Category Archives: Way of Increasing our faith

Is there a specific dua for drug addiction?

dua-weapon-believerIs there a specific dua (supplication) to say if you want to overcome addiction? The answer, and Allah Knows best, is no. So what now? Do not be disappointed. There are many duas that we can say that will help us to overcome our urges, whether it is drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex or otherwise. The point is, turning to Allah any how He is pleased with, any where will help us in recovery. The Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, said “Dua is the weapon of the believer” because it helps us fight our desires and the whispers of shaytan. It is what gives us both defence and strength in this world. Dua is a direct conversation between ourselves and our Creator, Allah. By talking to Allah, we take Him as our Counsel, our Wali and even our intimate Friend. He is our Companion in this life and the next. The Prophet, pbuh, also said;

“Dua is the core of worship”

There are some duas that are particularly relevant if we want Allah to help us give up on sin and addiction. When it comes to giving up on the things that Allah is displeased with we need to speak from the source of the sin – the heart. Through addiction, our hearts become corrupted which often means speaking from the heart can often be difficult. We find it hard to be honest with ourselves and others yet we know that Allah knows our hearts better than we do. Sometimes we can feel quite guilty and this in itself can stop the heart from turning back to Allah. He Sees and Hears all the things we do. He sees our struggle and how much we fight our cravings some days and give up on others. Allah loves us even more when it is harder to give something up for His Sake yet we try and try again anyway. In some ways the one who sins and struggles to give it up, is better than the one who never sinned at all.

Here are three duas among many that may help us become more obedient to Allah inshaAllah and stop obeying our desires and shaytan.

1) Oh Turner of Hearts

One of the companions, Shihr  said : ‘I said to Umm Salamah : ‘O Mother of the Believers, what is the duaa’ which the Prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallam) would supplicate the most while in your presence? ’

So she said : ‘The frequent supplication of his was :

يَا مُقَلِّبَ الْقُلُوبِ ثَبِّتْ قَلْبِى عَلَى دِينِكَ

“O, Turner of the hearts, turn my heart towards  Your deen.”

The Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, was the most free from sin amongst all the human beings to have ever lived, yet he made this dua frequently. This is such a beautiful and powerful dua, for us as addicts in recovery to make.

The arabic word for heart is ‘Qalb’, which literally means ‘turn’. The state of the heart is that it is constantly turning – either towards Allah or away from Allah. As addicts we know this feeling so well. We feel as though we are in a constant state of turning. Our cravings swing us this way and that. Our heart fights itself constantly as our desires crave both the good and the bad at the same time.

By saying this dua we are asking Allahs help to keep the heart reaching out to Him and whenever it begins to turn towards our addiction we ask Allah to turn the heart back to Him and the things that He loves.

Allah also tells us in Surah Ahzab, 33:4 of The Qur’an;

“Allâh has not made for any man two hearts inside his body…” meaning that He has only10274049_861490353864594_7333305364019490032_n given us one heart and that one heart can only be attached to one thing at any time. Our hearts are either attached to Allah or they are attached to some one or something else, i.e drugs. It is impossible to be attached to Allah along with something else. However, if we attach our hearts to Allah then everything else falls in place. We love for the sake of Allah and we hate for the sake of Allah. 

This amazing short dua is one we can learn and memorise easily and in recovery we must recite it as often as we can inshaAllah.

2) The Dua of Yunus, alayhis Salam

my_light_at_the_end_of_the_tunnel_wallpaper_jxhyProphet Yunus made a mistake, going against the order of Allah and leaving his people. As a result of his disobedience Yunus was punished when Allah caused the fish to swallow him. Yunus found himself in a very dark place – three levels of darkness – the darkness of the night, the darkness of the sea and the darkness of the belly of the fish. As addicts, we have made mistakes that have taken us to a place of darkness and anguish. If we do not find a way out of this dark hole we can often wallow in the pits of despair. By turning to Allah, admitting our mistake and asking Him to help we can find ourselves back in the light of Allah again. This is the dua that Yunus made;

 prophet_yunus_dua_poster_easel
It was on account of this dua that the angels heard Yunus calling and they called to Allah to answer him. Allah is Most Merciful and Forgives all sins. He forgave Yunus for his mistake and He guarantees us that He will Forgive us too, in many places in The Qur’an. Allah tells us over and over again how Merciful and Forgiving He is, so much so that he has made it fardh on Himself that He Forgives the one who turns to Him in repentance and who does good deeds thereafter;

“Your Lord has written (prescribed) Mercy for Himself, so that, if any of you does evil in ignorance, and thereafter repents and does righteous good deeds (by obeying Allâh), then surely, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Surah Anam 6:54)

 So let us take the example of the beloved Prophet Yunus, and turn back to Allah in repentance in the knowledge that Allah will definitely forgive us. We have hope in His Mercy and Kindness. 

3) Seeking refuge in Allah from the whispers of shaytan

As addicts, we not only need to fight our own desires and cravings but we have an external force to contend with too. Shaytan whispers to our desires, igniting our cravings. He wants to take us away from Allah and he knows all the things that each of us desire that will lead us away. But we must always remember that Shaytan’s whispers are merely invitations and suggestions and it is up to us to deny them. Allah tells us what Shaytan will say on the Day of Judgement;

“And Shaitan (Satan) will say when the matter has been decided: ‘Verily, Allah promised you a promise of truth. And I too promised you, but I betrayed you. I had no authority over you except that I called you, and you responded to me. So blame me not, but blame yourselves. I cannot help you, nor can you help me…’” (Quran, Ibraaheem: 22).

 Recovery is about taking responsibility. We must not blame the shaytan for taking us away from The Straight Path. Rather we must find the tools in this life to protect ourselves with starting with making dua to Allah to help us against our enemy.

Aouzou

This simple dua, as soon as the thoughts of sin enters our mind, can help us stop in our tracks and give up what shaitan and our desires are calling to. Allah will help us with our cravings if we continue to recite this and the above duas when we are feeling like indulging in our addiction.

These are just three of the many duas available for us to use. There are many others in thedua.6 hadith and Quran. Or we can just speak straight our hearts in our own words. Allah hears all duas and He responds to every one when we call upon Him. If we want to stop using drugs or engaging in other addictive behaviours making dua to Allah with sincerity needs to be constant, at the beginning and throughout our lives, until death. Dua is the direct conversation between ourselves and Allah. Through our dua Allah will lead us to other good deeds. If we want to become better Muslims, we must ask Allah for help and protection. He will always give it. He loves it when we ask of Him. Asking of Allah increases our bond with Him. We have had a relationship with our addiction for too long. Now it is time to strengthen our relationship with our Lord. Through this relationship we will begin to hate anything that He hates and love all that He loves. Dua will take us to this place inshaAllah. May Allah make it easy.

Please remember that dua on its own is not enough. We must strive towards engaging in lots of good deeds too. Recovery is about shaping new routines and structures. We must do our 5 daily prayers and try to do as many good deeds as we can to fill our days and nights. Dua and action together makes a good recovery programme.

By Lynne Ali-Northcott

 

Sex, Drugs & Broken Souls – Recovery in the bedroom

wedding_handsThis page is intended to discuss how addiction has impacted our relationships with our spouses, focussing mainly on the bedroom. Sex is not often spoken about by Imams and Islamic teachers. Muslims often shy away from this subject. Sex is a part of our lives as married Muslims and as we enter into recovery from addiction this is a very important matter to discuss.  Before we go any further, let us take a look at the science behind sex, what happens in the brain and how the body responds, in order that we might reflect on why this is such an important aspect of our lives – especially when in recovery from addiction.

It’s all about chemistry 

From the first point of thought – not always conscious – a chemical reaction is taking place. Men and women produce these chemicals differently, each partner having a different yet unifying experience as those chemicals play unique roles in preparing the person, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually for this unity. Not only do the chemicals ready the body for the act of sex but those chemicals that are produced thereafter have a cementing effect on these two souls coming together and staying together. The mainbrains players are dopamine, the reward hormone; prolactin, the hormone of satiation; oxytocin, the ‘cuddle hormone’, and levels of androgen receptors, which all powerfully affect our mood, our desire for intimacy, the way we feel about our spouse, stress and anxiety levels as well as our susceptibility to addictive activities and substances. These hormones play very different roles, yet are also interlinked to one main role – the desire to keep having sex! Let us look at how they all work:

Love-HormoneDOPAMINE:  Dopamine is the hormone responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward. Its the feel good hormone that the brain releases during times of pleasure. It is the neurotransmitter produced when we take drugs. That is what can potentially make sex so addictive. Just as we might continue to crave drugs or engage in gambling, we can also crave the feeling that dopamine gives us through acts of sexual pleasure. It is the neurotransmitter that tells us that a reward is imminent. The body will respond to the expectation that the reward will arrive soon, in this case an orgasm. This expectation of reward is what causes the person to crave sex, to seek it out or to turn to impermissible means in order to relieve oneself of that urge. In marriage, this reward expectation can sometimes be triggered through the use of certain words, expressions on ones face, or generally through the flirtations of each spouse towards the other as well as visual triggers. Once the hope of this reward has been triggered, dopamine continues to secrete  and the sexual urges become stronger. During sexual activity dopamine levels steadily increase until the ultimate release of the highest ‘explosion’ of dopamine during orgasm – the reward.

After orgasm dopamine levels fall sharply and can cause  withdrawal symptoms similar to that of one craving their drug of choice. This reaction tends to be immediate in males and delayed in females. As dopamine levels fall the brain begins to counteract the withdrawal symptoms, including a drop in feelings of pleasure and contentment, by producing a different chemical that helps bond the couple together, oxytocin. We shall come back to this shortly.

TESTOSTERONE:

The male hormone responsibly for sexual urges and desires as well as strength, bravery and the ability to fight and be aggressive. Build up of testosterone can cause the male to feel greater urge to have sex. Once he has achieved that goal and reached orgasm, the levels of testosterone dramatically drop. Low testosterone is associated with irritability and anger. 

With a drop in both dopamine and testosterone levels following sex is it any wonder that some men in recovery have claimed that they often crave their drug of choice following sexual activity. This is an important factor to think about when in recovery from addiction.

