Category Archives: Social issues related to addiction

Perspectives on Drug Addiction in Islamic History and Theology

Dr. Muhammad Mansur Ali  studied classical Islamic studies and Arabic at Darul Uloom Bury, UK and Al-Azhar University Cairo, Egypt. He then completed an MA and a PhD in Middle Eastern Studies (Hadith studies) at the University of Manchester where he also lectured as a graduate teaching fellow. During this time he also worked as a Muslim chaplain at Ashworth High Security hospital in Liverpool. Shortly after completing his PhD, he worked on an AHRC/ESRC funded project on Muslim Chaplaincy in Britain alongside Dr Sophie Gilliat-Ray at Cardiff University. He then worked as post-doctoral fellow at Cambridge Muslim College where he completed writing his part of the book coming out of the AHRC/ESRC research project called ‘Understanding Muslim Chaplaincy’ to be published by Ashgate in 2013. During his time at CMC, he also edited a classical hadith text called Qawa’id fi Ulum al-Hadith to be published by Turath Publishing in 2013. Here is one of his most recent academic articles published in a journal called ‘Religion’.

Perspectives on Drug Addiction in Islamic History and Theology

Abstract: How does Islam view substance addiction? What happens to the soul of the person suffering from addictive disorder? What happens to their relationship with God? These are some of the questions that this article tries to answer. Three models on drug addiction from an Islamic theological perspective will be explored here. Two of them are preventative models based on an understanding of society rooted in shame-culture, while the third model, called Millati Islami, practiced in the USA, is founded on the Islamic understanding of tawba (repentance). Furthermore, drugs and addiction in scripture, as well as medieval Muslim society’s attitude towards them, are explored. As a whole, the models discussed in the article demonstrate that Islamic theology possesses the intellectual and theoretical tools to develop fully-fledged theological models of addiction. This paper concludes by suggesting that one model should be explored.

Keywords:Islamic theology; drugs; addiction; nafs; ruh; Millati Islami; Alcoholics Anonymous

1. Introduction

How does Islam view substance addiction? What happens to the soul of the person suffering from addictive disorder? What happens to their relationship with God? These are some of the questions that this article tries to answer. Three tentative models on drug addiction from an Islamic theological perspective will be explored here. Theological reflections on what Islam says about substance use and why people become addicted will provide a good starting point for religious professionals offering pastoral support to Muslims suffering from substance dependence. Identifying the belief system and theological stance of people suffering from addictive disorder may prove to be an advantageous point to begin from in order to understand how to help them [1]. The literature examining the theology of substance addiction in Islam is scarce; therefore, this is a tentative essay on the topic and a platform for the author and others to further develop their thoughts and writing.

From the outset, it should be made clear that within this article, drug use is intended to refer to recreational drug use and not as a part of medical treatment. It is argued that in order for drug use to take place, two preconditions need to be present: (1) predisposition and (2) availability. These conditions are necessary but not sufficient to explain why people use and abuse drugs. Various theories have been proposed to explain the causes of drug use from a variety of disciplines, such as biology, sociology, and psychology. One such model, which is controversial among scientists, is called the “disease model” [2]. The model’s central thesis is that addiction is a biological phenomenon and, thus, genetically passed from parents to children. One of the positive aspects of the model is that it helps to remove social stigma and blame from the addict and encourages the view that users are victims who need help and not condemnation [1]. In contrast to the “disease model”, an unpopular model in medical circles is the “moral model”. The focal point of this model is that people become addicts out of their own volition. It is criticized as being blindly prejudiced and judgmental, although it lays the burden of responsibility for rehabilitation on the shoulders of the addict [1].

These models are based on a Cartesian distinction between the body and the mind/soul. They do not take into consideration existential issues related to the nature of human beings, their religiosity and spirituality. Research has shown that spirituality and religion are protective factors ([3], p. 171) that can reduce substance abuse and function as mechanisms against relapse [4]. Cook contends that there is an intrinsic relationship between substance dependence and spirituality [2]. The former is a spiritual problem in the sense that it affects relationships and impacts values and beliefs. Similarly, religion has been associated with positive drug-related outcomes in a number of ways, such as altering behaviour-influencing value or by functioning as external control factors [5]. Studies show that people who believe religion is important are less likely to use tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs [5]. Research carried out on Muslim populations show that religiosity and spirituality benefit the mental health of Muslim adherents [6,7,8,9]. Muslims recovering from substance abuse found that rediscovery of their faith has often acted as the much-needed catalyst to abstain from drug use [4]. My own research has shown that for Muslims, talking about their religion and religious beliefs during therapy is welcomed and appreciated [8,10]. Malik Badri, a world-renowned Muslim psychologist, claims that the great majority of Muslims who practice abstinence from alcohol and drugs do so due to religious reasons [11].

How has religion understood addiction? What theological models are available to explain addiction? These can be answered by looking at the perspective of different faiths and religions. Most theories are found from within the Christian tradition [1,12]. Cook identifies a number of these, such as “addiction as sin”, which is similar to the “moral model”, and argues that people become addicts as a result of their sins [1]. Other models include incarnational theology, which is also known as the theology of presence [13]. There are a number of models in other faith traditions, such as Buddhism (cited in [1]) and Islam; however, these are few and far between. Badri proposes a model in which he blames the West’s liberal attitude towards sex as being the cause of drug addiction and even the AIDS crisis [11]. He argues that misuse of the word “abuse” has led to a toleration of drugs and substance use in the West; which can only be rectified by developing programs that are rooted outside of Western models of non-judgmental therapy, and which are based on solid Islamic foundations. This model, Badri argues, should not take a non-judgmental stance towards condoning promiscuity and substance use. According to him, Islam’s very purpose is to intervene in human affairs for the betterment of society. Some have criticized Badri to be an essentialist and his approach to be a mask for the Islamization of knowledge [14]. According to them, Badri’s approach is apologetic and should be read as a representation of Islamic opposition to Western modernity, a “Fanonian inversion of discourse” [14], as opposed to a theological model explaining substance addiction.

This article attempts to fill this lacuna by first discussing attitudes towards intoxicants from the vantage point of scripture and Islamic society. It then deliberates on two models of substance abuse from a theoretical perspective and ends with exploring a third, called Millati Islami, which is modeled on the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and is used in therapy in the USA.

2. All Intoxicants Are Prohibited: Intoxicants in the Qur’an and Islamic Society

The Qur’an is reticent regarding drug use, although it discusses intoxicants (khamr) and, more specifically, alcohol. Any discussion on narcotics and addictions must start from the Qur’an, since it is the foundation of Islamic law, ethics, and theology ([8], p. 25). Alcohol is prohibited in the Qur’an for recreational reasons; the Qur’an calls alcohol the “Handiwork of Satan” ([15], al-Ma’ida 5:90).1 Prior to being forbidden by divine decree through a Qur’anic revelation, the early Arab Muslims indulged in wine and took much delight in inebriation. It was gradually forbidden in three phases [16], with the final prohibition being revealed in the fifth hijri (ca. 627 CE) after the siege of Medina, nearly seventeen years after the inception of Islam [16]. Initially, the Arabs consumed alcohol in their parties and gatherings. Some Muslims, seeing the effect that alcohol had on a person’s cognitive faculty and the social consequence of that, asked Muhammad to provide them with some Qur’anic guidance on it [16]. God responds in the Qur’an by saying, “They ask you (Prophet) about intoxicants (khamr) and gambling: say, ‘There is great sin in both, and some benefit for people: the sin is greater than the benefit.’” ([15], al-Baqara 2:219). After this verse was revealed, some of Muhammad’s followers, out of personal piety, refrained from drinking alcohol, since God mentioned that the harm in alcohol is greater than the good, while acknowledging that He did not prohibit it. Even then, many of Muhammad’s Companions still consumed alcohol. The second phase of prohibition was revealed when the leader of a prayer, after a heavy drinking session, recited the Qur’an so incorrectly, the act amounted to blasphemy [16]. God revealed, “You who believe, do not come anywhere near the prayer if you are intoxicated, not until you know what you are saying…” ([15], al-Nisa 4:43). This was the second phase of prohibition, where believers were able to drink so long as they were sober during prayer times. Muhammad’s Companions used to hold their drinking sessions after the night prayer, which gave them enough time to sober up prior to the dawn prayer. In one such night gathering, under the influence of alcohol, a person from one tribe recited offensive poetry about another tribe. The members of the second tribe were infuriated and retaliated, leading to a fight, which resulted in a person being hit on the head with a camel’s skull [16]. This was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. The final revelation came down, which made alcohol prohibited for Muslims.

