Monthly Archives: June 2014

An Ode to Dad

I am a thirteen year old Muslim girl. My Dad was on drugs for many years. He is now clean Alhamdulillah but I still carry the pain with me. Here is my poem from me to my Dad.

An Ode to Dad

When my dad came home itwould be like he would load his gun, Pull the trigger, And shoots the bullet

Straight down his throat, Killing himself, slowly,

Sharing the smoke to me and my family .

Trying to be strong,
Nothing can scare me,
I was wrong.
I was confused and did not understand,

Why was he doing it,
I see you popping the pills
And im finding the weed

You go to rehab
You’re in and out
Months have gone past
But what does that do
You still continue

I questioned our love
But I know u loved me
So why did u do it
You let it out on us
The people who loved you
And cared

I held my anger in
I was naughty at school
I did not want to come home
I was scared to see you
And would always avoid you

I prayed every night that you would change
And you did
After months of pain
I will never forget it
Even now you’re better
It will still be there to remember

Now I still am scared you will start again
But I have faith that you won’t
Please keep my trust
And don’t do it again

You are a great dad
Now you have stopped
Please stay this way and don’t go back
Don’t put me through the pain again
And don’t put yourself through the pain

The Importance of Anger Management in Addiction Recovery

Anger. It’s a massive contributor to relapse. How many times did we justify our drug use because of something that occurred due to an angry outburst. There may have been times we even created arguments with our family or friends just so we could get ourselves worked up, firey and then on a mission to go and score drugs, or indulge in addictive behaviours like gambling, sex addiction or over eating and exercise.

How many times did we become agitated and impatient because we were withdrawing from drugs or desperate to indulge in our addiction. We flew off the handle with the people we loved and cared for.

Anger is a big contributor to relapse because of these reasons and only causes us to become angry with our ownselves which resulted in self-depricating behaviours and further exaccerbating our addictions.

Anger management is a huge part of our recovery and also as we begin to embrace Islam we remember that the Prophet saws had the best of manners and he came to perfect our manners. He never got angry unless it was for the sake of Allah.

A man came to the Prophet (may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and asked him for advice. He (Peace and blessings be upon him) said,

“Do not become angry.”

The man repeated his request for advice, and each time, the Prophet replied with this one phrase that sums up all good attitudes and behavior: “Do not become angry.” (Bukhari)

“The strong man is not the one who can wrestle, but it is the one who can control himself when he is angry.” (Bukhari) When we are in recovery, it is important that we try to minimse the opportunities for us to become angry. With this hadith in mind, we must learn to walk away from conflict and potential arguments. Umar ibn al Khitab, early Muslim and 2nd Caliph of Islam said;

“I have not regretted my silence once. As for my speech, I have regretted it over and over again”

In recovery from addiction we must learn to improve our character flaws and change the negative behaviours that have become habitual. If we claim to be in recovery or on the path of Allah yet continue with our destructive anger, then we need to check in with ourselves and look at what needs to change.

We need to work out where this anger is stemming from. One of the number one reasons for relapsing is resentments against others. Islam teaches us to overcome our grudges and forgive eachother. The Prophet saws forgave his enemies often and preferred mercy over anger. He had many opportunities to become angry or resentful but he, peace be upon him, always chose forgiveness. He is our role model, and in recovery we must strive to take on this beautiful attribute. We must try to cleanse our hearts of ill feelings and resentments against others. Is it not the case that we have hurt so many through our addiction but want forgiveness from those people? The Prophet, saws, said;

”Do not be angry with each other and do not envy each other and do not turn away from each other, and be slaves of Allah, brothers. It is not permissible for a Muslim to shun his brother for more than three nights.” (Imam Malik’s Muwatta)

Sometimes forgiveness does not come easy. Perhaps, we forgive a person but they keep on giving us a reason to be angry. This is a test from Allah and we need to struggle on and get through this. Shaitaan loves to see relationships broken, especially close family. Shaitan loves to see us fight and hate. We must seek refuge in Allah from Shaitan in order to keep ourselves guarded against anger and resentments.