Substances and other addictions can lead to the damage of the part of the brain2014-06-03-6-unwanted-symptoms-of-low-testosterone-1 responsible for producing dopamine. Levels can remain low for many months as the brain takes time to repair the damage caused by addiction. This often means recovering addicts can take a while to begin to enjoy the activities they used to do prior to their drug use. With lower domapine levels it may mean that the sex drive is lower or less enjoyment is experienced in the bedroom with their partner. This can lead to feelings of frustration and also cause problems with emotionally connecting as the partner may sense that they are not really interested or enjoying this moment together. This can leave recovering addicts vulnerable to going back to their addiction. The best advise is to have patience and realise that this is one of the consequences of ones addiction. Considering the damage that has been caused is something that ought to incite relapse prevention.

How often have you heard things like “men think with their penis”? Well it is true that in many cases once a man becomes aroused he can find it difficult to control his actions. Testosterone has men doing things they don’t even know they’re doing, like getting erections. According to Louann Brizendine in The Male Brain, “These reflexive erections are different from true sexual arousal because they come from unconscious signals from his spinal cord and brain, not from a conscious desire to have sex. The testosterone receptors that live on the nerve cells in a man’s spinal cord, testicles, penis, and brain are what activate his entire sexual network. Women are surprised that the penis can operate on autopilot and even more surprised that men don’t always know when they’re getting an erection.”

testosterone-boosters-effects-1With this in mind is it any wonder the Prophet of Allah, saws, said “O young men, whoever among you can afford to get married, let him do so, and whoever cannot afford it, let him fast, for that will be a shield for him.” (Agreed upon, from the hadeeth of Ibn Mas’ood, may Allaah be pleased with him. Al-Bukhaari, 4778; Muslim, 1400). No 4695 Narrated Sahl bin Sad. Fasting helps one control our desires and therefore helps the young man to overcome his urges for stimulation through sexual activity. Perhaps, the one who is unmarried and in recovery from addiction, especially sexually addictive behaviours, may benefit greatly from incorporating fasting into his recovery programme as well as those who are in the early stages of repairing the relationship with ones spouse and sex is not quite on the cards yet. 

OXYTOCIN

Also known as ‘the cuddle hormone’ Oxytocin helps to counteract what would feel like a downward decline of emotions what with the sudden decline of both testosterone and dopamine. What goes up must come down and preventing a painful crash,  oxytocin is what brings you down to that warm, fuzzy, post-coital place and makes the couple feel loving towards each other. Oxytocin also counteracts fear, which is associated with high cortisol levels and stress, which is why sex can be a great sex-buster too. oxytocin-chemical-molecule-hormone-_love_trust_bond

Oxytocin leads to strong pair-bonding and is the same hormone that is released during breastfeeding to help bring a connection between mother and baby. Similarly that post-sex feeling of closeness is brought about my oxytocin and helps couples feel more emotionally close and trusting of each other, something that we often need to build in when in recovery. Oxytocin is also a pain-relieving chemical, hence also why we feel that warm feeling that some of our drug of choices can offer (without the nasty withdrawal).

SEROTONIN

Serotonin is often nick-named the happy hormone and is released during sex. This hormone is responsible for lifting our mood and making us feel good.

So all these chemicals combined have the capacity to help us feel happier, closer to our partners, relieve pain, life mood and avoid depression, feel pleasure and bond to our spouse. This all has a very relaxing effect on the person too. The part of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex winds down after ejaculation. This, along with the release of oxytocin and serotonin, causes an overall feeling of relaxation, and in men especially, a feeling of sleepiness and reduction in worry about the here and  now day to day life struggles.

So as you can see, Allah has created us in such a way that sex can produce a chemical experience. It is Allah’s way of providing us a space to almost lose ourselves, momentarily, with our spouse. During sex, we forget all our problems, we receive pleasure as well as take pleasure from giving pleasure. This is something Allah has given us to reach a state of consciousness that is out of the ordinary – something we as addicts we are constantly seeking. So in the right way, sex can provide us with this escapism we are seeking. With all these chemical changes happening, no wonder sex can be addictive for some. As Muslims, we live in balance, without taking anything to the extreme and when it comes to making love, it must stay within the limits and boundaries of Islam.

Sex is a spiritual thing

B_siroWWcAAFrXqAs Muslims we believe all acts that are permissible are acts of worship. When we make love to our spouses we do so with the intention that this is pleasing to God. One day the Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, informed his companions that they would be rewarded when making love to their wives. One of the companions asked him “Oh Messenger of Allah! A person would be rewarded while satisfying his sexual need? Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) replied: Yes. Isn’t it that he would be punished had he practiced sex illegally? The same applies if a Muslim practiced a lawful intercourse with his spouse. As such, he would be rewarded” (Ahmad)

Studies have shown that sex has similar effects on the brain as do acts of worship such as prayer and meditation. In particular aJefferson University neuroscientist Andrew Newberg scanned the brains of praying Catholic nuns and meditating Buddhist monks and found some overlap between their neural activity and that of sexually aroused subjects (as seen in scans from other researchers). “The correlation makes sense, according to Newberg. Just as sex involves a rhythmic activity so do religious practices such as chanting, dancing and repetition of a mantra. Religious experiences produce sensations of bliss, transcendence beyond one’s self and unity with the loved one that is very like the ecstasy of orgasm. That may be why some mystics, such as St. Teresa, describe their rapture with romantic or even sexual language.”

Therefore, as we do our best to steer clear of substances or behaviours that we were addicted to, forming a healthy sexual relationship with our spouses can help to achieve this spiritual state, physical pleasure, togetherness and bonding, belonging and sensuality. All those things we would crave through drink, drugs or gambling. The difference being that there are no negative consequences to the escapism sought through two consenting spouses in love-making.

Damaging effects of Drugs on the Sex drive: 5245146_orig

Cocaine: Although cocaine has a reputation as an aphrodisiac, end up having the reverse effect. It increases sexual desire while impairing or delaying orgasm. However, a symptom of heavy cocaine abuse is a massive decline in sex drive and activity. Chronic cocaine use can impair sexual function in men and women. In men, cocaine can cause delayed or impaired ejaculation.

Marijuana: Overall, scientific research seems to discredit the drug’s ability to heighten sexual stimulation and arousal. Marijuana may distort users’ sense of time, thus, creating the illusion of prolonged arousal and orgasm. Marijuana usually transcends each partner into his or her own personal space, therefore, emotionally distancing partners instead of bringing them closer.

Heroin/opioids: Generally opiate users lose interest in sex and find it difficult to engage in sexual activity. It can also have a detrimental affect on the reproductive organs for both male and females meaning it can be difficult to conceive. Opiates stop the hormone testosterone from being released, hence causing secondary psychological problems such as lack of motivation and can lead to low mood and depression.

Drugs do over time damage the parts of the brain responsibly for producing all the hormones we have discussed above, which can not only take the enjoyment away from sex but can reduce libido so that a person can lose interest in sex all together. This can then cause more difficulties in the marriage as well as lead to other psychological problems such as depression and anxiety and perpetuate a cycle of issues that further break down the relationship with one self and each other. The good news is, with abstinence, the brain does often repair itself and the neurotransmitters can begin to be produced again naturally as they did before drug use began.

How to improve sexual relationships in recovery

broken heartFirst, we need to remember that our drug use and behaviour has been the cause of a break down in our marriage and our partner may not be ready to resume things with us in the bedroom. A healthy marriage is built upon trust and love. Where trust has been questionable one partner may lose the desire to fully let themselves become available sexually. In our recovery, it is important to understand that we have hurt our spouse and that we need to make amends with them on an emotional level and begin to rebuild trust and accept that this might take more time than we anticipated.

Husbands need to understand that there is one particular saying of the Prophet Muhammad that is often misused in order to try and coerce their wife into making love with them. Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘If a man calls his wife to his bed and she refuses, and he spends the night angry with her, the angels will curse her until morning.’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, 4794). The understanding of this hadith is that this relates to a woman who refuses her husband for no good reason other than to upset him. This does not relate to a woman who has good reason, even if it is that she is not emotionally available to him to be able to engage in this. Husbands will do well to also remember the saying of the Prophet, pbuh, who also said;

“When you approach your wife, do not come to her like the animals do, but send a messenger before you. The companions asked, “And who should be this messenger?” The Prophet (SAW) answered, “A kiss, a caress, some kind words.” 

Recovery, is about changing the dynamics of our relationships, especially with those closest to us. Our spouse is most deserved of our kind words and sensitivity and we must put effort into rebuilding our relationship with them. Allah describes the spouses as supporters to each other and in such a beautiful way as calling the spouse our garment.

“Your wives are a garment for you, and you are a garment for them.” (2:187)

This means we protect each other, comfort one another and be as close as we can be to each other just like our clothes touch our skin. When Adam was in Paradise, he had all that his heart could desire but without Eve, he felt something was missing. He felt a sadness within him that was only cured when Allah gave him Eve.

“It is He who created you from a single soul, And made its mate of like nature in order that you might dwell with her in love….” (7:189)

 Recovery, is all about balance in all things. As addicts, we can often have the urge to dodeen even the halal things in excessiveness. It is important that we begin to take enjoyment from the natural ways to induce happiness in a way that is not out of balance. We must seek refuge in Allah from turning to the forbidden ways of relieving our urges. Allah has given us the opportunity to have this halal chemical change that is naturally good for us. As addicts, we must not abuse this nor our spouse and also be aware of how drugs effect our brains in more ways than we like to realise. Thinking of how they damage our sexuality and reflecting on this can motivate us to prevent relapse. Drugs will never give us that sense of contentment and pure happiness that lying in the arms of your spouse, loving you and you loving them, can give you on an emotional, physical and spiritual high.

By Lynne Ali-Northcott (Addiction Counsellor)

Sources:

Islamic ruling on sexual etiquette 
http://www.alternet.org/10-interesting-facts-about-your-brain-sex
http://www.mydeenislam.com/how-to-make-love-to-your-wife-in-islam.html islamic ruling on oral sex   http://alcoholrehab.com/addiction-recovery/addiction-and-intimacy-sexual-relationships/  http://www.health-science-spirit.com/neurosex.html http://www.howtokickheroin.com/does-heroin-affect-sex-drive/

‘Disciplining The Soul’ reflections from the work of Ibn al-Jawzi

12914752_10153282617236504_129960154_oIbn al-Jawzi (d. 597 AH) may Allah have mercy on him, was born approximately in the year 509 AH took a keen interest in learning about Islam from a very young age and began preaching as a child. He dedicated his life to learning and became a very respected and honoured scholar. He really had great wisdom with the matters of mankind, our psychology and behaviours. He became famous for his works around the matters of the soul with many of his books and works helping mankind to learn to cope with our hearts whims and desires. This article is a reflection of the chapters within ‘Disciplining the Soul’ and not only provides us with understanding the battle that goes on with our mind and desires but also provides us with tips and solutions to win the fight.