You who believe, intoxicants (khamr) and gambling, idolatrous practices, and (divining with) arrows are repugnant acts—Satan’s doing—shun them so that you may prosper. With intoxicants and gambling, Satan seeks only to incite enmity and hatred among you, and to stop you remembering God and prayer. Will you not give them up? ([15], al-Ma’ida 5:90–91).

There are a number of points in this verse of the Qur’an that could be used to develop a model of addiction from the Qur’an; this will be explored later on in the article. At the moment, it is sufficient to say that this is the verse that has the final say on matters related to recreational alcohol drinking. The previous two verses have been made ineffective as far as social drinking is concerned through a process known as the rules of abrogation (al-nasikh wa al-mansukh). The rules of abrogation apply to certain verses and passages in the Qur’an, which had particular functions in the early days of Islam, but are no longer needed and are believed by Muslims to have been abrogated in their application by Muhammad through revelation from God. Nevertheless, Muslim practitioners see in the gradual banning of alcohol a reflection of Islam’s deep understanding of human nature, addiction and the possible negative effects of withdrawal symptoms. They take inspiration from the three phases of alcohol banning to develop a Qur’anic justification for rehabilitation, where the amount of alcohol one consumes or substance one uses is gradually decreased.

However, what does the Qur’an say about drugs and other forms of intoxicants? Some, such as the translator, Abdel Haleem, are of the opinion that the use of the word “khamr” (alcohol/intoxicant) in the Qur’an is a composite term, which includes all forms of intoxicants, despite the fact that the specific contexts in which the three verses were being discussed relate to alcohol drinking. Al-Tabari (d. 923) writes that “khamr” is every drink that intoxicates the mind, veils it, and covers it [16]. It may be that during Muhammad’s time in Arabia, alcoholic beverages, such as khamr (wine made from grapes or dates), bit’ (wine from honey), and mizr (beer from barley), were the only available forms of intoxicants [17]. There is no evidence of drug abuse resulting from recreational drug use, such as hemp (hashisha), henbane (banj) or opium (afyun), during the formative period of Islam [18,19]. The Qur’an does not mention them nor were they a social problem, such that Muhammad had to give specific guidance about them. However, there is evidence of their medicinal use in the earliest treatises on medicine in Islam ([18], p. 41). Cannabis (al-qinnab al-hindi) was introduced into the Arab mainland mainly from India through Persia and through acquaintance with Greek physicians [19]. Doctors considered cannabis and poppy as potent medicines only to be used when therapeutic need arose [19]. It was eaten rather than smoked, which assisted digestion (hadim al-aqwat) and brought clarity to thoughts (ba’ithat al-fikir) ([18], p. 25). There is also evidence to suggest that people died of drug overdose, for example from the drug used to treat forgetfulness; the drug is known as either baladhur (marking-nut) or habb al-fahm (the nut of apprehension) [20]. However, this was more a result of medical malpractice and incorrect dosage than drug abuse ([20], p. 234).

The sources do not provide us with evidence that proves that Muslims were using cannabis and other narcotics for recreational purposes during the formative period of Islam. They were not discussed by the legal scholars, as they were not seen as a legal and social problem [18]. However, by the eleventh century, there are textual sources that suggest people were gradually becoming addicted to cannabis. Al-Biruni (d. 1048), the polymath scholar, observes that this habit has also seeped in to the heart of the Muslim land, Mecca. He writes,

People who live in the tropics or hot climates, especially those in Mecca, get into the habit of taking opium daily to eliminate distress, to relieve the body from the effects of scorching heat, to secure longer and deeper sleep, and to purge superfluitie [sic] and excesses of humors. They start with smaller doses which are increased gradually up to lethal dosages (cited in [19], p. 240).

Hamarneh believes that this extract is the first documented evidence at our disposal of the use of recreational drugs and its harmful effects. The Persian historian, Abu al-Fazl Bayhaqi (d. 1077), claims that the famous Ibn Sina (Avicenna) (d. 1037) was an opium addict and may have died as a result of an opium overdose ([21], p. 98). According to Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328), cannabis became widespread by the end of the 13th or the beginning of the 14th century as a punishment for Muslim indulgence in sins. He writes,

The news had first reached us that it (cannabis) appeared among Muslims by the end of the 7th or the beginning of the 8th century when Tatars came into power.2 Its emergence was concomitant with the sword of Genghis Khan. When people started to commit sins that God and his Prophet forbade, God gave power to the enemy to overcome them, and this wretched cannabis is its worst negative externality. It is worse than drinking alcohol in many ways, whereas alcohol is worse than it in other ways. In addition to its intoxicating effects it causes effeminacy (takhnith) and cuckoldry (diyatha) [22].

It was only when the harmful effects of drugs became a social problem that scholars began to take interest in it from a legal perspective. Some legal scholars made an analogy with alcohol to provide a basis by which to offer a legal ruling on drugs ([18], p. 105); others, without having any precedent to compare, engaged in drug use for themselves before passing a ruling [23]. Any religious prohibitions were often disputed by detractors on the basis that there is nothing unequivocally mentioned in the Qur’an or Muhammad’s words regarding drugs being forbidden. An oft-cited verse in favor of drugs has been mentioned by Rosenthal:

Hashish intoxication contains the meaning of my desire,

You dear people of intelligence and understanding.

They have declared it forbidden without any justification on the basis of tradition and reason.

Declaring forbidden what is not forbidden is forbidden ([18], p. 101).

The author of the above verses of poetry roots his contentions in an Islamic legal axiom. It is not within the juristic remit of a Muslim lawyer to declare something that is not forbidden by the shari’a as forbidden. This practice itself is illegal. Pro-hashish users exploited this fact to their advantage. Hashish was highly associated with Sufi guilds, who employed it to help them meditate [18]. Some believed that by taking hashish to meditate, one is visited by the mystical wandering dervish, al-Khidr (which literally means green man) [18,24], and that hashish connects the heart with God (musilat al-qalb) [18]. Even today, some shrines of Muslim dervishes, like the shrine of Data Ganj Bakhsh al-Hujwiri (d. 1077), are places where drugs and other forms of intoxicants can easily be found [25].

3. Models of Addiction in Islam

Within Islamic theology, a Muslim is both personally responsible to God and also part of the wider Muslim community. In addition to contributing to the life of the community, they derives their identity from it. Nasr writes:

In the debate between those who claim the primacy of society and those who emphasize the primal significance of the individual, Islam takes a middle course and believes that this polarization is in fact based on false dichotomy. There is no society without the individual; nor can the individual survive without society ([26], p. 159).

Community members’ support is not only confined to their immediate family, but extends to the wider community. “People are dependent on God”, said Muhammad, “and the most beloved to God are those who are caring towards God’s creation” [27]. Teachings like the above have influenced the way Muslims organize their lives vis-à-vis each other and vis-à-vis God. Cultural anthropologists have divided societies into two cultures: a shame-based culture and a guilt-based culture [28]. Scholars argue that both shame and guilt are emotions that occur when transgression has taken place (or is to take place), which will result in the doer being negatively evaluated. However, the emotions differ in their orientation to self and others [28]. Shame-based cultures have their deterrent mechanisms to do wrong exterior to the person. “What will people say?” is a common feature of a shame-based culture. The fear of being negatively exposed in front of people stops one from doing wrong. In contrast, guilt-based cultures have their mechanisms built in to the individual conscience, which leads to remorse, pity, and reparative actions.

Traditional Muslim societies are mainly based on a shame-based culture [29]. However, Islamic notions of shame include one’s sense of shame in front of God. For Muslims, God is fully aware of thoughts hidden in the deepest chasms of the heart: “No leaf falls without His knowledge, nor is there a single grain in the darkness of the earth, or anything, fresh or withered, that is not written in a clear Record.” ([15], al-An’am 6:59). Having shame (haya’) and humility, as well as being fully cognizant of God’s omniscience is to show etiquette (adab) towards God. In the case where one forgets this aspect of Islam, the fellow Muslim should function as a mirror. In this manner, Islam views a person suffering from an addictive disorder not only as an individual failing, but the failing of society as a whole. Guilt also has its place in Muslim societies. Once a sin/crime has been committed, a person is required to repent (tawba) to God for his or her sins. Tawba literally means to return. When person feel true remorse for their sins and try to reform themselves, according to the Qur’an, God accepts their repentance and gives them the ability to rectify the wrong done ([15], al-Anbiya 21:87). In the Qur’anic narrative, when the Prophet Jonah ran away from Nineveh, God’s punishment for his transgression came in the form of being swallowed by a whale. Having felt immense guilt at his offence, Jonah prayed to God in the belly of the whale:

And remember the man with the whale, when he went off angrily, thinking We could not restrict him, but then he cried out in the deep darkness, “There is no God but You, glory be to You, I was wrong.” We answered him and saved him from distress: this is how We save the faithful ([15], al-Anbiya 21:87).

