This is akin to the American theological doctrine known as prosperity gospel that equates the Christian faith with material and financial success.
Qur’an 22:11. “And of the people is he who worships Allah on an edge. If he is touched by good, he is reassured by it; but if he is struck by trial, he turns on his face [to the other direction]. He has lost [this] world and the Hereafter. That is what is the manifest loss.”
We are using the term ‘image’ due to its common use in literature on the psychology of religion. The Prophet ﷺ himself used the term when he said, “Indeed, Allah created Adam upon His image.” The notion of God “image” derives from “imagination” — we imagine God in the same way we imagine his attributes. This term should in no way be construed as referring to a picture or physical image of God in our minds. As we referenced earlier, the Qur’an emphatically states, “Vision perceives Him not, but He perceives [all] vision.” (6:103).
“Everyone forms a God image out of necessity, in order to end the infinite regress of questions about the origin of the world and consolidate the representational fragments born of their early life. This representation is there whether or not the person uses it in their belief system. Atheists have a God image of a God many would never want to believe in. Everyone has some image of God even if they reject it, as total atheism is a psychodynami impossibility.” Ana-Marie Rizzuto, Birth of the Living God: A Psychoanalytic Study
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979).
Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya proposed that the heart possesses two central abilities: (1) the ability to gain knowledge and intellectually differentiate between things and (2) the ability to desire and love. See Ighāthat al-lahfān fi maṣāyid al-Shayṭān
Hanneke Schaap Jonker, Elisabeth H. M. Eurelings-Bontekoe, Hetty Zock, and Evert Jonker, “Development and Validation of the Dutch Questionnaire God Image: Effects of Mental Health and Religious Culture,” Mental Health, Religion and Culture
11, no. 5 (2008): 501–15.
Simone A. De Roos, Jurjen Iedema, and Siebren Miedema, “Young Children’s Descriptions of God: Influences of Parents’ and Teachers’ God Concepts and Religious Denomination of Schools,” Journal of Beliefs and Values
22, no. 1 (2001): 19–30.
Edward B. Davis, Glendon L. Moriarty, and Joseph C. Mauch, “God Images and God Concepts: Definitions, Development, and Dynamics,” Psychology of Religion and Spirituality
5, no. 1 (2013): 51.
Brad Hambrick, God’s Attributes: Rest for Life’s Struggles
(New Jersey: P&R Publishing Company, 2012).
Al-Qurtubi, al-Jami li ahkam al-Qur’an
Ibn Kathir, Tafsir Ibn Kathir
18 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī
, no. 7505; Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim
, no. 2675.
Eric Klinger, Meaning and Void: Inner Experience and the Incentives in People’s Lives
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977); Jonathan L. Freedman, Happy People: What Happiness Is, Who Has It, and Why
(New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978).
Kathleen Kovner Kline, “Hardwired to Connect: The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities,” in Authoritative Communities
(New York: Springer, 2008), 3–68; Barney Zwartz, “Infants ‘Have Natural Belief in God,’” Sydney Morning Herald
, July 26, 2008, https://www.smh.com.au/national/infants-have-natural-belief-in-god-20080725-3l3b.html
Abu Huraira reported: The Prophet ﷺ said, “No child is born but that he is upon the natural disposition. Then, his parents make him a Jew, or a Christian, or Magian.” Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī
, no. 1292; Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim
, no. 2658.
Moshe Halevi Spero, Religious Objects as Psychological Structures
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992).
Spero, Religious Objects as Psychological Structures
Ibn Taymīyyah, Darʾ taʿāruḍ al-ʿaql wa-al-naql
(Riyadh: Jāmiʿat al-Imām Muḥammad b. Saʿūd al-Islāmiyyah, 1991), 7:73.
25 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī
, no. 1292; Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim
, no. 2658.
See for a review of parental influences on religiosity. Osman Umarji, “Will My Children Be Muslim? The Development of Religious Identity in Young People,” Yaqeen, January 16, 2020, https://yaqeeninstitute.org/read/paper/will-my-children-be-muslim-the-development-of-religious-identity-in-young-people.
John Bowlby, “Attachment and Loss: Retrospect and Prospect,” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry
52, no. 4 (1982): 664.
Bowlby, Attachment and Loss Volume II: Separation, Anxiety and Anger
(London: Hogarth Press, Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1973), 1–429.
