Theory of Planned Behaviour and Islamic Marketing

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man praying in desert

man praying in desert (photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/52912280@N00/)

Ajzen (1985)’s Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) is one of the most predictive theories on persuasion and behaviour, and has been well supported by multiple studies with empirical evidence (Ajzen, 1991). In essence, this theory states that behaviour is best predicted by behavioral intention which is in turn influenced by 1) attitude, 2) subjective norm and 3) perceived behavioral control:

Planned Behavior

Because this theory has been successful thus far, I decided to look at whether the Islamic literature can support, or offer alternatives to tweak the above theory into something stronger. The following are my quick findings in which, far from conclusive, would hopefully motivate more reflection and research in this area:

Behaviour and Intention:

Narrated ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab, reported: Messenger of Allah said, “The deeds are considered by the intentions, and a person will get the reward according to his intention. So whoever emigrated for Allah and His Messenger, his emigration will be for Allah and His Messenger; and whoever emigrated for worldly benefits or for a woman to marry, his emigration would be for what he emigrated for” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

The above is one of many narrations which support the Islamic viewpoint linking behaviour to intention, but one which also adds a dimension of reward, in which the person’s intention will be linked with his expected reward and not so much of his behaviour. This is further supported by other narrations in which the reward is given even if the actual behaviour is not executed:

On the authority of Ibn Abbas, from the Messenger of Allah, from what he has related from his Lord: Verily Allah ta’ala has written down the good deeds and the evil deeds, and then explained it [by saying]: “Whosoever intended to perform a good deed, but did not do it, then Allah writes it down with Himself as a complete good deed. And if he intended to perform it and then did perform it, then Allah writes it down with Himself as from ten good deeds up to seven hundred times, up to many times multiplied. And if he intended to perform an evil deed, but did not do it, then Allah writes it down with Himself as a complete good deed. And if he intended it [i.e., the evil deed] and then performed it, then Allah writes it down as one evil deed.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

This could imply that for the believer, in addition to Ajzen’s constructs of attitude, subjective norm and perceived behavioral control, there is an added layer of expected reward from the person’s religious beliefs that can affect behaviour. Studies such as Mukhtar and Butt (2012)’s which also conclude that a person’s intra-religiosity (cognitive dimension of religious belief) can affect their attitude towards halal products seem to support this primary thought.

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Attitude

The believer’s attitude towards the act is one of ihsan and hope. He is required to execute the act to the best of his abilities, and after executing, leave the ultimate result in the hands of God, knowing that whatever the result may be, in accordance with the effort he had put in, there is always goodness from what God has already decreed.

Subjective Norm

This refers to the individual’s perception of the behaviour which can be influenced by how others think of that behaviour itself. Here, the dimensions of peer pressure and social influence are emphasised in being able to shape the individual’s own behaviour, and thus can serve as a cautionary tale in choosing the right peers, congruent with the Islamic view:

Abu Hurairah reported: I heard the Prophet saying, “Man follows his friend’s religion, you should be careful who you take for friends”. [At-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud].

Perceived Behavioral Control

This refers to the person’s view of how easy or difficult it is to perform the behaviour itself. In this regard, on the dimension of the reward itself, Islam separates the behaviour from the actual intention to perform the behaviour itself, and puts a caveat should the behaviour be uncontrollable and forced.

Conclusion

The above was not an attempt to justify Ajzen’s TPB with Islam, but to see the correlations given that TPB has been successful thus far in predicting behaviour. In the short exercise above, one can see the possible linkages between Ajzen’s theories and the vast Islamic literature. In order to expand this thought process, it would also be useful to explore what Islam itself says about intention; specifically the factors that influence intention itself, with reference material from the Quran, Sunnah and the voluminous works by the great Islamic scholars, to complement or even bring about a greater theory of behaviour and intention in order to contribute to both Islamic marketing and the wider marketing academia and industry.

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About Author

I have +10 years of unique industry and academic marketing experience in various sectors of the Islamic Business ecosystem, including integrated marketing communications of Zakat (Islamic alms-giving), product and brand management of Wakaf (Islamic endowments), and marketing and feasibility studies in Islamic Education. My Masters thesis studied factors affecting halal-food purchasing by non-Muslims in Singapore. I’ve also spoken at seminars and conferences including the Global Islamic Marketing Conference. I’ve published several works as academic journal paper, books, newspaper commentaries and website articles. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

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