Do Muslim Students Who Study Psychology Find It Contradicting with Their Religion?
In 2000, the World Conference on Muslim Education published the following comments on the goals of education within the Islamic tradition: “Education should aim at the balanced growth of the total personality of man through the training of the human spirit, intellect, rational self, feelings, and selves” (Syed, 2001).
With these comments in mind, it must be said that there is no inherent conflict between Islam and psychological education. Many researchers have identified the positive effect of religiosity on mental health outcomes (Behere, Das, Yadav, & Behere, 2013). The perceived conflict between psychology and religion has its roots in the 19th century, when many figures in Western psychology espoused strong anti-religious sentiments, equating religiosity with emotional disturbance (Moreira-Almeida, Neto, Koening, 2006). However, modern research provides significant evidence for positive outcomes associated with prayer, meditation, and religious ritual as a method for processing negative emotions (Behere et. al, 2013).
Even today, psychiatrists and psychologists are significantly less likely to espouse religious belief than the general population (Moreira-Almeida et. al, 2006). Although there is a movement towards bridging the gap between religion and psychology, with 84 of the United States’ accredited medical schools offering courses in spirituality and health (Behere et. al 2013), students who practice a faith often report feelings of alienation from their atheist peers and professors (Hartley 2004). This is particularly apparent for students who practice minority and non-Christian faiths.
In conclusion, there is nothing contradictory between Islamic faith and the study of psychology. However, attitudes in the field towards religion as a whole and towards minority faiths in particular may contribute to feelings of alienation and isolation for practicing Muslim students.
Behere, P.B., Das, A., Yadav, R., and Behere, A.P. (2013). Religion and mental health. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 55(2), S187-S194. doi: 10.4103/0019-5545.105526
Hartley, H.V. (2004). How college affects students’ religious faith and practice. The College of Student Affairs Journal, 23(2), 111-129.
Moreira-Almeda, A., Neto, F.L., and Koenig, H.G. (2006). Religiousness and mental health: a review. Reviesta brasileira de psyquiatria, 28(3) 242-250. doi: 10.1590/S1516-44462006005000006
Syed, I.B. (2000). Educating Muslim children. Islamic Horizons. Retrieved from http://www.irfi.org/articles/articles_1_50/educating_muslim_children.html