The Prophet, peace be upon him, instructed us to cool ourselves with water by making ablution when we become angry. If we are able to do this, we must. It will be a purification for that ‘hot head’ and we will repel the shaitan. He, peace be upon him, also instructed us to change our physical position. He, peace be upon him, said;

“If any of you becomes angry and he is standing, let him sit down, so that his anger will go away. If iit does not go away, let him lie down.” (Ahmad)

Not only will we begin to see improvements in our recovery and in our spiritual well-being in general but with the right intention, to serve and please Allah by controlling our anger, we will inshaAllah reap the benefits of this struggle in the next life too.

The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said:

“Do not become angry, and Paradise is yours.” (Sahih al Jamil)

The Messenger of Allah said:

“Whoever controls his anger at the time when he has the means to act upon it, Allah will call him before all of mankind on the Day of Resurrection, and will let him choose of the Hur al-’Ayn whoever he wants.” (Abu Dawud)

Allah has told us in His Holy Book, The Qur’an;

“And march forth in the way to forgiveness from your Lord, and for a Paradise as wide as the heavens and the earth, prepared for the righteous; those who spend in prosperity and in adversity, repress anger, and pardon men. Verily, Allah loves the good-doers.”

[Al ‘Imran; 134]

By Lynne Ali-Northcott (Addiction Counsellor)

Quarter of a Century on Drugs: Majids Story

My story of drug abuse spans over 25 years. I am almost 40 and first tried drugs when I was about 13 or 14. It first started with smoking a cannabis joint with some school friends. Drugs quickly became very central in my life, taking, selling or facing the consequences of drug use. This could be lying to my parents, avoiding police, bragging about my drug use or discussing who has the best drugs or who can smoke the most spiffs. Drugs basically dominated my life. Looking back now I see some of my failures were also linked to my drug taking, for example, not finishing college, missing job interviews, wasting many years, were all a direct result of indulging in drug use.

By the time I left school and until the day I got married there was hardly a day that went by when I did not use. During my college days I started experimenting with harder drugs like LSD, Speed and Ecstasy. It was the early 1990’s and the rave scene had emerged, to which I flocked to with my friends on a weekly basis like it was a religious pilgrimage. I did somehow manage to get in to a local university as a mature student at the age of 19, but Uni became another place where I could find like minded people to not only use with but to whom I could sell to. I don’t remember wanting to be an actual dealer or wanting to carry the status of one but I found a gap in the market and decided to exploit it to fund my own use. By now I was taking harder drugs like Cocaine and crack which were not cheap. During this spell of selling I got caught by the police and ended up getting 6 months in prison. It was inside prison where I first smoked heroin and although I did not have a habit inside I did continue taking heroin when I came out on a ‘social level’ or so I convinced myself at the time. Having seen addicted heroin users and watched some suffer in prison from withdrawals I always kept long gaps between each use. Along with a small group of friends, we decided to only do crack and heroin one day a week to avoid any of the pitfalls of withdrawal, we chose Tuesdays and even called it “Tuesday night sessions”.

At the age of 25 I got married and decided to stop using drugs for a year but soon after my daughter was born I started seeing my old friends again. Friends from the Tuesday night sessions, who had by now forgotten the risks of getting dependent on opiates, were now full blown junkies. It didn’t take long for me to get addicted to heroin and now started a ten year battle of being in and out of active opiate addiction.

25 years of drug abuse is hard to summarise in a few words and I can go on about my war stories but I do not think there is much benefit so I will focus on recovery and breaking free from the drugs hell. I do want to say that I hurt many people so dear to me as a result including my wife, children and parents.

It has taken me a long time to get some clean time but I honestly believe that I am most at peace when I am drug free. I got kicked out of my house for continuous relapses so decided that I had to stop once and for all. Having been raised a Muslim I knew true peace and serenity can only really be achieved with spirituality and that giving up drugs alone will not be the answer to solving my worries and anxieties.

I found myself in a cheap hotel, disowned by my family, even my own children. I felt as though my world had fallen apart once again. I had two choices, I could have taken this solitude as a freedom pass to carry on using without being caught out and questioned by my wife. But my soul was screaming out for something else. That night I sat and prayed to Allah. I got on my knees at maghrib time and begged Allah to remove the addiction and guide me to The Straight Path. I took the second choice. I started going cold turkey from the heroin and fought the urges and cravings.

