Islam’s contribution to Psychology

By Jalaledin Ebrahim

As part of my doctoral dissertation research, I had to go back and find out if and how Islam made any contributions to the field of psychology.

al-kindi5In fact,Islam has received sparse attention for its contributions in the field of psychology, even though one of the first known texts on the interpretation of dreams was done by a Muslim from Basra, Muhammad Ibn Seerin (d. circa 729), whose work on dream interpretation appeared in a text published a few years after his death. Peter Adamson, in his detailed analysis on the thought of al-Kindi (d. 860), identifies the renowned philosopher as one of the first Muslim thinkers to reflect on the faculty of imagination: “Al-Kindi explores imagination most deeply in a treatise devoted to the phenomenon of prophetic dreams, entitled On Sleep and Dream.” (2007 p. 135). Adamson also notes “that al-Kindi consistently speaks of humans as possessing a power of “choice (ikhtiyar)” and “volition (irada).” But it would be too quick to conclude from this that that he makes human actions exempt from celestial causation. Perhaps the stars causally determine the choices we make, even though we are still choosing in a meaningful sense.” (p. 200).

Majid Fakhry writes that Al-Farabi (d. circa 950) attempted to explain phenomena “such as dreams, prognostication (kahanah), vision (ru’ya) and the prophetic office (nubuwwah), which is for him the highest stage attainable by humankind, through the use of the imaginative faculty.” (2002, pp. 90-91). Al-Farabi explored the topic where al-Kindi left off.

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Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, its achievements and humanitarian works.

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