Numerous studies have shown that listening to and reciting the Qur’an has a statistically significant effect on improving the mental health of Muslims. This study demonstrates that the Qur’an also improves mental health by redirecting the emotions of hope and fear—which are accurate indicators of mental health—to cause constructive behaviours in the believer. It does this by evoking hope and fear in different ways.
Studies analysing the nature and origin of emotions have demonstrated that the elicitation of emotions is a complex process involving both the unconscious and conscious. There is a vital connection between primary, predominantly negative emotions such as fear and secondary, mainly positive ones such as hope, with each originating in different parts of the nervous system. Hope is associated chiefly with thinking and fear with feeling.
However, there is a high degree of interaction between the two. These interactions can be fleeting or longer lasting, leading to traits, like a hopeful personality trait. Trait-hope, which is the abiding hopeful disposition in achieving a goal, as opposed to the transitory state-hope, is generally identified with religious hope.
This study analyses hope and fear in four different ways. First, it compares the number of times the terms for hope and fear appear in the Qur’an. Second, it compares the number of times terms that could evoke hope and fear in the Qur’an are used. Third, it compares the number of terms used in the Qur’an for heaven and hell as indicators of what evokes fear and hope, respectively. Finally, it compares the descriptions of heaven and hell in the Qur’an.
The results suggest that fear is used more often in the Qur’an because it is a simpler emotion and subsides more quickly. Hope is a far more complex emotion than fear, and is therefore generated in the Qur’an through more detailed descriptions of heaven, which elicits in the reader a desire to attain the goal of reaching heaven because it is a cognitive process that involves visualisation and planning.
Fear is a primary emotion that is evoked much more quickly and so does not involve detailed descriptions of hell. These quick descriptions add urgency to avoid the actions that lead to hell. Additionally, if fear is produced too strongly, it can lead to despondency.
The Qur’an strikes a careful balance and uses different means to produce trait-hope in order to make sure that fear is enough to cause action, but never too much to lead to hopelessness, and that, ultimately, hope for God’s mercy always dominates fear of God’s wrath.