Tag Archives: Islamic Recovery programme

“Oh Allah Why Don’t You Answer My Prayers?”

isolated-youth“He doesn’t listen to me any more”, he said as he hung his head in defeat. “I’ve asked Him, and asked Him, but He doesn’t help me.” I looked at him with sorrow and wondered at what point did this man start to despair of Allah.  Was it before or after he met the dealer? Was it before or after the drugs wore off? Was it before or after he got caught out? I looked at my husband and said for the one thousandth time “Allah listens to all prayers, He answers all those who call on Him.” Jamal looked up in anger; “So why doesn’t He help ME?!”. We had been at this point many times over the years.

We had this conversation every time I had the strength to argue about Jamal’s drug use.allah.hate.sin Sometimes I pretended I hadn’t seen the rolled up bits of used foil or the dealers numbers on his call list. Sometimes I didn’t have the energy to question why he didn’t come home on time or why he couldn’t get up in the morning. But when I gathered my strength enough to challenge him, most conversations pretty much went in this direction. And would end with me saying “You are not helping yourself! You are not doing enough to stop. Why would Allah help you if He doesn’t see you try.”

Truth is, I don’t really know how hard Jamal tried. Only He and Allah know where the effort was put in and where he gave up too easily. The thing is, if anyone should be despairing at the situation not changing it should be me! It is me that has felt let down over and over again. It is me that begs and cries to Allah for Jamal to stop using drugs. I’ve been through this cycle as long as he has, only I have done it sober! I haven’t chosen  to numb out the dua-weapon-believerpain with substances. I have lived it, breathed it, put up with it, witnessed it, tried to change it and never given up. I have experienced rock bottoms – depressive states, high anxiety, loneliness and stress, financial loss, loss of friendships, mental sickness and migraines. But all along my journey I have remained constant in one thing – that Allah is listening to me and that one day all my prayers that have gone unanswered in this life will bear their fruits. One day, maybe in this world but hopefully in the next I will see the benefits of all my prayers and I will be glad that Allah saved them for me.

Tests and hardships in this life are what earns our place in Paradise. I know I have not been the most patient of Allah’s servants. Far from it. I am certainly not amongst the pious. I’ve got angry, I’ve lashed out and shouted, screamed and swore.  But I’ve gritted my teeth and I have always known that Allah is with me, no matter how bad things got.

So when I see Jamal in this state, despairing of Allah and thinking He has abandoned Him I find no way to show him what I know – that Allah never abandons us, He is always there waiting for us, it is US that turns away from HIM! How can I put into words what I know in my heart. How can I make him see. What is it that stops him from seeing this as clearly as I do? The thing is, when Jamal is clean and not using, he sees this. He begins to build his relationship back up with Allah and feel good about himself again. But it is when he relapses and regrets that he thinks that somehow Allah should have prevented that from happening, or that Allah will stop the cravings and the urges and most importantly, that Allah would prevent him from succumbing to them. But isn’t that the whole point of this life? We all crave and sin in different ways. We all have our vices. Allah just wants to see, who will give in to them and who won’t. Allah says in Surah Mulk;

 “[He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed – and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving” (Qur’an, 67:2)  
What I try to tell Jamal is – the harder the fight, the bigger the reward. Some people might argue that Jamal put himself in this situation. He chose to take drugs the first time. Yes, that is true, and Allah will judge him for that. But you do not have to be a social psychologist to know that the majority of people who take substances, or become addicts often have a bad start in life, or have unmet emotional needs. Studies show one in three addicts were sexually abused in their childhoods and more than fifty percent have been assaulted or exposed to violence. This does not excuse them from their choices and actions, but Allah is The All-Pardoning and He chooses to Pardon and excuse whom He Wills. This is all part of the test. It is what we then do with this experience.
People who have been abused or have difficult starts in life, dysfunctional families, economic disadvantage and so on are not handicapped by that experience. They have a wealth of knowledge that others, who have had a more advantaged start in life, will never have. Often recovered addicts go on to help other people who are going through tough times and help with crime prevention, drugs education and addiction recovery treatment. It’s just that when you are still stuck in that life, it is hard to see a way out. Positive thinking, and dreaming beyond the rut of here and now, gives addicts some hope. We all need hopes and dreams – addicts just often don’t allow themselves to do that because fear of failure keeps them living in their waking nightmares.
Which is where dua comes in. When we turn back to Allah, asking Him and begging Him for Help it helps make our hearts become more hopeful. One of the conditions of asking Allah is to have certainty (yaqeen) in the knowledge that Allah is listening and He will answer it.
We have to believe with all our hearts that Allah is listening. We have to know that even if we do not get what we want right away, Allah is preparing us for something even better.gr8ful

