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Middle Age Era of History of Psychology

In this article we will discuss history of medieval psychology in detail. The middle ages are from the third century AD to the twelfth century AD. We will also showered light on European psychology/ the age of christian or European thinkers and contribution of Muslim philosophers in psychology. 
We can divide this period into two parts.
  1. The age of Christian or European Thinkers
  2. The era of Muslim Thinkers or the era of Muslim Arabs
During this period science and philosophy were influenced by religion in Europe. We can also call this period the unscientific age. 

Because of the subordination of religion, the interpretation of the ideas of philosophy and science was spiritual, the observation and reasoning were of no importance. 

That is why the development of philosophy and science came to a halt in this era, whatever problems or information had to be obtained in this era would have been obtained from the Fathers/ Preast or religious books.

Every way to acquire knowledge was disliked. The method of observation was also considered despicable, which is why there was a long silence, no Western thinker said anything about human life.

From the third to the fifth century, only Plotinus and St. Augustine topped the list in Europe. The period of one thousand years after that is called the Dark Ages because there was silence during that period.

The period from the sixth to the twelfth century is called the Muslim Arab period, the golden age in terms of the development of science and literature.

The Age of Christian or European Thinkers | European Psychology

Plotinus 205-270 AD

Middle Age Era of History of Psychology

Plotinus is called Neo-Platonist. He introduced the Idea of ​​Illumination. According to him, the essence of God is on the highest level, the intellect on the second level, the spirit on the third level, and matter on the fourth level, which is the lowest.

He said that the human soul falls from its place when it is inclined towards the matter. He described the method of meditation to avoid material desires. Through which man is freed from material desires and attains eternal happiness.

Plotinus believed that man should strive for perfection, so he tried to combine religion and philosophy. According to Plotinus, the soul and the body can be combined but cannot be attached to each other.

St. Augustine 354-430 AD

Middle Age Era of History of Psychology

St. Augustine was influenced by the ideas of Plotinus, Plato, and St. Paul. To him, in the field of philosophy, there is no one better than Plato, he was a supporter of Mind-Body Dualism theory.

St. Augustine described the mind as the part of the personality that receives influence from its environment. He described memory, understanding, and intention as important functions of the mind. 

According to St. Augustine, man acquires knowledge not by the senses but by peeping into the mind. The St. Augustine was the first to insist on understanding himself and others through introspection. He was a believer in Plotinus’s aesthetics idea.

St. Augustine considered it a sin to take an interest in the world, and to regard the well-being of man in avoiding evil and walking on the path of goodness.

The Age of Muslim Thinkers | Contribution of Muslim Philosophers in Psychology

In the sixth century AD, when Europe was plunged into the darkness of ignorance. In the land of Arabia, the perfect model for humanity, Hazrat Muhammad, came to the world with the torch of guidance and knowledge and gnosis.

Due to Hazrat Muhammad, the solution to all the problems of religion and the world came into being. Islam creates a pure society in which mental illnesses are minimal.

Muslim thinkers played an important role in spreading Islamic ideas. In addition, Muslims dominated economics, politics, science and literature, science and philosophy, and made tremendous progress in every field.

Muslim thinkers did a lot of work in the light of the Qur'an. Among these great thinkers were Al-Kindi, Al-Farabi, Ibn Miskawayh, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Imam Ghazali, Ibn Rushd, Imam Fakhruddin Razi, Dr. Zakaria Razi, Ragheb Al-Isfahani, Mohi-ud-Din Ibn Arabi and Ibn Khaldun.

Al-Kindi 801-873

Abu Yousaf bin Ishaq Al-Kindi belonged to the famous Kanda tribe of Arabia. He was the first Arab philosopher to write books on Greek philosophy and science. He had more than 250 books.

He discussed issues in philosophy that were of interest to later Muslim thinkers. That is why he is considered the founder of Muslim philosophy.

Al-Kindi was the first who try to reconcile philosophy and religion. According to him, the purpose of religion is the search for truth and this is the purpose of philosophy.