I knew being alone would be too much to endure so I set up a support network for myself which included attending evening prayers at the mosque each night, N.A (Narcotics Anonymous) Fellowship Meetings regularly, support from friends who had achieved some clean time and very quickly started to regain self worth, confidence and living a guilt free life.

I also took care of my physical health by attending the gym and slowly my family started to accept me again once they saw I was taking responsibility for my recovery and looking healthier and feeling spiritually motivated. I would like to mention that on previous attempts to get clean I often failed and looking back feel that it could have been because I felt external pressures to give up. This time I had an internal, personal desire and a strong intention to change.

Having been clean now for some time and it feels like I have found the real me. Every aspect of my life has improved, from work and my family to my health, self-confidence and self-esteem. To prove to myself that my drug-taking days, although at the time seemed so special and exciting, in fact were irrelevant. I say this, because I really don’t remember any particular using session but any real joyful days in recovery, such as family outings, dinner parties etc are locked into my memory and are the highlight moments of my life and the ultimate highs. Drug using days are never looked back on with a happy feeling, but these good times in recovery bring a true sense of contentment when I remember them.

Make duah for me as you read this story that I stay on the Straight Path and I pray that Allah blesses all the readers with recovery and happiness in this life and the next. Ameen

Raising Children in Islam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full article: http://www.iqrasense.com/muslim-character/raising-children-in-islam-how-to-raise-children-into-responsible-muslim-adults.html

The Link Between Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence

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

Inextricably Linked?

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

Governmentally domestic violence is defined as;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The above facts and statistics related to them along with other researched information regarding domestic violence can be found at http://www.avaproject.org.uk/our-resources/statistics.aspx

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

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

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

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

Khalida can be followed (and contacted) on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/#!/khalida.haque.9

Sophias’ Choice: My baby or heroin?

Many people will be shocked when they hear my story. But I am not alone. There have been many Muslim women like me who have made the same choice and there will be many more after me.

When I was a little girl I dreamed about my wedding. I would wear a traditional red sari and my husband would be kind and caring and look after all my needs. How wrong was I?

I met my boyfriend while I was still at school. I wasn’t one of the most clever girls in the class but I tried. After school my friends and I would head down the local park where some older boys would hang out and smoke weed. They called us over to join them and before I knew it we were pretty much all paired up in couples. Saj seemed to be the leader among them. I caught his eye and he definitely caught mine. Saj wasn’t in college or working but he always seemed to have money. Soon he had enough to buy a car and after that it seemed he was always out and about running errands. I soon worked out, he was a drug dealer. At first I was upset and told him I didn’t want to see him anymore, but he was always so kind to me, or so I thought. He never smoked anything stronger than weed himself, but one day he suggested I try something for him to test it out.

He took out some beige powder and added it to a spliff and I tried it. I trusted him when he told me I wouldn’t get addicted from just a few pulls on the spliff. He was wrong. As the heroin ran its way though my blood I began to feel this amazing feeling like I was being wrapped up in a warm fuzz of love. I took more than a few lugs that day and I could not wait to take it again. I found myself, just the very next day, asking Saj if I could have some more. He was more than willing to let me and I thought he was being generous to me. He bought me clothes, and soon my status among the local youth was elevated. I was the girlfriend of the most swag drug dealer around and I started to like the attention I got. Saj started taking me out with him on his runs. He was the gangster and I was his moll. heroin

I soon ended up with a daily habit. I progressed from smoking the heroin on spliffs to smoking it on foil, getting a bigger hit in one go. After a few months like this I began to notice I was getting withdrawals around the same time every day. I would sweat and feel feverish and nauseous until I got my fix, and Saj was always there to provide it for me, free of charge. In return, I gave him what he wanted physically. The heroin caused my periods to stop so I didn’t realise I was pregnant until i was nearly six months gone. Pregnant with a heroin addicted fetus.

Of course by now my parents had pretty much already disowned me. They didn’t know I was on drugs at this point, or pregnant, but they told me I had to leave the house. I had brought shame on them for riding around in cars with Saj and coming home late at night and missing school. I packed my things, 16 years old, pregnant and completely dependent on my drug dealer boyfriend.