Imaam Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:

“Du’aa’s and ta’awwudhaat [prayers seeking refuge with Allaah] are like a weapon, and a weapon is only as good as the person who is using it; it is not merely the matter of how sharp it is. If the weapon is perfect and free of faults, and the arm of the person using it is strong, and there is nothing stopping him, then he can lay waste the enemy. But if any of these three features is lacking, then the effect will be lacking accordingly.”(al-Daa’ wa’l-Dawaa’, p. 35).

When we speak to Allah we need to have a strong heart that believes with firmness and confidence that Allah will grant us what we ask for.

Sometimes  it takes time for us to see the fruits of our duahs. And in that we must be patient. Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:

“The du’aa’ of any one of you will be answered so long as he is not impatient and says, ‘I made du’aa’ but it was not answered.’” (al-Bukhaari and Muslim.)

The addict can sometimes become so consumed by what they are not getting, what has gone wrong, what is unreachable that they fail to see the blessings before their very eyes. Jamal would often tell me how bad things were for him when he could not see how actually Allah was making things easy for him. It was Jamal that was making life tough for himself! His belief that Allah was not listening to him only led him down a spiral of depression and self-pity. “Allah hates me. I am doomed for the Hell Fire.” He would say and thus would give up trying to be good. Shaitan had him in his trap.

Perhaps, it was on account of his duahs that Jamal had not lost everything to his addiction. That things could have been far worse had he have given up on his duahs all together. Sometimes when Allah does not answer our prayer, He diverts a calamity from our lives instead. But Jamal does not see this when the addiction takes over.

The belief that  “Allah does not want me” can serve an addict pretty well sometimes because it gives them the excuse to just give up and give in to their urges. The false belief is “Allah rejects me” but the truth is “I have rejected Allah”.

Recovery is about turning that belief around, knowing with certainty that Allah wants you back and then not wanting to do anything that could cause Allah to turn away. Dua is the answer.

Dua helps us to build up that relationship with Allah again. To spend talking to him in our own language straight from the heart. We all slip and slide and come off from the Straight Path from time to time. Allah did not create mankind like perfect angels. He knew we would sin, because He loves us to repent and turn back to Him. He loves it so much! Dua is a step to coming back to Allah. Dua is the way we come closer to Him again. Never give up.



“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.


“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”


Lynne Ali-Northcott (Addiction Counsellor)

Making a Spectacle of Recovery

No matter what stage of recovery you are in, or perhaps you are a carer of an addict, I invite you to think about what kind of glasses you are wearing…

almost-rose-tintedRose tinted glasses: Seeing the positive in things is important but being unrealistic is not helpful. We need to be honest about where our flaws are and think deeply about what needs to change in our lives to make things a better place. Very often, it is the early stages of recovery, when we might be over-confident about staying clean, or we begin to dismiss the signs of an impending relapse that the rose tinted glasses come on. Or it can creep in at any stage when we are reluctant to work hard to overcome our challenges and become lazy – or worse, still fall, into denial. Carers too can often wear these glasses because the thought of their loved-one relapsing or using is just to painful to face up to. If we see things with too much optimism and fail to see the difficulties then things will go on without being changed. Over time our rose tinted glasses may fall from our faces and then it can be overwhelming, the moment we realise things aren’t so peachy after all.