“Every breath we take is taking us closer to death. The time we spend in this world is short, the time we are held in our graves is long, and the punshment for following our lowly desires is calamitous”  (Ibn al-Jawzi)

Chapter 1: The Mind Ibn al-Jawzi describes the mind as a leader. The intellect is a gift from Allah. Through our mind we recognise Allah, we came to believe in Him and our faith in Him, His Laws and our norms and values are withheld in the mind. It is what makes us human and differentiates us from the animal world. It is our mind that, when healthy, governs the limbs and the heart and prevents us from giving in to our lusts and whims.

Chapter 2: Hawwa (desires) refers to the part of the self that pushes the person to obtain what it wants. This can sometimes be a good thing – as we crave ‘the good things in life’ that are healthy in both worldy terms, like good nourishment and sleep, or spiritually, like prayer and strengthening family ties. When Hawwa can be problematic for us is when we crave the things that are not good for us in both worldly and spiritual matters. I’m sure most of us can relate to this and the struggle we can have with our hawwa to give up the bad stuff and strive towards the things we know are good for us but might be difficult for us to do. A battle of the desires. “Exhibiting patience in the face of vice is a merit of the inner self by which a person endures both goodness and evil. Therefore, whoever lacks patience and allows his Hawwa to lead his mind has then made the follower be followed and the led a leader (page 23)”.  The sad part of this is – the Hawwa promises us that the bad things we seek will lead us to happiness, fulfillment, contentment – but the truth is that never is the reality. What is even sadder is many of us fail to give up on that promise, forever chasing it with false hope, while knowing deep in the mind that its a lie.

“When a person does not accept the judgement of his mind and abides by the judgement of his Hawwa, the beastly animal becomes better than him” (page 24)

Ibn al-Jawzi explains that the battle we have with our Hawwa and when we restrain it is actually easier than the unhappiness and regret that follows after those time we give in to it. The person of sound mind understands that the short struggle of fighting the cravings is far easier than the habitual loss of control that comes about by giving in to desires. “Being accustomed to something allows it to become an addiction; such as those addicted to sexual intercourse or alcohol (page24)”. 

ibn al-Jawzi recommends that one of the most effective ways for us to reject our Hawwa is to take time to deeply reflect upon oneself. By engaging the mind (our leader) we come to realise that we were not created by Allah to follow our Hawwa and we take an intelligent decision to try to restrain ourselves and go back into battle.

Chapter 3: Perspective of Mind Vs Perspective of Hawwa 

  • Hawwa calls to pleasure without contemplating consequences
  • We know if we follow Hawwa it will bring about more regret than pleasure, but we follow it anyway.
  • The mind knows we will stop getting  pleasure from the good things, but we follow hawwa anyway.
  • Hawwa stops us from using the mind to think until habits are formed and addictions develop.

The solution is to engage the mind. “He should be patient upon what the mind orders him to do, because knowing the excellence of the mind is enough for him to favour it (page 27).

Ibn al-Jawzi’s tips for the mind Vs desires struggle:

  •  Thinking about the consequences of giving in to desires, using the mind, is often enough to stop us in our tracks and not go ahead with chasing our desires.  This is certainly a technique taught to addicts in recovery in many clinics and rehabilitation centres internationally.
  • To reflect on what his desire is calling him to. And to admit that his satisfaction is never fulfilled by giving in to the urge. I’m sure many of us can relate to this constant need to try to satisfy the urge yet never truly able to.
  • Remember that by giving in to desire we find ourselves disgraced and humiliated and in deep regret.
  • To realise that by not giving in to Hawwa and overcoming it we will feel honoured, elated and victorious. Oh how wonderful is that feeling of happiness when we do not give in to our cravings!
  • To know that the more we stop giving in to our desires the stronger we become.

In the remaining chapters ibn al-Jazwi begins to outline the different kinds of addictions or behaviours in which following our desires might manifest. As we begin to recover from following our Hawwa perhaps we begin to become more aware of some of those secondary addictions or behaviours that have become part of our nature. As Muslims we must continue to use our mind to overcome these as much as we can.

Chapter 4: Averting Passionate Love (‘Ishq) This chapter focusses on how to prevent and cure excessive or unlawful sexual desire. The first step ibn al-Jawzi explains is to lower the gaze, stating that prevention is far better than cure and if one can begin to implement the lowering of the gaze, protecting our eyes from looking at the forbidden fruit we will refrain from eating it. He makes a rather scary warning about how if we leave ourselves indulging in Ishq it can lead to a very strong possibility that the cure will not benefit us.

“Therefore whoever wants the cure should hasten to it before this illness becomes deeply rooted and that is by blocking the means leading to it (lowering the gaze and by enduring it with patience” (page 28).

Modern research shows us that sexual deviants today rarely are fully rehabilitated, many of them failing to obtain parole and staying on the sex offenders list until they die. With sexual deviance, it rarely happens overnight, but through the continued exposure to forbidden sexual cues and experiences the person becomes sicker and sicker until often, as al-Jawzi states, the cure is of no benefit to them. So let us take heed and always protect others from the potential harm of sexual deviants.

Tips for overcoming ‘Ishq, sexual/love obsessions:

  • “Indeed self-restraint and strength are the best of cures (page29)”.
  • Aid self-restraint by increasing fear of Allah
  • Think of the humilation and regret following giving in to ‘Ishq
  • Think of how once you have indulged your sexual desire your lack of interest in the person/object of desire afterwards.
  • Think of the flaws and bad points of the one you desire
  • Think of the good qualities within our own selves and also in other people who might be able to help us get out of our obsession and meet our needs some other way. (e.g very often when we seek out sexual pleasure it is because of an unmet need such as a desire for friendship or to feel loved and worthy)
  • Strive to love Allah over all else and prefer His love over the love and affection of His Creation.

Chapter 5: Averting Gluttony (Sharah) focusses on 4 ways in which greed can manifest itself in an addictive way;

1) Excessive eating:

“Know that the wise must eat to survive, on the other hand the ignorant would rather live to eat. (page 32)”

Ibn al-Jawzi explains that Sharah can lead to us over-eating in a way that is not pleasing to Allah. He explains that the tips provided in the previous chapters are enough to engage the mind in order to overcome the hawwa. What he means is, it is the same process by which we become excessive in our eating as it is excessive in the other areas of our lives. It stems from the same place – obeying hawwa and disobeying the intellect. This is the case with all actions that are displeasing to Allah. We obey our own lusts in replacement of fighting them in order to obey Allah.

2) Excessive Sexual Appetite

ibn al-Jawzi states that there is a danger in having too much sexual intercourse, even if it is carried out in a halal way with a legitimate spouse. He warns against the physical damage that can be caused by excessive overuse of the sperm channels, putting strain on other major organs. He also warns of spiritual harm to the person stating “it becomes a habit that is done for the mere sake of satisfaction and enjoyment then one is practically competing with animals (page 33). As addicts in recovery, we understand nature of our obsessive behaviours and how over indulging in one area of our life can mean there is a significant loss to other areas, putting things out of balance wholistically.

 3) Hoarding Wealth

Ibn al-Jawzi warns of the obsession around hoarding money beyond what is necessary to sustain oneself and our family. He makes mention of the kinds of behaviours that can stem from this habit – working unneccessarily to obtain more wealth. What we might call ‘Workaholism’ today.  He refers to some classical poetry:

“And he who spends days in hoarding money

for fear of poverty, then what he did is poverty”

Tips for overcoming greed of wealth and workaholism from ibn al-Jawzi:

  1. Think of those who die having never benefitted from their wealth
  2. Understand, that which we seek, we never actually use for our or anyone else’s benefit.
  3. Reflect on the purpose of gaining wealth i.e to balance oneself yet hoarding and over-striving for it only puts us at a loss and not a gain.
  4. Consult with ones mind “whoever is overpowered by the disease of hoarding money will perish in the desert of greed and the only inheritor will be the mount and packsaddle (page 32)”.

4) Extravagance

Extravagance can manifest itself in different ways – often through overspending on our homes, clothes, ‘fine branded horses’ in other words todays luxury cars. Overspending is addictive in nature and stems from following the hawwa. We give in to the desire for new or numerous possessions until we often find ourselves in great loss or debts. As we get caught up in ‘shopping addiction’ it can be hard for us to stop.

Tips for overcoming greed in extravagance:

1) To think about how we will be accountable to Allah for our earning and spending of every dime, dirham, cent, penny, euro, dollar etc.

2) To know that Allah does not love over-spending

3) To consider those who are below us but also those role models of our past, who may have had wealth but chose not to use it to decorate their own selves, homes etc.

4) To think of the reward for holding back and to think of the ultimate reward in Paradise, where we shall wear clothes we cannot imagine and live in palaces our eyes have never seen.

“This world is a bridge and a bridge should not be taken as a home Thus whoever fails to be aware of this knowledge will be afflicted with the disease of sharah, and should cure himself by seeking knowledge, and contemplating the biographies of the wise scholars. (page 34)”

Chapter six: Refusing to take a Position of Authority in this World

“Know that the inner self loves superiority over its kind (page 35)”. However, there are many risks involved in taking a position of leadership. We have all heard about career ladders and progressive careers and heirarchy. In some of us, their is a disease that is constant in seeking out higher status. It means that when a position of authority is reached, the soul ought to be happy and satisfied with that, however it begins to crave a position even higher and is therefore not content. This type of person puts themselves and risk of falling into sin. Perhaps we have all met people like this, who do anything, at any cost, no matter who they hurt in the process to try and get to the top. A soul like this must break free from this thoughtless obsession with achieving by reflecting on his condition and how he is behaving at what cost.