But there is a significant difference between the two, philosophy emphasizes the theoretical aspect while religion emphasizes actions.

Al-Kindi stressed the need for a philosophical interpretation of Qur'anic verses to harmonize religion and philosophy. Al-Kindi was most influenced by one of the Greek thinker Plato, and he quoted from Plato's writings.

According to him, the manifestations of harmony, balance and beauty in the universe are a clear proof of the existence of a wise and visionary being who created this universe for special purposes.

As an idealistic thinker, he believed that the soul was separate and independent of the body. The soul's relation to the body is external in nature, it exists within the body only temporarily to guide it.

Al-Kindi believed that after death, when the soul is liberated from the mortal body, then it becomes one with the light of Allah, and then its knowledge becomes infinite.

In this connection, Al-Kindi mentions Plato, Pythagoras, and many other thinkers. According to which, if a person lives in a world where the soul is attached to the body and avoids worldly evils and humiliations, then how can it not reach the highest levels of greatness after separation from the body.

Al-Farabi 870-950

Middle Age Era of History of Psychology

His name was Abu Nasr Muhammad Farabi, he was born in Farab, a city in Russian Turkestan. Ibn Khallikan wrote about him that he was fluent in seventy languages.

This may seem like an exaggeration, but your greatness can be gauged by the fact that you have written 80 books on logic, philosophy, physics, politics, music and mathematics.

In addition, he tried hard to resolve the apparent intellectual differences between Plato and Aristotle.

Farabi's view of the great wisdom and greatness of God was that he is the only being who is above all forms of composition. That caste is complete and superior in every respect.

About the soul Farabi's theory was that the human soul is an absolute free substance that is temporarily attached to the body, but in reality, it is separate and independent of the body. 

Farabi's views on the soul after death are not clear, however, he has clear reflections of Islamic teachings.

In his political views, Farabi was greatly influenced by Plato, Aristotle, and other Greek thinkers. He also wrote many books on political issues. Like Aristotle, Farabi was convinced that man primarily likes to live in society. Individuals' success depends on their social life.

Ibn Miskawayh 945-1030

Ibn Miskawayh's real name was Ahmad bin Muhammad ibn Yaqub, also known as Abu Ali al-Khazan. Miskawayh was a famous philosopher, historian, and physician, he wrote a total of thirteen books.

In his book Ethics, Ibn Miskawayh taught people to love, goodness, and morality. He exhorted mankind to live together. Advised individuals to live with compassion and love for the good of society.

Explaining the importance of the existence of society, he said that no human being can use his abilities alone, for the development of natural abilities it is necessary for human beings to be together with other people.

Ibn Miskawayh has mentioned various stages of human evolution in the theory of evolution. Later, Darwin presented his theory of evolution based on this theory.

Ibn Miskawayh presented the theory of evolution in a clear form, and tried to provide details. His theory of evolution bears a striking resemblance to that of modern times. Darwin's ideas, in particular, seem to explain Ibn Miskawayh's ideas.

However, in the case of Ibn Miskawayh, spirituality seems to prevail, while in the case of Darwin, materialism seems to prevail.

According to Ibn Miskawayh, the soul is the immaterial essence within man. Matter can take only one form at a time when there is a force within man that can sense many things at a time, or it can be said that this force takes many forms, which is the power of the soul. 

He was strongly opposed to the idea that the soul or mind is the function of matter. Ibn Miskawayh was one of the first Muslim thinkers to build the morality of philosophy on a philosophical basis.

The evolutionary nature of the soul, going through the immaterial, botanical and animal stages, finally manifests itself in the consciousness, passion, and desire of man.

The Qur'an mentions three stages of the soul.
  1. Nafs Amara
  2. Nafs Lawama
  3. Nafs Mutmaena
From here Ibn Miskawayh derived the concept of human nature, the attribute that gives man superiority over animals is intellect.

