Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi's viewpoint on the concepts of normality and abnormality

Akbar Husain & Tabassum Rashid
Department of Psychology
Aligarh Muslim University

Psychologists, in general, describe four approaches to the definition of normality. The first of these is the statistical approach. According to this, the average is normality and deviation from the average is abnormality. Here, positive constructive deviation is given the same position as the negative deviation, which is absurd. The second approach is cultural, having the criterion of social conformity. Here, abnormality is viewed on cultural basis. The third, pathological approach has the criterion of personal discomfort and is a purely subjective approach. All these approaches sharply divide the individuals into normal and abnormal. There is a fourth and, in the words of Tylor, final approach, namely, normative. Here abnormality is described in relative terms. This approach stresses the establishment of an ideal against which a person is judged. Individuals are more or less normal depending on how closely they approach the ideal. Normality is here associated with ethics. The concept is value-oriented. When we look at Ashraf Ali Thanvi's work, we find that his approach to normality is normative. He pays greater attention to mental health than to mental illness. Thanvi has explained normality and abnormality from a religious point of view, based on codes of morality. The child is born innocent. Environment has an important effect on the development of his personality, although natural inborn capabilities also play their part. God is the creator of man and his men are brother unto each other. The nature of relationship between the creator and the creation, and the relationship among men, determines normality and abnormality. Spiritual disorders, which in modern age are called functional disorders, are the withdrawal of an individual from his environment, from his own self and from his Creator. The present article focuses on the concept of normality and abnormality from a religious point of view, based on the codes of morality. The three mental forces which have been described here are: reason, sensuality and passion. In fact, these three forces produce moral codes. The causes of mental disorders have been discussed with respect to voluntary and involuntary behaviours. Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi believed that abnormality is the result of deviation from the moral codes.


This paper was presented at the
National Conference on
Yoga and Indian Approaches to Psychology

Pondicherry, India, September 29 - October 1, 2002