Dark Shades: Opposite to rose tinted glasses, dark shades give us a world view that is dark and cloudy. Day time may look like night time as the shades shut out the light. In our addiction we felt as though great darkness had descended upon us, far removed from the light ofdarkshades Allah and the happiness that being clean and practicing Islam can bring. In recovery, if we fail to lean towards this light we can fall into the trap of negative thinking, often prediciting the worst case scenarios and becoming afraid to make changes that can be positive. These glasses are often worn by celebrities when they are either worse for wear or coming out of the gym without their make up. In other words they have something to hide. We can often hide behind the dark shades as a defense mechanism and keep others out. In our addiction, we may have become isolated or secretive, shutting out friends and family. Recovery is about letting people in so that we can come out of our isolation. As the Prophet peace be upon him said, “The wolf devours the lone sheep”. Being alone leaves us vulnerable to the whispers of Shaitan, where negative thoughts are born. Or maybe we are a carer, and we have become so used to living in darkness that it can be hard to feel hopeful. Having felt let down over and over again we stop allowing ourselves to feel hopeful that our loved-one will come out of their addiction, afraid of getting hurt. But this can be an obstruction, that just leaves us stumbling around the dark. Let there be light.

mirrored.Mirrored lenses: When people look at us, all they see is their own image. We haven’t found our own identity, or maybe we are not comfortable enough around certain people to just be our own self. When our self esteem is low, we begin to take on the personalities of those around us because we feel we are more likely to be accepted. We push the true self down, lock it away, or deny it all together. Prolonged periods of wearing these lenses may mean we forget who we really are, to the point we don’t even know who we want to be. This is a sad state to be in. Recovery, is about finding out who we are and beginning to show our true selves to the world, and to be consistent with that personality, not changing our selves depending on our company. As carers of addicts we can often change our own lives around to fit into the recovery of our loved one, sometimes meaning that we no longer get to do the things we like to do. We become so locked in, obsessed even, by the behaviours of the addict in our lives that we lose sight of our ownselves. As Muslims, we need to connect with our own self in order to strive towards pleasing Allah and following the sunnah of our beloved Prophet.

The wrong prescription: Have you ever tried on a friends glasses just for fun and thought “Woah, that feels weird”? Maybe your head was spinning, and you felt a bit confused and disorientated. Sometimes we can look towards other people in recovery or on the dean and think – “yeah, I want a piece of what they’ve got”. We try to emulate their recovery programme, Eye_Test-1matching them meeting for meeting, going gym, reading the same books or generally copying their routine. But we find when we do it their way, it just doesn’t feel right. It can be really confusing and sometimes upsetting when we try out an example of someone elses recovery and find it does not work for us. Recovery is not a ‘one size fits all’ thing. We need to get our own prescription. People practise Islam in different ways. Yes we all aim to follow the Quran and Sunnah (way of the Prophet, peace be upon him) but we are not all robots doing the same thing every day. There are many ways to catch a fish. So we need to get our own prescription and find our own way to stay clean on The Dean.

T1649Comedy Glasses: No one said life has to be serious all the time. Being stuck in the addictive cycle can be depressing and soul destroying. But at the same time, recovery is no joke. We need to make time for fun, play and laughter but at the same time, we must remember that it is easy for us to get caught up in that. Sometimes the feeling of happiness we get in early recovery can make us lose sight of the bigger picture. Maybe our social life begins to widen as family and friends welcome us back into their lives. Family begin to give us more responsibility as they feel they can trust us now. We begin to say yes to invitations and suddenly the world can feel like our oyster. This is wonderful and amazing but we need to take our recovery seriously and always make sure that within the fun and socialising we make time to reflect and contemplate on ourselves and where we are heading. May Allah keep our feet firm upon The Straight Path.

So these were just a handful of examples of the kinds of glasses we wear in recovery, or while caring for an addict. We will find that over time we become comfortable with our pair, that things seem clear and things work. But as we grow and develop and our vision in life changes we may need to think again about what glasses we have on. We need to strive to keep our sights clear in recovery, always looking ahead and only looking back to remind ourselves how grateful we need to be to Allah for having taken us out of that place. So head up, look straight and we thank Allah for giving us the ability to see and we know that;

” It is not the eyes that are blind, but it is the hearts” (Qur’an 22:46)


By Lynne Ali-Northcott (Addiction Counsellor)

Reverting to Islam filled the gaping hole – Becky’s story

imagesIt was the morning after the night before. I could still feel it running through my veins. A mixture of regret and anticipation tangled together in the very pit of my stomach. Every time I pulled on a cigarette I could feel the warm feeling come back. It made the temptation even stronger to do it all over again.