The teachings in the above narrative are strong and clear: no one should despair from God’s mercy, as long as they understand their faults and try to rectify them. Below, three models of addiction according to the Islamic scriptures and the teachings of the theologians are provided. Two of these are preventative models based on a shame-based understanding of human nature. The final model is one that is currently being used in therapy and is a non-judgmental model based on the Islamic understanding of guilt, where the incentive to rectify comes from within the deepest recesses of the human being. No one model is without problems, but at least they are steps forward toward developing a fuller and more comprehensive Islamic theology of drug addiction.

4. Jurm: Addiction as Crime

Reference was made above that when the use of drugs became a social problem in traditional Muslim societies, Muslim scholars started to look into its legal status in the shari’a. Scholars have divided all actions into five categories, known as legal norms: either something is necessary (wajib) to do, forbidden (haram) to do or permissible (halal) to do. Those that are permissible are either recommended (mandub) or disliked (makruh) [8,30,31]. Violating any legal norms entails a sin, but not necessarily a crime. The punishment for sin is soteriological, and thus, God may forgive it out of divine grace when one sincerely repents. All crimes are deemed as sins, but are distinguished from sins in that they have legal, as well as theological implications. By way of example, sexual intercourse with one’s wife during her menstruation is seen as a sin that has no legal implications ([15], al-Baqara 2:222). In contrast to that, murder is deemed both a sin and crime, which is punishable by law. With regards to drugs, most scholars with the exception of a few (like al-Qarafi d. 1285) viewed hashish to be prohibited in the law; thus, it is both a crime and sin, since, according to them, it has the same intoxicating effects as alcohol. They used a number of criteria to establish that it is forbidden, such as: harm to health, harm to the health of others, waste of wealth, the presence of sedative effects, the taking of one beyond one’s senses, the distortion of rational thinking, intoxication and clouding of the mind, and distortion of physical and motor skill [4].

What are the legal consequences of drug intoxication? I will briefly discuss two of them. The Qur’an clearly mentions that the use of intoxicants is forbidden and is sinful. Muhammad stipulated forty lashes for one caught under the influence of intoxicants (al-Zarkashi, Zahr al-Arish, cited in [18]). Ibn Taymiyya is of the opinion that there is no difference between alcohol and all other types of intoxicants, and that the user is to be subject to corporal (hadd) punishment. He forcefully argues this point:

As for hashisha, the cursed intoxicant, it is similar to other intoxicants, and all intoxicants are prohibited (haram) by scholarly consensus. […] Consumption of intoxicants is subject to corporal (hadd) punishment. […] The Prophet’s words, “All intoxicants are forbidden” include the date wine that was found in Medina in his days. It also includes the alcohol found in the Yemen made from wheat, barley, and honey. Furthermore, his statement will also include all forms of intoxicants found after his days, such as alcohol made from horse milk by the Turks [22].

However, is drug use similar to the intoxicant “al-khamr” mentioned in the Qur’an? Some scholars are more cautious, since it has not been overtly mentioned in the sacred texts of Islam. According to the Hanafi school of law, discretionary punishment (ta’zir) is to be meted out to the person who eats3 hashish rather than implementing the corporal punishment (hadd) of forty lashes on him [32]. Nevertheless, in both cases, scholars agree that some form of punishment should be carried out.

Another topic discussed by the scholars is whether a divorce that takes place under the influence of an intoxicant is valid. According to shari’a law, a couple does not need to obtain a divorce from a court of law. The right to divorce remains mainly with the husband, provided that the wife does not request having divorce rights or stipulates in the marriage contract that she wants divorce rights and the husband agrees. The divorce takes place by the husband merely announcing “I have divorced you” [33]. Scholars from the Hanafi school of law are of the opinion that the pronouncement of divorce by a person under the influence of drugs or other forms of narcotics is legally binding on the basis that it acts as a punishment for one’ crime, provided it is not taken for medical reasons ([32], 1:144, 3:239, 6:457).

This model is preventative and is based on a shame-culture. By emphasizing its legal implications over the theological, scholars attempt to protect society from the harmful consequences of drugs. The model may have functioned as a deterrent in Islamic societies, although Rosenthal’s study disagrees [18]; also, the model fails to provide a solution in the modern era. Currently, most Muslim countries do not carry out corporal punishment for crimes committed, and the ones that do implement it are discriminatory and selectively biased [34]. Second, this model may prove to be discriminatory against the wife. In the case when the intoxicated husband pronounces divorce, why should the wife be disadvantaged for the doings of her husband (unless she sees this as a means of getting out of the marriage)? As such, this model is unlikely to be instrumental in preventing substance abuse. A more robust theology is needed that addresses the users’ spirituality, as well as their religious conscience.

5. Mard Ruhani: Addiction as Spiritual Disease

In Islam, the physical heart is seen as the seat of the spiritual heart [29]. A clean and healthy spiritual heart is the recipient of God’s mercy and grace. The Qur’an says, “On the Day of Judgment no one is safe save the one who returns to God with a pure heart.” ([15], al-Shu’ara 26:89). In another verse, God says, “It is only through God’s remembrance that the heart becomes calm.” ([15], al-Ra’d, 13:28). Muhammad is reported to have said, “Surely in the breast of humanity is a lump of flesh, if sound then the whole body is sound, and if corrupt then the whole body is corrupt. Is it not the heart?” [17]. When does the spiritual heart become corrupt? In the same report Muhammad, says that prohibitions (sins) are God’s sanctuary, and grazing too closely to these sanctuaries will inevitably lead one to violate them [17]. The hypocrites are branded as spiritually diseased in the Qur’an, for they are perpetually committing sins due to their double standards. God says that as a result of their continuous sinning, he increases the disease in their hearts ([15], al-Baqara 2:10). This then begs the question, “What is it about the heart that so much emphasis is placed on it?” To answer this question, we need to explore how the Qur’an views the nature of human beings.

The Qur’anic human is a paradoxical being. It is written in the Qur’an that God created Adam from clay formed from dark mud ([15], al-Hijr 15:29). He then breathed in him His spirit, and all the angels and those present were ordered to prostrate to him. All, but Iblis, prostrated, who argued that he is better than Adam, since God created Adam from dirt and him from fire. God exiled Iblis from the heavens for this disobedience, and he became the rejected Shaytan (Satan). The nature of human beings, as described in the Qur’an, is paradoxical, although Satan has failed to grasp it. By focusing on human being’s earthly nature, Satan was able to make claims of superiority. The divine provenance in the human, God’s spirit, was not something Iblis recognized as part of human nature. In fact, human’s themselves often fail to realize this aspect of their nature, thus falling prey to the temptation of Satan. This is the contradictory nature of human beings in Islam. People are an amalgamation of the sacred and the profane: a holy union, which allows them to walk on Earth and yet to be saluted by angels in the heavens.

The earthly body easily succumbs to temptations and desires to commit sins. The Qur’an makes reference to Adam and Eve’s time in paradise and how both of them together were tempted by the whispering of Satan to transgress the one thing God forbade them to do. God banished them from the heavens for this transgression and decreed Satan the immortal enemy of Adam, Eve, and their progeny ([15], al-A’raf 7:20–24). The perpetual battle between good and evil, between Adam and Satan is mirrored in the human being, who is locked in an everlasting tension between the profane and the sacred. The profane aspect of the human being, known in Arabic as the “nafs” (self), desires unrestricted pleasure, even at the risk of committing sins, whereas the sacred spirit, the “ruh”, the location of which is the physical heart, desires to go towards its pure origins. Muhammad says that when a person commits sins, a black dot falls on his or her heart. If that dot is not washed away through repentance and asking for forgiveness from God, it starts to build up in the heart, until it overtakes it [35]. Yusuf [29] writes that when people commit sins, their ruh (spirit) is severed from the nafs (self). Committing a crime (which is also a sin) is first and foremost to commit a crime against the heart, which then has an effect on the whole person. The person enters a spiritual agitation, which is then covered (kufr, the same word used to denote disbelief) by agents, such as alcohol, drugs, and other illegal substances.

