The lack of interest in the outside world, and exaggerated admiration for the image of one’s august self is a symptom of narcissistic affliction. The manifestations of Islamic religious narcissism are manifold.


NARCISSISM, AS A MENTAL SICKNESS, is a delirious self-love that makes the ego despise all other egos. Modern psychology takes the term from the Greek legends which express the desires and fantasies of humanity’s collective unconscious. What does the legend of Narcissus relate? Narcissus was a handsome young man who was the object of the fascination of boys and girls but who himself remained unmoved by their love.

One of the girls scorned by him appealed to the gods and was responded to by the goddess Nemesis who condemned him to gaze at his own image as reflected in a stream. Whenever he gazed on his image his love for himself increased. This sterile love gained so much mastery over him that he spent days lying on the bank of the stream, so that he wasted away and died. The gods then turned him into a flower: the narcissus flower. The moral of the story? Any rejection of the relations between one’s own ego and that of another other, that is, all narcissistic love, is lethal.

Narcissistic self-absorption, the lack of interest in the outside world, and exaggerated admiration for the image of one’s august self (which is in reality a compensation for a negative self-image) is a symptom of narcissistic affliction.

The manifestations of Islamic religious narcissism are manifold, and include the prohibition of a Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim who is “not her equal”. Subconsciously, this expresses the desire to commit incest via endogenous marriage within the tribe, a phenomenon known among certain primitive tribes which prohibited exogenous marriage to those outside the tribe. As is apparent in the sanctification of the Arabic language which is impermeated by the Quran which impedes the development of its script, its grammar or the enrichment of is vocabulary with western technical terms in much the same way that Hebrew has Hebraized 90 per cent of its terms. Arabs, as Malek Bennabi has observed, are fascinated by their fair tongue and have turned it onto an idol to be worshipped. Recently al-Qaradawi issued a fatwa forbidding the writing of the Quran in anything other than the somewhat hieroglyphic ‘Uthmani (Ottoman) script, while Ibn Khaldun favoured the change since “the Companions were near illiterates” as he said. Another example is Islam’s abrogation of all other religions!

The media and education are Islamic specialisms which reproduce this narcissism on a broad scale. The media, as a type of madrasa without walls, introduces narcissistic fanaticism and delirium into all corners, while the religious education churns out generation after generation of those with a mania for the purity of religious identity, much like the mania of the Nazis for the purity of racial identity. Where the Nazis were yesterday obsessed by fears of ethnic and cultural mixing, today the propagators of religious narcissism are afflicted by a morbid fear of Islam cross-fertilizing with other religions and cultures. Religious narcissism is subject to the same rationale of ethnic narcissism: it turns historical disparities between cultures and nationalities into ‘natural’ disparities that are supposedly part of their essence. Finally there is the inevitability, for the Nazis, of the ‘superior’ Aryan race crushing all the ‘inferior’ races, while for religious narcissism it is the inevitability of the victory of ‘the one true faith’ of Islam over all the other ‘false’ religions.

The sanctification of the Arabic language impedes its development and enrichment

With the exception of Tunisian religious education which has made its peace with the reality, mentality and values of the modern age, religious education (which prepares its systems and those entrusted with carrying it out, i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood and those of their ilk) is still manufacturing terrorism scholars and infects the brains of schoolchildren and students with the voracity of religious narcissism:

“The religions followed by men are many, but the one true faith is the faith of Islam, while the other religions are false” (Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, Kitab al-Tawhid, p.33, Study no. 13, Ministry of Education, Riyad.)

“Other religions are destructive to their own believers” (same source)

Islam is not the inevitable future of mankind alone, but also of the race of Jinn[1]:

“The whole world, of humans and jinn is obligated to enter Islam and abandon their false religions, else they are destined for Hellfire” (same source, p.34).

The narcissist makes use of his body’s erotic power, but he also can focus upon one single member. This is also the case with religious narcissism which can make use of Islam as a whole or just a part of it, as Muhammad ibn al-Wahhab did in holding Wahhabism to be the ‘Saved Sect’. In his book The Way of the Sunna[2] (a book that in reality is a book promoting sectarian strife) there is a declaration that the Shi’a are infidel and there is a quite transparent hint that the first of their imams – Ali – was corrupt:

He fought for the office of wali and in that cause killed many, yet during his holding of the office there no fighting took place against the infidel nor were conquests made of their lands, and nor did the number of Muslims increase (Vol. III, p.175);

Ali was disheartened and fought for the sake of his own primacy, not for the sake of the faith (Vol. II, p.203).