Abu Darr approached the Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, and asked “Oh Messenger of Allah! Wont you make me responsible for anything?” so he touched my shoulder with his hand and said, “O Abu Darr! You are weak, it is a trust, on the Day of Judgement it is a humilation, a regret, except for whoever took it rightfully and fulfilled his obligations towards it.” (MUSLIM)

 Chapter Seven: Averting Stinginess

‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr narrated that the Prophet, pbuh, said, “Be cautious of parsimony (reluctance to spend), for it has destroyed those who lived before you. It ordered them to sever the ties of kinship and they did, it ordered them to be stingy and they became stingy, it ordered them to indulge in dissoluteness (indulging in their immoral appetites) and they did.” (Abu Dawood)

He also said, “Two traits are not combined in a believer, stinginess and bad morals” (Tirmidhi)

We see from these two ahadith that stinginess and bad morals are linked together. Each stems from the same place, as have all in the above mentioned chapters – obedience to hawwa.

Ibn al-Jawzi states the cure for stinginess as follows; “.. is to contemplate, as one will then realise that poor people are also ones brothers, he is favoured over them and that they were made in need of him; therefore one should thank the One Who blessed him by consoling his brethren. One should also reflect on the honour of generoisity; for people should know that yuo enslave free people when you do them a favour and that evil people will ravage your state when you are stingy. such a person should be certain that everything will remain in his hands obnoxiously. Therefore, it would be better leave it before it leaves him (page39)”

Chapter Eight: Prohibition on Squandering

A person who spends their money quickly and without much thought is a spendthrift. This demonstrates that a person is not using their intellect or having a purpose to their management of money. Allah warns us against this in Surah al -Isra: “But spend not wastefully your welath in the manner of a spendthrift”. Ibn al-Jawzi suggests the cure for such habits is to reflect on the consequences of living in regret once the money has gone and being in the state of loss.

Chapter Nine: Elucidation on the Amount of Earnings and Expenditure 

This chapter almost sums up the previous above chapters regarding earning and spending. “The earnings of a wise person should be more than what he actually needs, and he should keep some savings aside to recompense for his loss lest a misfortune occur…for this is what the mind that reflets on consequences, commands, and what Hawwa that onbserves only the present state, is not concerned with (page 41)”

In other words, all the desire care about is the here and now – indulging and satisfying the immediate cravings. The mind thinks long term and weighs up benefit and loss with wisdom. A reflective mind will not succumb to the desires.

Chapter Ten: Dispraise of Lying 

Hawaa calls to lying and when we are stuck in our addiction very few of us will protect our addiction without lying to our loved-ones about what we are doing. “The cure of this disease is to know Allah’s punishment for a liar and to be certain that wen a person continuously lies he will eventually be exposed one day, then he will be disrespected in such a way that cannot be averted; his shame will increase, ear people’s disprespect to the extent that they will not believe him even when he is truthful, and their disturst will exceed beyond what he lied about (page 42).” Sound familiar? Addiction takes us to this place where no one trust us or believes us and the habit to lie takes over even when we could be truthful. Lies in themselves become an addiction and make us become a dishonest person. It is a habit that must be broken as we enter recovery.  ‘Abdullah narrates that the Prophet, pbuh, said:

“A man keeps telling lies and endeavors in telling them until he is written a liar with Allah” (Muslim)”

Chapter Eleven: Averting Envy

Envy is to wish that the blessing of a person be removed. It “causes insomnia, malnutrition, paleness, mood swings and continuous depression (page 44).” As addicts sometimes we allow ourselves to feel as though Allah has dealt us a rough hand and feel like everyone else is more blessed than we are. If we allow it, envy just keeps us stuck in our self-loathing and hatred for others too. It keeps us stuck in our addiction and eats away at us giving us justifications to keep on using/acting out our addictive behaviours. We must overcome this in order to secure our recovery. Thinking of those who are below us as well as loving for our brothers and sisters in Islam, what we love for ourselves will help cure us of this disease.

 Chapter Twelve: Averting Resentfulness

In many recovery rehabilitation programmes in the West, we often hear that resentments are the number one cause of relapse. When we allow the traces of other peoples bad deeds to remain in our hearts it can cause us to feel bitter and spiteful. These resentments can eat away at us if we are not careful. Ibn al Jazzi tells us that the cure is to try to forgive. This is not always easy so he suggests we try different ways to acheive the forgiveness of those who have hurt us or done us wrong. “First is to know the reward of someone who forgives, second to that the One Who made one be in the position of the forgiver and the other in the position of the one who errs (page 50).” We must always remember that any hurt that comes to us is destined by Allah, to test our patience or to wipe away a sin we may have done. Cleansing our hearts of resentments will help us feel freer and will aid our recovery.

Chapter Thirteen: Averting Anger

Allah placed us with the ability to become angry to keep us defended from harm. When it becomes problematic is when anger becomes excessive “as it disturbs ones soundness, makes one unbalanced and immoderate, such a person starts making wrong decisions which may even affect he who is angry more than the person he is angry at (page 52).” Anger stems from the desires, usually associated with arrogance, and causes a heat within the body that can lead to wrong actions. The one who becomes angry is best off removing themselves from the situation and reflecting on the excellence of controlling the anger for Allah praises such a person who does. The Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, also praised the one who represses anger:

“The strong  is not the one who overcomes people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself when angry.” (Bukhari)

 Anger can lead to harming ourselves or others. Throw drugs or excessive cravings into this mix and you have a lethal cocktail. It is so important in our recovery that we learn to manage our anger in order to prevent relapse. Angry thoughts often lead to giving ourselves unreasonable excuses as to why it is okay to go and relapse.

Chapter Fourteen: Averting Arrogance

“Arrogance is glorifying one’s self and disdaining others (page 56)”. Although, most addicts spend a lot of time feeling guilty and lowly compared to non-addicts there are times when our addiction can lead us to feel higher or mightier than others. Sometimes we compare ourselves to other addicts who we think are worse than us and consider ourselves “not as bad as them” in order to safeguard our addiction and think we are controlling it. Sometimes we look upon others as more sinful than ourselves in order to think of ourselves as less sinful and justify our actions and tell ourselves “Im not hurting anyone”. To cure this thinking we need to honestly reflect on the flaws of the self. We must also fear the words of the Prophet, pbuh, when he said in a hadith narrated in Muslim:

“Whoever has an atoms weight of arrogance in his heart shall not enter Paradise.”

 Arrogance is also to reject the truth. As addicts we know we are doing wrong and going against Allah’s Pleasure, and often hurting our loved-ones, yet we continue to deny the truth and lie against it in order to stay in our sinfulness. We often do not admit our flaws, make excuses and lie to our own selves about where we are going wrong. The first step to changing this, is to start being honest with our own selves before Allah.

Chapter Fifteen: Averting Conceit

Conceit is an excessively favourable opinion of one’s own ability. How many addicts tell themselves “I can stop any time I want” or “I can handle just one drink, I will stop there”? This conceit stops us from entering recovery because it stops us from admitting our own flaws and incapabilities. Ibn al Jawzi tells us a wise man once said “A mans conceit of himself is an enemy of his mental capacities, and how harmful is conceit to the merits (page 61).

Chapter Sixteen: Averting Riyya (Insincerity and showing off)

The opposite of Riyya is to do all actions seeking the Pleasure of Allah and none else. As addicts in recovery we must acknowledge that all good is from Allah, every day we are clean is because of Allah and every good action we do is because Allah helped us to do that, inspiring our hearts. We do not seek the pleasure of people. We must get our intention correct as to why we are trying to come out of our addiction, because if we are doing it solely for ourselves or to make a human being happy then we are seeking pleasure from the creation and not the Creator.

“The general cure for this disease is to know Allah truly. For whoever knows Him, will make all his actions sincerely for Him, and would not see anyone besides Him (page 62)”. Coming out of addiction is not an easy thing and can be easy to fall into Riyya if we are not careful. Therefore, we must remain humble and remember that it is Allah Who helped us to get into recovery and every day we stay clean is because of Him pushing us along.

Chapter Seventeen: Averting Excessive Thinking

Or ‘Stinking Thinking’ as we might hear in the rooms of addiction recovery groups. “Know that thinking is needed…however if thinking is about that which is not fruitful it will be harmful, and if it is excessive it will exhaust the body (page 67).” 

Chapter Eighteen: Averting Excessive Sadness

Grieving over this worldly life causes us to forget the fear of the Day of Judgement. We should feel sad about what we are grieving but at the same time already make a decision on how we can rectify things. A Muslim is forward thinking. As addicts, by dwelling on the past we often get stuck in our addiction and keep relapsing. By focussing on the future and having an action plan we prevent relapse. “The best of cures for sadness is to know that one cannot bring back what he has missed, rather by feeling sad he is adding another misfortune to the already existing misfortune, ultimately making two misfortunes (page 70)” It is Hawaa that calls to sadness, not the mind, because the mind does not call to that which is not useful. The cure for sadness is to use the mind to busy ourselves in distraction and to try our best to be positive and push the sadness away. By dwelling on sadness, we cannot move forwards.

Chapter Nineteen: Averting Ghamm (grief) and Hamm (Worry)

“Ghamm occurs due to a misfortune that happened in the past while hamm occurs due to an expected misfortune in the future.”

Grieving over past sins will benefit us as we shall be rewarded  for that regret. As addicts it can lead to harm if we wallow in it. Worry should instead be redirected towards worrying about how we can achieve good deeds in order to receive reward with Allah. However, grieving for something we have lost from this world will not benefit us. We must know that it may never be returned, accept this and move on or else it will begin to harm us. Recovery from addiction is about forward thinking, not dwelling on the things we cannot change and having hope for the future.

Chapter Twenty: Averting Excessive Fear and Cautiousness of Death

“Fear and cautiousness occur in matters related to the future. A resolute person is he who prepares for what he fears before it befalls him, and avoids excessive fear of what must inevitably befall him, because (in this case) his fear does not benefit him (page 76).” Excessive fear can prevent us from taking action. It can cause us to become stuck. How many of us were afraid to come into recovery because change was scary. Or perhaps we were afraid to go to the mosque. Fear can prevent us from doing good deeds. Excessive fear can cause all kind of obsessive behaviours and even stop us from doing all the good things we want to do.

Section One: Excessive Fear

As addicts we may often feel “what’s the point of change? I’m doomed for The Fire anyway.” This kind of thinking is a negative way to be. Sometimes this can make us think about death negatively in an excessive way or can cause us to deny it all together. Recovery is about finding that balance. To think of death often enough to motivate us to change but not excessively to make us too afraid to do good deeds.