Having expounded quite extensively on the paradoxical nature of human beings in Islam, the discussion on drug addiction will be continued from the perspective of this model. The Qur’an calls intoxicants the “handiwork of Satan”; according to this model, substance dependence will mean that the addicted person’s “self” has succumbed to their satanic impulses, thus severing it from the “spirit”. A dead, spiritless heart does not remember God and does not yearn to return to God. The Qur’an says, “Is the one who was dead and then We revived [with faith] and made for him a light by which to walk among the people like one who is in darkness from which he cannot exit?” ([15], al-An’am 6:122). The exegetes have said that the phrase “Is the one who was dead” refers to having a dead heart [29]. Al-Zarkashi mentions in his famous tract on hashish called Zahr al-Arish that the evil effects that drugs have on the spirit are that:

It diminishes the powers of the soul, destruction of the mind (fikr), forgetfulness (nisyan al-dhikr), vulgarization of secrets, commission of evil actions, the loss of modesty (haya’), great stubbornness, the lack of manly virtue, the suppression of jealously, wastefulness, keeping company with the devil, the omission of prayer, and the falling into unlawful activities ([18], pp. 86, 89, 178).

This is echoed clearly in the verse of the Qur’an cited below where God says that intoxicants sever the relationship with God, as well as family and community. It views intoxicants as the cause for disruptive social behavior. It urges believers to shun and reject the habit, so that they may prosper both in their horizontal relationship with kith and kin, as well as in their vertical relationship with God. Furthermore, prosperity can mean both spiritual and financial prosperity, which are drastically affected, due to substance addiction. The Qur’an says:

You who believe, intoxicants and gambling, idolatrous practices, and [divining with] arrows are repugnant acts—Satan’s doing—shun them so that you may prosper. With intoxicants and gambling, Satan seeks only to incite enmity and hatred among you, and to stop you remembering God and prayer. Will you not give them up? ([15], al-Ma’ida 5:90–91).

It should be noted here that the “spiritual disease model” is different from the controversial scientific “disease model”, which suggests that addiction is genetically passed from parents to children. The “spiritual disease model” explored above is more in line with the “moral model” and like the “addiction as crime model” in that it is mainly preventative and based on a cultural (Islamic) understanding of shame. It explains what will happen to the human soul and spirit and their relationship with God and family in the case of substance addiction. Both models together should be enough incentive for God-fearing, God-loving Muslims to refrain from substance use. However, neither are they particularly helpful to those who are already suffering from drug addiction nor instrumental in changing people’s attitude towards those who are addicted to drugs. A practical model, based on guilt-culture and personal redemption, can work better for people wanting to escape from addictive disorder. Below, one such model that is practiced in the USA is explored with regards to its theological underpinnings.

6. Millati Islami: A Model in Practice

Millati Islami: the path of peace (MI) is a fellowship founded for Muslims suffering from addiction disorder in USA. Its 12 steps are modelled on the 12-step model of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and its sister fellowships, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA), but rejects some of their points, which directly contradict the Islamic faith. Below in Table 1, the extent to which Millati Islami islamacized the AA 12 steps can be observed. AA began in Akron, Ohio, USA, in 1935 and was influenced by the Oxford Group, an evangelical movement, as well as being influenced by religious and medical thinking. Despite the fellowship’s Christian roots, its concept of turning to a Higher Power, whether it is Jesus, Allah, Jehovah, a Group of Drunks (GOD), one’s grandmother or an inanimate object, resonates well with many people [4]. However, some Muslims suffering from addiction disorder may find AA and NA’s emphasis on people being life-long addicts and their belief that addiction is a disease rather than a test from Allah as irreconcilable with their faith. A former Muslim heroin user on the NA 12 step-programme relates his experience with his non-Muslim counsellor:

Table Table 1. A comparison between the Millati Islami and Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step programmes.  Click here to display table

The counsellor told me that my belief in Allah as my Higher Power was not working for me and that I should be more open-minded towards choosing another God. We battled over this until it caused me to leave the rehab (cited in [4]).

MI was founded to pre-empt this sort of problem from occurring. The fellowship was founded by Zayd Imani in 1989 in Baltimore, Maryland [38]. In 1993, it held its first annual fundraiser, the proceeds of which went towards writing the handbook of MI 12 steps by the founder. By 1996, 42 MI groups had been established across 16 American states. Although their website has not been updated since then, a Facebook group created in 2012 is still active today [39]. In 2012, they had their 23rd annual conference. On their website, they write;

Just as Narcotics Anonymous was founded out of its need to be non-specific with regard to substance, so Millati Islami was born out of our need to be religiously specific with regard to spiritual principles [38].

They further comment that MI “is not for everyone, but truly for those who want to be free from addiction AND an Islamic way of life” [38]. Despite this commitment to Islam, any mention of God on their homepage is written as “G-D” [38]. It may be that although they want to be rooted within an Islamic paradigm, they do not want to exclude others from using their services. Below, their 12 steps are presented side-by-side with AA’s 12 steps for easy comparison. It can be observed that alongside modelling on AA’s 12-step program (which are worded to appeal to universal human values), their 12 steps are rooted in many points of the theological models discussed above. A brief commentary on some of the steps will help accentuate this point better.

7. Commentary on MI’s 12-Step Programme

There is a stark difference between MI’s and AA’s Step 1. MI emphasizes that addiction is due to humans neglecting their purpose of creation to worship God. By admitting their addiction, one comes to the realization that humans are dependent on many factors in their life. Children are dependent on their parents; this understanding leads one to the realization that their parents are also dependent on many things, including God. Coming to these realizations, one begins to feel that being dependent on substances and not Allah has caused their life to become unmanageable. They argue that their addiction is due to their not having read and internalized the Qur’anic guidance related to intoxicants, mentioned above in the “addiction as spiritual disease model” [40].

Step 2 directly mentions Allah, as opposed to a “Greater Power.” It contends that true belief in the powers of God, and his mercy, is the only thing that can save one from addiction. Not being mindful of God is what leads one into addiction in the first place. Step three is an interesting comparison. It can be noticed that the phrase “as we understood him” is missing from MI’s step. The authors argue that this phrase contradicts Islamic belief. In Islam, God is transcendent beyond all comprehension. The human brain is not capable of understanding God. The authors point out that trying to understand God without the guidance of scripture will lead one to catastrophes, such as drug addiction, unwed mothers, diseases, escalation in greed, wars, etc. [40]. Although this may be a theologically correct point, it lacks the personal closeness of God that one needs during times of crisis. I have argued elsewhere [8] that God’s immanence needs to be reclaimed back from his transcendence if we are to develop a model of pastoral care that emphasizes God being with people, rather than aloof from them.

The wordings of point four are the same for both programs. Taking stock of one’s actions and faults is a step towards recovery. AA fellows at this point emphasize resentment as the number one offender. The authors of MI identify the culprit to be sins and their own doing by quoting the Qur’an, “Whatever misfortune befalls you [people], it is because of what your own hands have done” ([15], Shura 42:30). Taking stock of this and being aware of this short-coming will lead one to repent (tawba) and return to God [41].

Point five is an interesting contrast. MI’s point omits the mention of “admitting to another human being.” This is rooted in the Islamic traditions, where it is highly encouraged that one’s sins are not to be made public. “God does not forgive the one who discloses his sins (mujahir) that He has concealed from people’s eyes,” said Muhammad [17]. Islam does not believe in confession of sins to others other than God. However, in a situation where one is grappling with addiction, MI authors suggest that they may find solace by expressing their emotions and feelings to their close and loved ones, but never to make their sins a public affair [41].

The model, as can be observed, is deeply rooted in Islamic teachings. It is a culturally sensitive and sensible program for those who take their religious beliefs seriously, even though they have fallen into a temporary lapse of judgment. One MI fellowship member shares her experience:

Being in this community offers me hope and allows me to understand that Muslims are not perfect. However, we strive to be pleasing to Allah. The literature reinforces the evidence that using drugs is not permissible or pleasing to Allah. It also provides me information on how to not use mind- or mood-altering substance. One of the most profound things for me in the MI literature is that “we recover from salat to salat [prayer to prayer].” I am more aware of Allah in the MI meetings than the other Twelve Step fellowship I attended (cited in [4]).

