This site discusses the development and present status of psychology in the Arab counties. It begins by highlighting some of the Muslim and Arab scholars' contributions to psychology since the 9th century. Then, it deals with the contemporary status of psychology in the most important Arab countries, showing the main trends of research, and the difficulties and obstacles which are hindering its progress. The site also sheds light on psychology institutions, students' qualification, training, and the job opportunities available. It concludes with a proposal to establish an Institute of Arab Psychology in Cairo.


The field of psychology has not been alien to the Muslim and Arab world. In ancient times, the Egyptians had already formed many psychological-philosophical ideas about phenomena such as hysteria, epilepsy, delusions, and dreams, and how to treat some mental physical, abnormalities (Girges, 1967). Many year later, in the 9th century, Muslim scholars began to develop more or less scientific ideas concerning a wide variety of topics which mostly belong to psychology as we know it today (Ahmed, 1992).


Al-Kindi (801-866) proposed that regularity of behavior and thought should be used as a key principle when treating "self disturbances". Such as emphasis would help mentally ill patients achieve better insight into their condition (Nagaty, 1993). Gauthier (1939) pointed out that Al-Kindi determined, through his own observations, four kinds of effects that medical drugs had on individuals. Al-Kindi's observations in the 9th century were later supported by M. Weber and Feehner's similar observations in the 19thcentury.


Abou-Baker Al-Razy (864-925) is widely considered the greatest medical doctor in Islam and perhaps of the entire medieval age. He showed an interest in the impact of Psychological factors as part of the healing process and wrote a book titled Spiritual Medicine. It outlined how to improve morality, heal mental illnesses, and modify behaviors in ways rather similar to those now used in modern cognitive therapy (Nagaty, 1993).


In his book titled Opinions of the Utopian City's People, Al-Farabi (d. 950) proposed an ideal basis for social life. The volume also includes some pioneer ideas about leadership, the physical and mental characteristics demanded of leaders, the nature of personality, and group cohesiveness. Al-Farabi was also interested in individual differences, particularly with respect to language and verbal abilities (Soueif, 1965a).


Avicenna or Ibn Sina (980-1037) may be considered one of the first psychiatrists, even before the formal emergence of psychiatry as a separate scientific field. A precocious boy, who became a practicing physician at age 16, he considered psychology as a natural science and showed a deep interest in many topics. These included speech difficulties, the influences of heredity and environment on behavior, and the importance of individual differences in learning and development.


Avicenna's ideas were introduced to Europe through the writings of another Muslim scholar, Ibn Rushed or Averroes (1126-1198) (Eissoy, 1975; Nagaty,1961, 1993).


Maskawaith (d. 1030) proposed to examine the sources of mental illness and presented ideas that shaped an important trend concerning mental hygiene in Islamic thought. Maskawaih also advanced some rules to be used for guiding persons with psychological disturbances, which resemble some basic ideas used in modern psychological counseling.


In his book Ihya Al- Ghazzali (1058-1111) suggested that the child does not know fear until he learns it from the environment. He also discussed the egocentrism and wishful thinking of children. Al-Ghazzali indicated the importance of play in children's lives, and how it facilitates learning and training, He was also interested in individual differences. Many centuries before Wundt and Titchener, he used introspection as a method for studying behavior and analyzed himself by using this method. In many ways, Al-Ghazzali could be considered as the first scholar to establish what we now call the psychology of religion. He explained the positive impact of washing oneself prior to praying, and the role of prayer in reducing excessive emotionality (El-Osman, 1963; Nagaty, 1993).


Ibn Khaldoun (1332-1406) demonstrated some rules which govern the learning process, such as establishing a well-structured curriculum. He also wrote about the effects of the environment on behavior and personality, and tried to identify the similarities and differences between people in different milieus and cultures. His contributions as a sociologist and social psychologist could also be considered as the early beginnings of cross-cultural and folk psychology (Soueif, 1965a).


Other Arab and Muslim scholars such as Ibn Hazem (994-1064), Ibn Baga (1082-1183), Ibn el-Quuem el-Gozia (1292-1350), Ibn Tofiel (d. 1185). IbnTeimia (1263-1328). Al-Khatib el-Baghdady, and Ibu Hager el-Haithamy (d., 16th century) wrote about a variety of topics such as intellectual and physical growth, socialization, moral development, love and affection, and so on.


