by the Muslims for the Muslims.
After both presentations were over a very rich discussion took place. A great deal of it revolved around the notion and precise meaning of Fitrah. In addition to Fitrah-related questions, discussions were further enriched by the questions: what does Islamic psychology mean? What does it deal with? What are the consequences of such distinctions between western and Islamic psychology?
The second day was also packed with presentations and rich discussions. The main focus of the day was about ethics and contemporary psychology and the dilemmas facing Muslim practitioners.
The first presenter was Dr. Mamoun Mobayed who emphasized two things: Man is a complicated being with many dimensions to him and is not easy to understand. The second point is that psychology is a science and must be viewed and appreciated as such and not mere opinions. Dr. Mobayed went on to list many ethical and legal principles that are common amongst Muslims as well as non-Muslim practitioners. These ethical principles include but are not limited to: confidentiality, do no harm, scope of practice, justice, wellbeing of the client and the promotion of independence. Dr. Mobayed emphasized the need for continuing education for all practitioners to make sure that they are updated with the latest research and approaches in the field. Dr. Mobayed pointed out that it is an ethical duty of the Muslim practitioner to continue to improve him or herself in their respective field.
Responding to Dr. Mobayed’s paper was Dr. S. Otmani who appreciated the thoroughness of Dr. Mobayed’s paper. Dr. Otmani makes the point that there is a role for religion to play in mental health. Dr. Otmani said that there is a lot of misconception promoted by erroneous religious understanding when it comes to mental health and Islam. Mental health is not the result of weakness of faith rather “mental diseases are, like physical diseases, objective in nature; they have causes, interactions and factors which may be several and interrelated” and to suggest that faith prevents mental illness in the medical sense is “untrue”.
Dr. Rabia Malik was the second presenter of the day. She began by offering a definition of the aim of psychotherapy as “better coping and autonomy of an individual to achieve their potential”. In the process of doing so, a Muslim practitioner is required to observe and abide by several ethical and legal guidelines: competence, promotion of well-being, relationship with the client based on trust, respect for peoples’ rights and dignity, and confidentiality.
Dr. Malik pointed out that western psychology is “Reductionist and rule-based.” It also “separates the personal from the professional”. The Islamic heritage, Dr. Malik suggested, is to “raise consciousness” of all.
Responding to Dr. Malik’s paper was Sheikh Dr. N. Al Khadmi who was able to bring his specialty in Maqasid Al Shariah (The Aim of the Shariah), into play when making a case for Islamic psychology. Sheikh Dr. Al Khadmi pointed out that Islamic ethics are based on concepts granting man dignity, freedom and safety. There is a strong basis in Islam for the role of ethics in the field of psychology.
The last day was dedicated to summarizing the main points where the participants both agreed upon and differed. The different backgrounds that the participants brought contributed immensely to the discussion. Participants were: psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, scholars and intellectuals who are directly engaged in the field in one way or another.
The participants agreed that more work and effort is needed to remove the stigma from mental health, the important role that religion can play in promoting and addressing mental health related issues, the need to enrich the field of psychology by Muslim professionals and the implementation of Maqasid Al Shariah in the field of psychology.
Suggestions brought up as a result of the seminar:
1- The need for a Muslim voice in the field of psychology
Historically speaking, the contributions of Muslims cannot be denied in the field of psychology, however, the absent of Muslims voices is deafening at this point. More research and participation has to be encouraged not only in terms of critiquing Western psychology but also in the form of meaningful contribution to the field, namely, a contribution that is firmly rooted in Islamic principles.
2- The need to translate and make available the work of great Muslim scholars and intellectuals in western languages.
3- A formulation of psychology that is human in aim and divine in origins.
4- Building a proper setting for exchange of ideas, research and thoughts produced by Muslim professionals in the field.
5- Formulation of a strategy to support and plan for the future in the field of psychology.