8. Conclusions

In this article, I attempted to explore three models that can be employed to understand drug addiction from an Islamic perspective. Viewing these models as an aggregate, it can clearly be observed that Islamic scripture and theology have the tools to develop robust theological models to explain addiction, which can then be used to develop programs to help Muslims suffering from an addictive disorder. The first two models are theoretical and, if developed fully, can be used to underpin a theologically-based program of therapy. The Millati Islami is a good working example of this. The choice to explore these models is purely functional. In the absence of any fully-fledged Islamic models, I have attempted to focus the models on the exterior of the human being (addiction as crime) moving towards the interior (addiction as spiritual disease); or to put it another way, I’ve focused on the “shame” aspect of Islamic theology, as well as its guilt aspect. Islam takes the protection of society from moral pollutants seriously; hence, it has stipulated corporal and capital punishment (hadd) where it feels that these boundaries have been violated; although the threat of corporal punishment in reality is often conceptualized as a deterrent and not to be implemented [8,42]. Similarly, the spiritual status of the human being is given primacy. The Qur’an mentions, “Prosperous are those who purify themselves, remember the name of their Lord, and pray” ([15], al-A’la 87:14–15). Sins are viewed as a fracturing of the self, the detachment of the human from its higher being. Once the self is detached from the spirit, it no longer takes pleasure from God and religion, but from artificial agents, such as drugs, alcohol, religion, but from artificial agents, such as drugs, alcohol, and other illegal substances. Together, both models address the social and spiritual aspect of the human being and can be used as good models of intervention and prevention, although the models fail on a number of levels, as highlighted above. The Millati Islami model is a good place to observe the Islamic theological model in practice. Its success as a practical Islamic model for helping Muslims deal with addiction-related problems can be gauged from the number of organizations, both within the USA and internationally, who have included it verbatim in their drug support programs. Some of these organizations include Texas [43] and California [44] correctional facilities, the Birmingham, U.K.-based Pathways to Recovery program (called KIKIT) [45], and the Australian, Sydney-based Mission of Hope program (called Hayat House) [46]. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to hear statements of those who have used the service and did not benefit from it. A more robust model can be developed that incorporates many aspects of the models discussed in this article by focusing on the Qur’an’s gradation of the self (nafs) in to different levels, such as: (1) the commanding self (nafs al-ammara); (2) the blaming self (nafs al-lawwama); (3) the inspired self (nafs al-mulhama); (4) the certain self (nafs al-mutma’inna); (5) the content self (nafs al-radiyah); (6) the all-pleased self (nafs al-maridiyya); and (7) the completed self (nafs al-kamila) [47]; the “commanding self” being the furthest away from spirit (ruh), while the “completed self” is the one closest to the spirit, which is living by Divine love [47]. This model will be explored in a subsequent article, as space does not allow an exploration of it here.


I would like to thank my student, Abdul-Azim, Jameel scholarship PhD candidate at Cardiff University, for reading drafts of this article and making valuable suggestions.

Conflicts of Interest

The author declares no conflict of interest.


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1Reference to Qur’anic chapters and verses are given as chapter name chapter number:verse number.
2This corresponds roughly to the end of the 13th and beginning of the 14th Gregorian century.
3People used to eat hashish in the Muslim lands in the medieval period rather than smoke it.
– See more at:



This article has been cited from: Religions 2014, 5(3), 912-928; doi:10.3390/rel5030912 and the full article can be found on the following link

Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK, School of History, Archaeology and Religion, John Percival Building, Cardiff University, Colum Drive, Cardiff CF10 3EU, UK; E-Mail:; Tel.: +44-29-2087-6297
Received: 31 July 2014; in revised form: 28 August 2014 / Accepted: 4 September 2014 /
Published: 18 September 2014

Faith In Treatment

Syed Tohel Ahmed is the Director of Nafas, a nationally renowned specialist drug treatment agency working with the Asian/Muslim community. He has over 15 years of professional management experience as a director and consultant in statutory and 3rd sector organisations. Mr Tohel Ahmed is also a founding director of C3ube which offers a range of proven culture, diversity, and Islam awareness training programmes.


Addiction does not discriminate based on colour or creed; it strips victims of their background and is a great equaliser. The United Kingdom has the highest level of dependent drug use in Europe. The British Crime Survey 08-09 estimates that in England and Wales alone a staggering 11.9 million people aged 16 to 59 have used illicit drugs at some point in their lives, with around 1.9 million having used in the last month.

The Muslim community is no different and is reflecting the social trend in society. This is a frightening thought and when alcohol is added to this mix the picture looks even gloomier, leaving me to conclude that the menace of criminality and drugs – both abuse and dealing – is the biggest challenge facing British Muslims.

Thankfully not everyone who uses drugs progresses on to become an addict. There are an estimated 332,000 individuals described as problem drug users (PDUs) in England alone. They have an addiction which has social, psychological, physical and legal consequence; a staggering 99% of the £15.4 billion yearly cost of crime and healthcare resulting from the use of Class A drugs is generated by PDUs.

What is striking is the growth of drug addiction in the Muslim community over the last two decades, especially given the inherent religious prohibition that exists in Islam. The Qur’an (Al-Ma’idah: 90-91) declares that ‘Khamr’ is unlawful. The word ‘Khamr’ normally means something that is ‘fermented’ hence primarily translated to mean wine or alcohol. A more encompassing meaning is that which ‘covers’ or ‘conceals’ or ‘any substance which clouds or obscures the intellect’ and therefore includes drugs. The Prophet Muhammad said: “Every intoxicant is khamr, and every khamr is prohibited” [Sahih Muslim], and Umar the second Khalifah declared: “Khamr is that which befogs the mind” [Sahih Bukhari].

In the early 80s drug use was unheard of within the Muslim community. However, by the mid 90s there was a significant cultural shift among some young Muslims. In their minds drugs and alcohol did not invoke the same abhorrence found in older generations. Hence in boroughs, like Tower Hamlets, currently almost 50% of young people in drug treatment are Bangladeshi and for adults the figure is around 39%. In the neighbouring borough of Newham, 19% of those in drug treatment are Muslims. Although it is impossible to know the actual numbers of Muslims drug users, the trend is more or less repeated in other highly populated Muslim areas.

The impact on the individual, family and society makes drug abuse potentially one of the most destructive social issues facing the community. From the very real and obvious impact on the user’s health to potential or [in some cases] eventual death; the pressure on the family that inevitably results from having a son, daughter, mother or father with an addiction is compounded by the importance of the family in Islam. The once indispensable sense of honour, respect, responsibility and duty disappears very quickly, not to mention the abuse and domestic violence that can occur.

This impact is passed on to the next generation literally. With the increase of drug abuse among Muslim girls and women, many babies are born needing treatment for withdrawal symptoms caused by the mother’s heroin use during pregnancy. This can lead to the child having long-term health complications and behavioural problems.

Drug dealing in Muslim areas is exclusively controlled by Muslims and it goes without saying that it’s a very lucrative market. Dealing drugs is a career choice just like choosing to be a doctor or a lawyer for some. The criminality associated with drugs is well documented and may partly explain why 11.8% of the prison population are Muslims whilst representing only 3% of the total UK population.

Encouraging signs

There is however some encouraging signs. The fact that so many Muslims are accessing treatment is very positive, given that a decade ago the stigma associated with drug abuse meant Muslims remaining ‘treatment naive’. In contrast to the denial of previous decades, the community in general acknowledges the problem. This is where the Muslim community needs to accelerate its work. The level of education within the family and discussion in religious institutions about the perils of drugs do not reflect the drug usage trend.

Agencies like Nafas have pioneered a more religiously sensitive and culturally appropriate treatment response for Muslims. Drug use does not negate a person’s Iman (faith). I have yet to met a Muslim drug user who when in control of his/her faculties wants to remain an addict.

Whilst it’s true that faith and family was initially unable to deter young people from delving into drugs, in actual fact for many Muslims the rediscovery of their Iman, coupled with a strong family bond, which the addiction for so long concealed, provided the catalyst for recovery from addiction.