Last night was the first night I took heroin. And it was all the cliché’s said it would be; warm fuzzy feeling, cotton wool, all my worries just disappeared. This day I visualised in myrsz_man-hides-in-gutter-women-skirts-japan-02-415x260 minds’ eye as though I was standing before two windows into the future. Behind each pane of glass I could see myself. The first window was clean and I could see a warm glow in which I was happy, healthy, laughing. I was among people who loved me and I loved them back. It was a happy scene. The second pane of glass was more difficult to see through, but as I wiped back the grime with my sleeve, I saw a pitiful creature lying down on a dirty concrete floor, thin and emaciated, discarded needles around her. It was then that I stepped back in shock, as I realised – that could be me.

As I stood at the fork of the two paths I knew deep down that if I took heroin again that path would lead to a life of desperate misery and pain. I foresaw the high chances of becoming homeless, destitute and turning to illicit methods to fund an addiction, maybe nothing-changes-if-nothing-changeseven becoming a prostitute. The time had come. The time had come for me to change. Now or never.

How did I get here? I asked myself how a young girl who was once so anti drugs could end up taking heroin. How many twists and turns in my life had I taken to come so far away from the girl I used to be? Was I just in the wrong place at the wrong time, in the wrong frame of mind? Was it so easy? Of course I spent so many years of my life blaming my upbringing. When I first got into drugs as a teenager, with that first spliff of cannabis, or the first cheap beer I convinced myself it was because no one loved me so I may as well destroy myself too.

My parents never showed me love or support. I never really knew my father because he leftbroken heart when I was a toddler. I always felt worthless, like what was the point in even trying to make a go of my life when no one ever told me they were proud of me. No one ever said “I love you”. So how could I love myself?

So my drugs journey worked it’s way up the classification scale from C to B to A. And with each rung of the ladder I convinced myself it wasn’t that bad. Everyone is sniffing coke right? From celebs to salesmen to high class brokers and bankers. That day I smoked heroin I was also offered crack. Though tempted to give it a go, the scared part of me held me back. I thank Allah for that because they say once you taste crack, it’s hard to turn back. The pull of heroin was strong enough but crack is something else. I have seen so many addicted from that first pipe and who are never able to just stop there and then.

bannernevergainBlackSo my stupidity woke me up to where I was going. I started questioning myself and I knew I was worth so much more. This life was worth so much more. I decided that day, the morning after the night before, that this would be the last day I would ever take drugs. And it was. I didn’t even drink alcohol ever again as I also considered this to be a drug, for many years I had battled it. Alhamdulillah – thank you Allah for helping me see where I was headed.

So I took myself into seclusion, switched off my phone, locked off from everyone. I closed every door possible to my old life, wherever I could. This lone time, it took me to a place of reflection. Being away from the people it brought me back to myself and then ultimatelyremembrance-of-allah Allah. I praise Allah because I was not even looking for Him at first- though He wanted me to find Him. My willingness to change myself and my life around inevitably brought me back to my Creator. As one begins to listen to the soul yearning, one has to ask it “what are you yearning for?”. As a Muslim, I now know that the soul only yearns for one thing and one thing only – to have a relationship with God, whereby we only want to make Him happy with us.

So I started talking to him. Quietly at first, just a whisper, just a few words. Before I knew it, the tears were flowing and my heart was melting. Then I could do nothing but beg of Him for His Help and Guidance. I wanted signs, I wanted miracles and I begged for them.

Then one day I ventured out of my flat to town. Head down, not looking around so much, “in and out” I promised myself as I wanted to just pick up a few things and get back to my solitude. But then someone started talking to me. I tried to ignore it at first as I walked past, but then deep within myself I felt this urge to look up and see. As I lifted my head I saw a table with lots of leaflets and things on it. I dared to lift my head slightly higher as a dtablesmiling bearded man asked me “Hello sister, would you like to learn something new today about Islam?”