Moreover, the first mental hospital in the Muslim and Arab world was opened in Damascus as early as the 8th century, soon to be followed by similar hospitals in Baghdad and Cairo. These impressive early developments, however, did not lead to a cohesive, cumulative, experimentally oriented psychological science. Many years later, such a science would enter the Arab world from the West.


Modern psychology as a coherent and separate scientific discipline was known for the first time in the Arab world at the turn of the century. Egypt and, to a lesser extent, Lebanon were the first Arab counties where modern psychology was practiced. The Egyptian physician Soliman Nagaty published a book in 1891 titled The Doctor's Approach to Insanity. Some other Arab countries (e.g. Syria, Iraq, and Sudan) became familiar with psychology around the middle of the 20th century, while most remaining Arab countries (e.g., Jordan, Yemen), the oil-producing Arab states (e.g., Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates), and the Greater Maghreb countries (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, and Libya) encountered psychology for the first time in the 1960s. Still some other Arab countries (e.g., Somalia, Mauritania, Djibouti, and Comoros) did not know psychology until much more recently. In the following we will review the development of psychology in the most important Arab countries.



As we have already mentioned, Egypt, in comparison with the other Arab countries, knew psychology much earlier. Consequently, psychology developed there much more intensively than in the other Arab countries. Some featurescharacterizing the development of psychology in Egypt include the following:


a) The number of Egyptian psychologists currently working in or outside Egypt can be estimated at about 70% of the total number of Arab psychologists. In line with this, about 70% of the Arab psychological investigations listed in Ahmed (1998an-- see also Table 2 below) were conducted by Egyptian psychologists.

b) Altogether, Egypt has 60 psychology departments and these constitutes 55.6% of all psychology departments in the Arab world. The 60 Egyptian departments include 16 departments for academic psychology located in various faculties of arts, whereas the other 44 departments focus on educational psychology and mental hygiene and are located in faculties of education. For comparison purposes, there are 48 psychology departments and departments of educational psychology in the Arab countries other than Egypt, and as in Egypt, they typically belong to faculties of arts or faculties of education.


c) A great number of Arab psychologists have received their qualifications in Egyptian universities, especially at Ain Shams University and at Cairo University.


d) Egypt has two psychological associations. The first is the Egyptian Association of Psychological Studies (EAPS), which was established in 1948 and is the oldest and largest Arab association of its kind. The second is the Egyptian Psychologists' A (EPA), which was founded in the early 1980s (see below).


e) Psychologist publications in Egypt such as journals, books, etc. easily outnumber those which have appeared in all other Arab countries(cf. Table 2) (Abou-Hatab, 1992; Ahmed, 1992, 1998a; Farag. 1987; Soueif,1991).


Psychology was known in Egypt at the turn of the century as a separate discipline. It has been taught at Cairo University, the oldest university in Egypt, since the discipline's establishment in 1908 as a minor subject included in the philosophy and sociology curricula. However, very few books "in" psychology were published until the early 1930s, although there were earlier books "about" psychology (Farag, 1987).


First Pioneers. Psychology as a science started in Egypt in the mid-1930s when the first Egyptian pioneers in psychology, Abdel-Aziz H. el-Koussy, Y. Murad, M. Zewar, and A. E.Rageh returned home after they earned their degrees in England (El-Koussy, 1934), and in France (Murad, 1940; Ragehm, 1938; Zewar, 1942). These pioneers had a great impact on the development of psychology and education in Egypt and the other Arab countries ( Abou-Hatab, 1992; Farag, 1987). As results of their efforts1) many graduate students were sent abroad especially to Britain and France, and later to the United States, while others obtained their degrees locally under the supervision of the pioneers, 2) psychology programs were expanded and increased in number to cover to cover a variety of topics and approaches,3) programs for postgraduate studies (Diploma, M.A., Ph.D. degrees in psychology) were set up, 4) psychological laboratories were established, 5) some psychological clinics were opened, 6) many publications appeared and research studies were conducted 7) the Egyptian Association for Psychologist Studies was founded in 1948, Egyptian Association for Psychological Studies was founded in 1948, and 8) psychology as a distinct scientific discipline and as a profession received increasing recognition from the public and from officials, which later helped in establishing separate psychology department.


