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Psychology and the Islamic Approach to It – An Interview with Sister Aisha Idris

Sister Aisha is an author, a blogger, and a psychologist who has a special interest in the psyche of children. She loves inspiring people through her authorship and by writing on her blog. I’m thrilled to be interviewing her today and have her share a little bit of psychology-related wisdom. 
1.Umm Sumayyah: Assalaam ‘alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh Sister Aisha. How are you today?
Sister Aisha: Walaikum assalam warahmatullah wabarakatuh. Alhamdulilah.
2.UmmS: Thank you very much for your willingness to be interviewed on Global Muslim Writers Nisa Hub. I’ve shared a little about you. Please, tell us more about who Aisha is.
Sister Aisha: Jazakillah khair for providing me this platform to introduce myself. Okay, so, as you know, I am Aisha, a psychologist and I am currently pursuing my Masters degree in Clinical Psychology. I have been working as a freelance writer for about seven years now and I blog about life, books, and food. I recently published my first book and I am currently working on a project for parents and teachers.
3.Umm Sumayyah: Maa shaa Allah, you must have your hands full!
I believe the topic of psychology is of great importance; especially in the Muslim community. Please, give us an introduction to what psychology is?
Sister Aisha: In simple words, psychology is the study of human behaviour, and understanding why they do the things they do. It is the study of perceptions of the mind, how the thought processes, and how cognition takes place. 
4.Umm Sumayyah: Why did you decide to study psychology and what inspired you?
Sister Aisha: It was during my pre-meds when I started taking interest in psychology. Even though I was planning to study medicine, I took some time out to research about psychology. I was always keen on helping people get to a solution, observing them and sometimes just pondering over how certain things happen in life. So, after discovering some psychology textbooks in my high school library, I was fascinated by the subject. After getting my pre-meds results, I did some more research, tried to imagine myself as both a psychologist and a doctor, did Istikhara and eventually registered for a test in a psychology institute.
5.Umm Sumayyah: This brings me memories. I love the topic of human behavior, but, I’m more on the social part of it. Is the focus of human behavior in psychology specific to individual studies or society as a whole?
Sister Aisha: It is focused on individual studies and studying personalities and characteristics as a whole. I would say studying society as a whole is more a part of sociology than psychology.
6.Umm Sumayyah: Right! Are there different types of psychology? If so, please share some of them with us.
Sister Aisha: Ahhh, there are so many branches of psychology. Just to name a few, there is Abnormal Psychology, Forensic Psychology, Criminal Psychology, Environmental Psychology and the list goes on. 
7.Umm Sumayyah: For someone who is completely unaware, what is one major difference you would say is between them?
Sister Aisha: Umm, a major difference … I can’t give it a term but I can tell you that each of these branches focuses on a different topic and studies it in detail. 
8.Umm Sumayyah: How does being a psychologist influence you in your personal life?
Sister Aisha: I would say I have become more selective in the people that stay a part of my life. I mean, I no more entertain people who can be a negative influence in my life; I have learned to set my boundaries with people. Also, having a better control over my reactions simplifies some difficult interactions. 
9.Umm Sumayyah: Subhanallah. Knowing your boundaries can surely make life much easier.
You love to inspire others through writing. What do you do when you’re down or experiencing weaknesses?
Sister Aisha: I pray, do Adhkaar, and listening to Surah Ar-Rehman is my favourite activity if I am going through problems. I also write in my diary or read books. Sometimes, art colouring helps.
10.Umm Sumayyah: These are beautiful and effective ways to overcome adversities. Hearts do find peace in the remembrance of Allah.
What are your short-term and long-term goals as a psychologist?
Sister Aisha: My short-term goal is to complete my Masters degree and my internship; hours that are required for the degree. My long-term goals are setting up a therapy clinic Insha Allah and publishing more books that could make a difference in people’s lives. 
11.Umm Sumayyah: May Allah help you accomplish all your goals! 
What do you believe is one unique thing about this field? Would you recommend it to others?
Sister Aisha: Ameen. The unique thing is understanding empathy and its importance. I would absolutely recommend this field to anyone who is interested in it.
12.Umm Sumayyah: Do you believe there’s a relationship between psychology and Islam? If so, how?
Sister Aisha: I am no Islamic scholar, but so far, whatever I have learned, I see a lot of psychology within our religion. For instance, the hadith for anger where we are asked to sit down if we are standing is one of the concepts of behavioral psychology. Lowering our gaze is another psychological way of controlling any illicit behaviour. In fact, there is an online institute of Dr. Bilal Philips that particularly teaches Islamic psychology. 
13. Umm Sumayyah: That’s an amazing similarity. What advice would you give to an aspiring psychologist; especially a Muslim?
Sister Aisha: If you are going to study secular psychology, be sure of having a sound Islamic knowledge or keep seeking Islam while you study psychology because there are certain theories that oppose our Islamic teachings. So, you will have to be careful about practicing them.
14.Umm Sumayyah: I was just thinking of asking you about that. What is a major difference between the two?
Sister Aisha: In secular Psychology, we study theorists and theories while not taking religion along, and there are clashes between some theories in psychology with Islam. Whereas, in Islamic Psychology the student gets to the study the theories along with fiqh, and psychology is taught purely according to the Islamic point of view.
But, I was blessed to study secular psychology in Pakistan where we were openly able to discuss both Islam and Psychology with our mentors. 
15.Umm Sumayyah: From the top of your head, what’s one inspiring personal quote, hadeeth, or an ayah from the Qur’an that comes to your mind?
Sister Aisha: The problem is that I don’t have only one, so let me just tell a few of my favourites.
  • From Surah Ar-Rehman, it’s the verse: “Which then of the bounties of your Lord will you deny?”
  • Surah Yousuf as a whole inspires me. Anyone going through any difficulty should read this Surah along with its Tafseer.
  • “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game” by Babe Ruth
  • And there is a quote that I wrote in my book that personally inspires me a lot: “Smiling faces in the orphanage are proof that happiness is a feeling that you choose.”
Sorry, I know it’s a lot…
16.Umm Sumayyah: No, it’s great! Those are very inspiring quotes. JazakiAllahu khayr!
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Sister Aisha: I think I have already given too much information for the day…:)
17.Umm Sumayyah: :), and I love it!
Our readers would most likely want to connect with you, where can they find you?
Sister Aisha: They can find me on my blog Aisha Idris Aboo
18.Umm Sumayyah: Jazaki Allahu khayr Sister Aisha for taking some of your time to talk to me. I wish you all the best on your journey. Assalaam ‘alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh.
Sister Aisha: Walaikum assalam. Jazakillah khair, and it was wonderful speaking to you, sister. 
Umm Sumayyah: Psychology is one of those fields I find very intriguing and believe it should be of interest to more people. Not everyone has to be a psychologist, but I believe we should all have some kind of interest in understanding human behaviour. As the sister said, it helps you to understand empathy. But, as Muslims, we should also make sure to take the Islamic approach to it.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this interview as much as I have. I’d love to hear your opinion on the topic. So if you have any questions, tips, or something to share, be sure to comment below.
Until next time in shaa Allah, assalaam ‘alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh.
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