“No not really” I thought in my head, and honestly it was just out of politeness that my feet stopped walking and I shrugged my shoulders in reluctant compliance. Those reluctant feet did not move for another two hours. Day light began to fade, and along with it dimmed my sense of fragility and sadness. The bearded man told me he was going to pack up now as it was time for sunset prayers but he invited me to meet his wife the next day and I agreed. The story of my shahada (acceptance of Islam) is another story altogether but all you need to know is that becoming Muslim gave me life.
Without Islam I never loved myself, I was a lost soul wandering this earth looking for something or some one to fill the ever increasing hole within my soul. Islam made me a complete person, it gave me purpose, it gave me a reason to live – to wake up each day! It gave me structure. It gave me a routine that secured my recovery from substances. Islam gave me my soul back. Allah does not need all my prayers, my fasts, my charity, my deeds – I do! The minute I let go of any of this, I start feeling weak, I start getting cravings for something I shouldn’t. Islam keeps me clean and most of all happy and complete. Thank you Allah for guiding me to your Beautiful Path. I hope you are somehow inspired by my story. Any one looking to get clean must know that our dean will get you there.


Perspectives on Drug Addiction in Islamic History and Theology

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

Perspectives on Drug Addiction in Islamic History and Theology

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

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

1. Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hashish intoxication contains the meaning of my desire,

You dear people of intelligence and understanding.

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

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

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

3. Models of Addiction in Islam

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Jurm: Addiction as Crime

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Mard Ruhani: Addiction as Spiritual Disease

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Millati Islami: A Model in Practice

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Commentary on MI’s 12-Step Programme

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Conclusions

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


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

Conflicts of Interest

The author declares no conflict of interest.


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1Reference to Qur’anic chapters and verses are given as chapter name chapter number:verse number.
2This corresponds roughly to the end of the 13th and beginning of the 14th Gregorian century.
3People used to eat hashish in the Muslim lands in the medieval period rather than smoke it.
– See more at: http://www.mdpi.com/2077-1444/5/3/912/htm#sthash.jNEhZAds.dpuf



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


Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK, School of History, Archaeology and Religion, John Percival Building, Cardiff University, Colum Drive, Cardiff CF10 3EU, UK; E-Mail: AliMM1@Cardiff.ac.uk; Tel.: +44-29-2087-6297
Received: 31 July 2014; in revised form: 28 August 2014 / Accepted: 4 September 2014 /
Published: 18 September 2014

Breaking free


It is never easy for a person to know when they should break ties with a person. As Muslims we are taught to prefer mercy over anger, like our Lord, Allah, The Most Merciful. We are encouraged to not harbour resentments, to give people a chance to change and repent and we emulate the Prophet Muhammad who was gentle and kind to those who sinned. We hear the verse from the Qur’an; “… and fear Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of ) the wombs (kinship)…” (04:01) and we tremble at the thought of Allah being at war with us because when He created the womb he promised it that He  would be at war with all those who broke ties with it.

download…and its a BIG but! The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, also said; “The believer is not stung from (the same) hole twice” (Bukhari). 

When we look at the condition of the average carer of an addict, whether you are the parent, spouse, child or friend, we will see that we have been bitten from the same hole over and over again, very often to the point of what any one with a clear mind would consider oppression. Why could this be a form of oppression? Let’s take a brief look at how addiction affects those around the addict;

