Why are Muslims happy?

No comment yet
In previous postings, I have shared the data that I have collected so far. In this posting, I want to re-organize the theory behind the project using the UPM format (understand, predict and modify).

In terms of understanding, the theory behind the state of happiness is well documented. I have already quoted the big names - Seligman, Snyder and others - but there are many easy-to-read and fun books like Gretchen's Rubin's "The happiness project." From an Islamic perspective, our understanding is similar but slightly different. First and foremost,we need to build a relationship with Allah by understanding Islam and practicing it. That will give us immediate psychological benefits (i.e. we become happy). However, everybody is different and everybody starts with different levels of iman. The mindset is not to "force" students to cover specific topics but to let them explore whatever topics they are concerned with.

In terms of predicting, I am working with various groups of students. I am now testing their level of spiritual intelligence at the beginning of the semester. I then ask them to do the following exercises:
a) Learn more about Islam by surfing reliable Islamic websites and listening to one Islamic talk a week
b) Re-connect with the Qur'an by listening to some good tafsir of Qur'an
c) Explore the topic of Qada wa Qadar by doing a project paper. This includes trying to count Allah's blessings in one day
d) Getting to know Allah better by exploring His Names and Attributes
At the end of the semester, I measure their spiritual intelligence a second time. Insha'Allah, on average 80% of my students report an improvement of both their iman and their level of happiness. At the moment, my data is qualitative. However, I am shifting towards more quantitative ways of measuring the effect. Generally, the following causal relationship seems to exist: The more people have relevant knowledge about Islam, the happier they are. The happier they are, the easier they can practice Islam.

What do I mean by relevant knowledge? Everybody has problems and we seek the solutions to these problems in Islam. For Muslims going through a divorce, the main answer they want is what is the Islamic position regarding divorce. For parents who have problems with their children, the main thing they want to know is how to educate their children in a manner that is consistent with Islam. For business people, how do they do business and respect Islamic business principles. My research shows that the relevancy of knowledge is critical to help people implement Islam in their lives.

In terms of modifying people's behaviour, it is critical to 'kick-start' two things: i) praying five times a day and ii) seeking more relevant knowledge about Islam. In class, I have the power to give marks so many students are "forced" to start seeking knowledge. However, at the end of the semester, 50% of them continue seeking Islamic knowledge. Outside the classroom, it is more difficult. People generally understand the need to pray but they under-estimate the need to learn more about Islam. They assume that their existing knowledge is good enough. In practice, most people have Islamic knowledge that is too general combined with some serious mis-understandings. Seeking knowledge often involves clarifying the mis-understandings or acquiring knowledge that is more detailed. I am experimenting with Aaron Beck's Cognitive Behaviour Theory (CBT) as a tool to help Muslims who are far away from Islam to start praying and seeking knowledge.

Post a Comment