Faith can be a major weapon against addiction and over the coming years in order to further progress in tackling drug use particularly within the British Muslim community, it is essential that the significance and role of faith and family be acknowledged and made an integral part of drug education and treatment.

Cited from


Malaika is the wife of an addict, daughter of an alcoholic and tells us in her true account of how that experience led her to bringing a knife to her own skin. Malaika is one among many with this story. She explains it was counselling that helped her move forward;

I have always felt a sense of abandonment since I was a little girl. Even when Dad was around, I would look out of the window and watch the other Dads kicking a ball around or taking their kids to the park. My Dad would be lying on the sofa with a can next to him, watching the news and shushing us all up until he would drift off to sleep. Eventually, my mum decided enough was enough and they agreed to split up. I was nine when Dad walked out that day with a bag over his shoulder. Watching kids Christmas TV he nudged me with his foot. “Bye then” he said. I didn’t realise “Bye” was actually “Goodbye forever”. Watching him from the window as he took off down the hill I had a sense that something was different about that goodbye but I would never have imagined that he was walking out on me and my brothers forever.

As weeks turned into months and the court case for the divorce occurred, the Judge asked my Dad “Do you want access to see your children?” to which he said no. Why? Why, didn’t he want to see me? Nine years old and looking myself in the mirror, ‘maybe I’m not pretty enough, or maybe I wasn’t good enough, or maybe there is something wrong with me! Why doesn’t he want me?’ I asked myself. Apparently, he was shaking like crazy at court and stinking of booze already by 10am. All I can conclude is, he needed a drink more than he needed me.

So I got through primary school with resilience telling myself that I didn’t need a dad but deep down something big was missing from my life. I would say “no Dad is better than a rubbish Dad” but having no Dad really sucked. I wanted a hero in my life. Strong muscular arms to throw me in the air. My Dad used to call me his princess. But it just felt like a lie when the princess was lying in bed most nights wondering if her King was dead or alive.

And so I hit my teens. And that’s where the abandonment really started to sink in. Every time I fell out with a mate I would feel that stabbing pain of rejection all over again. Every time a boy dumped me, I felt unwanted and unloved. I took those painful feelings with me to uni. That’s where all that damage really messed me up. All I wanted was someone to value me but I was looking in all the wrong places. I sold myself short and got burnt several times.

It was in my second year of uni that I met my husband-to-be. It makes sense now looking back that I would pick an addict to fall in love with. People do say girls marry someone just like their father after-all, right? So when the honey moon period wore off and he was out most nights on drugs I felt like that little girl all over again. I would cry into my pillow, wondering what was wrong with me. I was angry at myself because I had let my little girl inside me down. I would lie there with an urge to scratch my legs in frustration.

So I started using my nails to scratch at my legs, and then my arms. It felt good at first and would take the emotional pain away for a while. But then I would feel guilty yet at the same time I wanted to do something worse than just scratching my legs. Every time my husband would go out using drugs I would get the strongest of urges to cut myself.

One day a glass fell out of the cupboard and smashed on the floor. As I went to clean it up I saw a large chunk with sharp edges. Without thinking, I grabbed the glass and put it to my arm. I was so close to cutting myself but I stopped knowing that Allah was watching me. That’s all it took to stop me. I realised I felt out of control. I could not control my husbands addiction and I was looking for something I could control.

Only a couple of weeks later and after an argument about my husbands drug use, in tears I reached for the kitchen knife. Frantically, I was about to cut my arm, then thought, ‘no, someone will see that’, then I looked all over my body trying to find somewhere to cut that no one would see. I found a place, the least likeliest place someone could spot; my inner thigh. I put the knife to my skin and started to scratch at the skin with it. It was not very sharp and I wanted to draw blood. I was about to cut deeper when suddenly I stopped. “Allah can see! Allah can see!” I sobbed and dropped the knife.

There were two reasons why I wanted to cut myself. Firstly, because I wanted something I could try to control and secondly because I was so angry at myself for letting myself down, for feeling abandoned all over again.  I knew as a child I had no choice in what I went through. But I was sticking by a man who had no value for me and I was choosing to stay in that relationship. I hated myself for it. But I realised the state I had got into and I knew I needed professional help. The next day I found a counselling service for carers of addicts in my area. I started a course of sessions and through that help I was able to see the value of myself. I realised I was worth so much more than how my husband was treating me. I realised that my own mental health was at risk by staying with him.

We are now seperated and I am much happier now. I know who I am and what I want from life. I was blessed by Allah not to get stuck into a cycle of self-harming. It was purely my fear of Allah that prevented me from doing that to myself. I was so close. I knew Allah would be angry with me if I did it and I was afraid of His punishment. I was also afraid that this would take me away from His Mercy and I knew that self-harm could be addictive. It was out of pure desperation and anguish that took me to that path. I am grateful to Allah that He helped me before things got out of hand. I urge carers of addicts to get help for themeselves for their own sanity. I know its really hard to cope with being married to an addict. He was destroying himself but I nearly destroyed myself too. I am better than that.

Increasing Faith in The Qur’an as The True Word of Allah


One of the reasons many non-Muslims are embracing Islam is due to reading and learning about The Qur’an. They are amazed by the scientific facts narrated by Allah in His Holy Book, that science is only just recently discovering. In the 14th Juz of The Quran, Allah tells us some amazing things about His Creation, that ought to strengthen our faith in The Qur’an being the direct and unchanged Word of God. Here are some examples found in this Juz alone;

Cloud Formation

 A cumulonimbus cloud.  After the cloud is stacked up, rain comes out of it.
A cumulonimbus cloud. After the cloud is stacked up, rain comes out of it.

In a number of places in The Qur’an Allah tells us about how He causes rain to be formed, as a blessing for mankind, His creatures and vegetation. Allah says in Surah al-Hijr;

“And We send the winds fertilising, then cause the water to descend from the sky, and We give it to you to drink, and it is not you who are the owners of its stores” (15:22)

Scientists have studied cloud types and have realised that different rain clouds are formed and shaped according to wind types. Without wind, there may be no clouds. Allah explained this to us 1400 years ago. This is one among many of the miracles in The Quran

Human Development

Prior to the Revelation of the Qur’an many Arabs and non-Arabs believed that a child wasfoetus44j foetus44jformed purely from the males fluids. However, Allah revealed that the first stage of human development begins with the ‘nutfah’ of the two mixed fluids from the male and the female. This was merely the beginning of a thorough understanding of how babies are formed. In fact many leading embryologists became Muslim on account of Allah’s explanation in The Qur’an. Professor Keith Moore, a leading embryologist altered his academic texts books on embryology after reading the Qur’an. You can hear his lecure on embryology in The Qur’an here

In other parts of the Qur’an,  Allah describes each stage of development as the fetus grows and uses descriptions that only science has recently discovered. It would have been impossible for the Prophet Muhammad (saws) to have known anything about the fetus 1400 years ago in the desert, as Allah was describing things no naked human eye could see without the use of modern technology such as microscopes, thus proving that The Qur’an is from Allah. Please follow this link here to learn more about these amazing verses.

The Purpose of Mountains

Schematic section.  The mountains, like pegs, have deep roots embedded in the ground. (Anatomy of the Earth, Cailleux, p. 220.)
Schematic section. The mountains, like pegs, have deep roots embedded in the ground. (Anatomy of the Earth, Cailleux, p. 220.)

In a number of places in The Qur’an, Allah describes the mountains as serving the function of holding the earth in place, preventing earthquakes. Allah says in Surah an-Nahl;

“And He has affixed into the earth mountains standing firm, lest is should shake with you, and rivers and roads, that you may guide yourselves.” (16:15)

In other places, Allah describes the mountains like pegs under the earth, literally holding everything together. Modern sciences understanding of schematic plates has proven this. Now tell me, how could Muhammad, saws, have known this? An illiterate man, with no special equipment could ever have guessed that this is how the mountains are formed underneath their monstrous forms, many miles under sea level. This is truly from Allah!

In this verse Allah has also described the landmarks of rivers and natural pathways or roads that enable mankind to guide themselves by day. Then he describes in the next verse the function of the stars so that people may use them to navigate by them by night.