  • Financial oppression – Addicts commonly drain the resources of the family,images (1) demanding extra money for drugs, alcohol, gambling or to fund other addictions. Money that would normally be used for the family by way of food, leisure, bills etc is often spent on the addiction and places the family under strain. Partners who may not have the luxury of not working and mothers with young children are often forced to go out to work in order to keep the family with their heads above the financial water. In some cases, addicts become aggressive or violent when demanding money from their family, or may turn to crime to fund their habits which can lead to all kinds of consequences that leads to hardship for the family. 
  • Psychological Oppression – Where to start with this broad subject? In a nutshell, the stress and anxiety that a carer goes through while living with or caring for an addict is immense. The worry starts the moment we open our eyes and through until the sleepless night. The carer of an addict can get to the point where depression kicks in, feelings of self-harm can emerge and a general overwhelming feeling of helplessness and hopelessness dominates our entire world. The carer becomes so preoccupied with the addict in their lives, that everything else takes second priority. This can be especially hard for those with children or other dependents or challenging careers. Without professional help carers of addicts are at risk of suicide or other self-deprecating behaviours.  
  • Physical Oppression – The first thing that often springs to mind when discussing 603593_366501096755341_519949164_nthis section is physical violence. But it is so much more than that. As discussed above being the carer of an addict leads to psychological oppression. Stress, anxiety, depression and so on all have physiological affects on the body. Prolonged stress leads to changes in the brain, causing parts of our mental capacity to shut down as the brain learns to cope. Stress is caused by the release of adrenaline from the brain, into the blood stream so that we can cope with situations of danger and be more alert. The fight or flight syndrome kicks in. But the body is not designed to be in this state continually. As the adrenaline continues to be produced, anxiety increases and the person suffering, in laymen’s terms,  will not know whether they are coming or going. Prolonged stress leads to all kinds of physical symptoms from headaches to more serious stress related diseases like strokes and heart attacks. Therefore, when carers are being placed under continuous hardships and difficulty it is a form of oppression. 
  • Violent Oppression – It is a common assumption that most addicts are violent anddomestic-violence aggressive but when we look at statistics of crimes committed in the United Kingdom or USA we will see that most crimes are committed while a person is under the influence of substances. Many addicts, substance-related or not, have the potential to become violent towards their partners or other family members. One of the main contributors to this is that addicts have little or no control over their emotions and can become angry and aggressive easily. When intoxicated that potential is heightened and inhibitions are lowered, meaning a person is more likely to behave in ways that go against their moral code. Those around the addict are often subjected to aggression and violence. Domestic violence rates are high among families where substances play a part and there is a direct link between addiction and domestic violence. Please refer to our article on this subject here . Carers are more likely to put up with their loved-ones violence, believing it really is not them and its just the alcohol or drugs making them that way. Thus, the carer falls into a cycle whereby they are stung from the same hole over and over again and it can be hard to find a way out of this punishing cycle.

The home office released a revised definition of domestic violence in 2004. This is it;

The cross-government definition of domestic violence and abuse is:

any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, 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. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to:

  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional

Controlling behaviour

Controlling behaviour is 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.

Coercive behaviour

Coercive behaviour is 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.

With these definitions in mind, it is clear that very often the kinds of behaviours displayed or acted out by addicts can fall under the banner of domestic violence. Very often carers of addicts stick by their loved-one because they believe it is only the addiction that causes the person to behave in these ways, holding out hope for the day their loved-one decides they want to quit. In many cases, this is true, that without the substances or addiction in their life, the person is much their real selves and does not behave in unacceptable ways. Unfortunately, it can take many years, some times decades, for the addict to finally turn their lives around. Meanwhile, the family or partners suffer a lot of hardship while they wait for that day.

Many cultures within Islamic communities view divorce or separation of relatives as a bad thing. Sometimes other family members do not support a persons decision to lock off from the addict, fearful that the addict will get worse or that Allah will be angry for abandoning them. However, there is also the points to consider that if the addicts behaviour has become oppressive or the people living around them are suffering psychological trauma then it ought to be considered to remove the addict from those peoples lives. Sometimes, carers can become stuck in a cycle by which the unacceptable has become acceptable. Carers compare times when things may have been a lot worse, thus becoming immune to how bad things actually are. If a person was to look in on their lives they would be horrified at how they are living, yet the carer has become so used to living in this hardship that he or she cannot see how bad things have become.

nothing-changes-if-nothing-changesIf you are a carer, you will have probably told yourself so many times that if you were a person looking in, you would be screaming at yourself to change this way of life. So why don’t you do something about this. In Alcoholics Anonymous they say “nothing changes, if nothing changes”. If we continue to live the same old routine, play the same old records, how do we expect a different outcome?

Many carers choose to stay in the relationship and look back on their lives, wondering why they did not leave years ago. Many never envisioned that it would go on for so many years. Some people told them to leave, some told them to “have sabr (patience)” and stick it out. It has been a confusing time over the years. Whether to stay, whether to go. Sometimes carers try the separation route for a while. The addict realises what they have lost, they give up their addiction for a while, they come home and then….. you know how it goes. The cycle continues.