Appropriate nurturing refers to the ability to notice infant signals, to interpret these signals correctly, and to respond to them promptly and appropriately by adapting behaviors to the infant’s needs. Taken from: Mary D. Salter Ainsworth, Mary C. Blehar, Everett Waters, and Sally N. Wall, Patterns of Attachment: A Psychological Study of the Strange Situation
(New York: Psychology Press, 2015).
Daniel J. Heinrichs, “Our Father Which Art in Heaven: Parataxic Distortions in the Image of God,” Journal of Psychology and Theology
10, no. 2 (1982): 120–129.
Susan M. Johnson, Attachment Theory in Practice: Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) with Individuals, Couples, and Families
(New York: Guilford Publications, 2019).
Kelly Gonsalves, “The 4 Attachment Styles In Relationships + How To Find Yours,” mindbodygreen, October 17, 2022, https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/attachment-theory-and-the-4-attachment-styles
Theodore A. Stern, Gregory L. Fricchione, and Jerrold F. Rosenbaum, Massachusetts General Hospital Handbook of General Hospital Psychiatry
(N.p.: Saunders Elsevier, 2010).
Stern, Fricchione, and Rosenbaum, Massachusetts General Hospital Handbook
Kim Bartholomew, “Avoidance of Intimacy: An Attachment Perspective,” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships
7, no. 2 (1990): 147–78.
Tamara Kotler, Simone Buzwell, Yolanda Romeo, and Jocelyn Bowland, “Avoidant Attachment as a Risk Factor for Health,” British Journal of Medical Psychology
67, no. 3 (1994): 237–45.
“Disorganized Attachment: Causes & Symptoms.” The Attachment Project. Accessed 10/5/2022. https://www.attachmentproject.com/blog/disorganized-attachment/
Jian Jiao and Chris Segrin, “Overparenting and Emerging Adults’ Insecure Attachment with Parents and Romantic Partners,” Emerging Adulthood
10, no. 3 (2022): 725–30.
Chris Segrin, Alesia Woszidlo, Michelle Givertz, Amy Bauer, and Melissa Taylor Murphy, “The Association between Overparenting, Parent‐Child Communication, and Entitlement and Adaptive Traits in Adult Children,” Family Relations
61, no. 2 (2012): 237–52.
Heinrichs, “Our Father Which Art in Heaven,” 120–129.
Daniel J. van Ingen, Stacy R. Freiheit, Jesse A. Steinfeldt, Linda L. Moore, David J. Wimer, Adelle D. Knutt, Samantha Scapinello, and Amber Roberts, “Helicopter Parenting: The Effect of an Overbearing Caregiving Style on Peer Attachment and Self‐Efficacy,” Journal of College Counseling
18, no. 1 (2015): 7–20.
Heinrichs, “Our Father Which Art in Heaven”; Lee A. Kirkpatrick, Attachment, Evolution, and the Psychology of Religion
Guilford Press, 2005.
Rizzuto, Birth of the Living God
Lee A. Kirkpatrick, “God as a Substitute Attachment Figure: A Longitudinal Study of Adult Attachment Style and Religious Change in College Students,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
24, no. 9 (1998): 961–73; Trevor Olson, Theresa Clement Tisdale, Edward B. Davis, Elizabeth A. Park, Jiyun Nam, Glendon L. Moriarty, Don E. Davis, Michael J. Thomas, Andrew D. Cuthbert, and Lance W. Hays, “God Image Narrative Therapy: A Mixed-Methods Investigation of a Controlled Group-Based Spiritual Intervention,” Spirituality in Clinical Practice
3, no. 2 (2016): 77.
Albert Bandura, Social Learning Theory
(Morristown, NJ: General Learning Press, 1971).
Simone A. De Roos, Jurjen Iedema, and Siebren Miedema, “Influence of Maternal Denomination, God Concepts, and Child‐Rearing Practices on Young Children’s God Concepts,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
43, no. 4 (2004): 519–35.
Osman Umarji, “Scientism and Certainty | Dr. Osman Umarji | Ramadan Sessions 2021,” Al-Arqam Institute, YouTube video, May 1, 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILKdiHJB8T0
This is not to say that the notion of a secure attachment as defined by modern psychology fully captures what a healthy faith-congruent attachment to Allah entails. Nonetheless, we agree that viewing Allah positively and one’s self relatively positively (not to the extent of grandiose narcissism) is a healthy state to aspire to.