Astronomy in Islam

While western countries were in what is known as ‘the dark ages’ or ‘medieval period’, al-sufi_1early Islamic Arab world was at the forefront of education and scientific understanding. It was The Qur’an that enabled Muslims to be the pioneers of science. One area that early Muslims excelled in was Astronomy, purely due to the evidence that Allah provided for them in His Holy Book. You can read more about this subject here

“And landmarks (by day) and by the stars (at night), they mankind guide themselves” (16:16)

The Miracle of The Honey Bee

Your Lord revealed to the bees: “Build dwellings in the mountains and the trees, and also inhoney-7 honey-7the structures which men erect. Then eat from every kind of fruit and travel the paths of your Lord, which have been made easy for you to follow.” From inside their bellies comes a drink of varying colors, containing healing for humanity. There is certainly a sign in that for people who reflect. (Surat an-Nahl: 68-69)

There is much to say about this Verse. Allah explains how the bees follow His Command and live in harmony in large communities. Science has recently discovered that the stomach of the bee plays the main function in the honey-healing-for-humankindproduction of the honey, which as we know well, is the cure for a large number of illnesses and diseases. It is indeed, as Allah says, something for us to reflect on and come closer to Allah.

These are not the only scientific miracles of The Qur’an that Allah presents to us. I urge you to go and seek out the others in order to increase your faith. These verses make our faith stronger because we know with a complete heart that this is from Allah and not from mankind. In recovery, we must believe wholeheartedly that The Qur’an is the complete Word of Allah, a guidance for us, a shining light that will lead us to The Straight Path of Allah. When we strongly believe in something with our heart, our limbs will naturally follow. When we have strong faith, it only leaves the next step and that is to submit to what Allah has revealed in it. Recovery is about submission to Allah, with every part of our soul.


A brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam, Muslims and The Quran

Harun Yahya: The Miracle of The Honey Bee

Professor Kieth Moore video lecture on Embryology in The Quran

Tafsir of Ibn Kathir on Human Embryonic Development in the Qur’an

By Lynne Ali-Northcott

Mental Health and Addiction

Dr. Nadia Rahman is a GP in London, UK. In this section, she offers her advise on how tostress overcome mental health issues such as depression. Addicts and families affected by addiction may find a number of various mental health issues are effecting their well-being. Mental Health is something not to be ignored. Addiction and mental health issues go hand in hand. Its a chicken and egg situation. It can be difficult to tell whether it was the addiction that caused the depression or it was the depression that caused the addiction. Which ever way round it is we have solutions. Here Dr. Nadia Rahman offers some of them;

‘Strategies for Overcoming Depression, Anxiety and Stress’ By Dr. Nadia Rahman

Addiction, anxiety, depression, and stress fall under the same umbrella of Mental Health conditions. As with all Mental Health Conditions there are, unfortunately, great stigmas attached to it, which seems to be the primary reason why a lot of people may not seek help (Wrigley et al. 2005). Being of the Indo-pak / subcontinent culture, stigma is often more prevalent than in other western cultures, as the person is looked upon as being weak and lowly, almost becoming an outcast in society. A few years ago mental health was never spoken about and was brushed under the carpet in many Muslim cultures like South Asians and Arabs and Somalis. 5-steps-to-reduce-anxiety-660x330

As a GP working in a very multi-ethnic area, I have started to notice a gradual change over the last few years. More and more people and families are starting to acknowledge these problems and this is truly the first steps of recovery for the individual affected. Individuals and carers are crying out for help on the NHS, but the problem now is long waiting times due to lack of resources and funding.

So what is the solution?

While waiting for professional help on the NHS, self help treatments and having a good support network of good friends and families are vital for those suffering from mental health issues. There is no doubt that these 2 important factors need to be present before any sort of recovery from any health / mental health problem can begin.

Even though the conditions itself may seem very different the management for all these conditions can be categorised into drug treatment, and therapies. I strongly recommend that anyone suffering with any of these conditions to see their GP to discuss further as each treatment needs to be tailored to the individual affected.


There is a new, and amazing, therapy (which has been scientifically proven to help) that I would like to mention, mainly because of its similarity to the teachings of Islam. The following has been taken from the bemindful website:

“Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) was designed specifically to help people who are prone to recurring depression. It combines mindfulness techniques like meditation, breathing exercises and stretching with elements from cognitive therapy to help break the negative thought patterns that are characteristic of recurrent depression. Long-term courses of antidepressants are typically used to treat recurring depression. However, almost three-quarters of GPs think mindfulness meditation would be helpful for people with mental health problems, and a third already refer patients to MBCT on a regular basis.”

MBCT has been scientifically proven to help people with a range of mental health problems such as anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome & insomnia, all of which addicts are often diagnosed with, often misdiagnosed as the patient resists to mention the extent of their substance misuse problems.

MBCT is also recommended by the National Institute for Clinical and Health Excellence (NICE) as an effective treatment for people who suffer from recurrent episodes of depression.

MBCT teaches people to pay attention to the present moment, rather than worrying about the past or the future, and to let go of the negative thoughts that can tip them over into depression. It also gives people a greater awareness of their own body, helping them to identify the signs of oncoming depression and ward off the episode before it starts.

MBCT techniques include the ‘three-minute breathing space’ – a meditation exercise that gives people a quick and easy way to step back from stressful situations – and preparing ‘relapse prevention plans’ to help people lift their mood when depression starts to creep up on them. It’s so effective that it could reduce the risk of a person experiencing a recurrence of depression by over 50 per cent.


sajdah-silhouette-300x157I was fortunate enough to have a taster session in Mindfulness and the key component is having a strong awareness of our surroundings and then to focus that awareness on ourselves, on our movements, on our feelings. Instantly it made me think of my salah (prayer). We are encouraged to have ‘khushoo’ in our salah – (a great attentiveness and sincerity), and being aware that Allah is in front of us even though we can’t see Him (swt), we know He (swt) can see us. We have also been taught to pray as we have seen our beloved prophet (saw) pray, which is to pray slowly, taking care where our hands, fingers, feet, and even eyes are positioned.

“Then he should do rukoo, bowing as deeply as his joints will let him, until his joints take the new position and are relaxed in it.” This is an essential part of prayer. Whilst straightening up, he should say, “Sami’a Allaahu liman hamidah (Allaah listens to the one who praises Him).” Then he should stand straight until every vertebra has returned to its place. This is an essential part of the prayer.”

Be positive

A lot of these therapies teach the individual to let go of negative thoughts, and to be positive and upbeat. Allah (swt) tells us in Surah Ibrahim of The Qur’an;

“And He gave you from all you asked of Him. And if you should count the favor of Allah , you could not enumerate them. Indeed, mankind is [generally] most unjust and ungrateful.” (14:34)

As Muslims, we are encouraged to be positive. If we counted the blessings and contemplated on what Allah has given us we would never be able to be negative or down, we would always be able to see the positives even in the most dire of circumstances. This was said about Dr Taufiq, the doctor that tragically lost his entire family, including his wife and 5 children, in a house fire. Read about this tragic story here

Assistant Chief Constable Roger Bannister, from Leicestershire Police, praised Dr Taufiq’s “amazing strength” while sitting through the two-month trial. He added:

“He has lost his entire family in the most tragic of circumstances and has had to hear some very disturbing details of their final moments. It is difficult to understand how someone could cope with this but Dr Taufiq has done so with the greatest amount of dignity and courage. My hope is that he can begin to move on from this devastating tragedy and continue to draw the immense strength from his religion to be the inspiring man I believe he is.”

What is it that is helping Dr Taufiq? It is no doubt his love and trust in Allah, and knowing that Allah has not forsaken him. He has not allowed himself to be over taken by negative thoughts and feeling and even mentioned how, he “bore no hatred towards their killers.”

Is mental health acknowledged in Islam?

It most definitely is! There are countless Verses, Quranic stories, hadith (narrations from the Prophet Muhammad) and duas (prescribed prayers and supplications), about feeling down and depressed. Allah created us and Allah knows how we can feel, and so we have also been given the tools to bring us out of that path when we may fall into it.

In the supplication book Hisnul Muslim there is a specific section for anxiety and sorrow:

“O Allah, I am Your servant, son of Your servant, son of Your maidservant, my forelock is in Your hand, Your command over me is forever executed and Your decree over me is just. I ask You by every name belonging to You which You named Yourself with, or revealed in Your Book, or You taught to any of Your creation, or You have preserved in the knowledge of the unseen with You, that You make the Quran the life of my heart and the light of my breast, and a departure for my sorrow and a release for my anxiety.”

