Addictions – Drugs, Alcohol, Pornography and More

We live in a culture in which the near instant gratification of desires and excessive consumption is what human beings crave for. Some desires becomes overriding obsession, compulsions or excessive physical or psychological dependence.

Such behavior is known as an ‘addiction’. These addictions vary from smoking, computer addiction, compulsive overeating, excessively spending money through credit-cards, use of drugs and alcohol, gambling, consumption of pornography and sexual grooming. There is a growing trend of addictions. Some of these addictions are more harmful and undesirable than others.

An addiction can threaten not only an individual’s well-being and happiness but also that of the families and friends. Drug abuse and pornography has been the cause of many a broken home and multitudes of destroyed lives.

Addiction – Islamic Perspective

No one becomes addicted intentionally. Addiction is ultimately the triumph of the soul commanding to evil over the self-reproaching soul. What begins as just one quick glance at a pornographic website, one sip of alcohol,  one injection of heroin does not affect every individual the same way. For those who do not have strong self-discipline, strong relationship with Allah, keep company with similarly heedless individuals, do not have supportive environment are, potentially, more likely to go down the slippery slope of becoming addicted to certain behaviors than others.

Islam recognizes this issue and clearly draws the line around certain types of behavior and strikes them at the root. Consequently, alcohol, drug consumption and gambling are strictly prohibited, even in small quantities.

“O you who have believed, indeed, intoxicants, gambling (sacrificing on) stone alters (to other than Allah), and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of satan, so avoid* it that you may be successful.  Satan wants only to excite enmity and hatred between you with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer.  So will you not then abstain?”
[Qur’an al-Ma’idah 5: 90]

In this verse the word ‘avoid’ has been used rather than ‘abstain’, which has stronger emphais. It requires distancing oneself, avoiding completely,  from anything remotely related to these practices. The verse also warns of the unwanted consequences of induldging in such practices.

Islam recognizes that human beings have natural desires, and prescribes ways of fulfilling these desires without allowing the desires to take control of one’s life. The Glorious Quran says:

“O children of Adam, take your adornment at every masjid, and eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He does like those who commit excess.”
[Quran 7:31]

For instance, Islam recommends marriage for the fulfillment of natural desires and for procreation but prohibits the depiction of any human being as merely an object of sexual gratification.

Addictions grow in spiritual vacuum

The ever-growing spiritual vacuum can lead to many self-harming behaviours. Islam ensures that even if one does not see the wisdom behind abstaining from or avoiding these evils, one is guarded by adhering to certain norms in a spiritual frame of reference. Islam also prescribes practical ways of strengthening the soul.

None seems to be happy living in a state of an addiction. They are habits that keep one away from the life he wants.They tend to  grow more and more desperate, trying to find a way to end the vicious cycle of, for instance, pornography and drug dependency.

Tips to Overcome Addictions

From spiritual perspective, following are some tips which you can be used to empower oneself and overcome some of these addictions:

1. Prayer and fasting are provided as shields of the human soul, by which an individual can protect himself from the onslaughts of various temptations. The Noble Quran says:

“Recite what is sent of the Book by inspiration to thee, and establish regular Prayer: for Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds; and remembrance of Allah is the greatest (thing in life) without doubt. And Allah knows the (deeds) that ye do.”
[Al-Quran 29:45]

2. Fasting is universally recognized as a means of gaining self-discipline, and in Islam, also a means of gaining closeness to God.

“O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint,”
[Quran 2:183]

3. Taking some time to reflect on the bad habits and their consequences. How those undesirable habits have robbed one of so many pleasures and relationships in life.  An addiction or bad habit cannot be stopped until there is a recognition of the dire consquences.

4. Keeping occupied with the remembrance of Allah, the Merciful. Making the mind and tongue busy with dhikr (remembrance of Allah). Saying the following words and others frequently:

Subhan Allah; al-hamdu lillah; laa ilaha illa Allah; Allahu akbar; Wa laa hawla wala quwwata illa billah. Astaghfir Allaha al-azhim min kulli dhanbin wa atubu ilaihi. (Glory be to Allah; praise be to Allah; there is no god but Allah; Allah is Greatest. There is no power or strength except by the will of Allah. I ask forgiveness of Allah from all my sins and repent to Him.

5. Improving an understanding of the faith to recognise the difference between the absolute and the contingent, the real and the fleeting pleasures and moments of life.

And indeed the Hereafter is better for you than the present (life of this world). And verily, your Lord will give you (all that is good) so that you shall be well-pleased.”
[Qur’an: Chapter 93, Verses 4-5]

6. Making a plan to start afresh. Researchers have found that behind every habit, there is a neurological loop consisting of 3 parts: A routine, a cue and a reward. Once these can be identified, a plan can be made to prevent bad habits. Scheduling time in such a way that a person does not have any time left to feed his desires. Imam Ash-Shafi`i said, “If you don’t occupy your mind with good works, your carnal self will make you busy in bad deeds!”

7. Replacing a bad habit with a healthier alternative; having a substitute is hugely important to wean off  an undesirable practice and keeping oneself occupied with an alternative. Working through a list one by one, trying to change bad practices gradually.

8. Drug, alcohol, pornography addictions are a huge personal test that requires professional and sensitive intervention. Recovering from addictions is not just about stopping pornography, drinking or drugs consumption. It goes far deeper than that, and often has to do with uncovering and healing deep wounds from the past, and offering an alternative way of self-soothing. The family can offer the addict advice on where to go for help but the addict must take responsibility for their own recovery.

9. Surrounding oneself with those who are not following the same harmful practices;  seeking spiritual and Islamic influences and being in their company can help immensely.

10. Having a firm faith in Allah and in oneself. Relying on Allah’s support but not giving up on the challenges that may come on the road to recovery.

The Role of Families

The family should facilitate this process of understanding and realisation so that the addict is soon on the road to recovery. In many homes there are many forms of abuse, shouting, and blaming and so there is no positive communication.  If young people feel more secure and loved in a gang or when they are with their abusers, or when sitting in front of a computer, then there is something seriously wrong. If there is not enough nurturing, love and communication, young people will feel isolated, and the emotional pain and spiritual vacuum will lead to undesirable practices.

It is often difficult for the addict to pull himself out of the situation alone. The family may have to take part in the therapy too, and help to motivate the addicted person in the right way. They need support and inspiring role-models. Parents and the community must realize the importance of being good role models. Young people only follow what they see, and hear and use what is available.

By Qari Muhammad Asim
Senior Imam – Makkah Mosque, Leeds

Note: The views expressed are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect that of ImamsOnline.

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