Perspective of Islamic Self: Rethinking Ibn al-Qayyim’s Three-Heart Model from the Scope of Dynamical Social Psychology


The present article proposes the perspective of Islamic self (PIS), which is guided by three core principles. First, the Islamic self is shaped by the God’s predicament: The life test. Second, the structure of the self and its spiritual virtues represent means to succeed the life test. Third, the complex dynamics of the self can be mathematically formalized into a parsimonious framework. Specifically, the PIS considers the self as a dynamical system characterized by the emergence of self-organized stable and unstable patterns taking the form of positive (“illuminating heart”) or negative (“darkened heart”) dynamics.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Figure adapted from Tuller et al. (1994)


  1. 1.

    According to Islam, the Koran represents the word of God (Allah) as dictated to His messenger, the Prophet Muhammad, by the archangel Gabriel. The Koran talks about God, His creatures, the religious rituals, and all aspects of human existence. It provides purposes and meanings of life as well as guidelines to develop harmonious life conditions and to self-achieve. Although all authors recognized the significance of the Koran, some of them did not judge fundamental to report the Prophet Muhammad’s sayings (i.e., Hadiths) in Islam psychology. However, according to the Islamic doctrine, the Koran (first in significance) and the Hadiths (second in significance) represent the only sources of the Divine Revelation (see Utz 2011). Accordingly, and consistent with Smither and Khorsandi’s (2009) view that “The Koran and the hadith—along with the Shari’a, the Islamic law derived from the Koran and the hadith—are the foundation of Islamic culture and society” (p. 84), the PIS is deeply rooted in the Koran and Hadiths.

  2. 2.

    The association between light, fitrah, and God is very frequent in the Islamic spirituality because God defines Himself as a Light (“God is the light of the heavens and the earth”, Koran, 24:35) and fitrah is presented as the divine compartment of the self.

  3. 3.

    The Islamic philosophy distinguishes pillars of Islamic faith (e.g., Oneness of God, prophethood) from the ones of Islamic practice (e.g., praying five times per day [or salat], fasting during Ramadan [or sawm]). This distinction is of considerable importance for the PIS because Islamic thinking can shape the selves of people who do not follow necessarily the pillars of Islamic practice. In that regard, the PIS ambitions to be integrative and to account for the dynamics of people’s selves who perceive themselves as Muslims, regardless their degree of religious practice.

  4. 4.

    Does he think that none observes him? Have We not given him two eyes, and shown him the two paths?” (Koran, 90:7–10).


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Correspondence to Walid Briki.

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Briki, W., Amara, M. Perspective of Islamic Self: Rethinking Ibn al-Qayyim’s Three-Heart Model from the Scope of Dynamical Social Psychology. J Relig Health 57, 836–848 (2018).

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  • Psychology
  • Spirituality
  • Ego
  • Complexity
  • Change