11 February, 2009

Emotional Intelligence- From an Islamic Perspective

And be not like those who forsook Allah, so He made them forsake their own souls: these it is that are the transgressors.
(Surah Al Hashr 59:19)


Emotional Intelligence (EI), often measured as an Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ), describes an ability, capacity, or skill to perceive, assess, and manage the emotions of one's self, of others, and of groups. It is a relatively new area of psychological research and the definition of EI is constantly changing. The publication of Daniel Goleman's best seller "Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ" made the term EI widely popular. Islam also does not lay much emphasis on hereditary intelligence but stresses acquisition of emotional intelligence ,which can be acquired

Daniel Coleman defines EI ," Abilities which include self control, zeal and persistence and the ability to motivate oneself "

Steve Hein defines EI as ,"The combination of innate emotional sensitivity with learned emotional management skills which together lead to long term happiness and survival"

According to Few psychologist and philosophers emotional intelligence can be further divided into five domains
1-Self Awareness
2-Managing Emotions
3-Motivating oneself
4-Recognizing emotions in others
5-Handling relationships

(See Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Coleman, Page 43)

Islam is not just a worship program, but a comprehensive, intelligent and practical life system. Islam respects all the different components of the human being equally and regulates them to their full potential, rather than suppressing them (which hurts the individual), or setting them completely uncontrolled (which causes damage to the community and environment). Emotions are given their due place of importance in all Islamic teachings as fundamental elements of the human soul. Islam teaches moderation in everything, aiming to create equilibrium so that one is always at peace with one's self, the universe, and Allah. It is advised to avoid extremes in negative or positive emotions, as any extremes are destructive if left uncontrolled. For example, extreme happiness leads to indulgence in excesses to give a false sense of 'celebration'. While extreme sadness leads to being destructive to one's self and others (as in committing suicide or causing pain to others). Emotional Intelligence features prominently in the Islamic code of conduct. Islam does not lay much emphasis on hereditary intelligence (IQ) but its focus is on emotional intelligence (EI) skills which modern research has proved to be acquired skills which could be learnt and practiced by everyone and which are the true measure of success in practical life. For example, anger management, social intelligence, empathy.

Let's have some insight on the 'emotional wisdom' Islam gives us and makes us 'Emotionally Intelligent'.

1-Knowing one's emotion's – Self Awareness :
Recognizing a feeling as it happens – is the keystone of emotional intelligence. People with greater certainty about their feelings are better pilots of their lives, having a surer sense of how they really feel about personal decisions.

Islam a great stress is laid on self awareness. A Holy Quran which says "

وَلَا تَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ نَسُوا اللَّهَ فَأَنسَاهُمْ أَنفُسَهُمْ أُوْلَئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ

And be not like those who forsook Allah, so He made them forsake their own souls: these it is that are the transgressors.
(Surah Al Hashr 59:19)

This Ayat stresses that to know your creator better you must know yourself better. If we know our creator better then surely we will know ourselves better we will know our own discrepancies better and we will learn what makes us 'humans' , superior to Animals.

Iqbal says
" Khudi ko ker buland itna ke her taqdeer say pehlay.....
Khuda banday say khud puchay bata taire raza kia hai"

Emotions are controlled by our psychomotors and it is interesting to not that the psychomotors are in the most evident form mentioned in the holy Quran. And a greater stress is laid on controlling and knowing our emotions.

Quran tells the humans that there are certain discrepancies in him that make his emotions go wild at that critical moment they have to think that this world is just a temporaty place where they will spend some time this is not a permanent place.

An important concept relating to the concept of human nature from an Islamic perspective is fitra. Fitra refers to the primordial state of man- his natural condition and disposition. The optimistic view of human nature is rooted in this concept. Islam posits that the natural state of man is a positive and 'good' state – one in submission to God. This is related to the idea that all souls made a pledge with God before earthly existence, acknowledging Him as their Lord (Quran, 7:172). Even before we were born, or were conceived, our souls met with Allah. The spiritual aspect of every human has therefore already experienced the Divine. The defining experience of man in the Islamic perspective then, is not his physical aspect, but his spiritual aspect. This spiritual aspect of man is what the Quran, along with all spiritual traditions, appeals to. If early childhood experiences are considered to impact strongly on an individual's life (even if only unconsciously) as suggested by Freud, the impact of such an experience going back to a time even earlier, of course would be fundamental. According to an Islamic point of view this explains the instinct in all individuals for right and wrong, (although in some it may be buried more deeply than others).

