Monthly Archives: August 2014

Faith In Treatment

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

FAITH IN TREATMENT By Syed Tohel Ahmed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Encouraging signs

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

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

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

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

Cited from http://www.the-platform.org.uk/2010/02/19/faith-in-treatment/

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

Know Your Enemy

The Tactics of Shaitan

As Muslims in recovery from addiction or sinfulness, we often talk about the influence of Shaitaan in our lives. We blame him for our relapses, we struggle with his whispers, we feel like we are going out of our mind with the cravings we believe he has created in us. There is no doubt that Shaitaan is there trying to make us slip and fall but does he really have such a hold over us that we think he does? Does he have as much power or have we given him the power? Its time to take the power back and arm ourselves with the methods of protection that Allah has shown us through the Qur’an and the sunnah of Muhammad, pbuh. This is a battle and every war has strategies and the most important one is to know your enemy enemy

Who is shaitaan?

The Imam (leader) of the Shayateen is Iblis, he believes in Allah, he has met him and spoken to him directly. He is a jinne and was considered to be such a dedicated worshiper of Allah that he was kept among the company of the angels. It was not a matter of belief of the heart that made him a disbeliever. It is because of the actions, his arrogance, his failure to follow the commands of Allah that made him a disbeliever and not because he outwardly denied Allah or His existence. In fact it was Iblis’ pride that caused him to stray from Allah. When Allah commanded him and the angels to bow down to Adam, as, Iblis refused saying;  “I am better than him. You created me from fire and you created him from clay.” and “Do You see this one whom You have honored and made greater than me If You give me time, I will lead his descendants astray, all but a few of them.” (Quran: 07:12). And so the war between mankind and Iblis began and he enlisted an army from among the jinne, and later mankind to support him in his plots to lead every son of Adam astray.

The word ‘Shaitaan’ in Arabic has a literal meaning of being “far away”,  or something that is going over the limits. Shaitan is the furthest away from the guidance of Allah who has transgressed beyond all bounds. Shaitaan and his army have become so far away from Allah and his army consists of followers from  both mankind and jinne and they are referred to as “shayateen” far away, having reached the highest level of disbelief in Allah.

A companion asked is it true that there are shaitan from among men? And the Psaws confirmed that there are. But this does not mean, we can go around calling people a shaitan, only Allah knows how far away their actions have taken them away from Him. We must think deeply about this, and ask our own selves, “are my actions taking me away from Allah and His Path?”

Being in recovery as a Muslim is about taking responsibility for our own actions and changes to our lives. A big part of our recovery is to overcome Shaitan and his trickery.

What are the traps of Shaitaan?

plannerThese traps of shaitan, Allah is Aware of all of them. He has allowed them to happen out of His Wisdom and His Knowledge, that we do not always know.  This is part of our test in this world so we can come closer to Allah. Allah wants to see who will try hard in this world to overcome their desires. And we must always remember that Allah is The Most Powerful and He is The Best of those who plot and Allah’s plot will always be Supreme over all the creation.

The plot of shaitaan is weak. We have spent years in our addiction convincing ourselves that shaitaan had power over us, but in fact we were shying away from doing something about our addiction. Allah says: “Indeed the plot of shaytaan is ever weak” (Quran, 4:76)

How can this be when we are always getting waswasa (whispers of suggestion)? We have been giving into these temptations etc. It feels like he is so strong. It’s itme we realised that we are stronger! He was ordered to bow down to us! We are the superior race. We must know that Shaitaan  can be defeated so let us look at his ways of deception now;

THE DOORS OF DOUBT AND DESIRE

Shaitan will enter our hearts through one of two doors – either the door of doubt, or the door of desire.

The Door of doubt

Shaitan’s main goal in life is to cause us to disbelieve in Allah. He may begin to cast doubts in our mind about Allah and Islam. In the depths of our addiction we may have had terrible thoughts about Allah. We were angry with Him. We felt destined for Hell Fire and we wondered why did He create us all, just to make us live a life of sin so that we would go to Hell. These thoughts polluted our hearts and made us go even further astray. When we rebuilt our faith those thoughts went away and we began to love Allah again.

Shaitaan can also cause us to doubt in our ownselves. We consider ourselves weak and incapable of overcoming our addiction or urge to sin. We give up and say “what’s the point in trying again?”. Shaitaan traps us into this negative spiral of thinking to keep us away from making positive changes.

Now we know where these thoughts are coming from, it is time we kept that door firmly shut. One way to keep that door tightly locked is to increase our knowledge of Islam. Doubt is overcome by education and ignorance breeds doubts and negative thoughts.