According to Ibn Miskawayh, there are two forms of Nafs, one theoretical and the other practical. Theoretical expression is in the acquisition of scientific knowledge and practical expression is in the construction of character and moral maturity.

For them, goodness is not ability but a function that affects other people. He mentions two kinds of love, man's love for God and the disciple's love for his mentor.

Ibn Miskawayh also suggested practical measures to eradicate moral evils. For this, he used the term psychiatry. According to him, anger, arrogance, jealousy and prejudice, fear, lust, and treasure are especially harmful in diseases of the soul.

Ibn-e-Sina (Avicenna) 1037-1980

Middle Age Era of History of Psychology

Ibn Sina (Avicenna) is also called Bu Ali Sina, and Pur Sina, his real name was Abu Ali Al-Hussein Ibn Abdullah. At a young age, Ibn Sina's knowledge began to ring. Especially in medicine, his citizenship spread far and wide.

Once the Ameer of Bukhara, Noah bin Mansur, fell ill and was cured by Ibn Sina's treatment. He gladly allowed Ibn Sina to use his library. In this way, Ibn Sina had a wonderful opportunity to acquire knowledge.

Ibn Sina was a great philosopher, poet, medical expert, mathematician, musician, and master of science and art. According to an authentic tradition, the number of his books is 276.

His passion for acquiring knowledge and skills was ingrained in his veins. Once he desires to study Aristotle's metaphysics, he read it more than forty times but could not understand it. One day, coincidentally, Farabi's book solved this problem.

Ibn Sina also had a period of about one and a half years when he completely gave up his night's sleep. During this time, even if he ever fell asleep, he would find the solution to the same problems in his dreams. Sometimes problems that were not solved in waking were solved during sleep.

Ibn Sina's theory of knowledge reflects the ideas of Plato and Aristotle. Basically, Ibn Sina took the position that the acquisition of knowledge is an abstract process. Whenever an object is perceived, all its features are derived in the imagination. Perception is possible only with reference to these features.

He kept in mind the difference between the primary and secondary perceptions, the primary perception provides the individual in his mental state while the secondary perception provides knowledge of external objects.

Similarly Ibn Sina's theory of knowledge contains the most important external and internal information. External information is obtained through the senses, while they also have five resources for internal information which are as follows:

1. Common Sense

Where information from a variety of sources is combined. This is the concentration of the external senses.

2. The Power of Painting

It preserves the concept of material wisdom.

3. Imagination

It synthesizes and analyzes concepts.

4. The Power of Delusion

The value of these items determines their advantages and disadvantages, as well as their value.

5. Memory Power

It keeps the authenticity in mind.

According to Ibn Sina, the power of illusion is the most important of these five resources. He examined it with a purely psychological spirit

It is actually an instinctive reaction of an individual against the background of a particular environment. Sometimes this reaction is based on paranoid thoughts or past experiences.

Ibn Sina was convinced of the duality of mind and body. According to him, the soul is immortal and immaterial, and independent of the body.

Based on his physical experience, he theorized that the mind affects the body on two levels. The first level is the level of physical movement, the body moves when the mind commands and the manifestation of mental strength manifests itself in the form of excitement.

On the other hand, the effects of the mind on the body are such that many people who are physically ill recover with their strong willpower.  

Ibn Sina described physical illnesses as curable and described methods of induction and transmigration for mental illnesses.

Ibn Sina believed that if the soul was very strong and powerful, it could affect other bodies besides its own. In this regard, Ibn Sina was also a believer in vision and magic.

Mesmer based his psychological treatment of nomenclature on Ibn Sina's methods of evolution and transmigration.

Al-Ghazali 1058-1111

Middle Age Era of History of Psychology

Imam Ghazali's full name is Abu Hamid Muhammad Ibn Muhammad Ghazali. He was born in Tous, Khorasan (Iran). Ghazali is his family name. He was a great philosopher, theologians, jurists, mystics, and scholar.