Abu Mas’ud reported: The Prophet ﷺ said, “If a Muslim spends on his family seeking reward from Allah, it is charity for him.” Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī
, no. 5351; Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim
, no. 1002.
B. Rose Huber, “Four in 10 Infants Lack Strong Parental Attachments,” Princeton University, March 27, 2014, https://www.princeton.edu/news/2014/03/27/four-10-infants-lack-strong-parental-attachments
Heinrichs, “Our Father Which Art in Heaven.”
Heinrichs, “Our Father Which Art in Heaven.”
Heinrichs, “Our Father Which Art in Heaven.”
Bradley R. Hertel and Michael J. Donahue, “Parental Influences on God Images among Children: Testing Durkheim’s Metaphoric Parallelism,” Journal for the Scientific study of Religion
(1995): 186–199; De Roos, Iedema, and Miedema, “Young Children’s Descriptions of God.”
Beth Fletcher Brokaw and Keith J. Edwards, “The Relationship of God Image to Level of Object Relations Development,” Journal of Psychology and Theology
22, no. 4 (1994): 352–71; William G. Justice and Warren Lambert, “A Comparative Study of the Language People Use to Describe the Personalities of God and Their Earthly Parents,” Journal of Pastoral Care
40, no. 2 (1986): 166–72.
Pehr Granqvist, Tord Ivarsson, Anders G. Broberg, and Berit Hagekull, “Examining Relations among Attachment, Religiosity, and New Age Spirituality Using the Adult Attachment Interview,” Developmental Psychology
43, no. 3 (2007): 590; Pehr Granqvist and Lee A. Kirkpatrick, “Religion, Spirituality, and Attachment,” in APA Handbook for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality (Vol 1): Context, Theory, and Research
, ed. K. Pargament (Washington DC: American Psychological Association, 2013), 129–55; Rosalinda Cassibba, Pehr Granqvist, Alessandro Costantini, and Sergio Gatto, “Attachment and God Representations among Lay Catholics, Priests, and Religious: A Matched Comparison Study Based on the Adult Attachment Interview,” Developmental Psychology
44, no. 6 (2008): 1753.
De Roos, Iedema, and Miedema, “Influence of Maternal Denomination.”
Beata Zarzycka, “Parental Attachment Styles and Religious and Spiritual Struggle: A Mediating Effect of God Image,” Journal of Family Issues
40, no. 5 (2019): 575–93.
Leslie J. Francis, Harry M. Gibson, and Mandy Robbins, “God Images and Self-Worth among Adolescents in Scotland,” Mental Health, Religion and Culture
4, no. 2 (2001): 103–8; Peter Benson and Bernard Spilka, “God Image as a Function of Self-Esteem and Locus of Control,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Yaakov Greenwald, Mario Mikulincer, Pehr Granqvist, and Phillip R. Shaver, “Apostasy and Conversion: Attachment Orientations and Individual Differences in the Process of Religious Change,” Psychology of Religion and Spirituality
13, no. 4 (2021): 425.
We proceeded to validate our measure of God image and attachment using confirmatory factor analysis. From a large pool of items, the items with the highest factor loadings were retained to create our final measures. These analyses can be found in Appendix B.
Our God image and attachment survey was ninety questions long. Therefore, due to space considerations, parental questions were not included. Our future studies will inshaAllah investigate the parental component in more detail.
The survey was created in Qualtrics and data was collected between December 27, 2021 and April 2, 2022. Participants were solicited via emails to random members of Yaqeen’s North American listserv.
Our measure is not exhaustive and cannot fully capture God image. Future survey work intends to expand the dimensions of God image measured.
The seven items demonstrated good internal reliability (α =
David R. Cook, “Measuring Shame: The Internalized Shame Scale,” Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly
4, no. 2 (1988): 197–215. The three shame items demonstrated good internal reliability (α =
Michelle A. Harris, M. Brent Donnellan, and Kali H. Trzesniewski, “The Lifespan Self-Esteem Scale: Initial Validation of a New Measure of Global Self-Esteem,” Journal of Personality Assessment
100, no. 1 (2018): 84–95. The two self-esteem items demonstrated good internal reliability (α =
Tamer Desouky and Osman Umarji, “A Holistic View of Muslim Religiosity: Introducing BASIC,” Yaqeen
, September 15, 2021, https://yaqeeninstitute.org/read/data/reports/a-holistic-view-of-muslim-religiosity-introducing-basic
The ten items demonstrated good internal reliability (α =
We first ran a hierarchical agglomerative clustering algorithm (Ward’s method) to determine the best cluster solution. K-means clustering was subsequently performed to fine-tune cluster homogeneity by reassigning cases to the optimal cluster.