The religious emphasis is thus more on the inner experience than an externally imposed experience.. Due to the initial experience of union with God, a part of the individual seeks that union again. This quest is often begun with a search for the meaning of life. According to the Quran, the eternal aspect of each individual, the soul, is on a journey and passes through various stages in life. The end point of this journey though, as was the beginning, is God.

In Quran we are told:

"And now you have returned to Us alone, as We created you at first, leaving behind all that we bestowed on you."
(Surah Al Anaam 6:94)

2-Managing Emotions :
Handling feelings so they are appropriate is an ability that builds on self awareness. People who are poor in this ability are constantly battling feelings of distress, while those who excel it can bounce back far more quickly from life's setbacks and upsets.
In Islam the concept of Managing emotions is a pretty easy and simple one. The whole concept sums up in two easy points :
-Look at the people below us in worldly matters
-Look at the people above us in religious matters

This simple set of rules for managing emotions gives us inner content with what we have and 'concentrate' on what is more important. Islam stresses on 'inner bliss' and 'satisfactions'. There are many who earn a living, but fail to earn a life. Islam first wants to stress more on life than living. And we have a accurate compass, no matter how many times we fall, we'll be contented that because we know where we are heading.

'' Qadam hain rah e Ulfat main to manzil ke hawas kaise
Yahan to ain manzil hai thakan say choor ho jana..........''

3-Motivating Oneself :
Marshalling emotions in the service of goal is essential for paying attention, for self motivation and mastery and creativity. Emotional self-control –delaying gratification and stifling impulsiveness—underlies accomplishment of every sort. And being able to get into the "flow" state enables outstanding performance of all kinds. People who have this skill tend to be more highly productive and effective in whatever they undertake.

Daniel Goelman in his book "working with Emotional Intelligence" writes:
"The single most striking finding from brain studies of people under stress –like giving a talk in front of a criticlal audience—shows the emotional brain at work in many ways that undermine the workings of the brain's executive center, the prefrontal lobes, located just behind the forehead.The prefrontal area is the site of "working memory", the capacity to pay attention and keep in mind whatever information is salient. Working with memory is vital for comprehension and understanding, planning and decision-making, reasoning and learning.
When the mind is calm, working memory functions at its best. But when there is an emergency, the brain shifts into a self protective mode, stealing resources from working memory and shunting them to other brain sites in order to keep the senses hyper alert—a mental stance tailored for survival."

In Islam if we see there is much broader and clear cut concept of time management. In The holy Quran Muslims are ordered to say their prayer many times and it is mentioned
"For prayers are enjoined on believers at stated times" (Surah Al Nisa 4:103)

And it is best to say the prayers at the early time to achieve excellence.
Time Management begins with the concept of EXCELLENCE.

"Excellence is to do your best within the available resources"

There are thousands of such examples and incidents which explicitly speak of time management and excellence concept of ISLAM hence giving us a chance to put in our best and hence increase our EI.

4-Recognizing emotions in others
Empathy, another ability that builds on emotional self awareness, is the fundamental "people skill". As the states of mind, beliefs, and desires of others are intertwined with their emotions, one with empathy for another may often be able to more effectively define another's mode of thought and mood. Empathy is often characterized as the ability to "put oneself into another's shoes", or experiencing the outlook or emotions of another being within oneself, a sort of emotional resonance.

Putting oneself in others shoes is exactly what is described in the Holy quran
"O you who believe why you say what you don't do yourselves'

And also there is a hadith on the topic saying
" None of you is a muslims until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself"
(Sahih Bukhari)

In the Prophet's life we can see all sorts of people coming to the prophet and getting their solved this was because the prophet was well aware of the emotions of others and what was going in their minds. This is why everyone who met The Prophet felt relieved when he left. We are also encouraged to pray for others that makes us feel for others.

