Maslow's hierarchy of needs: An Islamic critique

Anke Iman Bouzenita, Aisha Wood Boulanouar

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Abraham Maslow's model of the hierarchy of needs is pervasive in many academic specialisations. After a short description of the model, this article summarises the existing criticisms. While criticism on the empirical validity of the model and its ethno-centricity are frequently mentioned in the literature, the authors of this article give special focus on the missing consideration of the spiritual aspect of human existence in Maslow's model. The study explores reasons for the commodification of the model (i.e. the divorcing of the model from its substance and using it simply as a commodity) and the non-consideration of Maslow's later changes. Special focus is laid on the usage of this model in marketing, given its position as a field which embodies the capitalist perspective so completely through, particularly, advertising but also through the conceptualisation of people. The article describes the model's diverse reception in Muslim academic circles. It offers an Islamic critique of both its foundations and its usage. The study concludes that attempts at harmonising the model with the higher objectives (maqāsid) of the Sharī'ah do not do justice to either model.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-81
Number of pages23
JournalIntellectual Discourse
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Hierarchy of needs
  • Maqāsid al-sharī'ah
  • Marketing
  • Maslow spirituality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy


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