Our analysis sample initially included 257 people. There were 13 cases that were missing too much data, so these cases were dropped. We performed the nearest neighbor imputation on five people who were missing scores on one dimension of God image. We finally removed three outliers whose scores deviated substantially from the sample. The four cluster solution explained 60.4 percent of the variance in God image profiles.
A total God image score was taken by averaging together the four dimensions. Unfortunately, due to a mistake of not including religiosity measures in our initial sample, we only measured religiosity for 93 of our participants. Nonetheless, the correlations and t-tests were statistically significant (p<.05).
Our analysis sample included 236 people who completed attachment items. There were no outliers to remove. The five cluster solution explained 76.8 percent of the variance in God attachment profiles.
The God image survey captured people’s perceptions of Allah as “al-Shakur” (the Appreciative). We are noting, briefly, that people with an avoidant attachment tended to see Allah as not being very appreciative. Future research will discuss the impacts of perceiving Allah as appreciative (or not) in far more detail.
The ANOVA was significant for both self-concept struggles and religious doubts.
We say this based on the aggregate religiosity scores reported by the sample. To compare with the general Muslim public, we can look at frequency of prayer as just one dimension of religiosity. In our sample, 65 percent of people reported praying five times a day, whereas Pew Research in 2017 found that approximately 42 percent of Muslims reported praying five times a day. See https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2017/07/26/religious-beliefs-and-practices/
Kirkpatrick, “God as a Substitute Attachment Figure”; Pehr Granqvist and Berit Hagekull, “Religiousness and Perceived Childhood Attachment: Profiling Socialized Correspondence and Emotional Compensation,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
“In no way have they estimated Allah in His true estimation.” This statement is found three times in the Qur’an regarding the various issues in which people misestimate Allah’s perfection.
See Qur’an 6:91, 22:74, 39:67.
Object relations theory in psychoanalytic psychology is the process of developing a psyche in relation to others in the childhood environment.
82 Sahih al-Bukhari
, no. 1936.
The 10th of Dhul Hijjah.
84 Sahih al-Bukhari
, no. 6228.
85 Sunan Abi Dawud
, no. 3641; Jami` at-Tirmidhi
, no. 2682.
Qādī ʿIyād, Tartīb al-madārik wa taqrīb al-masālik
(Morocco: Maṭbaʿat Faḍālah, 1970), 1:130.
Ibn al-Qayyim, Rawḍat al-muhibbīn
The full statement mentioned by Ibn al-Qayyim was that Ibn Taymiyya said to his family, “I am for you in his place, and do not let there be an affair of yours in which you are in need of assistance except that I will assist you in it.”
Ibn Qayyim, Madārij as-sālikīn
(Beirut: Dar al-Kitāb al-ʿArabī, 2003), 2:328.
Jacqueline D. Rasar, Fernando L. Garzon, Frederick Volk, Carmella A. O’Hare, and Glendon L. Moriarty, “The Efficacy of a Manualized Group Treatment Protocol for Changing God Image, Attachment to God, Religious Coping, and Love of God, Others, and Self,” Journal of Psychology and Theology
41, no. 4 (2013): 267–80.
Michael J. Thomas, Glendon L. Moriarty, Edward B. Davis, and Elizabeth L. Anderson, “The Effects of a Manualized Group-Psychotherapy Intervention on Client God Images and Attachment to God: A Pilot Study,” Journal of Psychology and Theology
39, no. 1 (2011): 44–58.
Mark A. Hubble, Barry L. Duncan, and Scott D. Miller, The Heart and Soul of Change: What Works in Therapy
(Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1999).
This is based on our own conceptual work and classical works in Islamic theology that refer to Allah’s names of beauty (jamāl
) and names of majesty (jalāl
This has been referred to as الأمن من مكر الله. This refers to a false state of security that Allah will never punish, thus leading one to engage in sins and not fear the consequences.