“If the thought of leaving this life saddens the heart, then the cure is to know that this world is not a dwelling of satisfaction, rather its pleasure and satisfaction is in departing it, therefore this is not something that one should compete to possess (page 77)”. What ibn al Jawzi means here is that the sadness is leaving the good deeds behind. Recovery is about wanting to leave this world with good deeds on our backs and striving to wipe out all the bad things we have done.

Section Two: Curing the Whispers

Shaitan, the accursed devil and his army, throughout our lives whisper to us to tempt us to indulge in those things that displeases Allah. And at the time of death he never gives up, trying to make us turn away from Allah. “As for the cure for these trials we should first mention that whoever is mindful of Allah while in good health, Allah will protect him when he is ill, and whoever observes Allah in his thoughts, Allah will protect hi when he moves his bodily parts (page 79).” As we come into recovery from our addiction, the more we turn to Allah and remember Him often, the more He will help us in overcoming the temptations of the shaitan. Ibn Abbas narrated from the Prophet, pbuh,  that he said;

“Be mindful of Allah and He will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him before you. Know Him while in prosperity, He will know you in distress”. (Tirmidhi)

Chapter Twenty One: Averting Excessive Happiness

“Happiness should be moderate so that it equals sorrow (page 84).” Being overly happy and spending too much time in laughter leads to heedlessness, recklessness and forgetfulness of Allah and our duty to Him. We need to strike a balance as with all matters in recovery because “Surely Allah does not like the exultant (triumphantly happy)” (Quran Surah Qasas 28:76)

Chapter Twenty Two: Averting Laziness 

One of the most common supplications of the Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, was “I seek refuge in Allah from grief (ghamm) and distress , old age and laziness” (Bukhari). In recovery, it is important that we take a proactive approach because laziness can be very harmful to us and can cause relapse. (click here for article on relapse prevention around laziness)

Ibn al Jawzi teaches us that the cure for laziness is to reflect on the regret we shall feel when we miss our goal. The worst of punishment is to see the fruits of others labour while we have nothing. In recovery terms we need to consider that without motivation, striving and hard work we shall remain in loss and regret while others get clean and serene and achieve contentment.

Chapter Twenty Three: Identifying One’s Flaws

A successful recovery begins with us admitting to ourselves that we have flaws within ourselves that we need to rectify. Without this acceptance we cannot change nor can we get out of our addiction. It is only natural that the self will struggle with this (addict or non addict we all have lusts and desires to overcome). Ibn al Jawzi suggests some solutions when we cannot always achieve this by our own selves. One of those is such; “A person should take the wisest, most prudent of all the people he knows as a friend, as him to tell him about his flaws and inform him that in doing so he does him a favour. Then, when this friend tells him about them he should rejoice in that, and should not show any sadness, so as not to encourage his friend to stop telling him about them. He should inform his friend ‘If you hide anything from me I will consider you a cheater'” (page 90).

Chapter Twenty Four: Motivating a Low Endeavor 

What this chapter is discussing is how to bring the motivation level up. Something we need lots of in recovery, as discussed in Chapter 22. The solution is to look up to those with high motivation. In recovery, it is important that we surround ourselves with people who are highly motivated towards pleasing Allah. We must attach ourselves and find a sense of belonging with people who have a sense of purpose. Perhaps a charity organisation or an educational class or circle in the mosque.

Chapter Twenty Five: Self Discipline

“The basic principle is that mankind’s nature, disposition is sound and healthy. Whereas disease and defects are extraneous (not part of the natural self), every child is born upon the natural fitra (pure state)”.

Ibn al Jawzi states that within every human being there exits three capacities: a lingual capacity, a lustful capacity and an anger capacity. Allah has favoured us over the animals by way of our lingual self and by which He also shared a common characteristic with the angels. The wise person

“should make this self capacity predominant over the other two capacities. so that it becomes like a rider, his body becomes like a horse due to his elevation, s he be able to lead it where ever he likes and he should be able to slaughter it if he so wishes (page 95).”

Ibn al Jawzi states that “the lingual capacity should be dominant over the other two capacities, using and ceasing to use them as it likes and whoever is like that truly deserves to be called a human being (page 96).” Just as Plato also said “A true human is he whose ‘lingual self’ is stronger than the rest of his other types of selves, because if lustfulness is excessive, a person becomes an animal”.

We, as Muslim addicts in recovery, must reflect on this and begin to train ourselves so that our ‘lingual self’ – our minds, our intellect – become the governor over our lusts and physical states.  As Plato says; “Hence, one should tame his inner self by opposing lustfulness, controlling anger and following the lingual capacity, so he may become like the angels and avoid worshipping lust and anger (page 96)”.

Section One: How to Discipline Oneself

1) Discipline of the self is achieved through moving from one state to another: in our case from addiction/sinful for excessive behaviours to recovery/balance and working to good deeds that please Allah. The person must combine both hope and fear to achieve this. “He strengthens this discipline by keeping good company, leaving bad company, studying the Quran, beneficial stories, thinking about Paradise, Hell and reading the biographies of wise people and ascetics (page 96)”. 

2) Having a strong resolve and intention to ones self is the marker to change. We need to have a firm talk with ourselves and make a commitment to our recovery. “Know that if the self knows that you are serious it will also be serious and hardworking, it it knows that you are indolent it will become your master (page 97).”

3) Bringing oneself to account and judging our own actions is among the practises of disciplining the soul, otherwise known as ‘Muhassabah” in Arabic. (click here for articles about Muhassaba). In recovery, as Muslims, we must bring ourselves to account for every action in order to keep checking on what direction we are headed we need to keep track of ourselves.

Thus, this article has attempted to reflect on how this book relates to our lives today, as addicts in recovery on the path of Islam. If you made it to the end then say “Alhamdulillah (all praise is for Allah)” for helping us reach the end. My thoughts are that it is as though Ibn al Jawzi was alive today, writing this for us, not for those who lived beside him 1000 years ago. Islam is Islam. The scholars of the past knew and understood the nature of man, where we go wrong and what we need to do to get back on the Straight Path. He truly was “The Scholar of The Heart” may Allah have Mercy on him and raise his ranks. The biggest obstacle to change is our own selves. If we can discipline our souls and be constantly aware of the dialogue that goes on between our minds and our desires then we can take the path to betterment. Remember your mind is your leader. The mind is in charge. The mind is the boss of you and me. May Allah help us all to discipline our souls and keep walking the Straight Path to Recovery.

Ameen

By Lynne Ali-Northcott (Addiction Counsellor) 

 Download the book for free here

 

http://www.kalamullah.com/Books/Disciplining%20The%20Soul.pdf 

 

“Allah help me, I’m addicted to drugs and using in Ramadan!”

dua (1)Checking this websites dashboard today I was looking up all the search terms that people have been putting into google or other search engines that lead them to this website. One stuck out for me. “Allah help me I’m addicted to drugs and using in Ramadan”. Wow! The desperation of this statement – which is in fact a dua (prayer/supplication) to Allah – comes through tremendously. I can feel the pain of this individual. This person tapped out this prayer into the search engine and Allah guided them to this website. Who knows what that person will do next. Allah knows how helpful this website is to that person. It is Allah that surely Helps and Guides. Let us all just raise our hands right now, as you read this – yes, now – and say “Oh Allah guide this person, help them and shower them with Your Mercy and Forgiveness. Help this person and to overcome their addiction and help them to increase in those actions that build their faith. Fill their heart with eeman (faith) and taqwa (consciousness of Allah) and let them hate their sin and love to worship you. Ameen, thumma Ameen, Ya Rabb”.

So this led me to think about what do we need to do now in Ramadan if we are still using. Maybe we did not get off to the best start. Maybe we had great intentions but we fell, we relapsed, or things are not going as well as expected. Maybe we could not fast this year due to being on some kind of medication and we aren’t feeling the spirit of Ramadan and that is pulling us back. Here are a few steps to help us think about how we can make the most of what is left insha’Allah. Let us not give up so long as we have breath in our lungs.

1) Embrace the regret and then let it go regret

Regret is good. Regret is what lead that person to our page. Regret is what disturbs the soul and makes us think and stop and reflect. Let’s face it, in the passions of our addiction we get little time to stop and think. We use on the guilt to try and push it away before it becomes regret. I invite you to embrace regret. Give it the biggest bear hug you can because that regret is from Allah. The soul who sins yet does not feel sad before Allah is a very lost soul indeed. If Allah places regret in your heart that you are blessed because this is Allah calling you back to Him. So hold it and let it be the motivator for you to change. And then once you take those steps to change – Let it go! Hanging on to it for to long holds us back. Let it fulfill its purpose and then move on.

2) Make a firm intention never to return to sinfulness

hqdefault (1)Scholars say there are three conditions of making ‘tauba’ (returning back to Allah). The first is to sincerely regret what we have done. The second is to give up that action immediately and the third is to make a firm resolve never commit those sins ever again. As addicts, we have been here many times before. Crying to Allah, begging Him to help us change. We have been desperate, we have been humbled – but we have relapsed again and again and each time we feel more guilty and less hopeful that we will ever achieve sobriety. Never let shaitan take us to that state of thinking again! Some say Shaitan has not won when he gets us to sin. He has won when he convinces us that Allah will never forgive us. So we need to make those intentions again, firmly and with confidence that this time will be different. We make a promise to Allah thatsay-bismillah-and-believe-in-allah-1 we WILL do our best to give up on all those things that displease Allah. Western psychologists also state that a firm intention is the catalyst to change. So let us make it today. Renew our intentions. Let us do this for Allah and only for Him and then Allah will facilitate all the rest.