The Door of Desire

Allah tells us what Iblis said shortly after refusing to bow down to Adam, as;  “Verily, I will mislead them, and surely, I will arouse in them false desires.” (Qur’an, 04:119)

Cravings to indulge in sin are often from Shaitan. He lures us in through his whispers and by beautifying the sin to make it seem exciting. Our bodies respond with physiological urges like butterflies in the stomach, sexual arousal, increased heart beat and adrenaline. It feels as though a relief is needed that only comes about when that urge is fulfilled. Except that relief is only short-lived and is often followed by regret, guilt and shame and very often the only thing we believe will take those feelings away is to repeat the sin again. Thus, we fall into Shaitan’s trap of addictive cycles.

However, we must realise that there is a way out of this vicious cycle and we can avoid relapsing into Shaitaans traps using the following 3 step formula as soon as the thought enters our minds;

1 – Seek refuge in Allah from Shaitan (Audthoo billahi minashaytanir Rajeem)

2 – Make duah to Allah to help you to overcome your desires to sin

3 – Perform a good action in the place of the sinful action. (This could be an act of worship, repeating dhikr, reading Quran etc or some other halal activity such as exercise or meeting a good friend) As the best way to overcome an addiction is to replace the old behaviour with a new behaviour.  

As addicts, we spent far too long entertaining those thoughts when they entered our mind. In recovery, we must learn how to counteract them immediately. Allah will help us if we try

“And if an evil whisper from Shaytaan  tries to turn you away (O Muhammad) (from doing good), then seek refuge in Allaah. Verily, He is the All Hearer, the All Knower” [Qur’an, 41:36]

 “Verily, those who are Al-Muttaqoon (the God-conscious), when an evil thought comes to them from Shaytan, they remember (Allah), and (indeed) they then see (aright).” [Qur’an, 7:201]

 THE FOOTSTEPS OF SHAITAAN 

In many addiction treatment centres or twelve step fellowship meetings we will hear sayings like “The relapse doesn’t happen the moment you pick up (obtain drugs) ito you belelieved don't follow happens long before”. This means that we may relapse in our thinking and behaviours long before we actually indulge or succumb to the cravings. Islamically, this may be understood as following the footsteps of Shaitaan. It refers to the way in which Shaitaan lures us away from the Straight Path, footstep by footstep, slowly slowly.

“. . . and follow not the footsteps of Shaitan. Surely he is to you an open enemy” (5:142).

Here are four aims and objectives the Shaitaan have to try and take us away from the Path of Allah. If they fail to get us in the big stuff they will start with the smaller stuff and work their way up until they have pulled us completely away. We must be aware!

1 – Major sins – shirk (associating partners with Allah), biddah (innovation), intoxication, fornication etc.
2- frequent minor sins
3 – Business with permissible deeds – sports, cleaning, socialising, gaming, work, study, etc. We become so preoccupied with these things that we leave off the rewardable actions
4 – busy with things that have less reward rather than more reward.

 “O Children of Adam! Let not Shaitan (Satan) deceive you, as he got your parents (Adam and Hawwa’ (Eve)) out of Paradise,”(Quran, Al-Aaraf: 27).

These are just some of the tactics used by our enemy. We must strive to overcome him and remember that Allah is Superior and All Powerful. Shaitan’s whispers are just an invite. It is up to us if we want to accept it or reject it. We must be aware that on the Day of Judgement, Shaitan will wash his hands of us and tell us that he had a hold on us. We thought he did, but he did not. We must realise that now before it is too late. Listen to what Allah says;

“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. I deny your former act in associating me  as a partner with Allah (by obeying me in the life of the world). Verily, there is a painful torment for the Zaalimoon (polytheists and wrongdoers)’” (Quran, Ibraaheem: 22).

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

 

 

The Post Ramadan Blues – A carers thoughts

Dear Fellow Carers,

Assalamu alaikum. Hows it all going after Ramadan? I remember some of the most hardest times for me, as a carer of an addict, was just after Ramadan. Things were really good during the fasting month. I was happy, my loved-one was clean and embracing the dean. But there were many Eids when my loved-one relapsed. And shortly after Ramadan everything went back to ‘normal’. I had the post-Ramadan blues. Depression would set in and I would be very anxious and stressed. But we must remember, our own recovery does not end as soon as our loved-one relapses. If THEY choose to undo all their hard work it does not mean we should too. By keeping up our prayers, duas, reading the Quran, and all the good deeds we did in Ramadan we will stop ourselves from slipping and falling into depression and other self-deprecating behaviours. We must be responsible for keeping our own selves strong, no matter what condition our loved-one is in. After all, it was by doing all those good deeds that lifted our spirits, and even helped our loved-ones to abstain from their addiction or at least cut down on their sins.