The main tool and guidance is given in this dua – The Quran. If we were to use the mindfulness theory to be more aware and to concentrate on the words we recite, where our tongue moves to when we recite, the sounds of the letters in our ears when we recite, and the feelings in our heart when we recite, there is no doubt that within that would be our solace. The next part is to actually understand the words and to contemplate on it and to benefit from the lessons from within, so truly this book was given as a guidance, a guidance for every situation, every feeling and just for everything!

Finally, the last dua that is very small which I strongly recommend that we all learn and implement in our daily lives, like saying it when we are waking about our business before we sleep. The meaning is profound and is very relevant to the symptoms and sign people with mental health problems may experience:

“O Allah, I take refuge in You from anxiety and sorrow, weakness and laziness, miserliness and cowardice, the burden of debts and from being over powered by men.”


1) Sarah Wrigley,Henry Jackson,Fiona Judd and Angela Komiti (2005) ‘Role of stigma and attitudes toward help-seeking from a general practitioner for mental health problems in a rural town’ . Article first published online: 7 JUN 2005



Raising Children in Islam

How a Muslim Should Raise Their Children
Summarised by Abu Eesa Yousuf

Every child has the right to be raised as a responsible person. Undoubtedly, this responsibility falls on the parents, they are the ones that must take a conscious and active role in guiding their children to grow up as responsible people with good morals. So, what is it that the parents must do to ensure they fulfil their duty as parents? I have outlined briefly some of these duties that Muslim parents need to fulfill with regards to raising their children to become responsible Muslim adults.

The first step in raising a child is to give a good name. Names that have good meanings, or/and of good people such as the prophets of God or righteous females from the past. raisechildren1

The second step in raising a child is to provide from halal income. The fathers are primarily responsible for spending on their children. Fathers should spend by providing halal food, clean clothes and shelter; which will help in their ‘good’ upbringing.

The third step in raising a child is to show love and mercy. Children need to feel and know that they are loved and worthy. Parents must instil a strong sense of self-esteem and self-worth by routinely informing the children about how much they love them. Children will develop a good normal personality and it will also teach the children to love and respect their parents and others with kindness and mercy. Parents must treat their children fairly without any bias based on age, gender or looks. Failing to treat the children fairly may result in a child to develop jealousy and hatred in their heart, which may become part of their personality and remain with them for rest of their life.

The fourth step in raising a child is to provide them a good education in a way that they can be successful in this life and the hereafter. A good Islamic education takes precedence because children must build a close relationship with the Creator. This will put everything in perspective for the children and help them to live a Muslim life fulfilling the rights of the Creator and the created. Children must be taught the rights of Allah by learning the concepts of Tawhid. Actualising the Tawhid will lead to the ultimate salvation as well as creating a love for Allah in the child’s heart from an early age. Parents must ensure that they encourage and develop their children on all the rituals of worship. A child must be encouraged to pray five times a day from age seven and commanded to do so from the age of 10. Parents should encourage their children to fast from an early age and remind them of the huge reward that awaits the person who fasts. Parents must encourage their children to give charity from an early age and develop a love for sharing and caring. Parents should set aside regular time for their children to read and memorise the Qur’an. Parents should teach their children about the lives of the prophets and the sahabah to help them choose their role models wisely. Parents must help their children with skills that lead to earning a halal income. Parents should stress to their children the need to pursue a halal career path.

The fifth step in raising a child is to teach and develop Islamic morals, characters, and etiquette from an early age so it becomes their habit. Parents should teach their children traits such as tolerance, patience, humility and modesty.

The sixth step in raising a child is to provide the children with a healthy environment. This requires that the parents lead by example, they are the first to practice the above steps in their lives. Parents must model their lives according to how they would like their children to be. Parents will confuse the children if they contradict the very essence of what they are teaching and demand from their children. Parents must also ensure that their love for their children does not get in the way and to turn a blind eye to their children’s mistakes. Parents must create a peaceful environment at home, one without constant argumentation and fighting.

Raising a child upon iman is a huge investment, and you will reap from its benefit in this world and the next. So do not let anything come between you and your investment!

Upon death, a person’s deeds will stop except for three deeds, namely: a continuous charitable fund, endowment or goodwill; knowledge left for people to benefit from; and a pious righteous and God-fearing child who continuously prays to Allah, for the souls of their parents (Muslim).

Full article:

The Link Between Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence

Khalida Haque is a qualified and experienced counselling psychotherapist, clinical supervisor and group facilitator. She has worked (and continues to work) with various, and sometimes difficult and complex, issues as well as for numerous (Muslim and Non-Muslim) organisations. Here is her well-informed article around the link between domestic violence and substance misuse;

Inextricably Linked?

Domestic violence and substance abuse as separate issues cause much damage on numerous levels – individual, familial and societal as well as emotional, psychological and physical. However, the two are often spoken about in the same sentence. This article attempts to looks at the link between these two social ills and tries to understand if they are inextricably linked.

Governmentally domestic violence is defined as;

“Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass but is not limited to psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse.”

This current definition takes into account the rise in teenage abusive relationships and now also incorporates the terms controlling and coercive:

Controlling behaviour is explained as: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

And coercive behaviour as: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

This government definition covers so called ‘honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims (nor perpetrators) of domestic violence are from only one gender or ethnic or religious group. It encompasses any form of intimate and/or familial relationship.

So where does addiction fit into this equation? The answer is on three levels:

1. Children who grow up in domestically violent households are more likely to become involved in risky behaviours such as drug taking and alcohol consumption and at an early age. This likelihood is increased if one or both parents misuse substances.
2. Victims of domestic violence may turn to alcohol and drugs as a way of escaping the pain and reality of what they are experiencing at the hands of their partner. They may well have been introduced to the substance by the perpetrator
3. The perpetrator may use their addiction as an excuse for their behaviour and actions. They may also use the substances as another way of controlling and/or coercing their partner into behaving as they want.

The above facts and statistics related to them along with other researched information regarding domestic violence can be found at

As individual concerns domestic violence and substance misuse are not straightforward matters but when the two are combined things become messier and more entrenched. Studies have shown that the impact of domestic abuse on children is greater when the violence is in association with substance misuse, when children witness the violence, are drawn into it, or feel they have to keep the abuse secret. [Children’s Needs – Parenting Capacity, Cleaver et al, 1999]. Also if you consider that a child, growing up in a domestically abusive environment, wants to escape the conflict and when they can’t physically run away substance misuse often presents as a viable option. Substance misuse and other risky behaviours provide an avenue for both numbing the pain and for feeling connected, significant and/or alive.

With regards to victims turning to alcohol and/or drug (both legal and illegal) taking, in a UK study it was shown that approximately two thirds of survivors drawn from domestic violence agencies began their problematic substance use following their experiences of domestic violence. [Humphreys, C. & Regan, L., 2005. Domestic Violence and Substance Use: Overlapping Issues in Separate Services, Final Report]. At a training programme with Alcohol Concern in 2012 it was stated that a woman experiencing domestic violence is fifteen times more likely (than women generally) to abuse alcohol as a way of coping with the abuse and 9 times more likely to use drugs. Statistically 40% of Asian women seeking treatment for alcohol misuse are experiencing domestic violence (and a fair proportion is likely to be Muslim but there is no apparent data to back this thought up). As mentioned earlier the perpetrator may have introduced the victim to drugs as a means of increasing their control over them and so may also be their supplier. This makes leaving the relationship that much harder. The abuse may also increase when the victim seeks help around the drug/drink problem with recovery and treatment being purposely undermined.

One of the many excuses often given by perpetrators is that it is their drink or drugs addiction that leads to them being abusive however, although reducing substance use (including alcohol) may reduce levels of physical injury it has not been shown to reduce the actual occurrence of domestic violence (i.e. non physical abuse such as psychological and sexual violence). [Jacobs, J., 1998. The Links Between Substance Misuse and Domestic Violence. London: Alcohol Concern]. Also if the cause of the abuse is something treatable like an addiction why make the excuse and not opt to do anything about it? Perpetrators make many excuses for their behaviours but they rarely take action to change.

So to conclude, although there are links between substance misuse and domestic violence and both are predominantly learnt behaviours, we know that as human beings we have the ability to change due to having been granted free will and aql (intellect) by Allah(SWT). Therefore, the excuses we may make only stop ourselves from betterment but they may also subsequently harm others/loved ones along the way.

Khalida can be followed (and contacted) on Facebook at!/khalida.haque.9