As my belly continued to grow, so did my addiction. I felt guilty and I hated myself but I still took that brown (heroin) every day until my beautiful boy was born. In the hospital, baby Omar cried and cried in distress. babyThe midwives fussed around him and questions were asked. In the end, in a state of desperation I told them I was a heroin addict. My baby was born a junkie and he needed his fix and I was so desperately ashamed but the only way I knew to get rid of that shame was to use more drugs. Texting Saj from my hospital bed I begged him to bring some brown. And he did. Ever willing Saj, always ready to give me my fix. It took me a long time to realise how sick this was. How all the time I thought he loved me and did it out of care, he was slowly poisoning me along with his own child.

Of course, referrals were made to social services. And before long I was visited and told I had a matter of time to get clean or else my baby may be put into care. Still only a few days after giving birth I attended a prescribing agency for drug addicts. Never have I felt any more shame than the day I walked in with Omar in my arms getting a prescription for methadone. I thought it was the wake up call I needed. And a part of me really wanted to do it, to get clean and be a good mum, but the drugs just kept calling me. I missed my mum and I was terribly sad and depressed and the only way to get rid of the feeling was to turn to heroin. I just started using on top of my methadone and my dependence for opiates hit the roof.

I had to keep returning to the agency for testing ever few weeks. I would make excuses, say I was sick, then the next week that the baby was sick. I would do everything I could do avoid testing but in the end they told me that failure to comply would mean my baby could be put into foster care. It took 9 months for that to happen. Help-heroin-addict-get-help-and-recover2The day that happened was the day my heart felt as though it was ripped out.

And of course with a half ripped heart, all I could do was try and fix the feelings through drugs. I stopped taking methadone and gave up hope. I never got rid of the pain. It was always there. I took more drugs to try and numb it out but they stopped working. I thought if I tried another drug, that would work. So I asked Saj to get me some crack. At first, I thought it gave me back a sense of control, by heroin use reduced and I felt more alert and more able to function. But as the crack took a hold my drug use escalated to another level.

Cycle-of-AddictionI started missing the contact days to see Omar. I thought every time I see him it just gives me more pain. I missed his first steps. I missed his first word, and it wasn’t “Mumma” as it should have been. I hated myself and the more I hated myself, the more I wanted to destroy myself. Social services gave me clear boundaries, many opportunities and chances but I blew it. I gave up hope of ever seeing Omar again, and I stopped fighting. I stopped fighting my cravings, I just gave into them. I stopped fighting with the social workers, I told them “do whatever you want”. I stopped making dua to Allah because I thought He had abandoned me long ago.

Proceedings started going ahead for permanent adoption. My family didn’t step in to offer to take Omar in. Hearing that I may never see my beautiful boy ever again, I had one waking clear moment. I cried and I cried and I sobbed and I sobbed. I begged my social worker to give me another chance. I told him I would do whatever it takes, and I meant it. They gave me an opportunity to go into residential rehab and I cried with relief. I thanked them for this chance.

They sent me 200 miles away to a rehab out in the country. As the car drove through the winding roads, a part of my brain was already mapping out the roads in my mind, planning an escape. I was withdrawing, shaking and sweating. Nerves took a hold of me and all I could think of was jumping out of the car and running back to the motorway to hitch a lift back home. But I stayed sat in the back of that car, silent and trembling and looking at pictures of Omar on my phone, whispering “Mummy’s gonna do it this time baby”.

I got clean. I got every bit of opiates out of my blood in a horrible sickening detox programme. I stopped withdrawing and I sat in those group therapy sessions. and I listened to the stories and I gave mine. So, did I make it? Did I get clean and have a happy ever after? If I had made the right choice then I could say yes. But I made the wrong choice. And it was a choice. No matter how much I tried to convince myself that I didn’t  know what I was doing, or that it was beyond my control, I know I chose heroin over Omar. I chose drugs over my baby.

Before I left the rehab I had written down my plans. I had written “Leave Saj, go home until I can get my own place, keep going to meetings, attend my appointments and all contacts with Omar and get tested clean every time”. But even as I had written those words, I knew the reality would be much different. 

