Anyone interested in psychology knows about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This theory gives a precise list of human biological and social needs and arranges them by the level of the importance of fulfilling that need.
The more vital needs are at a lower level of the hierarchy, and according to this theory, lower level needs must be fulfilled before a person can move a step higher in the hierarchy.
Let us look at how much these needs are encouraged and fulfilled in Islam.
Islam acknowledges and encourages fulfillment of the biological needs of human beings such as food, sleep, sexual intercourse, etc. and has laid out principles for fulfilling those needs in the best possible way without inflicting harm upon oneself and others.
Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala says:
And it is He who has made the night for you as clothing and sleep [a means for] rest and has made the day a resurrection. [Quran, 25:47]
Also, And when the prayer is ended, then disperse in the land and seek of Allah’s bounty, and remember Allah much, that ye may be successful. [62:10]
Islam encourages seeking out a means of livelihood and also obliges us to feed the poor, those who cannot feed themselves, and also those under a man’s supervision: wives, children, and servants.
Also, Islam acknowledges the intensity of biological drive, which is why Islam highly recommends marriage and has made marriage easy.
Need for Safety
Islamic judiciary system strives to fulfill the need for safety in every level. It obligates the circulation of money through the system of zakah, it prevents and punishes criminal acts by administering prescribed punishments, it has strict laws on the protection of land and property of Muslims, and it systemizes all monetary transactions and contracts.
Need for Love/Belonging
Islam encourages, even obligates the formation of a society based on brotherhood and love. There are plentiful of examples in the texts.
Allah says in the Quran that He Himself put love and mercy between spouses: And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought. [30:21]
Need for Esteem
Islam not only encourages esteem, achievement, and respect, Islam gives them to the Muslims. The greatest achievement for a Muslim will be when he or she steps into Paradise. Islam encourages us to strive for excellence and success.
Those are the believers, truly. For them are degrees [of high position] with their Lord and forgiveness and noble provision. [8:4]
Respect and dignity is given by Allah: Say, ‘O Allah, Owner of Sovereignty, You give sovereignty to whom You will and You take sovereignty away from whom You will. You honor whom You will and You humble whom You will. In Your hand is [all] good. Indeed, You are over all things competent. [3:26]
. . . and they will be honored in gardens of pleasure. [37:42-43]
It is detestable for a Muslims to beg from others when they have the ability to save their dignity by working. It is obligatory for every Muslim to respect others’ dignity and to honour them. In his farewell sermon the Prophet said that a Muslim’s honour is as sacred as Makkah. Respect is especially due to our parents, elders, and for a wife towards her husband.
Need for Self-Actualization
When Aisha radiyallahu ‘anhu was asked to describe the Prophet, she said his character was the Quran. Islam has provided for us the layout of an ideal self, and elaborated for us the methods which will help us reach that ideal. Every good deed we are encouraged to do, every evil we are forbidden against, is a means towards becoming that ideal.
All our life is spent in the struggle towards attaining that ideal, and the process of striving, not the ideal itself, is what makes us successful: O you who believe! Do your duty to Allah and fear Him. Seek the means of approach to Him, and strive hard in His Cause as much as you can. So that you may be successful. [5:35]
In this article we have seen how Islam encourages and fulfills the needs mentioned in Maslow’s hierarchy. What remains arguable is whether Maslow failed to mention other kinds of needs that are also important for the survival and success of a human being, such as spiritual needs, and also whether the levels assigned to the various needs in the hierarchy is correct.
Learn more about the Quran by taking this course – learn 50% of the Quranic words in just 9 hours.