Historical Developments. The first department in which psychology was taught was the Department of Philosophy at Cairo University; later, it was taught at the Department of Philosophy and Sociology at Alexandria University (established 1942), and then, at the Department of Psychological and Sociological Studies, Ain Shams University (established 1950). Separate psychology departments were established in 1974 at Cairo, Alexandria, and Ain Shams Universities (Soueif, 1991).


Soon after they began to teach psychology at Cairo University, the faculty members felt the need to enable students to receive further training in psychology, especially research methodology. Consequently, graduate programs for M.A. and Ph.D. degrees were initiated in the late 1940s. Later, the program was expanded to include an Applied Psychology diploma. Today, Egypt has 13 universities, all officially established by the government. Official permission has been given to all universities to establish undergraduate departments of psychology. All Egyptian universities offer graduate studies programs in psychology M.A. and Ph.D. levels, besides many diploma in psychology or education with a wide diversity in specialization (Abou-Hatab, 1992; Farag, 1987).


Due to the expansion of university psychology departments during the last two decades, and also due to the students' increased exposure to the field, graduate enrollments in M.A. and Ph.D. degree programs are growing steadily. Abou-Hatab (1992) estimated the number of psychology graduates from 1958 to 1986 to be 15,000 and the number of highly qualified psychologists in the early 1970s to be 100. By now an estimated 2,000 M.A.s and Ph.D.s are active in Egyptian psychology.


Research Interests. Although it is not possible here to refer to all psychological research studies conducted in Egypt over the last50 years, and cover all psychological branches and topics, psychology research in Egypt may be unidentified in the following four categories:


(1) Prevailing paradigmatic research. In the 1940s through 1970s, psychometric, experimental, psychoanalytic, clinical, and applied approaches dominated the scene. Some new findings about the structure of intelligence and learning were produced (El-Koussy, 1935). The information-procession approach emerged in the late 1960s and many studies evolved from Egyptian psychology laborites, especially at Ain Shams University (Abou-Hatab, 1984).


2) Standardization of psychological tests. Standardization of psychological tests adapted from the West had been an important research interest of Egyptian psychologists since the early 1940s. In the mid-930s, El-Kappani and El-Koussy were the early active psychologists who revised and standardized many psychological tests, obtaining norms suitable for use in the country; their work is being continued by many others, such as L.K. Meleika who adapted and standardized many psychological tests such as the Binet Intelligence Test, the Wechsler intelligence Scale for Adults, and the MMPI (Abou-Hatab,1977, 1992; Ahmed, 1998b; Farag. 1976, 1987).


(3) Replication and cross-cultural studies. From the early 1960s and up to the present, many Egyptian researchers have conducted replication studies with cross-cultural comparisons. They include, for example, studies on values ( Hana, 1965); youth attitudes (Nagaty, 1974); personality (Abdel-Khalek& Eysenck, 1983; Abou el-Neil, 1988; Gaber & El-Shiekh, 1978);and Piagetian research with children (Karam el-Din, 1982). Most of these studies are surveyed in some detail in the following chapters.


(4) Special research problems. Finally, there have been special research problems pertinent to the changing Egyptian culture and society. For example, in response to the rising rate of cannabis consumption in recent years, many interdisciplinary studies were conducted to explore the various aspects of the problem. The first one of these studies was the cannabis project led and supervised for more than 30 years by M.I. Soueif in collaboration with several psychologists working mainly at Cario University (Ahmed, 1997; British Journal of Addiction, 1988; Soueif, 1967, 1990, 1991; see Soueif's chapter on drug use, abuse, and dependence in this volume). The project has inspired some Egyptian and Arab psychologists to deal with the problem of drug addiction. Soueif has also led a group of psychologists in conducting a series of research studies dealing with extreme response sets, creativity, and personality (Soueif, 1958, 1965b, 1990, 1991). Modernization and women's issues (Ahmed, 1991), and children's drawings have also received wide attention from Egyptian psychologists (Abou-Hatab, 1977; Farag et al., 1976).