The same day I got back to my area, after a three month residential programme, I was back on the gear. It wasn’t long before I had my last goodbye with Omar. That was the worst day of my life. Heroin couldn’t take that pain away no matter how hard I tried. guilt

There are many more women out there like me, Asian women, Muslim women. I am not alone in this choice. And we will have to live with that choice eternally. I am five years clean now and am working in a support center for homeless women. I see my story in many others almost every day.
I know I can never turn back the clock but I am trying to do everything I can to repent to Allah and prove myself to him. Saj is in prison now and I never want to see him ever again. Even though he supplied me with drugs, I cant blame him. I made my choices. It was my choice. I beg Muslim women, don’t make the same choices I did. 

Impact of culture on Muslim Addicts in the UK

It is impossible to specify the exact number of Muslims who use or misuse substances in the UK, mainly due to lack of data and also how well hidden the problem is amongst Muslim communities. Even if the exact number of Muslims accessing treatment was recorded this would merely be the tip of the iceberg since many may never seek treatment due to the taboo of addiction or through attaining sobriety through other means that proffessional services in the UK.

Muslims are generally more cautious of contacting Western services due to fears that it could compromise their culture or religion (Arfken et al., 2009) and end up using alternative means to try and get clean. Many Muslims try to overcome their problems through the family, community, or in their family’s country of origin. It is hard to determine the exact number of Muslims who do not come forward for help and also those who become substance-free without any need to contact agencies but we can guess that the number must be in the thousands.

One startling statistic we do know is that the drug of choice for Muslims in the U.K. appears to be heroin (Fountain, 2009b), while contrastingly, in America Muslim youth reporting substance use most often reported cannabis use (Ahmed, Arfken & Abu-Ras, 2010). This may mean that Muslims using drugs such as alcohol or cannabis are less likely to see proffessional help than heroin addicts. Muslim heroin use in the U.K. rarely escalates to intravenous use (Fountain, 2009b) and is more commonly smoked on foil or in a ‘spliff’. Contrastingly, however, in some Arab countries such as United Arab Emirates injecting is more common and in some cases Muslims have even been found to inject substances that include opiates, such as cough mixtures (Tahboub-Shulte, Ali, Khafaji, 2009), perhaps when the availability of heroin is scarce. T

Cultural Influence on Substance Use 

Ethnic minorities, are more likely to indulge in substances and become addicts, mostly due to social, economic and educational disadvantages. It is also important to consider how the stress of migration, adjustment to new communities, and discrimination can also heighten the chances of minority groups turning to substance use to cope (Arfken, Kubaik & Koch, 2007). As with most substance abusers, the most common reason Muslims begin to dabble with susbtances is due to the influence of their peers and being exposed to alcohol and drugs through them. Initially the individual may begin to experiment with substances as a means to connect with and be accepted by peers who already use drugs. It is under these circumstances that dabbling can lead to addiction and dependency (Orford, 2001).

“There can be a tendency for people to conform to new behaviors, even though it may contradict their morality and personal values. And it is through this conformity that a new set of norms and values may be established amongst peers and by which addiction may develop. For Muslims living in the West, they may feel the desire to fit in with the wider social sphere, thus experiencing a cultural conflict and may pull away from the culture of their parents.” (Ali-Northcott, 2012) 

The guidance once promoted by their culture and religion may become lost in the Western world as young Muslims seek their place in it. This desire and innate urge to connect with people and gain a sense of belonging can be the very catalyt that can cause an individual to continue in substances misuse even if it goes against their own morality or religion. Ironically, that connectedness experienced by the individuals in the group tends to dimish as the addiction intensifies. Very often they begin to find an increasing lack of connectedness within their social group and isolation emerges (Parrott, Morinan, Moss & Scholey, 2004). Thus, the individual finds themselves cut off from their own culture, the family and the local community and eventually, cut off from the drug-using community as well. This can only further lead the individual into their addiction as isolation leads to feelings of low self-esteem, guilt, shame and other difficult emotions. The individual only uses substances in the attempt to try and overcome those feelings, thus intensifying the addiction.

The general public views addiction as a moral problem (Parrott et al., 2004), stereotyping and excluding addicts (Twenge, Catanese & Baumesiter, 2002). In most Muslim cultures this stigma is much greater than foundin non-Muslim or non-religious communities. Muslim addicts may feel rejected from their local Muslim community and in some cases, their own family.

