The word Psychology is Greek and comprises of two parts. The first part is psyche, which, in Greek, means soul and logos which means "the study of a subject". This term was coined in the 16th century and was popular among the Theologians who engaged in studying the soul. As time passed, the term was given additional meanings and in the 19th century it was defined as the science of mental life.
Both the study of the soul and of mental life dealt with something that was not directly observable, so from the scientific point of view the subject had to do with something that can be directly observed. As a result, the meaning of the term had to be changed to the study of behaviour. Thus the Psychologists, instead of studying mental experiences like anger, they began studying the observable manifestation, in the form of aggression.
At present the dictionary definition of this term is: the branch of knowledge which deals with the human mind; that knowledge of the mind which we derive from a careful examination of the facts of consciousness and behaviour. (Groiler Webster Dictionary)
The Psychologists, at the present time, study perception, cognition, emotion, personality, behaviour and interpersonal relationships. This subject also deals with family education and treatment of mental health. It attempts to understand the psychological and neurological processes in the role of individuals and social behaviour. Different groups of Psychologists concentrate their studies on different aspects of the human personality resulting in specialised areas within the subject. Some of these fields of study are Experimental Psychology, Physiological Psychology, Comparative Psychology, Personality Psychology, Social Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Psychology and Quantitative or Psychometric Psychology.
The study of Psychology began by Muslim Psychologists and Physicians in the 10th and 11th centuries. They even built psychiatric hospitals then to study the subject more carefully.
In Islam, there are many terms that are used to identify with the psychology of the human being. Some of these are as follows:
• Qalb: (heart). This is a formless element which has got connection with the material heart, but is like unseen electricity.
• Ruh (spirit, soul). This is (a), a material thing within the heart which vibrates the whole body like the current of electricity and which runs through the veins of the body. It is called life. (b) An immaterial subtle thing which is called soul, not life.
• Nafs (passion). One meaning of Nafs is greed, anger and the other negative attributes which do not contribute to spiritual or moral growth; the other meaning is soul when it assumes calmness and is not conditioned by passion.
• Aql (intellect). It is the power to understand the secrets of different learning and also the power to know the true nature of things.
• Fitra: Innate qualities.
• Hawa: desire
Because all these different faculties impact upon the human beings positively or negatively, they are all studied. Allah has also mentioned about them in different places in the Holy Qur'an.
Psychology and Character Building:
Psychology is a positive science. Its study undertakes to describe, classify and attempts to explain facts of mental life. Apparently, it may seem that Psychology has nothing to do with values. But Psychology as a science of human behaviour occupies a peculiar position regarding values. Some of these are:
• Value as a part of mental life
• Psychology may be treated as a pure or applied science and is useful in the fields of education, industry and medicine.
• Applied Psychology helps in the construction of a science of morality and Religion.
• Psychology of character building bears an implication and sanction of emotional appreciation—all that involves moral judgment is directly related to a cognitive and intellectual approach.
Modern Psychologists are mainly interested in understanding and explaining the position of man in society.
Living in a society is a problem with numerous aspects. Some of these are:
• Attainment of basic needs
• Attainment of biological needs—one of the most important aspect for man
• Interpersonal relations involving constant competence and co-operation.
• Social needs—involving examination of the environmental forces
• Self-examination in order to understand himself.
• Self awareness in order to make proper social adjustment.
Psychologists use the term adjustment to replace adaptation as was propounded by Darwin.
Psychologically, every individual has to adjust to demands that are partly internal and partly external. Often a conflict may arise in the satisfaction of the demands that are made on the individual. These conflicts may arise:
• when two internal needs are in opposition to each other
• when two external demands are incompatible
• when an internal and an external demand stand opposed to each other.
As Psychology is the scientific study of behaviour and mental processes there are no universally accepted "school of thought" for doing so. As a result different groups of Psychologists concentrate their attention to different areas in this vast field of study. Some of these areas are:
• Structuralism: analysing the mind into its component parts.
• Functionalism: studying how the conscious mind helps to adapt to the environment.
• Behaviourism: the study of observable behaviour.
• Gestalt Psychology: studying the mind as being active and perception as holistic
• Psychoanalysis: how conscious motives influence behaviour.
In the modern age we are living in a society which is rapidly changing. Our residents, customs, family ideals and our notion of values are in a state of constant flux.
Effective adjustment requires that we should learn the value of inhibitions and how to control the environment. It makes a positive demand on us that we should learn the values of self acceptance and self actualisation. We must have a unifying philosophy of life with due appreciation of the realities of life.
In Islam the Qur'an speaks about a society with each individual having a common focus, purpose and goal. In this connection Allah says:
Thus have We made you an Ummah (people, nation, society) justly balanced; that you might be witnesses over the nations and the Messenger a witness over you. (2:143)
Mankind was one nation, but differed (later). (10:19)
Verily, this brotherhood of yours is a single brotherhood, and I am your Lord, therefore serve Me. (21:92)
The Qur'an recognises that man needs guidance mentally and also in his interaction with others. It also warns that all internal and external matters connected with the individual are carefully recorded and will be reproduced at the "appointed time". As a result it is the duty of the individual to be careful with himself as a person and as a member of the society. Allah says:
Every act of hearing, or of seeing or of (feeling in) the heart will be enquired into (on the Day of Judgment) (17:36)
By following the prescription given in Islam, an individual can attain harmony with the internal and external dimensions of his personality and also with others with whom he comes into contact.