During Ramadan we built something beautiful. With every good action that we did for Allah we started preparing our homes in Paradise. Brick by brick we built a palace, tree by tree we planted a garden. May Allah accept all our good deeds. But we must not destroy all of this by undoing all our hard work and returning back to how we were.

Most of us carers of addicts suffer from high anxiety, stress, depression, anger, sadness, to name a few. We go through some really tough times and life is really hard. We are often in turmoil and don’t see clearly. Allah shows us the signs but our judgments are clouded with confusion. In Ramadan, we get a sense of clarity. We even dare to make promises to ourselves to make changes if our loved-ones relapse after Eid. But do we follow them through?

We need to be kind to ourselves. The first step to self caring is to concentrate on our spirituality and our relationship with Allah. We got close to Him in Ramadan and we felt His Response to our prayers. Is not the Lord of Ramadan, not also the Lord of all the other eleven months of the year?

No matter what choices the addict in our lives make, we must always make the right choices for ourselves. Do not let their downfall be our own destruction. Let not the actions of others drag us down. We will return back to Allah, and they will return back to Allah – as individuals! They have their book of deeds and we have ours. Its time we concentrated on our own for a while. If we get sick again, how can we help someone else, if we ourselves, are full of sickness. We cannot help anyone until we first help ourselves.

So lets not abandon all our good deeds. Be not like the one that Allah described so beautifully in the Qur’an;

“And do not be like her who destroys her yarn that she herself made strong” (16:92)

The Verses About Ramadan and Fasting

This Ramadan let us take a journey through the Qur’an inshAllah and focus on the verses that are particularly helpful in our recovery.  There are many verses that could help us to find a path towards Allah while we strive to get clean or sober or give up addictive behaviours that take us away from Allah. So let’s journey together….

WIth Ramadan just around the corner let us have been pondering upon the verses regarding fasting and Ramadan. All these verses appear in one place in the Qur’an and do not appear in any other chapters. From Surah Baqara, the second chapter, from verse 183 Allah states many reminders that can help us to correct our intention. He begins with the verse;

“Oh you who believe! As’Saum (abstaining) has been prescribed for you, as it has been prescribed for those upon you, that you may achieve taqwa (God-Consciousness)

“Oh you who believe! As’Saum (abstaining) has been prescribed for you, as it has been prescribed for those upon you, that you may achieve taqwa (God-Consciousness) Quran, 2:183

Initially, there is no mention of Ramadan itself. Here Allah is stating that the way to achieve Taqwa is through as-Saum. As-saum is literally translated from Arabic into English as ‘to abstain’. This is particulary important for us to think about as we are on the path to recovery with complete abstinence of all things that Allah is displeased with in mind. That by abstaining we are able to achieve closeness to Allah, by remembering Him. And when we often remember Allah, we naturally begin to want to please Him, and stay clear of all behaviours that may lead to His displeasure. And that is having taqwa.

Also in this verse Allah describes that he has ‘prescribed’ fasting for us. This word in Arabic is ‘kutiba’ here, which literally means ‘to write’. Let us think about this more deeply. Allah has written fasting for us as a means to attain Taqwa. It is something that we are in need of. Allah is The Creator and He Knows what is required for us more than we know ourselves. When we visit a doctor when we are sick, he or she will prescribe us with medication to get well. What about the one who is spiritually sick, who remembers Allah little, who has litte or no taqwa? What do they need to get better? They need taqwa and the way to attain, it is through fasting. In our addiction, we moved away from Allah therefore we are in need of fasting in order to reach closer to Him on His Straight Path.

The first mention of the month of Ramadan appears in verse 185 when Allah says;

“The month of Ramdan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs and (the Criterion between right and wrong). So whoever of you observes the month, he must observe as-Saum that month, and whoever is ill or on a journey the same number from other days. Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you. He wants that you must complete the same number of days and that you must magnify Allah for having guided you so that you may be grateful to Him”.

What is special about this verse, is that when Allah mentions Ramadan for the first time, He reminds us that this is the month in which He sent down The Qur’an with clear proofs and guidance.

Allah also mentions with great emphasis that He wishes for us ease. He follows this up by telling us He does not to make things difficult for us. That’s like me telling you I want to bake you a cake and I want it to be delicious and I don’t it to be disgusting. I don’t need to tell you the latter part because I have already said I want it to be delicious therefore I do not need to add that I don’t want it to be disgusting. The words that Allah has chosen to use here tell us that He is greatly emphasising how much He wants to make things easy for us. Therefore, when we approach Ramadan we must remember that Allah is helping us and that we can get through this month without too much difficulty. We must believe in ourselves that we are able to complete and perfect all the number of days and then be grateful to Allah for having helped us.