It is no wonder that this psychopathic personality who destroyed the graves of the Companions and the grave of Hussein in Karbala, and killed the Shi’ites there – women and children included – should write such extremist narcissistic ravings. What is really surprising is that there should be inculcated among primary school children (so that the incapacity to recognise the principle of reality should spread all the wider): self-absorption, exclusive self-love, radical exclusion of the other, a belief that one can lead people to heaven chained and bound, a mania for purity of identity, delusions of grandeur, fanaticism, sectarianism and terrorism.

Children and adolescents are quick to believe others. But when it comes to promoting ethnic or religious narcissism, adults are no less credulous than children. When the Shaykh of al-Azhar said: “Muslims are a nation of mobs”[3] there was a lot of humming and ha-ing. But had he said that “Muslims are a nation of the sword and the pen”, he would have simply pandered to their collective narcissism.

This narcissism, in my view, has played the role of mental impediment barring the elites and the masses of the Arab world from integrating into modernity. It has been like this ever since the Arabs and the Muslims turned from being a nation of conquerors to one of the conquered, and Islamic jurisprudence began to turn in on itself more and more, becoming a jurisprudence of jihad against the ‘infidel’, prohibiting any physical imitation of them or copying their ways or interacting with them. Their lands are ‘the Abode of War’ to which Muslims are no longer permitted to enter without a fatwa. The leadership of politico-jihadist Islam who find refuge in the West justify their taking it as a place of refuge by issuing such fatwas. Ibn Taymiyya considered that “opposing the infidel by intention is one of the goals of the sharia” and this is according to a typical law of narcissism: the self does not like anything other than its own self, and the Muslim can imitate only another Muslim. “The obligation to oppose the infidel” sets up a psychological barrier between the Arab Muslim and modern civilisation, and makes him hold as ‘disbelief’ all the institutions, human sciences, universal values and technologies that the ‘infidels’ produce, so that everything he imports from outside the Arab world requires a fatwa to justify it. Coffee, the tap, European headwear, Coca Cola, television, modern science, the Rights of Man, democracy…and so on and so forth.

This delirious religious narcissism was brought about by historical conditions: the wars of the Prophet against the Jews, the Crusades, the anti-Monghol wars, European imperialism and the rise of the Jewish state. The last two of these events caused a seismic disturbance in the Arab Muslim mentality and provoked two deep responses: a closing in on the wounded narcissistic self and a mad desire for revenge. Examples of the first response is Sufism – the flight from confrontation – and of the second is jihadist Islam with its obsession for taking revenge against the “Jews and Crusaders” so as to assuage the narcissistic wound whatever the cost, even if this were “upon my own head as well as the heads of my enemies O Lord!”[4]

“The obligation to oppose the infidel” sets up a psychological barrier between the Arab Muslim and modern civilisation

The archetypical representative of this voluntarist, jihadist, self-sacrificing Islam is al-Qaeda internationally, Hamas in Palestine and ‘Islamic internationalism’ which is covertly sympathetic to the former and overtly supportive of the latter. Neither of these organisations has an achievable strategic goal. Al-Qaeda’s aim, as stated by al-Zawahiri in his Knights Under the Banner of the Prophet, is to spread the doctrine of “loyalty to the Muslims and renunciation of the infidels and that which they worship,” that is, a radical rupture with the West, a withdrawal from the United Nations, and the restoration of the Islamic Caliphate. The aims of Hamas are no less absurd than those of al-Qaeda: “the liberation of Palestine to the last particle of its soil and its restoration to all the world’s Muslims.”

The real, hidden motivation behind these two delirious aims is vengeance, and nothing but vengeance. The wounded narcissist can find no peace without avenging his mud-besmirched honour. A healthy response to the western challenge would have seen an integration into its culture, were it not for “the obligation to oppose the infidel” being so deeply ingested. Why is it that, following the end of the war, Germany or Japan did not respond to their narcissistic wounds with responses akin to ours? Because an internalised religious narcissism was absent from either of their modern cultures. The Egyptian writer Sayyid Yasin once asked his Japanese guests about the position of religion in their political life and their response was: “What has religion got to do with it?” The secularism of Japan and Germany has prevented any raving responses to their narcissistic wounds. They have imitated the West and integrated into its culture, while we have opposed it, fought it and closed ourselves off to its values, like some terrified snail.

The Islam of narcissistic voracity, the Islam of “opposing the infidel” and taking revenge militarily upon them, has lost its way in the sense that it has lost its capacity to highlight real problems and study them for real solutions. “Opposing the infidel” in their economies, politics, institutions, sciences, values, lifestyles – such is the kernel of the prevailing Islamic narcissism and its pageant of archaism, fanaticism and terrorism.