No one can make an addict stop, but the addict. And no one can make a carer decide when enough is enough, except that carer. All that we know is, our destiny is in the Hands of Allah and He Knows what we should do. But there is a bit of legwork involved. Here’s how;

  • Always make duah, every step of the way. Keep asking Allah to guide you to make the right choices and do what will please Him the most. 
  • Make salatul Istikara before you do anything or make any decisions. (prayer for making a decision). This will give you peace of heart that you are placing your trust in Allah and the outcome will be from His guidance. 
  • Seek professional advise. Counselling empowers us to find the tools within us to make changes and break cycles of behaviours. It helps us to realise our own self worth and know that we deserve better and the respect of others. 
  • Keep yourself safe. Your safety is what is most important. To be a slave of Allah we need to be of sound mind. If someone is harming us psychologically or physically, this is oppression and will break us. Islam teaches us to never allow anyone to do this to us. 
  • Remember that Allah is with you and will never abandon you so long as you keep turning back to Him. 


Faith In Treatment

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Encouraging signs

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

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

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

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

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

Have You Got That Friday Feeling?

The Importance of Observing Jummah in our Recovery 

keep-calm-and-smile-it-s-friday-3For many non-Muslims living in the West, such as UK and USA, Friday signifies the end of the week and the start of the weekend. “You got that Friday feeling”. Everything, somehow seems a little less depressing. The stresses of the week begin to disappear. Talks culminate around the office about where people are going at the weekend, for drinks or clubs. The girls discuss what they will wear, excitement is in the air. The atmosphere is buzzing. For a Muslim in recovery from substances, we need to let Friday take on a new meaning. But there is no reason why we should stop buzzing, just how we buzz!

What is a buzz anyway? Compare the buzz of something haram – forbidden – to somethingkeep-calm-and-enjoy-jummah that is halal – permissible in Islam. A scholar once said that when think about sinning like its something tasty and desirable but once we bite into it, we realise it is bitter and disgusting. We see worship as something distasteful but once we have bitten into it we realise how wonderfully tasty it is. As we work deeds of righteousness our hearts are filled with faith and we taste its sweetness. This is where the true buzz is. That spiritual high gained from submitting to Allah can not be compared to any haram buzz we have ever chased in this world.

As recovering addicts we must look for ways to create a structure into our lives. Recovery thrives on routine day in day out, week in week out. Unlike the monotony of addiction, living a spiritual life brings happy memories, good times and good companions. The weekly Jummah prayer will help us refocus each week and keep striving for betterment.

The Sunnah of Friday: 

Abu Hurayrah (رضي الله عنه) narrated that that the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “The five daily prayers and from one Jumu’ah to the next is an expiation for whatever sins come in between them, so long as one does not commit a major sin.”
[Muslim 233]

As with all matters in Islam,jummah_reminders__d_by_madimar-d5jtjqz we follow the guidance of the Prophet, pbuh, and try to emulate his way on the Day of Jummah by taking a bath. This is itself has a spiritual effect by uplifting us awakening the soul, preparing ourselves for the prayer. Men are encouraged to wear nice perfumes like musk. Traditional perfumes make us feel pure and connect to the Prophet, pbuh, who used to love perfumes. As we leave our homes, or places of work to join the congregation, we spot other Muslims who are on their way. We feel that vibe, a sense of connection with the ummah, a feeling of belonging. This lifts the mood and makes us feel the love of brotherhood and sisterhood. We give salam – greetings of peace- and smile at our Muslim family and earn rewards just for that.

The Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, said: “On the day of Jummah, the angels stand at the entrance of that Masjid in which Jummah salaat is to be offered. They write down the name of the person who enters the Masjid first, and thereafter the name of the person who follows, and they continue doing this. The person who entered first will receive the reward of sacrificing a camel in the path of Allah; the one who followed him will get the reward of sacrificing a cow, thereafter a chicken, thereafter the reward of giving an egg as charity in the path of Allah. Once the khutbah commences, the angels close the register and begin listening to the khutbah. “ (Bukhari and Muslim)

With this above hadith in mind, we must strive to get to the mosque as early as we can, to earn the most reward and try to sit in the front row. Punctuality is a great virtue and we must practice this. We should strive for the best. We must not be lazy for laziness gets in the way of punctuality. Being early will help us to practise another virtue that will help us in our recovery from sinfulness: PATIENCE! As we wait for the other worshipers to arrive, and for the Imam to begin his speech, we can sit quietly, contemplating and reflecting. This is a perfect time for us to perform Muhassaba (self reflection) and think about the week.

