Society and Culture
Prof. Malik Badri: Father of contemporary Muslim Psychology
Ifeoluwa Siddiq Oyelami
Prof. Malik Badri, born in Sudan in 1932, was eulogised and commemorated everywhere in the Muslim world after Allah claimed his life in February 2022. He was known as the founder of modern Islamic psychology and is widely credited for bringing the Islamization of psychology into the public eye. Prof. Malik Badri has greatly impacted the views and practises in psychology and Islamic psychology in particular.
In the 1950s, Malik Badri was an undergraduate psychology student who saw the absurd ideological imposition in his subject. As with other social sciences, psychology was quite challenging to be discussed together with Islam. As Malik Badri could see, this was worsened by the widespread dogmatic adoption of Freudian psychoanalysis, whose many of his beliefs directly contradict Islamic norms. Although he had few alternatives as a young person, his tacit opposition to these practices was the beginning of what would eventually lead to his efforts to Islamise psychology (Khan, 2015).
Malik Badri’s time as an academic or practitioner in the 1960s among fellow Arab-Muslim psychologists was characterised by a mockery of his pro-Islamic and indigenous methods. He took the challenge to provide a valuable alternative to the Freudian status quo when he read about Eysenck and Wolpe’s works on behaviourist therapies. This prompted him to go for his doctorate in the United Kingdom, where behaviourist alternatives were emerging. During his London stays, Malik was introduced to another psychologist Dr. David Meyer, with whom he had a good time learning and practising. According to Khan (2015), Malik Badri stated that Dr. Meyer suggested that he publishes his findings on the use of a modified version of Woope’s systematic desensitisation therapy.
Malik’s new method is a variation of Wolpe’s treatment, in which the patient’s speech was accepted. It also eliminated the hierarchy of desensitisation and made the introduction of stimuli more flexible (Badri, 1967). Although he did not reveal this in the initial publication (out of fear of being sidelined), he had used a series of Islamic values on hope and forgiveness to treat his Muslim patient with pervasive anxiety, phobic reactions, and reactive depression. He had reminded her of Qur’anic verses that prompted her to abandon her maladaptive ideas (Badri, 2014).
Badri’s new technique, dubbed Cognitive Systematic Desensitization, was a trendsetter in many therapeutic practices. While it is built on behaviourists’ alternative to Freudian psychoanalysis, it has also criticised the extreme behaviourist paradigm of stimulus-response. Thus, it, and subsequent works of Badri, brings into question the concepts of human consciousness and the fitrah. Moreover, it sets a pace for Religious Cognitive- Emotional Therapy (RCET).
The legacy of Malik Badri is not restricted to Cognitive Systematic Desensitization. In the 1970s and 1980s, he called for the Islamization of psychology alongside the growing desire for the Islamization of knowledge. His famous conference paper “Muslim psychologists in the lizard’s hole” sparked a new awakening among Muslim psychologists, and his subsequent book “The Dilemma of Muslim Psychologists” served as a turning point. Agilkaya-Sahin (2019) identified Malik Badri’s approach as a filter approach, which requires Muslim psychologists not wholly reject the practices ingrained in western psychology but to refrain from accepting them without any form of criticism and filtering. Thus, according to Malik Badri, a Muslim psychologist can collect empirical and objective data from Western psychology but should reject incompatible myths and theories. He was extremely critical of Freudian concepts, determinism, and extreme behaviourism, which contradict the concepts of Islamic belief.
Furthermore, limiting Malik Badri’s approach to only filtering Western conceptions through an Islamic lens may be inaccurate. The professor has also left a legacy by uncovering the Islamic culture’s long-forgotten psychological knowledge heritage. For instance, he brought Abu Zayd al-Balkhi into the spotlight psychological world. He viewed him as a scholar who lived centuries before his work would be valued. He translated the psychological section of his Masalih al-Abdan wa al-Anfus (Sustenance for Bodies and Souls). In addition, he praised him for his uncommon psychological grasp of cognitive behaviour and particularly his understanding of psychosomatic disorders (Badri, 2013).