In the first phase of his life, he studied Greek philosophy and presented ideas as a philosopher. He saw a contradiction between philosophy and religion. In his opinion, philosophy creates doubt, so he left philosophy and adopted Sufism.

He went to every dark corner in search of truth, examined religion from every angle, tried to reach the depths of every ideology, studied every philosopher in-depth.

If he met a Sufi, he tried to find out his secrets. When an apostate was found, he tried to find the remnants of his piety. The biggest obstacle in this path is man's prejudices but Imam Ghazali was above them.

He worked hard and courageously to gain access to the truth. To him, reality is that which is free from all doubt. All of this is taken from his book Al-Munqaz Min Al-Dhaal, which he wrote a few years before his death.

Imam al-Ghazali was a believer in freedom as the basis of his ideology. He believed that the transition from Nafs Amara to Nafs Lawama, from Nafs Lawama to Nafs Matmana is a clear proof of the fact that man is free in his actions. 

Freud later named them Lazat (Id), Anna (Ego), and Fouq-Al-Ana (Super Ego).

Imam al-Ghazali also explained the ways to control the self, and also explained the importance of knowledge, the only useful knowledge is that warns us of the instability of the world and the Hereafter.

You are known for your fictitious education. You wrote a lot about educational psychology and child psychology. You highlighted the objectives of education, curriculum, and teacher-student interaction so that people can benefit from it.

He emphasized the importance of punishment, retribution, and sports in education, women's education, and primary education, and said that higher education was not necessary for women. 

According to you, the soul and the body play an important role in growth.
Imam al-Ghazali examined the method of sensory experience, and observes that the senses are limited. For example, our senses cannot perceive the movement of a visual shadow, even though we know that it does.

Similarly, if a small coin is placed near the eye, it covers the sun. At that time, it feels as if the coin is bigger than the sun, although it is not.

After rejecting the self-sufficiency of sensory perception, Imam al-Ghazali examined the method of rational reasoning. If the results of sensory experience can be disproved by the spirit of reason, then there may be some other source of knowledge beyond reason that can disprove rational decisions.

Imam al-Ghazali also considered the possibility that the present life may be a dream in view of the next life. Dreams seen during sleep seem to come true, although when you wake up you find that they were just dreams.

In this way, it is possible that while living in this world, if we think beyond time and space, then sensory experience and the methods of the intellect will become useless hobbies for us. To get rid of this, Imam al-Ghazali adopted the method of mystical consciousness, that is, spiritual experience.

In the light of this consciousness, he critically examined all the schools of thought, which claimed to have found the Absolute Reality.

Imam Ghazali and Descartes have a lot in common. The main desire of both of them was to establish their ideology on a strong foundation.

According to Imam al-Ghazali, the four forces have a great influence on human life.
1. The Power of Knowledge
2. The Power of Anger
3. The Power of Lust
4. The Power of Justice
Mental health depends on their balance, but if the balance between these four forces is not maintained, the person becomes mentally ill.
Imam al-Ghazali considered the importance of individual differences necessary for education. According to your guidance, it should be taught according to the mental abilities of each person.

Ibn Rushd (Averroes) 1126-1198

Middle Age Era of History of Psychology

Ibn Rushd born in Cordoba (Spain), he belonged to a noble family. Ibn Rushd is considered the greatest medieval philosopher

He wrote books on many subjects as philosophy, theology, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, psychology, physics law, linguistics, and Islamic jurisprudence.

He established a new philosophy, known as Ibn Rushd by interpreting and adding to Aristotle's ideas. His ideas are based on reason, arguments and science, he is far from speculation. He was a fan of Aristotle and especially his logic. 
According to him, Aristotle was the greatest thinker, who had a complete understanding of the true meaning of truth, and the key to the development of human thought is to explain its teachings.