The Holy Prophet said,
" Whole Muslim Ummah is like a single body. When one part of the body is hurt the whole body feels it".

5-Handling relationships
The art of handling relationships is, in large part, skill in managing emotions in other. In Islam there is a great stress laid on that. Islam binds us in a brotherhood, which has the principles of Equality and Love. When the Prophet came to Madinah he told people to Love each other and for that he told them the tool of 'Greetings'. Prophet SAW was the one who smiled the most and he never became angry. He told us to be kind to our servants and forgive them on their mistakes. Everyone from companions of the Prophet SAW felt that I am the closest to the Prophet. We are told to keep equality amongst our brothers.

Prophet Muhammad S.A.W was undoubtedly the best in EI as Michael h Hart has to say in his book the hundreds "The only person supremely successful in both the religious and secular fields"

(This article is not complete yet, anyone having any suggestions or relevant information can post in comments)




Author : Muhammad Awais Tahir

Send your comments and suggestions at Muhammad.Awais.Tahir@gmail.com



  1. excellent article.

    one very quick correction (sorry!): surah Hashr 59:19 rather than 59:9

    as before - excellent work, thanks for your time and effort!

  2. In the Name of Allah, the Most Comapssionate, the Most Merciful.

    Peace and blessings be on Prophet (SAW), his family, his companions and all the righteous believers.

    Salamualaikum wrt wbrt!
    MashAllah! TabarkAllah! very nice article! may Allah SWT accept ur efforts and spread goodness thru ur work.ameen!

    I just wanted to share my suggestions...
    i guess fasting can come under "delaying gratification and also "empathy" because we learn to empathize with the situation of the poor people who don't have food and water.
    And i also think fasting brings about sense of contentment(by being able to realize the blessings Allah SWT has bestowed on us) and thus reduce anxiety.

    Im not sure where exactly to put the point stated below..but this one is definitely a beautiful instruction:
    And Allah SWT talks about praying tahajjud "Verily, the rising by night (for Tahajjud prayer) is very hard and most potent and good for governing (the soul), and most suitable for (understanding) the Word (of Allah). (73:6)

    Paradise and Hell can come under "Motivating Oneself" because i believe that our worldly affairs and our efforts for akhira goes hand in hand and thus keeping Paradise (or Pleasure of Allah SWT) and Hell as the ultimate destinations in mind we can motivate ourselves to do many things.
    For instance, if we keep in mind that our parents are sending us to school or college for us to get educated, we have to consider it as an amanah (trust) and thus we will work to ultimately get Allah's SWT Pleasure. It's the concept of reinforcement and punishment actually.

    And Allah Knows Best!

  3. btw plz check out this lecture by Brother Nouman Ali Khan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rh2rmh6HLc0

  4. JazakiLLAH for the beautiful advices ukhte.
    I wrote this article way back, and I find that lots of improvement are required. Why don't you take up the task?

  5. Wa iyyaka!

    im still not qualified to write on the topic in depth...but inshAllah whtever i know by Allah's Mercy i'll try to write and u can go thru and decide if it should be posted or not..
    hmm...by the way i guess i might need some time...coz im having xamz coming up in 2 weeks time...inshAllah ill complete the article by 3rd week of june...

  6. May Allah open up your heart and give you the fiqh of religion.

    Looking forward to your article soon. In sha Allah!

  7. it is a superb article and i m looking forward to your article .I have learn many things from this article and my prayers are always with you

  8. you are doing a great job because from this article you are giving advice to every one and telling the reality of islam

  9. i like ur article bcz in globle world there are few people like u

  10. As I was reading the article and comments by Sister Amatul Wadood about fasting I wondered about the role of taqwa (being aware of Allah's presence hence shaping our responses to everything that impacts on us to please Allah) as perhaps a key element of developing Emotional Intelligence.Just a thought.

  11. REZKI PERDANI SAWAIMarch 20, 2014 at 3:15 AM

    may i know a specific term in Islam that denotes the meaning of emotion?

  12. boudali halla farahJuly 21, 2015 at 6:48 PM

    I really like it thank you for your Ihssan