Latest update on the Happy in Islam project

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I am presenting an overall summary of this project to date.

The aim of the project is to understand the psychological dynamics that leads to happiness, from an Islamic perspective. This is based on the ayat in the Qur'an that says that 'hearts only find rest by the remembering of Allah.'

The first stage was a literature review of mainly Western psychological theories. This is an on-going effort. I am currently reading Newberg and Waldam (2009) "How God changes your brain", which documents the latest in neuroscience in relation to spirituality and religiosity. Generally though, the conclusion is that the more Muslims know about Islam, the happier they become (no real surprise....)

The second stage was developing and testing intervention techniques. An intervention technique is a documented way of changing people's state in the majority of the cases. Imagine a company that would like to develop a corporate culture that is based on Islamic values. What could we do to help? Well, I would argue that with the intervention techniques below, you could probably influence 80% of your employees .....

The first intervention is to get participants to listen to 1 Islamic talk on the Internet per week for 12 weeks. So far, 348 people have done this exercise:
- 75% says that this helps them to become happier
- 3.4% says that this helps them to become more calm
- 6.6% says that this does not make any difference
The rest gave different answers. So far, I have two lessons learned from this intervention. First, it is essential that participants have some freedom to choose talks that are relevant to them. One sister listen to 12 talks related to wearing the hijab. I was surprised at first, but that is what she needed. Generally, if there are 100 people doing this intervention, everybody needs something unique that reflects their spiritual, emotional and physical development. Second, it is essential that Muslims connect with the Qur'an by listening to good tafsir of those chapters of the Qur'an that they recite in their daily prayers.

The second intervention is to explore the concept of al qadar. Very few people understand in detail what al qadar is about and why it is so important. Typically, people only think of al qadar when something bad happens to them. Yet, in the hadith of Jibrael, the Prophet (SAW) made it clear that Muslims had to, "believe in al qadar, the good and the bad". This intervention combines doing a project paper on al qadar with an attempt of counting Allah's blessings in a typical day. So far, only 99 students did this intervention. The data though is as follows:
- 76% said that before doing this assignment, they didn't really understand the details of believing in al qadar
- 76% said that as a consequences of doing this assignment, they are better at handling problems compared to before
- 91% said that counting Allah's blessings really helped them to flip problems

With my students in organisational behaviour, I am now exploring ways to create a 3rd intervention technique. I have some ideas but I want to test them before I discuss them in this blog. I am also testing whether a greater understanding of Islamic principles enables employees to become better employees .... but I will talk about that later.

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