3) Do things differently

The chances are if we have relapsed or are still using in Ramadan then we are not doing enough. Ramadan is a time when the whole Muslim Ummah (world wide community) are trying to give up sins and become better people. We all have our addictions and vices in some ways. For some people its shoe shopping, back biting, working too hard, neglecting family, watching too much TV etc. In some shape or form most Muslims are striving to be better people. But isn’t going to happen if we don’t do things differently to how we normally do the rest of the year. It is all the new things we are doing that help to facilitate that change – going to the mosque, praying more, spending time with pious people, spending less time on social network, reading the Qur’an or listening to Islamic lectures. If we are fasting and all we are doing is abstaining from food and water, without changing our behaviours, then how do we expect to change? The Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, said;

“Perhaps a fasting person will gain nothing but hunger and thirst from fasting.”(Ibn Majah)

Ramadan is much more than just not eating and drinking it is about changing our whole lifestyles and that is what recovery is all about! The good thing about Ramadan is, that we have company while we do it! The rest of the family and community is also trying to change, to abstain to become better. That should make it easier for us, not forgetting the added bonus that shaitan is locked up so it is just me and you and our desires to handle.

So this is the answer – if we are using in Ramadan – do things differently. Increase in all those good actions that Allah loves. This is nourishment for the soul, cleanses the heart and distracts the mind – the greatest of relapse prevention rolled into one.

4) Seek help from Allah

“Allah help me” said that brother or sister that inspired me to write this post. If we are not asking Allah frequently for His Help, Guidance and Understanding how do we expect to get better. Dua dua dua! Keep asking and never stop. Allah guarantees us that He will answer every dua. He averts calamities that were destined for us on account of our making dua. That time we could so have easily bumped into a drug dealer or someone from the drug using community but Allah averted our paths – why? On account of our prayers! So many times it could have been so easy for us to have relapsed but Allah helped us, sometimes we may have been completely oblivious to what Allah has saved us from.

40_60

“And your Lord says, “Call upon Me; I will respond to you.” (Qur’an 40:60). So let us ask!

5) Get help from the people

Recovery is not an easy thing to do alone and neither is just being an ‘ordinary’ Joe Bloggs Muslim. This Straight Path is not meant to be walked alone. We need help and support from people too. Ask Allah to guide you to good companions in this life. Our company is vital for living a good spiritual life. The Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, said “You are upon the way of your friends”. Your vibe attracts your tribe and vice versa. We need to seek out those people who are good for us, help us to remember Allah and live good clean and healthy lifestyles. We naturally gravitate to those people that serve our interests. Birds of a feather, flock together.  If we are just interested in getting high, we will naturally flock to those who do too. If we want to make the most out of what is remaining of this month – run to those who are! So if we have been shy of the mosque up until now, we need to get down there. Make an effort, give salam (Islamic greeting) to others and extend our hands to shake them. Confide in someone about the struggle you are having – we do not always need to go into details and reveal our sins but we can seek out people and ask them to knock for us, call us, or meet up for iftah (breaking of the fast). The wolf devours the lone sheep.

So these are just five tips to get us thinking about how we can kick start our belated Ramadan. We must not feel so downtrodden that we give up. It is not too late, so long as the death rattle has not reached the throat, the doors to repentance are wide open we just need to move our feet towards them. May Allah help all of those of us that are struggling with addiction and help us to reap the benefits of what is left of this beautiful month and help us to gain Your Forgiveness and Mercy, Ya Allah. We are in need of Your Help. Ameen”

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Lynne Ali-Northcott (Addiction Counsellor)

The Ramadan Buzz

Once upon a time if someone said the word “buzz” I would automatically think they were talking about getting high. That is what it used to mean to me. As a Muslim addict in recovery from substance addiction, that word no longer has the same meaning. “Buzz” to me means totally different things, as I now live in a way that values the natural high, the spiritual cry, the family tie. And that is just the way I like it. And the biggest high of all in this life is that moment when I feel connected to Allah and I literally feel my heart softening and my skin tingling and those moments come most frequent of all during Ramadan.

So let’s take a moment to compare the fake buzz of addiction to the real buzz of turning to Allah.

Buzz 1 – Squad Goals

Fake Mates So you think you have your crew, the ones that will have your back when the isolated-youthproverbial goes down or hits the fan. You think these childhood mates will be your mates forever and they love you, “I bare love you man”. Wrong! Addiction generally takes us to a solitary place. Not only do we end up losing our families and sober friends but we also end up drinking and using drugs on our own in the end. Addiction takes us to a selfish place, where often those people we thought would stand up for us when we needed them, don’t ever come to our aid. And in those times we try to get clean and overcome our addiction, they pull us back. If they really cared, they would not help us to relapse.

Real Deal “A muslim is the brother to another Muslim” so our Prophet taught us,  loving for eachsquad.goals2 other what they love for their own self. A friendship built on love for the sake of Allah is the strongest. In Ramadan, as we remember that the entire global Muslim community is fasting, squad.goalspraying and making a conscious effort to get closer to Allah it becomes easier for us to also step things up. We are not the only ones who returned back to the mosque, we don’t feel like a stranger when there are so many other new faces around. As we stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers (or sisters) we feel as though we belong. Warm smiles, hugs and hands shaking salam bring the soul alive – that’s genuine love. The best squad of all is the family. Ramadan is the perfect time to improve ties and seek forgiveness and make amends with those we love and who deserve our affections the most. 

Buzz 2 – Guilt Free Prayer

The sinners prayer – So we hear often the people tell us that Allah accepts all prayers, no matter how much we have sinned. So why do we feel so guilty in front of Allah. Some of us feel so guilty about all the stuff we have done that we cannot even go to pray to Allah because we feel so ashamed before him. When we do pray, we might think “Why wouldallah.hate.sin Allah want me, why would He answer me, who am I kidding that He will help me this time when I just keep messing up.” Shaitan loves to fill our heads with these thoughts to keep us away from turning back to Allah. Allah does not love sin, but He loves the sinner who repents. We know this, but still we cannot shed this feeling of guilt – often a ‘reason’ to just keep using.

The Ramadan Prayer Ramadan gives us the opportunity for all our previous sins to be forgiven insha’Allah. When we fast all day and make that sacrifice for Allah the feeling of sincertainty that Allah will accept us is almost guaranteed. We no longer feel like we are different to other Muslims. So many of our friends and family, who are not addicts, start talking about seeking forgiveness and having hope in Allah that He will forgive them. We are all seeking the same goal. Suddenly, those guilty feelings don’t feel so strong anymore and where all those tough emotions lurk in dark places within, Allah allows the light of faith to enter. As we touch our foreheads to the ground we feel closer to Allah than we did outside of Ramadan and our hope in Him as our Forgiver just gets higher and higher. 

Buzz 3 – A sense of achievement

Useless Being – Let’s face it, when we are active in our addiction we feel pretty much aimagesnot-totally-useless waste of space, useless, liability to the rest of the world. We feel lack of purpose and when
we do try to do something good it can often go unappreciated, unwanted or just go terribly wrong. Addiction makes us low in self esteem, feel worthless and all this leads to depression and negativity about ourselves. It can be hard to get out of this mindset and this is often what prolongs us in our addiction and prevents us from finding the motivation to pick ourselves up and try again (and again, and again and again). 

A sense of purpose – Ramadan gives us an opportunity to have things to do, people to see. purposeWe begin to busy ourselves with the things that we know will help us to gain that spiritual high. We listen to talks, we go to the mosque, we recite or listen to Quran, we meet family for iftah, we pray. We begin to feel a sense of being back “I’m back!” as our mind clears and we start to feel as though we have found a purpose again – we find Allah again. This adds meaning and depth to the things we do and how we spend our time. As we begin to feel a sense of ‘normality’ again and begin to embrace life and faith we start to feel good about ourselves. A Muslim who realises their purpose in life will have increased self-esteem as they begin to understand that Allah has chosen us for something better. 

Buzz 4 – The physical buzz

Lost in the fog – Being caught up in sin and addiction is a bit like being caught in the fog and just feeling our way around, looking for a way out. We feel lost and confused. Wefog cannot see or think clearly. The arabic word for “Khamr” means something that “befogs” hence why we often feel that way. The phsyical buzz that we seek  out in addiction, is short lived. We are forever chasing the first buzz, the high of the early days when we first started getting smashed. We spend years, some decades, trying to chase that initial high – deceived by the thought that it is possible, yet knowing deep down that it is not. The fake high of our addiction brings only misery with it, what goes up must come down. And we hit the deck hard and manage to smash up all loved ones and everything we own on the way down. The body begins to die, the heart begins to die, the mind begins to die – we die. 

I can see! Ramadan helps brings clear skies. The actions we perform in this Holy Month, Rose-Colouredour efforts to come closer to Allah, help us to start living again. Our bodies begin to detoxify, throwing out all those nasty chemicals that were killing us. We spiritually feed and nurture ourselves so that our hearts are purified and our mental well-being begins to heal. There is no bigger buzz than starting to notice the birds singing again, the colours of nature, the sound of our own laughter. It is like coming back to life with new passion. 

Buzz 5 – Hopefullness

The ‘No hopers’ Addiction takes us to a place of such depression and sadness that we begin to lose hope day by day. Every time we have tried to sort things out, we have fallen.hopeless Each time we fall, the bump on the way down is more and more painful. Hope begins to vanish. We feel doomed in this life and doomed in the Hereafter. We begin to start giving up on everything and everyone, even Allah. 

This is it! Ramadan brings hope back into our lives at a time we thought we had nothing else to live for or even die for! Our spirits are lifted, our faith is increased, our family encourage us. This is our moment! Ramadan teaches us that anything is possible when we have Allah. We begin to think that Paradise is possible for us. We begin to think – maybe I am not so worthless after all and we KNOW yes KNOW that Allah does love us after all. 

The Prophet saws said: “…there are two moments of joy for a fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord…” [Bukhari]

So let us embrace this Ramadan and if we put in the effort and try our best we will definitely feel the buzz! There are a few moments where we can say we can get a spiritual high, and Ramadan is one of the best of them. So seize the moment and do your best!

“Expand my chest”

anxiety2If ever any one of you has experienced severe or prolonged anxiety you will know how difficult it can make your every day living. That feeling when your chest feels tight or heavy, the heart feels like a solid rock, breathing can feel painful and the stomach churns constantly. We may have to take more trips to the toilet than normal and may even experience shaking or trembling or tearfulness. Things that we could normally do easily, like driving, trips to the shops, talking to strangers etc can feel overwhelming and frightening. If we doanxiety not treat this feeling of anxiety it becomes heightened and panic attacks can ensue. This has a ripple effect where we become more and more fearful and the anxiety increases. Throw an addiction problem into this mix and all this becomes much bigger and more scary and is often something that leads to relapse as the person seeks a way to just make that feeling go away, a feeling that we often associate or misinterpret as a craving. Carers of addicts also experience high levels of anxiety as they live in fear of the next relapse or become exposed to oppressive and unacceptable behaviour from the active addict in their lives. Anxiety begins to effect the whole family.