Young psychologists and psychology students are now aware that psychology is not solely rooted in western culture, perhaps the most significant result of Malik’s thesis on Islamic psychology’s origins. This unquestionably fosters a sense of belonging and eliminates inferiority concerns. Consequently, Muslim psychologists are becoming more receptive to incorporating religious and cultural elements into therapy. In actuality, the good impact of these improvements is felt not only by practitioners but also by patients. When a typical Muslim understands that clinical methods for psychological disorders are not foreign to Islamic culture and that there are clinical explanations for specific diseases, they do not find it difficult to seek out the services of a psychologist.
On this note, it is essential to highlight that Malik Badri’s writing was not intended solely for specialists. He practically demonstrates his understanding of viewing the world through an Islamic prism by writing works understandable to laymen. For example, his work, al-Tafakkur mina al-Mashahid ila al-Shuhud,which was later translated and modified into Contemplation: An Islamic Psychospiritual Study, transcends the academic psychology discourse and offers spiritual guidance that nourishes the mind. In a similar spirit, his work Cyber-counselling for Muslim Clients is a compilation of the everyday counselling that Muslims in all spheres of life require.
Although Malik Badri is widely revered in Muslim circles, he has also been criticised. Mahomed (2021) criticised Malik Badri’s theory that HIV is a virus that mutated from an infection that Allah inflicted on homosexuals. While he holds Malik Badri in the highest regard, he characterised his position in The AIDS Crisis: An Islamic Socio-Cultural Perspective as unscientific and unsupported by credible findings. However, Malik Badri is a scholar par excellence and must have based his judgement on data readily available to him.
Within a century after Malik Badri’s contentious views about his university curriculum in Lebanon, it is astounding to notice that his yearnings for an Islamized psychology have borne fruit even in the west. Without a doubt, he has played a significant influence in this progress. As a clinician, researcher, and educator in several countries, he inspired many individuals and encouraged them to follow his path in psychology. Malik Badri worked to establish a community of Muslim psychologists who would aid in the development of Islamic psychological practices. He formerly served as president of the International Association of Muslim Psychologists (IAMP), a group of Muslim psychologists aiming to Islamize contemporary psychology. In 2018, he established a new community named The International Association of Islamic Psychology (IAIP), tasked with developing new paradigms in Islamic psychology (Badri, 2018).
According to Ibn Khaldun, a proponent of a new discipline does not exhaustively list its issues. It is up to his successors to complete the work, as he just provides the basic structure (Ibn Khaldun, 1978). Prof. Malik Badri is the father of the modern Islamic psychology movement, and his works and teachings have paved the way for incorporating various Islamic practices and research into psychology. Conclusively, the advancement of this movement will make his efforts a spectacular accomplishment.
May Allah have mercy on him!
Agilkaya-Sahin, Z. (2019). Have The Muslım Psychologısts Left The Lızard’s Hole? Developments In Islamıc Psychology. Turkish Studies, 14, 15–47.
Badri, M. B. (2018). Message from IAIP founder Malik Badri—YouTube. Retrieved 7 June 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfeyVSd1Zw8&t=2s
Badri, M. B. (1967). A New Technique for the Systematic Desensitization of Pervasive Anxiety and Phobic Reactions. The Journal of Psychology, 65, 201–208.
Badri, M. B. (2013). Abu Zayd al-Balkhi’’s Sustenance of the soul: The cognitive behaviour therapy of a ninth-century physician. International Institute of Islamic Thought.
Badri, M. B. (2014). Cognitive Systematic Desensitisation: An Innovative Therapeutic Technique with Special Reference to Muslim Patients. American Journal of Islam and Society, 31(4), 1–13. https://doi.org/10.35632/ajis.v31i4.278
Beeran, A. (2021, March 31). The legacy of Malik Badri. The Companion. https://thecompanion.in/the-legacy-of-malik-badri
Ibn Khaldun, M. (1978). The Muqaddimah An Introduction to History (N. J. Dawood, Ed.; F. Rosenthal, Trans.). Lowe & Brydone Printers.
Khan, R. K. A. W. (2015). An Interview with Professor Malik Badri about his contributions to the Islamisation of psychology. Intellectual Discourse, 23(1), 159–172.
Mahomed, N. (2021, April 14). Islam, Disease and Sex: The Legacy of Malik Badri. Maydan. https://themaydan.com/2021/04/islam-disease-and-sex-the-legacy-of-malik-badri/
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