Introduction

Modern psychology involves the study of human cognition, affect, and behavior. These three phenomena represent fundamental components of the human experience. They are also deeply connected to the Islamic message of self-purification (tazkiyyat an-nafs or tasawwuf). This process is described as the pinnacle of success in the Quran: “Certainly, the one who purifies [one’s soul] has succeeded”;[1] and, “The one who purifies it has certainly succeeded.”[2]
Islam represents a system meant to transform an individual’s cognitions, emotions, and behaviors that will ultimately lead them to a meaningful and fulfilling life. Thus, classical scholars who dedicated significant portions of their scholarship to the topic of self-purification consequently developed profound theories of human psychology. In a previous article exploring Islamic Spirituality and Mental Well-Being,[3] we concluded that there was a need to construct models of human psychology based on the terminology found in the Quran, building from the Islamic tradition. Such an endeavor will be clinically relevant, providing practitioners with appropriate spiritual paradigms for Muslim clients experiencing mental illness. Furthermore, developing an Islamic framework of psychology will showcase the breadth and depth that exists in the Islamic tradition regarding human psychology and spirituality, enabling others to appreciate their profundity and the value they bring to humanity in the 21st century.  
This article attempts to build an Islamic model of spiritual psychology that encompasses human cognition, metacognition, consciousness, motivation, emotion, and behavior with an emphasis on practical implications for psycho-spiritual growth and building conviction. Due to the risk of reading modern psychological discourse into the Islamic tradition, we will use Quranic vocabulary and terminology found in the classical sources as the starting point for our discussion. Subsequently, we will compare and contrast with modern insights, either integrating or differentiating to produce a clearer understanding for the 21st-century reader.
The article is organized according to the Maraatib al-Qasd (degrees of motivation) model often mentioned in the Islamic tradition.[4] This model provides a holistic framework for human behavior that starts with thoughts, proceeds to motivation, and ends with action. The 5-step sequence is described below:
  1. Al-Haajis: A fleeting thought that is quick to enter into consciousness and quick to exit;
  2. Al-Khaatir: A thought that enters into the mind and an individual chooses to think about;
  3. Hadith an-Nafs: An internal conversation, where a thought is deliberated over in depth;
  4. Al-Hamm: A motivation to act, where a thought process has impacted a person’s motivation or emotional state; and
  5. Al-’Azm: A firm resolve to execute an action. While a person may still hesitate over a hamm, once they reach the point of ‘azm it has become a firm decision with no going back.[5] 
The current article focuses on the first three stages. It examines the emergence of conscious thought and the various types of deliberation referenced in the Quran. Section 1 focuses on the significance of thoughts; Section 2 explores the fundamentals of thought; Section 3 describes the concepts of metacognition and contemplation; and Section 4 showcases a practical contemplative practice for moral and spiritual growth developed by the famous polymath Ibn al-Qayyim (d. 751 AH).  

Section 1: Significance of Thoughts

Section 2: Fundamentals of Thought

Components of the Unconscious

Section 3: Process of Thinking

Section 4: A System of Islamic Contemplation

Conclusion

Notes