Allah tells us in the Qur’an about the anxiety that Musa (Moses) experienced when he was tasked with going back to Egypt to call the tyrant leader, Firaun, to worship Allah and set free the Children of Israel, who he was oppressing through slavery. Musa (as) became afraid and anxious. For a fleeting moment he doubted his abilities, his chest tightened and he lost hope in carrying out this task. He was overwhelmed. Allah tells us about his duah;

tumblr_inline_mxj3e0dLMa1qjcw8k“Lord! Expand my chest for me, and ease my task for me and And loosen the knot from my tongue that they understand my speech.” 

Musa asked for Allah to expand his chest, meaning that he felt as though his chest was tight and constricted, thus displaying the feeling of anxiety. He felt overwhelmed with his task, worried that he would find it hard so he asked Allah to make things easy for him. And lastly, his inadequacies seemed bigger to him, making him worried. He was afraid that the people he was going to would not understand him, due to a slight speech impediment, and therefore he asked Allah to remove this flaw.

There are so many lessons to be learned from this duah of Musa (as). This verse from the Qur’an teaches us that it is Allah who has the ability to remove our anxiety and make things easy for us when it all seems so difficult and frightening. It is Allah that can make things easy. The Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, taught us another beautiful prayer;

اللّهُـمَّ لا سَـهْلَ إِلاّ ما جَعَلـتَهُ سَهـلاً، وَأَنْتَ تَجْـعَلُ الْحَـزَنَ إِذا شِـئْتَ سَهـْلاً  “O Allah, there is no ease except in that which You have made easy, and You make the difficulty, if You wish, easy.”

Knowing that a great prophet like Musa experienced anxiety should help us to be easy on ourselves. Some people may say to us “Muslims should not feel anxious when they havedont-panic Allah” are grossly mistaken. We are but human beings, and most of us will experience anxiousness at one time in our life. When we get anxious, this is the time to remember that Allah is the One who can pull us together and help us begin to rely and depend on Him.

Another example of panic and anxiety in the Qur’an, is that of Musa’s mother when she placed her little baby in the river;

“And the heart of the mother of Musa became empty. She was very near to disclose her secret, had We not tied up her heart , so that she might remain as one of the believers”(28:10)

This Verse is so beautiful. This is a Verse of Allah that needs to give us hope when our heart is feeling broken and we experience trauma or emotional pain. Allah describes her heart as being completely emptied out. Anyone who has experienced anxiety will know that the heart empties out of all other matters except that one thing we are worried about.  Allah tells us here that He intervened to strengthen her heart. He ‘tied up’ the broken pieces of her heart and held them together for her in order to get her through this test and keep her faith in tact. Therefore we must know that it is Allah who ties back the heart together when we are feeling as though we are in tatters and falling apart, broken into pieces.

So it is a very natural thing to panic and feel worried and anxious from time to time but the solution to prevent it and stop it lies in turning to Allah and trusting Him to help us.

5 Steps To Overcome Anxiety

1) Make duah, call upon Allah for help

Use the duahs mentioned above as they are from the Qur’an and sunnah and also make duah from your own heart in your own language, knowing that Allah will help you. Musa called on Allah to expand his chest when it felt tight and He knew Allah could do that.

2) Breathe!

breatheOne of the main reasons we may have a panic attack, or experience chest pains is because we are not breathing properly. When we are nervous or anxious we tend to take shorter breaths or even hold our breaths without even realising we are doing this. If you watch a sleeping baby, you will see that it is there bellies that rise and fall as they breathe. Babies know how to breathe and we forget. If we take a deep breath it is often our chests that rise. However, our oxygen receptors are actually in the diaphram, close to the stomach. When you take deep breaths try to ensure that it is your belly that is rising and not your chest. If we do not breathe from here, the receptors send a message to the brain saying “we are not getting enough oxygen here!” thus sending the person into a state of panic and they may begin to hyperventilate. For more breathing tips please click here 

 3) Try to remove the cause of your anxiety and lighten your load

If you are experiencing prolonged anxiety, you need to consider removing that cause from your life if it is possible. Seek help from others to try to make things easier for you. Call on family or friends to help you ease your task. Musa (as) knew that he would struggle to complete the task that Allah wanted him to do so Musa asked Allah to make his brother Haroon his companion and help him, and so Allah made Haroon a prophet too and granted Musa’s request. No more soldiering on alone! Time to get some help!

4) Exercise Peaceful park in spring

The scientific cause of anxiety is the release of too much adrenaline. The brain has gone into an emergency state and realises this chemical so that the person can either fight or flee, known as “fight or flight” syndrome. The body is not designed to constantly live in this state. Excess adrenaline can be burnt through exercise. If you are not ready to hit the gym yet, then a pleasant walk in a local park can do wonders. It is also very spiritual to come back to nature and sit under a tree for a while and breathe in fresh air. Cardiovascular exercise is recommended for 20 minutes at least three times a week, and this may include a brisk walk and will help lift the mood.

5) Positive self-talk

It is easy to fall prey to the whispers of Shaitan, who want us to feel weak and lose self belief. Musa (as) became fearful of his speech problem, but he called on Allah to fix it. Sometimes, Shaitan can make our flaws and weakness seem much bigger than they actually are. Allah tells us in the Quran it is Shaitan that causes us to be fearful (3:175), therefore seek refuge in Allah from his whispering several times per day. We must stop focusing on the things we struggle with, and start strengthening the things we do well.

May Allah help us to overcome our anxieties and move forward to complete our tasks and get through our days and nights without fear. May Allah help us to stay focused on trusting Allah to keep helping us and guiding us. May we remember that Allah will smooth out our roads so long as we keep turning to Him and may Allah keep us away from all those things that He is displeased with and guide us to those actions that earn His Pleasure. Ameen!

The frequent supplication of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him
The frequent supplication of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him

 

By Lynne Ali-Northcott

Lessons for The Day of Ashura

images1BXW1LOVAs the 10th of Muharram, otherwise known as The Day of Ashoora, approaches it got me thinking and reflecting about the way Allah can open up possibilities we thought could never happen. Subhana’Allah, Glory be to Allah, He is so Amazing and truly does make miracles occur every day and sends down signs for us to see.

Fasting on this day is recommended as part of the sunnah of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, as related in the following hadith;

Fasting on Muharram 10, known as the Day of ‘Ashura’, expiates for the sins of the past year. When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) arrived in Madinah in 622 CE, he found that the Jews there fasted on Muharram 10 and asked them the reason for their fasting on this day. They said,” This is a blessed day. On this day Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemy (in Egypt) and so Prophet Musa [Moses] fasted on this day giving thanks to Allah.” 

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, imagesYNJ31TNU

“We are closer to Musa than you are.” 

He fasted on that day and commanded Muslims to fast on this day. (Al-Bukhari) The following year, Allah commanded the Muslims to fast the month of Ramadan, and the fasting of ‘Ashura’ became optional. It is also reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) intended to fast on the ninth and tenth. Ibn ‘Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah fasted on the day of ‘Ashura’ and ordered the people to fast on it. The people said, “O Messenger of Allah, it is a day that the Jews and Christians honor.” The Prophet said, “When the following year comes, Allah willing, we shall fast on the ninth.” The death of the Prophet came before the following year. (Muslim and Abu Dawud)

saveLet us just briefly take a moment to imagine the moment the children of Israel were leaving Egypt with Firaun and his frightening army following shortly behind. The children of Israel, weak and oppressed for many years, on foot, from elderly and sick to babies in arms, while soldiers advance on horseback and with weapons. Imagine, that moment when they reach the sea and there is no where to run to, no where to hide. Imagine how fast and hard the hearts were beating in their chests. It would seem that there is no way out of this terrible situation. It would seem as if this is the end, perhaps many thought they were about to die.

And then, something amazing happens! Something HUGE. Something unimaginable!

So We revealed to Musa, “Strike the sea with your staff.” And it split in two, each part like a towering cliff. And We brought the others right up to it. We rescued Musa and all those who were with him. Then We drowned the rest. There is certainly a Sign in that yet most of them are not believers. Truly your Lord is the Almighty, the Most Merciful.

(Qur’an, 26:63-68)

And with that wonderful, amazing moment, Allah saved the oppressed from their oppressors and they were free to worship Allah without fear. Allah has preserved this amazing story in His Books, the Bible and The Qur’an as a lesson for mankind for all those who remain on this earth until the Day of Judgement. This story is for us, as Allah says in the above verse, is a sign for us to reflect upon.

As we make a commitment to change our lives around, to seek to continuously improve our character and our relationship with Allah, we must reflect on this historical moment. Allah wants us to know that He can make anything possible and get us out of any difficulty if we totally rely and depend upon Him. Allah wants us to know this, so that we may trust in Him and increase our faith in His powers and abilities. Indeed Allah is able to do everything. Sometimes, we can get down and feel as though there is no solution to our problems. It may feel as though every one and every thing is going against us. But so long as we keep turning back to Allah, we must know that our Lord will free us from our difficulties and that no one or no thing can harm us. All is All- Mighty, All Powerful.

”And whosoever has Taqwa (consciousness of Allah), He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty). And He will provide him (sources) he never could imagine…”  ( Qur’an. 65:2-3)

So now that we know this, what next? Well as the verse above says, those who are muh.conscious of Allah receive the help of Allah to get out of difficulty. As we try to better ourselves as Muslims increasing taqwa is the key to staying away from sins and doing more good deeds. When we know with conviction that Allah is All Aware and Ever Watchful over us, this should be enough for us to change. One way to increase our taqwa of Allah is to fast, as this helps us become more conscious of Allah, as Allah says in the Qur’an;

“O believers! Fasting has been made obligatory for you just as it was made obligatory for those before you so that you may attain taqwa”  (Qur’an: 2:183-187)

Fasting brings us closer to Allah and helps us to be more mindful of our actions, something we need if we really want to become better Muslims. Fasting on The Day of Ashura, is a means for us to cleanse ourselves of our sins and be grateful to Allah for all His blessings upon us. So with all this in mind, take time to reflect on this sign of Allah to increase your faith in Allah and become better people insha’Allah and always remember, that no matter how impossible things might seem sometimes, Allah can get us out of any situation if we depend entirely upon Him. Allah is truly Amazing and Capable of Everything. He will make a way out, he will save us from our enemies and He will provide us with all the things we need to move on and move forwards. So turn to Allah and trust Him in all that you do.