The invention of logic has made real happiness possible. For him, logic is the only means by which one can reach the truth. He was convinced of the importance of reason and reasoning.
Like Aristotle, Ibn Rushd was convinced that man was a social animal. A person cannot live apart from his society, let alone in the stages of completion.
Ibn Rushd was a strong supporter of women's liberation. He was convinced that in an Islamic state, women should not be confined to the confines of their homes, but should work for the overall prosperity, social, economic and cultural development of the society.

The essence of self-confidence should be instilled in women, so that they do not just become parasites and live, but play a full role in welfare.

Ibn Rushd was of the opinion that Annan's power should be in the hands of the elderly people, as they had gone through past experiences and reached a point where emotional decisions do not interfere, but the qualities of wisdom, insight and understanding are found.

Ibn Rushd said in his famous book Kitab al-Nafs (Book on the Soul) that the soul is not separate from the human body but is an integral part of the body. 

He has divided the works of the soul into five types:
1. Food
2. Sensational
3. Imagination
4. Consciousness
5. Wishful thinking

According to him, animals acquire knowledge through the senses, while a man uses his intellect. He said human knowledge and spiritual knowledge are two contradictory things. When things change, human knowledge also changes.

According to Ibn Rushd, there are three basic functions of the human intellect:
1. Abstraction
2. Unity
3. Distinguish

Ibn Rushd promoted the use of the scientific method by adopting Aristotle's progressive and materialist views, and avoided unnecessary religious debates.

However, Imam al-Ghazali's Platonic idealistic views and mystical methods gradually blocked the way for Muslims to study science.

But the Europeans adopted the scientific method of Ibn Rushd and as a result of the revival of science, the scientific civilization reached its peak again.

Ibn Khaldun 1332-1406

Middle Age Era of History of Psychology

Abdul Rahman Ibn Khaldun was a well-known Muslim historian, thinker, and economist. He left an indelible mark on the history of philosophy and as a pioneer of sociology. He was born in Tunis in 1332.

Ibn Khaldun's eternal fame is due to his philosophy being the founder of history. To him, a historian must have the insight to understand the laws that lead to the structure of human societies and their transformation.

In addition, work must go beyond prejudices, beliefs, and preconceived notions, keeping in mind the facts. According to him, if one looks closely at the past and the present, one can make predictions about the future.

According to Ibn Khaldun, the formation of a society is possible only when human beings live together. Man cannot meet his needs alone, so nature forces him to live together.

According to him, geographical, religious, and economic factors have greatly influenced the changes in human character. According to Ibn Khaldun, just as man has a natural age and the time of death is fixed.

Similarly nations have a destiny, in which the beginning, rise and fall of nations come to the fore. 

He spread the beginnings, rise and fall of nations at intervals of more or less forty years. This means that no nation can survive for more than 120 years.
Ibn Khaldun explained Darwin's theory of evolution in such a way that from minerals to plants, the gradual evolution from plants to animals is a clear indication that this process of evolution does not stop at man but goes further. So there is the possibility of supreme creatures.

The man crosses the stages of human development and reaches the highest levels. Where he finds a place in the ranks of the angels, on the one hand there is a relationship with humanity and on the other hand there is a relationship with the angels.

This is the position that does not belong to all people but only to those whom Allah Himself chooses.

Ibn Khaldun thought that with the help of intellect we travel from perception to reasoning. Where due to reason, we try to connect the cause and effect. The whole universe seems to be entangled in this sequence.

We try to recognize this connection with our intellect and intelligence and eventually a limit is reached beyond which it is not possible for us to go beyond where we can no longer acquire knowledge of anything.

An addiction that is beyond our observation cannot reach here and our limited intellect cannot grasp the infinite facts, here we are helpless and compelled.

Reason and reasoning cannot comprehend these depths. Religion is a living and creative source for revealing facts. Therefore, Ibn Khaldun said that there is no question of compatibility between reason and religion, both are contradictory.


In the Middle Ages, all Muslim thinkers considered psychology to be the study of the soul. They relied on the Qur'an, Hadith, and Shari'ah to understand human psychology. And to provide guidelines for correcting psychological depravity in the light of Islamic teachings.

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