Introduction to Islamic Psychology

The field of psychology has long been criticized for being a science rooted in a (secular) worldview that not many people espouse. This has raised questions about its relevance, especially for people of faith, indigenous peoples, those in non-Western cultures, and more. This has given rise to movements such as the decolonization of psychology, multicultural and cross-cultural psychology, and religious and spiritual psychologies. Such movements seek to provide frameworks of psychology that are rooted in the various worldviews in which they are positioned.

It is within this broader climate, the contemporary push for diversity and inclusion, as well as the vast Islamic tradition that one can locate Islamic psychology today. Although defined and conceptualized in a variety of ways and in an attempt to not “other” it, one could argue that Islamic psychology (IP) is simply psychology – but rooted in the philosophical, metaphysical, cosmological, theological, ontological, and epistemological worldview of the Islamic tradition.

The purpose of this program is to introduce attendees to these foundational “roots” of the field as well as some of its emerging branches – areas of application in which IP is already benefiting society and improving lives.

Program Overview

This public program – in collaboration with the George Washington University Department of Religion – is designed for a broad audience including students, professionals, or scholars from any field or background. Anyone interested in the field of Islamic psychology is welcomed. Its pedagogical approach is rooted in an Islamic view that education is holistic: informing the intellect and transforming the soul. As such, modules are comprised of two sessions: the first is a theory-based lecture with class discussion, and the second is an experiential, practice-based session lead by an expert in Islamic spirituality. All modules are live, online, two hours each, hosted by the program’s core faculty, delivered by a renowned expert on that specific topic, and will have ample time for discussion and engagement. All module sessions are also on Saturdays. Recordings of the classes will be available afterwards for attendees that cannot make a live class. Attendees will also be provided with a reading list for each module. The following is an overview of the 9-module program. A list of the program faculty as well as a FAQ are also below. 

Fall Semester: Islamic Psychology’s Roots

This module provides necessary intellectual infrastructure for the program as a whole. It begins with a general overview of the emerging field of Islamic psychology including how it is defined and conceptualized, examples of current scholarship and the landscape today. How religion, spirituality, and other issues of diversity are dealt with in psychology will also be examined.

This course introduces students to Islam by exploring the structure and landscape of Islamic sciences and schools of thought. An essential module in order to understand the various sources from which IP scholarship is influenced.

IP Experience: Islamic meditation (October 16th)

This module examines Islamic philosophy, metaphysics, and epistemology. The objective of this module is to articulate the features of an Islamic philosophy of science that could underpin a modern field of psychology.

IP Experience: Islamic meditation (November 20th)

This module explores various ways the self is conceptualized from an Islamic perspective. Structures such as the nafs, aql, ruh, and qalb and their function will be examined as well as theories of personality and personhood from various perspectives within the Islamic intellectual tradition. Also to be explored is the relevance to and implications such views have in psychology today.
IP Experience: Islamic meditation (December 18th)

Some have argued that Sufism / the science of the self (ilm al-nafs) is Islam’s version of psychology and psychotherapy as it is a science devoted to rid the human soul of psycho-spiritual and behavioral disorders and to elevate it to stations of virtuous character. This module examines this vast Islamic science, with a particular emphasis on what it has to offer both in relation to as well as in place of clinical and behavioral sciences today.

IP Experience: Islamic meditation (January 15th)

Spring Semester: Islamic Psychology’s Branches

Islamically integrated psychotherapy is an integrative approach that combines modern psychotherapies with Islamic philosophies, teachings, or interventions. This module will provide a broad overview of the various approaches Islamic psychologists and psychotherapists have developed and examine ways forward. IP Experience: Islamic meditation (February 19th)

This module examines the contributions of classical Muslim scholars to what is today called the field of psychology or mental health. Also to be explored are issues that arise with terminology such as “mental” health; what role religion and spirituality play in disease conceptualization, treatment, and prevention; the place (or not) of spiritual diseases of the heart in mental healthcare; diagnosing spiritual disorders; and issues related to the development of holistic Islamic frameworks of various mental health issues like suicide, depression, anxiety, and more.

IP Experience: Islamic meditation (March 19th)

The field of Islamic healing is vast and includes prophetic medicine (al-Tibb al-Nabawi), Sufism (tasawwuf), spiritual modalities such as dhikr, duaa, ruqya, other modalities and concepts like muraqaba and muhasaba, and what is today called mind-body or complementary and alternative medicine. This module explores this area of Islamic healing. Also to be examined are distinctions between modern clinical services such as psychotherapy and medical care versus Islamic spiritual care and the role of clinician versus sheikh/spiritual guide.

IP Experience: Islamic meditation (April 16th)

Building upon discussions in previous modules on how “science” is defined and conceptualized, this module explores various research methods available to the multidisciplinary field of Islamic psychology and what role religion and spirituality could have in the research process (as opposed to as topics of research inquiry). Various questions will also be examined such as methodological issues of using quantitative measurements on qualitative constructs (spiritual experiences, etc.) and more.
IP Experience: Islamic meditation (May 21st)

Program Faculty


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