Concept of Motivation in the Qur’ān

Concept of Motivation in the Qur’ān

Gowhar Quadir Wani

Motivation plays a key role in governing human actions. Behind every action there is one or other kind of motivation. The concept of motivation has attracted the attention of eminent psychologists and philosophers in both Western Psychology/Philosophy as well as Islamic Psychology/Philosophy. The word ‘motivation’ is derived from the Latin word ‘movere’ meaning ‘to move’. “Motivation means the switching on of some pattern of behavior, of a program of action specified within the individual. That program might be innate or it might have been modified by experience.” It is a set of forces that makes people behave in a certain way. In other words, it can be defined as the desire within the individual that stimulates him to undertake an action.
The Qur’ān and Sunnah are replete with instances that serve as motivation for human beings, in general, and the followers of Islam, in particular. Islam provides motivation in both positive as well as negative forms. While the positive forms of motivation serve to make people perform the required actions, the negative forms of motivation help people refrain from performing certain actions. To illustrate, the heaven is a positive motivation, while as the hell is a negative motivation. Besides, the love and fear of Allah, the love of the Prophet(SAW), the concept of reward and punishment all serve as the sources of motivation in Islam.
The most striking aspect of motivation from the Qur’anic perspective is to be found in the meaningfulness and purposefulness in the creation especially human life. This is one of the most frequently repeated Qur’anic themes. To illustrate, some of the verses are mentioned below:
“And We have not created the heaven and the earth and whatsoever is in-between the twain in vain.”That is the opinion of those who disbelieve. And woe Unto those who disbelieve the Fire.” (Q, 38:27)”
“And We created not the heavens and the earth and all that is in-between the twain sporting. (38) We created them not save with a purpose but most of them know not. (Q, 44: 38, 39)”
“Deem ye that We have created you in vain and that unto Us ye are not to be returned? So exalted be Allah, the True King! there is no god but he, Lord of the Throne honoured. (Q, 23: 115-16)”.
The above verses, representing a multitude of related Quranic ayat, make it clear that Islam declares in unequivocal terms that the creation of the universe, in general, and human life, in particular, is not a meaningless act. The Qur’an motivates people especially those who adhere to its message to explore meaning and purpose in life. It does not leave them wandering alone in this pursuit but illuminates their path at each and every step. It also declares the worship of the Creator (‘ibādah) and subjecting human beings to a test with regard to same as the purpose of the creation of human life (Q, 51:56; 67:02). The Quranic insistence on the meaningfulness of human life serves as a powerful motivation to explore the mysteries of life, makes life worth-living despite all odds, and above all prepares its adherents to live by the will of the Creator and seek His good approval. Another verse in the Qur’an translates as:
“Whosoever will come with a virtue for him shall be then like thereof, and whosoever will come with a vice shall not be requited save with the like thereof; and they shall not be wronged (Q, 6: 160)”.
The meaning of this verse serves as a treasure trove of motivation for the believers as it bears the promise of the Creator to reward their good actions with increased reward and to consider their wrong actions by the same measure as they are. At other places in the Qur’an, it has been mentioned that the right actions will be rewarded 700 times or more while the wrong actions will be entirely forgiven or even replaced with the right ones if accompanied with sincere repentance. This system of rewards and punishments which is reflective of the abundant Divine Mercy in both the cases is nothing short of serving as a source of motivation for believers to modify their behavior in accordance with the will of the Creator that leads to their well-being , herein and hereafter. The rewards announced by Allah serve as strong motivation for believers and before doing any act, the commandment of Allah plays a significant role on the minds of the followers and influences their behaviour. Another verse of the Qur’an translates as:
“And recall what time thine Lord said unto the angels: verily I am going to place a vicegerent On the earth. They said: wilt Thou place therein one who will act corruptly therein and shed blood While we hallow Thine praise and glorify Thee! Allah said: verily I know that which ye know not(Q, 2:30)”
This verse which designates human beings as the vicegerents of the Creator on the earth is potent enough to serve as a motivator for them to actualize this inherent potential. The whole Qur’anic schema is focused to guide humans how to live as a khalīfa of God on the earth. To realize this end, the Creator has bestowed them with the potential to tame the natural world. In this connection, the Qur’anic concept of Taskhīr is all the more important. The Qur’an repeatedly mentions that whatever is in the heavens and the earth is destined to serve humankind. This is a powerful motivator for the exploration of the mysteries of the nature and exploitation of the same for the wellbeing and progress of humanity. Besides, to guide the human beings regarding the metaphysical truths and regulate their social life, the Qur’an leads us to the Divine scheme of sending Prophets and Scriptures that too serve as motivators for the human beings to modify their behavior in accordance with the Divine plan.
“For every one is a direction wither ward he turneth; so strive to be foremost in virtues. Wheresoever ye may be, Allah will bring you together. Verily Allah is over everything Potent (Q, 2:148)”
This verse not only motivates people to strive for good deeds but also compete with one another for the same. The impetus for competition in turn serves as a motivation for hard work and putting in extra effort to ameliorate one’s condition from good to better with the aim of reaching the best. Likewise, in Surah Al –Imran, verse 133, the believers are motivated to compete with one another in seeking Allah’s forgiveness and Paradise.
“And vie with each other in hastening to obtain forgiveness from your Lord and toward the Garden whereof the width equalleth the heavens and the earth, gotten ready for the God- fearing (Q, 3:133)”
It can be genuinely concluded that the Qur’an is replete with verses that refer to the concept of motivation. These verses are embedded with powerful motivation for the believers to modify their behavior in accordance with the approval of the Creator. Being a book of Divine origin, the Qur’an is in itself a powerful motivator for those who adhere to its message. When it resorts to a motivating language, the believing person finds all the more solace in abiding by it.

—The author is a doctoral Candidate at the Department of Islamic Studies, AMU, Aligarh. He can be reached at:

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