What is to be done to free the conscious and unconscious mind of the Islamists from “the obligation to oppose the infidel” and “their intellectual attack”? There are two possibilities: the first possibility was witnessed in Iran which through its Islamic revolution pushed religious narcissism right to its ultimate phantasm and opposed the infidel in all things: it forbade their music, their values and closed school institutions for four years so as to Islamise knowledge and so on. At the same time it violated its own religious narcissism by attaining it, since Iran’s Muslims gave up yearning for the awaited Mahdi’s regime after his appearance failed to materialise. They did not identify their dreams and fantasies in the Islamic republic which had turned their country into a large prison. Iran’s locking itself off from the face of western culture only increased a desire to thwart the prohibitions. The Shi’a of Iran are now the most western-oriented and secular of all the peoples of the Islamic world. The same thing has happened in Islamic Sudan and Islamic Afghanistan, albeit to a lesser extent but nevertheless enough to cure a large sector of its inhabitants of any yearning for the orthodox Caliphal state which they failed to identify in the regimes of Hasan al-Turabi and Mulla Omar.

The second possibility, one that is less painful and bloody, is a restoration of the self-confidence of the Arabs and Muslims, a symptom of which is a capacity to open up to the West. The more they open up and achieve growth, the more their respect for themselves and self-confidence will increase.

Suggested Reading

A critique of the Muslim mind

The establishing of enlightened religious education in place of the prevailing religious narcissistic education is the royal road to attaining this aim – that is, the gaining of enough self-respect and self-confidence to dispense with the obligation to oppose the infidel, or the doctrine of al-wala wal-bara or the verses of the sword and the jihad till Domesday come, to call a halt to applying the sharia or disparaging reason, womankind or non-Muslims, to yearning for the orthodox Caliphal state and the liberation of Palestine to the last particle of soil, or the reconquista of Muslim Spain and the setting up of Islamic law in France over the next 50 years!

What perchance will an education that can place an end to the internalisation of religions narcissism and the restoration of the Arab-Islamic imagination be like?

It will doubtless be an education that does not teach pupils and students texts that nurture religious narcissism, or texts that feed delirium such as the literal belief in the jinn and the angels, or the possibility of establishing relations or military alliances with them. In the 1980s Arab media engineers and Muslims living in America used computers to calculate the number of angels and came to the conclusion that they numbered 120 million. They duly asked Arab governments to call on these as reinforcements to fight Israel, just as the early Muslims called on them at the Badr raid.[5]

The real motivation behind these aims is nothing but vengeance

Obscurantist texts in religious education should be replaced with:

  1. Rational readings from the Mu’tazila school, from philosophers, reformists and contemporary writers, so as to train them to think for themselves, to open up, engage in dialogue and maintain an attitude of human brotherliness, as the Tunisian syllabuses have done;
  2. The teaching of the Rights of Man and of philosophy at all levels and branches of literary, scientific, vocational and religious education, as is currently done in Tunisia, so as to open up the Islamic conscience to universal values and critical thought which a healthy response to being placed subject to questioning will teach. This way it becomes capable of producing new generations whose discourse does not begin with silly assumptions nor ends up in black and white judgements.

[1] Jinn: ‘genies’ – supernatural creatures that occupy a parallel world to that of mankind. Sentient creation is held to consist of three types of being: Angels, jinn and humans, and the Quran refers to jinn frequently (there is an entire sura devoted to them). Like human beings, they are held to be capable of good or evil acts. (Ed.)

[2] Author’s note: As Professor of Psychology Dr. Iqbal al-Gharbi has noted, this book has been distributed latterly by the Saudi embassy to all lecturers in the Tunisian Al-Zaytuna University, in the same way that its embassy in Rabat earlier distributed the fatwas of Ibn Taymiyya to all Moroccan secondary schools! Is there a cell in the Foreign Ministry specialising in Wahhabist propaganda?

[3] Shaykh Muhammad Sayyid al-Tantawi famously called the Muslims “a nation of mobs and hypocrites” on the occasion of the opening of an Islamic Conference in May 2003. (Ed.)

[4] A reference to Samson’s destruction of the temple of Dagon over the heads of his enemies (Ed.)

[5] The Badr Raid is the name of a skirmish that took place in 624 between the fledgling Muslim community and the pagan Quraysh tribe, as a result of Muslim plundering raids. The Quran [III, 123-125] makes reference to thousands of angels descending from Heaven to terrify the Quraysh. Several hadith also have Muhammad discussing the role played by the Angel Jibril in the battle. (Ed.)

“Are we to believe that In these different bodies the same soul, the same spirit resides?” – racial narcissism in Hitler’s Germany
The wounded narcissist can find no peace without vengeance
Hassan al-Turabi and Mulla Omar: failed religious narcissists