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What Does Islam Teach About Human Emotions?

Questioner

Ahmad

Reply Date

Dec 28, 2017

Question

How does Islam view human emotions?

Consultant

Answer


Human emotions

Short Answer: God created human beings with complex emotional, physical, and spiritual needs. Islam respects all the different components of the human being equally. Islam teaches moderation in everything, aiming to create equilibrium so that one is always at peace with one’s self, the universe, and Allah. It is advised to avoid extremes in negative or positive emotions, as any extremes are destructive if left uncontrolled.


Salam Ahmad,

Thank you for your question. Although it is very short, the answer could fill volumes.

So, I will summarize some broad ideas here, and I encourage you and the readers to research each point further.

What Are Humans Made Of?

As Muslims, we believe that Allah created the universe, and gave it laws so it would run with such amazing precision.

Among His beautiful creations, He also created people and gave them many traits: emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and physical.

He also entrusted them with sustaining and protecting life on this planet.

So, in order to help them with their mission, the Creator sent them messengers to teach them how to live their lives within the laws of His universe.

As Allah’s final message to mankind, Islam is not just a worship program, but a comprehensive, intelligent, and practical life system.

This is because Islam respects all the different components of the human being equally.

Islam also regulates these components to their full potential, rather than suppressing them (which hurts the individual), or setting them completely uncontrolled (which causes damage to the community and environment).

Emotions are given their place of importance in all Islamic teachings as fundamental elements of the human soul.

So, let’s explore how a Muslim is expected to handle emotions, both his own and those of others.

Islam and Emotional Management

Emotional interaction is inevitable. We experience emotions constantly in our daily lives in relation to events and people.

But, to what extent should we allow ourselves to affect and be affected?

Islam teaches moderation in everything, aiming to create equilibrium so that one is always at peace with one’s self, the universe, and Allah.

It is advised to avoid extremes in negative or positive emotions, as any extremes are destructive if left uncontrolled.

Here are some examples of emotional-related teachings in Islam:

Positive Emotions

Emotions such as love, hope, enthusiasm, determination, etc., are strongly encouraged in the Quran and teachings of the Prophet (peace be upon him), as they result in a positive attitude for the Muslim at home, in public, and in relation to the rest of the world and all creations.

The Prophet teaches that no one’s faith is complete until they love for others what they love for themselves, which is a very positive state of mind.

Love is recognized and respected as the noblest emotion; however, in a man-woman relationship, it is regulated to assure building long-term bonds, rather than just satisfying momentary urges.

Negative Emotions

Anger, depression, hate, envy, etc., are strongly discouraged.

A Muslim is advised to practice strict control over those destructive emotions, and to repent if they influenced deeds or attitudes towards others.

To do so, one is expected to maintain strong ties with Allah, and to draw strength and support from Him at all times.

If one believes there is an All-Wise, All-Knowing God, running the universe and that everything happens for a good reason within a wise and just master plan, then despair or envy or sadness could be dealt with in healthy ways.  

Emotional Recycling

A Muslim is instructed to take the negative energy of destructive emotions and use it as steam to move forward in a positive direction, thus turning it into positive energy.

The same applies to the energy of excess positive emotions. Instead of becoming euphoric or hysterical, one should re-channel this energy to use it for something constructive, rather than let it go to waste.

Emotional Interaction

No one can isolate themselves emotionally; consequently, Islam offers practical prescriptions for emotional interaction:

  1. Among People

We are instructed to control our tongues and physical power when sad or angry.

When we react emotionally, it should be in a dignified and respectable way.

The Prophet cried in sadness when he lost a son, yet refused to let people believe the sun eclipsed because of his sadness.

We are not supposed to let emotions take control of our actions.

Instead, we should take control of our emotions. There is no excuse for causing hurt or destruction because one got “carried away” by emotions. For example, killing while angry or stealing while tempted.

There are no softer penalties for these irresponsible actions in Islam. Since destructive actions resulting from negative emotions can only create a vicious circle of more negativity and destruction.

This would disturb the balance of Allah’s peaceful universe.

  1. Between People and Other Creatures

We interact emotionally with other creatures in the universe as well. So, we are expected to handle them with the same care and respect due to fellow humans.

Psychological cruelty is a concern in Islam, even to animals.

The Prophet himself cared for a bird’s emotional distress, when, during a trip, some of his Companions in his absence saw a bird’s nest and took the youngsters away.

When the Prophet came back, the mother bird was circling above in the air beating its wings in grief, so he said:

Who has hurt the feelings of this bird by taking its youngsters? Return them to her. (Muslim)

  1. Islam and Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence features prominently in the Islamic code of conduct, where there is not much emphasis on hereditary intelligence (IQ).

But the focus is on emotional intelligence skills (EQ) which modern research has proved to be acquired skills which could be learnt and practiced by most everyone.

And that these skills are the true measure of success in practical life.

Conclusion

So actually, the whole range of human emotions is recognized and respected under Islam.

People are not denied being “human” and having their weak moments.

They are allowed to experience all sorts of feelings, both good and bad, because it is unavoidable and part of the human experience.

What Islam regulates is emotional balance and instructs it followers to make a serious effort to regain composure and stay in or get back in control quickly after an intense emotional experience.

In short, Islam provides an applicable system for being wise and strong humans, who are in control of their feelings, and not the other way around.

I hope this answers your question. Please stay in touch.

Salam.


(From AboutIslam’s archives)

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About Sahar El-Nadi

Sahar El-Nadi is an Egyptian freelance journalist who traveled to 25 countries around the world and currently based in Cairo. Sahar also worked in many people-related careers in parallel, including presenting public events and TV programs; instructing training courses in communication skills; cross cultural issues; image consulting for public speakers; orientation for first-time visitors to the Middle East; and localization consulting for international educational projects.


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