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By Lynne Ali-Northcott

The Greatest Sacrifice: Giving it up for Allah

1385516_607210809318183_1222861769_nThe month of Dhul Hijjah is upon us and stories of old are retold. These stories are not just bed time tales but lessons for us to reflect on. These lessons have the capacity to change the lives of those who deeply ponder upon them. There are also many signs today for us to be inspired by. We only need to switch on the TV and see the swarms of pilgrims from every corner of the globe, gathering together for the sake of Allah. Rich man standing shoulder to shoulder with poor man, black man foot to foot with white man. Each of them robed in two white garments of humility. A beautiful spectacle for the blessed eye to behold and an amazing sight for every one of us to see; the unity of the Muslim ummah.

One of the most poignant stories for us to think about is the story of Prophet Ibrahim, as, and his beloved son Ismail, as. Prophet Ibrahim held a strong love for his son, Ismail. He was strongly affectionate towards him and they shared a special bond of father and son. So when one night Prophet Ibrahim was inspired by Allah through a dream to sacrifice his beloved son Ibrahim became troubled. Ibrahim went straight to Ismail to tell him what he saw in his dream and to talk about what they should do. Allah tells us about this;

And, when he (his son) was old enough to walk with him, he said: “O my son! I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering you (offer you in sacrifice to Allâh), so look what you think!” He said: “O my father! Do that which you are commanded, Inshâ’ Allâh (if Allâh will), you shall find me of As-Sâbirun (the patient).”  Then, when they had both submitted themselves (to the Will of Allâh), and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (or on the side of his forehead for slaughtering);  And We called out to him: “O Abraham! You have fulfilled the dream!” Verily! thus do We reward the Muhsinûn (good-doers). Verily, that indeed was a manifest trial. (37:102 – 106)

As you can tell from the above verse, Ismail readily submitted to this dream, believing this was the command of Allah and that they should both submit. Allah did not want Ismail to be killed but He wanted to see if Ibrahim was willing to carry out this command. This was a great test. Allah chose the most beloved thing to Ibrahim; his son, and asked him to slaughter him. Allah wanted to know if Ibrahim was willing to give up his son, never to see9f86f979e5343870785ec459e052d6e5 him again in this life. So when Ibrahim was about to lower his blade upon the next of his son, Allah replaced him with the ram. Year after year we are reminded of this story so that we can be left with a burning question – what are we willing to give up for the sake of Allah?

Allah was asking Ibrahim to give up something halal, something good, a prophet of Allah, his beautiful son. What about all those things Allah asks us to give up? The difference between the test of Ibrahim and our test is that Allah is only asking us to give up the things that are not permissible and those things that are not permissible are never good for us. All those things we need to stop doing are damaging us and those around us. Yet we are holding onto them, unable to give them up. We become addicted to those harmful things believing we need them and unable to control our urges. We need to turn this around.

Look at Ibrahim. Allah commanded him to give up the most treasured thing to him and he was willing to give it up immediately. Ismail was willing to give up his own life to carry out this command of Allah! These two amazing Prophets need to be our role models. Allah is asking us to submit to Him and give up all the things that get in the way of that submission. Has not the time come for us to shed ourselves of our addictions and turn back to Allah. When better to do this than during the ten best days of the year? Maybe we have slipped since Ramadan left us. Now is our chance to throw ourselves back into our dean and try again. These ten days the rewards with Allah are maximised. We pushed ourselves during the best ten nights of the year in Ramadan, so how about we start striving now during the ten best days? It’s time to start slaughtering some of our bad habits!

62a415c21699ed24d7d1ca2f8c3a93a0

Laziness in Recovery

Short-Attention-Span1We live in times where everything is super fast. We scroll through the pages on Facebook and can no longer be bothered to read the long statuses or the long hadith. We like pictures with a short message on instead. Short, sharp and easy to forget. Remind you of anything?

We are losing our ability to concentrate for long periods of time, addicted to video vines that last a few seconds each, or viewing picture-gram messages a few words long. The books are getting dusty on the shelves and we are losing something special. We are becoming a lazy nation. Now that we have embraced recovery, we need to make sure we do not also fall into these traps and keep ourselves motivated and striving hard in our recovery programme in order to prevent ourselves from returning to darkness.

In our addiction our flaws included lack of motivation, laziness, procrastination, tiredness and sloppiness. Now that we have embraced recovery it is time we overcame these, because I’m telling you with confidence, if we don’t shed ourselves of these inadequacies, we are leaving ourselves wide open for relapse!

Just think about the effort we put in to scoring drugs or fulfilling our urges. If there were no drugs in our town, we would go to the next town, the next city even. We would make 100 excuses to our families so we could make our escape, and 1000 excuses upon our return about where we have been. Not to mention obtaining the money and paraphernalia to use, find a place to use them and then try and act like normal when we return to our family.

Some people say if we even put one half of the effort into our recovery as we did into our addiction then we would stay clean. ihsan

As Muslims we understand the concept of ‘ihsan’ – excellence. A Muslim must strive to do everything with ihsan, to the best of our abilities. The Prophet, saws, never did things halfheartedly. He is our role-model and his companions, many of whom were addicted to alcohol prior to Islam, threw themselves into acts of goodness.

We cannot afford to be lazy in our recovery or our Islamic way of life. Shaitan walks through the door of boredom and comes up with many suggestions for us to pass the time away. The moment we leave that door open for him, we have left ourselves open to relapse.

In recovery, it is up to us to fill up our time with good actions so that boredom and laziness never creeps into our lives. That does not mean we never rest either! But when we rest and relax, we do it with purpose, and in doing that it becomes an act of worship. We play for Allah, we work for Allah and we rest for Allah!

So let us take time to read articles and books deeply, pondering upon them, just like we used to do before social networking came about. Let us find time to write journals, pen to paper, or sit and look at the creation of Allah in the park or seaside. We will get out, what we put in. So how much are we putting in?

The frequent supplication of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him
The frequent supplication of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him

By Lynne Ali-Northcott

Staying Spiritually High After Ramadan

istiqaamah4

The guest of Ramadan came to visit, and we welcomed the month with open arms. We embraced all the aspects of this Holy month and on account of our dedication, the Mercy of Allah poured down on us. The guest brought a sense of peace into our homes. We fell in love with our spouses again, we felt closer to our children, we were kind to our parents, but most of all – above all else we loved Allah and His Messenger more than anyone. We truly tasted the sweetness of eeman! The Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, said about this;

“There are three qualities whosoever has them, may taste the sweetness of Faith: firstly one who loves Allah and His Messenger (pbuh) above all else; secondly one who loves someone simply for the sake of Allah, and thirdly, one who loathes return to disbelief, after Allah has rescued him from it, as he would loath being thrown into the Fire.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Now as our guest of Ramadan has left us again for another year, and we hope we will live to see another, we must hate to return back to sinfulness just as we would hate to be thrown into the Fire. It may be now that the month has left us, that something within us is stirring. Shaitan is back to his old tricks, now that his chains have been unlocked and the desires within us are raging. Cravings are setting in, our desires are calling us and the battle has begun. Our thoughts are fighting and our hearts our wavering. Now is the time to restrain ourselves more than ever before. Now is the time for relapse prevention!

faithOne of the companions approached the Prophet, pbuh, seeking some simple yet holistic advice that could keep him going on The Straight Path, this is what he said;

 “Say, ‘I believe in Allah’ and then be steadfast.” (Istiqama)
[Muslim]

‘Istiqama’ – literally means to be steadfast, upright, to go straight, to keep going consistently. A quality every Muslim needs

“And worship your Rubb until there comes unto you the certainty” (i.e., death). (Quran:15:99)

 In the past, when we tried to embrace Islam and then we slipped, we blamed Allah. We would angrily say that we tried and that Allah decreed for us to fall. We blamed others and said we were led astray or that Shaitan caused us to leave the Path of Allah. A major catalyst to change is to take 100% responsibility for our own actions and know that Allah never causes us to slip, but it is  us who abandons His Way and turns our back on Islam.

Verily, Allah will not change the (good) condition of a people as long as they do not change their state (of goodness) themselves.” (Quran: 13:11)

Ramadan was the training programme and now we must set our training into action. Weistiqama tasted the sweetness of good deeds so we must let that sweet taste linger in our hearts. Every time the thought of sin enters our minds and we entertain those thoughts, it is as though we are imagining carrying out the sin that it will be sweet and tasty. The cravings increase the longer we allow thoughts of sin to ruminate throughout our minds. However, we know that history tells us once we have tasted the sin it is never sweet, rather it leaves a bitter and disgusting after taste in our hearts. It is only through those things that Allah loves that causes the hearts to be filled with sweetness. So as soon as the thought enters our minds we must stop them dead, counteract the thought, and seek refuge in Allah. Allah describes this process and calls  upon His servants to seek help from Him.

Verily, those who are conscious of Allah, when an evil thought comes to them from Shaitan , they remember (Allah), and (indeed) they then see (aright).(Quran, 7:201)

changeIn Ramadan, we were able to overcome the thoughts. We were more conscious of Allah. Therefore we have found the answer! To be able to overcome sinfulness and desires we need to increase our consciousness of Allah, or ‘Taqwa’ as it is known in Arabic. And the ways to do this is through all those things that Allah loves – fasting, praying, dua, reading Quran and all good deeds. We did all of those things in Ramadan, so we can still implement them throughout the year so that we can create a recovery programme that will keep us going on the Straight Path with istiqama. We proved to ourselves how capable we are, so let’s keep striving forward inshaAllah with the goal of pleasing Allah.

Verily, those who say: `Our Lord is Allah (Alone),’ and then they stand firm, on them the angels will descend (at the time of their death) (saying): ‘Fear not, nor grieve! But receive the glad tidings of Jannah which you have been promised! We have been your friends in the life of this world and are (so) in the Hereafter. Therein you shall have all that your inner-selves desire, and therein you shall have all for which you ask. An entertainment from (Allah), the Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (41:30-32)

Lynne Ali-Northcott