The development of human nature from a comparative psychological perspective

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By : Dr. Mustapha Achoui

Professor of Psychology

International Islamic University


Dozens of books are available on the subject of “human nature” especially in English language, but most of them begin with a philosophical, moral, or religious perspective, or even a mixture of these views. It is also evident that studies which have a psychological approach to the subject are rather rare, even in the West, as most of those studies could be an introduction to the study of the psychology of human nature. Some scholars, like Wrightsman (1992), give the following reasons for the lack of interest in the subject among psychologists :

1- Western psychologists believe that it is futile to explain behaviour in terms of human nature and that only laymen tend to explain behaviour as a mere part of human nature.

2- Western psychologists are not concerned with the so-called “universality of social behaviour”, except recently. This can be seen in the studies of cross-cultural psychology. Their concern has been with the study of social behaviour in a framework of Western culture, rather than the study of human behaviour in a wider perspective of the human race.

3- Psychological research has centred on the study of experimental social psychology, and on the concepts that can be studied empirically rather than loose concepts which western psychology tried to avoid. This made laboratory research predominance in the western psychological research, as it forms an important part of empirical studies which are either descriptive or experimental studies.

Anyhow, Western scholars, whether philosophers, sociologists, or psychologists have become more and more interested in the subject of “human nature.” This has been felt by many scholars such as Stevenson (1974, 1987), Chaney (1990), Wrightsman (1992), and Schultz (1994). These authors have studied the subject of human nature from various viewpoints: philosophical, psychological, anthropological, and developmental.

Some books and studies were also published in Arabic, and from an Islamic viewpoint, following various approaches: philosophical, religious, moral, psychological, or anthropological. Among these are works by Al-Aqqad, Bint al-Shati (1982), Barakat Ahmad (1981), Ameer (1984), al-Farouqi (1984), Sayyid Mursi (1988), Akbar Ahmad (1990), and Al-Ani (1995).

This essay is a contribution to the field of psychology, hoping to form an introduction to psychological studies from an Islamic perspective. It has two-fold objectives:

  1. An attempt to understand the human nature through the texts of some Quranic verses and hadeeth.

  2. Adopting a comparative approach between the Islamic and Western perspectives of the human nature, with reference to postulates made by Schultz (1994) and other Western scholars. I have chosen the work by Schultz for two reasons: the first is that he put together six dimensions about a theme audits counterpart, like freedom and predestination; the second is his enumeration of various opinions by western psychologists on these dimensions, which facilitates a process of review and comparison.

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