What is addiction?

Very often when we think of addiction, the first thing for many people will be to think of substances like alcohol or drugs. Addiction however, can develop in almost every kind of behaviour known to man. Any behaviour has the capacity to become addictive. In fact, the Prophet saws even warned some of us to be moderate in our worship of Allah and not to become obsessive, compulsive and addictive in the way we approach our Islamic rituals. 

One day a woman approached the Prophet saws complaining that her husband would fast every day and pray all night, that she seldom saw him and that he did not spend time with his family. So the Prophet, peace be upon his went to go and visit her husband and this is what he said;

“(Is it true) that you fast all day and stand in prayer all night?” The companion replied that the report was indeed true. The Prophet then said: “Do not do that! Observe the fast sometimes and also leave (it) at other times. Stand up for prayer at night and also sleep at night. Your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you and your wife has a right over you.” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Hadith 127 

The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, instructed us to work towards acheiving a sense of balance in our lives and to adopt the middle road. He was the best of role models and would divide his time between family, prayer, relaxation and socialising. He said;

“Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately. . .Always adopt a middle, moderate, regular course, whereby you will reach your target (of paradise).” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Hadith 470 

Achieving a sense of balance and harmony is often somthing newly recovering addicts are looking for. In our addiction, we spend much of our time focussed mainly on our addiction. As we begin to search for a new way of life we begin to focus on the other parts of ourselves that enable us to structure a life with different objectives and ways of spending our time. 


How do we know we are addicted?

Addiction is something that has become unblanced or obsessional and eventually becomes something beyond the conscious control of the person. As we undestand how addiction develops we can see that it is a bit like driving a car. Initially, as we learn to drive, our thought processes and phsyical movements are clumsy. We have to think hard how to change the gears, get the biting points and steer straight. However, the more we pratise, and the more adept at driving we become, we are able to make journeys with little cognitions involved. We can drive from home to work and we will not have even thought about how we changed gear, got around those roundabouts and made the route to our destination. Addiction is a lot like that. As we begin the process of our new behaviour, lets take drug taking for example, it can be hard to reach a decision whether or not to take them, or take them again. We argue with ourselves until we then begin the process of obtaining the drugs and then preparing them for use. Eventually, we are on auto-pilot, dialing numbers for dealers, responding to cravings with little thought involved until it gest the point we didnt even realise how bad things have become. Everything becomes so automatic. Recovery and becoming abstinent from drug use or other addictive behaviours is a bit like getting in the left-hand drive of the car having been in the right. At first its hard and we keep reaching our hand down to a gear stick thats not there. Until eventually, we are able to become as automatic in our recovery as we were in our addiction. 

Theories that support this view such as Automaticity Theory and other theories of conditioning and learned behaviours, fit in well with the Islamic view of addiction. Such theorists agree that the best way to overcome an addiction is to replace the old behaviours with new positive ones. Islam offers a complete and balanced way of life that provides us with a ready-made recovery programme. By replacing our addictive process with the rituals of Islam we are able to overcome our addiction. Islam recognises all good behaviours that are done for the sake of Allah as worship. Attending the gym, playing football, creative activities like painting, socialising with good company and so on are all seen as worship if done with the intention of pleasing God and are all parts of a wholistic recovery programme alongside acts of worship like prayer and recitation of Quran. 

Addiction can be understood as having our hearts firmly attached to something other than Allah. 


Allah has not put for any man two hearts inside his body ” (Qur’an 33:04)

When Allah says that He has not made two hearts, what He means is that the heart can only be attached to one thing. If the heart is not attached to Allah, then it is attached to something else. And as Ibn al Qayyum, the famous early scholar of Islam, says, when the heart is attached to something other than Allah, we become dependent on other than Allah and we will be let down. In fact we will be destroyed by it, in this life and the next. 

The important thing for us to remember is that recovery is about re-attaching the heart back to Allah. Through turing back to Him, He will facilate our journey and help us to get back onto the Straight Path to Recovery. 

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