Islamic Garden

Islamic Garden
Islamic Garden in Lausanne, Switzerland

Friday, July 27, 2007

Broad psychological themes of al-Fatiha

There are a number of psychological themes and applications which can be discerned in the seven sacred verses of al-Fatiha, also known as al-Hamd:

1. The intellectual, emotional, psychological and spiritual strengths derived from the regular recitation and practice of al-Fatiha.
2. Secular theories such as the psychology of gratitude, imaginal psychology, and the psychology of aesthetics and how they may serve to inform and enhance the practice of salat and du'a
3. Solutions provided by al-Fatiha in maintaining one's mental health.

Some of these themes can be summarized briefly such as:

1. The daily, multiple recitations of al-Fatiha by a Muslim cultivates and maintains a consistent, intimate and spiritual relationship with the Divine. This refers to the Bismillah..The al-Fatiha is also recited in an infant's ear in some communities of Islam, so this is a familiar sound for most Muslims from infancy..

2. The praise of Allah invokes the imagination as it does the expression of gratitude. The psychology of gratitude and the psychology of aesthetics both indicate that these expressions produce positive emotional and mental states of well-being, thus providing a daily regime of spiritual and emotional supports for maintaining one's mental health. The shadow side of this verse is that one can easily rely on the practice of "spiritual bypass" and hence diminish one's capacity for empathy for the Other. The "bright shadow" aspect of these verses is that its application and internalization can prevent self-inflation and narcissism.

3. Asking for guidance on the "siratal mustaqeem" for "us" (note that this is a request for guidance for more than just one individual) invokes a "purpose driven life" and creates a sense and an experience of community. Both these experiences have positive influences on the practitioner as they relate to being goal-directed and developing an ethical foundation to life within a community of faith. James Hillman, a renowned archetypal psychologist suggests that the ideal form of individuation is the interiorization of "community," not just the interiorization of Self, capital S.

4. The pre-requisites and qualifications mentioned about the Sirat al mustaqeem invoke an imaginal psychology around those who have earned the favor of Allah, those who have earned Divine Wrath and those who have strayed off the path. This creates a frame of reference about the human enterprise, linking us beyond the Ummah to all of humankind. It brings forward the guidance of all the 124,000 prophets and the faiths to which they may be affiliated. Hence, there is also implicit in the recitation of al-Fatiha a suggestion of a perennial philosophy that has come to all communities of faith since the dawn of human life.

These ideas are being developed and explored by me for a doctoral dissertation from a phenomenological, hermeneutic and developmental perspective. It may also consider an alchemical and depth psychological perspective in the sense that al-Fatiha is a transformative agent of self-realization for every Muslim.

This research will require submissions from a wide variety of Muslims of all ages, denominations, cultures, linguistic, educational and professional backgrounds. I would be very grateful if you would be willing to encourage those in your families and community of faith to respond to this research request.

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