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As said last week, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs does not really account for our spiritual needs. As Muslims, our belief in Allah should underlie all of our motivations and should therefore be our most basic needs, ignoring this and forgetting to consider our faith could mean our life becoming out of sync. This is not to say one must be a perfect Muslim for our faith to underlie our motivations, but simply that we should have this fundamental belief in Allah, and that even when we may feel like we have lost all hope, He is our hope and this should be our driving force regardless of how far we have fallen.

Additionally, this means that the motivations behind all of our decisions should be for the sake of Allah as we understand the reason behind our creation is Ibadah (worship), therefore we should constantly have at the back of our minds that all of our actions, even the most simple ones are completed with the intention of worshiping Allah. Even our most basic needs such as food should be for Allah, for example adhering to a halal diet, through this we can ensure that our most simple human need is completed with remembrance and for the sake of Allah. We can use this concept and challenge Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, one example would be Ramadan. Maslow suggests that one must be satisfied in terms of hunger and thirst and be safe and secure before we can move onto having intimate relationships. However, we know that in Ramadan we give up the luxury of eating and drinking on a daily basis, and yet are able to have healthy relationships, both physically and spiritually, that get stronger perhaps and even a broader awareness of our family around the world. Without food, some of us are also able to have great self-esteem during Ramadan because of our closeness to Allah, where some even become “self-actualised” as Maslow described for his final step in the hierarchy. We could even take example from our suffering brothers and sisters around the world, where they have scraps to eat, dirty water to drink and are at battle with constant calamities with no safety, and yet you will find them to be the most pious, most content and most fulfilled Muslims in the Ummah.

The concept of “motivation” may be difficult to grasp, especially as we have said it so much this month but it really does underlie everything. It is the purpose of what we do and say. If we have our motivation in the right place, perhaps it may make our struggles a little bit easier. For example, all of our energy may go into overcoming suicidal thoughts or self-harming and it may totally drain us because we are just so motivated to not do it. If we focus on why we should not do it, i.e. what is our motivation to not harm or take our own life, it may become easier to override these ideas and thoughts.

“I shouldn’t harm myself because I am stronger than my thoughts. As a Muslim, I am encouraged to not act impulsively, because this guards my character and honour. I am fighting hard and I know Allah is with me. As He is so close to me, I know with time it will become easier because I am doing this for His sake and His religion.”

Linking these concepts and processes to what we know about the motivation and behaviours of the Sahaba (companions of the Prophet (saw)), the principle of jihad in its fundamental meaning and translation was used to motivate them, and from this, we, as contemporary Muslims can derive examples and inspiration. Jihad, unlike what many tabloid newspapers would have you believe, means struggle or effort in the way of Allah, most importantly the struggle with the nafs, the self, to preserve one’s faith. This term jihad encouraged the sahaba to fight for their faith within themselves, as well as perform actions for Allah and to increase their own sense of Iman (faith). This is something that, as Muslims, we can learn from and InshaAllah adopt into our own motivation checklist.

Jamilla Hekmoun

Jamilla is a final year undergraduate studying Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies and Vice President of the Islamic Society at the University of Exeter. After being diagnosed with anxiety and depression, she is keen on improving the understanding of mental health conditions within Muslim communities. Follow her on Twitter @JamillaTweets.

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