Denial of Carers

Substance misuse is well-hidden in many Muslim communities and family members often stay in denial due to cultural taboos of substance use. It may also be down to a lack of understanding from parents or the inabliity to talk and communicate, especially in the case of first generation parents who may not understand issues around susbtances. This denial may prevent the Muslim addict from seeking proffessional treatment and so they can take a lot longer to come into recovery than non-Muslims.

How culture can have positive impacts

Culture does not always have a negative effect on how communities view substance use.  Many aspects of culture and religion can also provide a positive platform that can make the transition from addiction into recovery smoother and easier for Muslims. Studies have shown that when Muslim drug users attempt to get clean the Muslim community is often ready to welcome them back into the their fold (Arfken et al., 2009). Muslim addicts are able to come out of the isolation and find a place back into the family and local community that have forgiven them and are ready to help that individual prevent relapse.

Lynne Ali-Northcott (Addiction Counsellor)

Making Pure Intentions for Ramadan

As the month of Ramadan is approaching, we need to think about how we are preparing for this blessed month of fasting in a spiritual way. Many Muslim addicts believe that Ramadan will be the solution to overcoming their addiction. We often think that this is the time we will change and turn our backs on our habits, however many of us fall on Eid day or soon after. However, we need to ask ourselves, what is it about Ramadan that makes us less likely to endulge in our addictive behaviours? And why is it that we still relapse in Ramdan, or soon after? Its important that we purify our intentions for Ramadan. Many of us hope to change, but this needs to be the consequence of our pure intentions and not the catalyst for fasting.

What does Allah say?

All the verses regarding fasting and Ramadan appear in the same place in the Qur’an. From Surah Baqarah, 2:183. These ayats are a reference point for us to return to and try to understand.

2:183: O ye who believe! As-Saum (abstaining) is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may attain Taqwa (God-Consciousness)

Many Muslims fall into the trap of believing the purpose of Ramadan is to attain Taqwa, a consciousness of Allah, where we think of Allah often leading to fear of His Punishments and hope in His rewards, thus helping us to change our behaviours. However, in this verse, Ramadan has not been mentioned. In fact we need to understand what the meaning of as-Saum is. As English speakers we often translate Saum into fasting, however, the literal translation is the verb ‘abstain’. We understand that saum does not always refer to abstaining from the stomach through fasting. For example Allah tells us in al-Quran that Maryam, the mother of Isa, said,

“Surely I have vowed to The Most Merciful, to fast (sawm).” [19:26]

The fast here means to be silent, that is, to abstain from speaking. Islamically, Sawm in Ramadan means to abstain from food, drink and sexual relation between dawn and sunset. It also means that we must abstain from all habits and behaviours that can be displeasing to Allah. This is important for us to think about as we embrace our recovery. Perhaps, why it is much easier for the addict to abstain in Ramadan is, because many Muslims all over the world are holding back from their bad habits and trying hard to become better people. Part of our intention for observing Ramadan is to abstain through fasting in the hope that we will become more conscious of Allah.

The first mention of Ramadan itself appears shortly after this verse;

2:185: The month of Ramdan in which was revealed the Quran, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and criterion. Whoever of you observes the month he must observe saum (fasting)…and that you may you must magnify Allah for having guided you so that you may be grateful to Him”.

Lets look closely at the language used here– whoever observes means whoever of you is alive and gifted by Allah to see Ramadan should seize this opportunity. Allah is saying all those who can, should take the chance.

Many addicts begin to questions their ability to get through this month. We need to really think about this verse and realise that Allah is giving us encouragement and He wants us to grab this chance to come closer to Him and subsequently make changes in our life.

What we also see here is that the purpose of Ramadan is to become thankful. That through coming closer to Allah through fasting and abstaining from sins and our addiction we may learn to become more grateful to Him, Who is deserved of all thanks.

What’s the intention for fasting?