When the Imam stands to talk, we must listen hard. Choose a mosque that offers a speech in your own language so you can really benefit. This might be the only opportunity some of get this week to hear some advise about Islam, so we must really concentrate. The Prophet, pbuh, ordered his companions not to talk, not even to return someones Salam, and not to fidget or fiddle with things in our hands. We lose rewards if we do this.


As we stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Muslims and perform the prayer we feel the closeness of our Muslim family. Addiction and sinfulness can take us to isolated places. Attending Jummah prayers helps us to see familiar faces in the congregation and gives us an opportunity to meet Muslims who strive for a good life. This is a good time to make new friends and seek companionship that will help us to stay on The Straight Path.

What about the ladies?

The Prophet Muhammad ordered his companions to never prevent women from attending the mosque to pray, however, this is not always practical for a woman for different reasons. Sisters, we must make effort to pray our Friday Dhuhr prayer on time and spend more time on this prayer than we might do on others. Take time to think and reflect. And for those sisters who are unable to pray due to our monthly cycles we must also try to keep the Jummah vibe going by encouraging the men in our lives to get to the mosque early and we can perform other good deeds, like sitting quietly, reflecting and supplicating to Allah. Friday is a perfect time for making duah and asking for Allah’s Help.

Friday Dhikr

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “There is such an hour on Friday that if any Muslim makes dua in it, his dua will definitely be accepted.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

It is mostly revered that this hour falls between Asr prayer and Maghrib every Friday. We must try to seek this out, especially in the winter when time is short. As Friday night approaches, a difficult time for Muslims who sin, if we have spent the afternoon in dhikr we have put relapse prevention into place. By the time the evening comes around, the desire to engage in sinful activities will have passed us by.

Sending peace on the Prophet

It is highly recommended to send peace and blessings upon the Prophet,pbuh,  on Fridays

It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “There is no one who sends salaams upon me, but Allaah will restore to me my soul so that I may return his salaams.”(Abi Dawood, 1795)

Each time we sent salam on the Prophet, pbuh, he sends ten back to us. We receive the prayers of him for us. How amazing is that? Are we not in need of his intervention?

Make it last

Now we have got that Friday Jummah feeling; the natural buzz, a spiritual high, let us take that vibe with us right through the weekend. Make this the booster that we need that can see us through and help us stay clean and serene throughout the weekend and the week to come. As the Prophet, pbuh, said “Jummah is the Eid of the week” so lets keep it real.



The Path of the Goblins

The heroin fairy has blinded you with her brown dust
Now a want has become a must
Living a life of needs and lust
Now your loved ones have lost all trust

You walk one way, they turn their backs
You’re becoming lost so you follow the devils tracks
And find the streets pathed with crack
Where every path has a canopy of black

The roads lead the same way in the end
a devil calling you closer at every bend
These journeys days are beginning to blend
you think our hearts are too broken to mend

Locked in a world where goblins are real
Numb and dazed, you no longer can feel
How can you remove your hearts’ seal
when you’ve invited the devils to walk by your heel?

People stare and think “he’s not quite right”
They think “has this person lost his sight?”
You’ve given up on lifes fight
And the glimmer of light is pushed out of sight

THe magnetism of the goblin mile
Queing for the dealers in single file
Splashing the cash on your brown fairy bile
Purchasing your ticket to stay in Hell for a while

So what if I told you that fairies aint real?
And its the devil who chose your life to steal
Dont listen to his whispers surreal!
Out of your heart, he is making a meal

Theres only one way to get out of the gloom
To change your destination of doom
COme out of the shadows where the shayateen loom
And travel to the light, theres plenty of room

I will make a mention
that it takes one certain intention
and taking weight of your deeds with full attention
And then conscious effort towards abstention

WIth the remembrance of the Glorious He
The goblins alarmed and shaking will flee
and then you will be able to see
Perhaps, who knows, you may even find me

Mental Health and Addiction

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

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

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

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

So what is the solution?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Be positive

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is mental health acknowledged in Islam?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

2) http://bemindful.co.uk/mbct/about-mbct/

3) http://islamqa.info/en/13340