Islamic Counseling is highly conditioned by the divine rulings which are the only source of true inner gratification, but isn’t dependent on any worldly conditions.It is not a blanket acceptance no matter what a person does, rather, it’s a continuous rectification and advice (Nasihah) no matter what.
It all happened during a lecture on ‘unconditional positive regard’ as an integral part of psychological therapies. The discussion went ‘off-track’ on the possibility of the concept. The instructor herself said that even Parents’ positive regard and love is conditional to some extent. In the deeper layers of reality, even they have their conditions.
A mother loves her child even before he has arrived in this world, she would cloth him the best way, would provide him with the best possible food, she would spend sleepless nights if he is ill but when he grows up, she would expect him to be kind and nice to her, to be polite and respectful and to be her obedient son. This is not selfishness, this is our very nature.
When even mother’s regard and love is not free from conditions, how can a blanket acceptance and support of a person be possible from a stranger, regardless of what the person says or does? And, so, an impossible positive regard form the basis of psychological therapies.
These very psychologists who claim to be giving ‘unconditional positive regard’ have their concerns in the outcomes of a therapy, in the money or fame that they would get by doing a therapy and if not the material outcomes of doing a therapy, they would be looking for some peace within to get from counseling some distressed person. Isn’t it amazing that this concept which is the basis of modern psychotherapy is not even possible?
Humanistic Psychological perspective arose in the mid-20th century. Carl Rogers is amongst the founders of Humanistic approach to psychology. He coined the term: Unconditional positive regard. There seems to be an obvious input of his beliefs as a humanist in the term and the concept. Humanist ideology of dogma-less religion fully formed by human mind is the only approach that can lead to such a condition-less approval of humans no matter what. Humanist claim to have successfully discovered a natural approach to life which doesn’t depend on sacred laws and texts. On the contrary, it’s very obvious that there is a moral law within us. Unconditional positive regard is actually a seed that stems out to humanistic and essentially atheistic and agnostic beliefs.
After hours of contemplation I realized the discussion in class was eventually on-track. My mind shifted to those who gave ‘positive regard’ to arrogant and stone hearted people for years, their ‘passion’ of guiding them never fainted and neither did their positive regard, what was it that made them give this positive regard to such boastful people for so long? Was it unconditional?
And We had certainly sent Noah to his people, [saying], “Indeed, I am to you a clear warner That you not worship except Allah. Indeed, I fear for you the punishment of a painful day." (Surah Hud 11:25-26)
But they all disbelieved him and rejected his preaching for about 950 years! Imagine how tough it is to give ‘positive regard’ for such a long time, to the same stubborn people. How was he able to do this? Such great patience and suffering without asking them any reward?
After few Ayaat the secret is revealed:
And O my people, I ask not of you for it any wealth. My reward is not but from Allah. And I am not one to drive away those who have believed. Indeed, they will meet their Lord, but I see that you are a people behaving ignorantly. (Surah Hud 11:29)
This is what forms the basis of Islamic Counseling specifically and D’awah (calling to Allah) in general.
My positive regard is not an invitation to a material response, I do not try to save you from harmful things for any reward from you, It doesn’t make me forget my duty if you like my positive regard or just throw it away. I do all this for Allah. I want a reward, but that reward is with Allah.
Hence, an ‘ideal’ positive regard concept is somewhat distant from the prevalent one. It is a conditioned unconditional positive regard.
1- You might ‘expect’ a worldly response or reward, but your action is not conditional to it. Your positive regard intends a promised return from Allah. Hence, in the worldly sense it is ‘unconditional’. It is ‘unconditional’ in the visible domain. Even in the strict invisible reality domain, it is ‘unconditional’ because you don’t ‘demand’ a reward on your actions alone; you are dependent on the mercy of Allah.
"No reward do I ask of you for it: my reward is only from the Lord of the Worlds” (Surah Ash Shu’ara 26:109, 127, 145, 164, 180 – Qur’an quotes the same statement from Prophet Nuh, Hud, Saleh, Lut and Shu’aib عليهما السلام)
2- It is not a blanket acceptance of anyone no matter what. It is a conditioned acceptance and rejection of people’s actions and sayings. And Islamic counselor is conditioned by the laws laid down by Allah. There is an around the clock positive regard. But, that positive regard is not a condition-less acceptance. It is a conditioned acceptance and rejection. If someone wishes to run into a fire, positive regard to him is to grab him by his clothes.
Narrated Ans bin Malik رضى الله عنه: Allah’s Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلمsaid, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or is being oppressed.” People asked, “O Allah’s Messenger! We help the one being oppressed but how do we help an oppressor?” The Prophet said, “By seizing his hand (preventing him from oppression).” (Sahih al Bukhari)
3- Unconditional positive regard was developed on a base theory, that such a blanket acceptance, nurtures growth. Blind acceptance of a serial killer would add to his conviction provided to him by his invisible enemy who is unconditionally promoting all his sins: Satan. Islamic counselor wants to nurture his growth, but he believes humans are a composition of bad and good selves. His positive regard is to promote and nurture the true self, and diminish and eliminate the effects of the animalistic self.
4- Islamic counseling is based on the fact, that inner peace is attainable only by a connection to Allah, through the real self (soul). All human beings are born on true nature (fitrah). We are connected to Allah when we are born, like fish in the sea. And there is but one way to inner peace and gratification that is returning to the sea, hence, reconnecting to Allah. Hence, Islamic counselor tries to return the subject to true nature i.e. valuing your real-self the much it deserves, and the animalistic-self the much it deserves. Majority of the stress related problems, are a result of practicing incorrect means to attain peace.
"Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah: for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction.” (Surah Ar R’ad 13:28)
To summarize it, Islamic Counseling is highly conditioned by the divine rulings which are the only source of true inner gratification, but isn’t dependent on any worldly conditions.It is not a blanket acceptance no matter what a person does, rather, it’s a continuous rectification and advice (Nasihah) no matter what. This ‘highly conditioned unconditional positive regard’ is not merely a concern of professional counseling and psychotherapy, but it is a great concern for our daily lives. We see people disappointed and dejected because they think that they did not get what they ‘deserved’, because their ‘expectations’ were befooled, because their ‘own’ deceived them. For them is a self-consoling and peace-giving secret: “My reward is not but from Allah” and “I only complain of my grief and sorrow to Allah”.
Author: Faiza bint Abdul Qayyum & Mohammad Awais Tahir
The author may or may not have the same views on the topic and would not like to be quoted on what has been said above. The author, however, deems nothing wrong with changing opinions, hence, he does not wish to amend/remove posts that do not resonate with his current thinking.
“Those who never retract their opinions love themselves more than they love truth.”
Please see : http://exploringpsyche.com/one-grand-retraction/
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