 Let us take a moment to think about why we want to fast in Ramadan. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said;

“Actions are but by intentions, and everyone shall have but that which he intended…” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1; Muslim, 1907)

As discussed above, the main purpose of fasting is to attain God-consciousness and the main purpose of Ramadan is to gain thankfulness to Allah. However, this is the time to combine our intentions for Ramadan. We need to think about the multidude of benefits we can reap from this beautiful month. As with many aspects of Islam there are conditions and there are two conditions for purifying our intentions for fasting in Ramadan.Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said,

“Whoever fasted the month of Ramadan out of sincere Faith (eeman in Allah as One) and hoping for a reward from Allah (ihtisab), then all his past sins will be forgiven, and whoever stood for the prayers in the night of Qadr out of eman and ihtisab, then all his previous sins will be forgiven .”

Imam Ahmad and An-Nasaii added the following to the above narration,

“And also what will occur later on (meaning future sins, as well).”

Imam Ahmad taught us that fasting with eeman entails fasting while believing with the heart in the obligation of fasting during Ramadan. As for Ihtisab, it means that one anticipates the reward and his fasting is therefore only for the sake of Allah and not to imitate his people and community or for any other worldly gain.

So we must ask ourselves, why are we fasting? To get clean? To stop acting out in our addiction? Tradition? Because everyone else is? To pleasing our parents or spouses?
In the tradition of Rasulullah (SAW), the state of Imaan and Ihtisab has been defined as one in which a person performs good and virtuous deeds in the hope of Divine Recompense and with faith in the promise of Divine good pleasure and forgiveness.

Regarding this, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is reported to have said:

“Many are there among you who fast and yet gain nothing from it except hunger and thirst, and many are there who pray (throughout the night) and yet gain nothing from it except wakefulness.”

Let us correct our intentions so that we do not fall into this catagory of people who gain nothing from their fasting but hunger and thirst. it is also said that this hadith applies to those who fast yet do not change their bad habits, they continue to sin or behave in ways that Allah dislikes.

Abu Huraira said  – “ The heart is the king of the body” when explaining the hadith:

“Verily in the body there is a lump of flesh; if it is sound, the whole body is sound, and if it is corrupt, the whole body is corrupt, and behold, it is the heart.” [Bukhāri and Muslim]

Any belief in Islam is founded on 3 pillars:

1- Conviction of the heart – brings about an intention
2- Statement of the tongue – he speaks of what resides in the heart, the conviction
3- Action of the limbs/body. – Acting upon that belief.

The intention for fasting in Ramadan is very important. Without a correct intention the actions are not valid

Being positive

Part of having a good intention is looking forward to receiving the guest of Ramadan just as we would with a family member who lives far away and only comes to visit us once per year. We must be positive as the month draws near and believe in ourselves that we are able to complete and perfect the number of days to the best of our abilities. Allah Himself offers us words of support and encouragement that should give us the courage to embrace this month, knowing that Allah is on our side to get us through;

“…Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you” 2:185

How many times have we read this verse and did we ever notice that Allah says He intends ease, and the follows up by saying He does not want to make things difficult for you? It is like saying I want you make a cake delicious and I don’t want it to taste horrible. Allah is emphasising this point. He is showing the strength of His intention to make things easy for us and not for us to feel as though we are suffering a hardship.
Then Allah says; “…He wants that you must complete the number of days…” This means He wants us to perfect the number of days – to do them fully and to the best of our ability.

Scholars call Ramadan the training ground for the rest of the year. As addicts in recovery, we must utilise this month as best as we can to try and change our behaviours but we must remember that our primary intention is to become better Muslims, becoming more conscious of Him so that we may develop thankfulness. Having an attitude of gratitude is paramount in our recovery as it removes negative thinking and self-pitying behaviours that can lead to relapse.

Let us make duah to Allah that He allows us to live to see Ramadan, to complete and perfect its number of days and for us to love Him more and be thankful to Him. Ameen.

Lynne Ali-Northcott (Addiction Counsellor)

 

The Path to Allah is Straight. The Path to recovery is Straight. They are the same path

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In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful, Full of Mercy

We aim to help you faciliate your recovery programme with an Islamic ethos in mind. We are made up on a team of professionals including, Addiction Counsellors, Family therapists, Child Play therapists, Medical Doctors, Drug Workers, teachers of Islamic Studies and Muslim brothers and sisters who have been in treatment or are recovering from addictio. We  believe alongside your professional help , you can implement Islamic rituals and acts of worship in order to perfect your recovery programmes God-Willing.