Updated: Formatting/links fixed
Online porn addiction is a serious problem, not just for Muslims. See this article:
- Two in five Internet users visited an online adult site in August 2005
- 63.4 million unique visitors visited adult websites in December of 2005 reaching 37.2 percent of the internet audience
The previous post on “The Secret Life of Husbands“, part of MM’s “Sex & the Muslim Ummah” series, was sort of a milestone post. It elicited powerful responses, and led to some of the most beneficial discussions on MM. I am happy to see that the series has also spurred off discussions on other blogs in this area.
The value of the comments was not just limited to hearing from those who were personally experiencing these problems, including the “recovering” or the “recovered”, but more importantly, the thread likely provided a glimpse of hope and practical suggestions for the silent majority of other addicts. I know how difficult it is to go through over 100 comments to find relevant information, so I thought it would be useful to collect some of the main points and gems from the readers. This is a very large post, so it is divided into the following sections (click to jump to desired section):
- The Addicts: From the Husband’s Perspective
- The Addicts: From the Wife’s Perspective
- Advice from a “Recovering Addict”
- Islamic Advice
- NLP/Psychological Advice
- Other Advice
- Advice from Shaykh Yasir Qadhi
- A Talk with the Self by Kamal El-Mekki
- In Conclusion, A Success Story with Tips
1. The Addicts: From the Husband’s Perspective (“Qwerty”):
As someone who is experiencing this fitnah, i can authoritatively tell you that most of your comments that discuss the reasons for why people like me fell into this sin are way off mark. You don’t realize the self-loathing, and hatred a brother has for himself in his day to day life when he remembers what he does when no one is watching but Allah. And if only it was as simple as you guys suggest…
Before I begin, let me say that in this story of my own descent into sin, i blame no one but myself. I will deliberately be vague in some of what i say so that no one finds out who i am. And oh yes, some of you know who i am. But you don’t really know who i am. I am a brother between 25 and 30 with my own family who i love very much and I’ve been practising for many years.
I fell into the fitnah when i was in my teens. I don’t want to go into the details, but soon after i was introduced to pornography, i was hooked on it. What fanned the flames of desire was access to the internet.When i was new to the sin, i would never have dared to buy a dirty mag from the local store out of a sense of shame and embarrassment. But the internet made everything accessible to me, and i could see what i wanted and when i wanted, all in the privacy of my own home. Another problem was that my family resisted when i suggested that i marry in my early 20s. Thus, the absence of a halal outlet for this desire is another factor that has brought me to where i am now.Have you heard the story of Barseesah? Imam Anwar al-Awlaqi mentions it in one of his CD sets. He was a famous worshiper from Bani Israeel, who was led astray step by step by Shaitaan until his last action was to leave the religion. In some ways, my own story over the past 10 years mirrors that.
My addiction began as something small, but step by step over 10 years, it has transformed into something which is at times uncontrollable.The first time i used a credit card on a porn site was after several years of being addicted to porn. It was like i’d crossed a threshold, stepped over an important line. And unfortunately, having crossed that line, i haven’t looked back and have used the card numerous times since. And that is how it is with this sin. You promise yourself for a long time that you won’t cross a certain line, but then you do, and it becomes easy to repeat that sin again. But having crossed that line only once advances you to the next level of sinfulness. So you’re first mistake is looking at a woman lustfully. Then its looking at free porn sites, then its looking at pay porn sites, and so on.My advice to those who are in the early steps of this sin is to never give into the temptation to “go to the next level.” If you admire pretty girls, thats bad, but not as bad as searching for porn on the web. Its a slippery slope that ends with you in a place where a Muslim shouldn’t be.
So why haven’t i sought help?
Dear reader, what haven’t i tried to give up this addiction? Reciting Qur’an, going to talks, activism, du’a, all of that and more. I’ve prayed those prayers in the middle of the night when i thought to myself, “man, i wish i could pray with that much khushoo’ in every salaah” and i made salaam and thought i’d never return to that sin, but then a week, or two weeks later, i was back at it.
But let this next event sum it up for you: me standing in Mecca asking Allah to help me stop committing this sin, asking Allah to kind of like flick off a switch and just bring it to a stop, because i am mentally fatigued by the daily battle inside me between my shameful desires and my Muslim conscience, and i just want it to stop but its proving too difficult right now.
Knowing that i am a practicing Muslim, knowing that there is a day in which i will have to stand in front of Allah and take the rap for these sins, and not having a single plausible excuse come to my mind which i can bring on that day is a horrible feeling. It feels sickening trying to make tawba for this sin, because while asking Allah to forgive me, i felt within myself (and from knowledge of past relapses) that I haven’t really given it up and would fall into it again. That is difficult to come to terms with. Really difficult.And also the guilt that comes from leading a double-life and betraying one’s spouse. This is not how i wanted to be.
I’ve seen my early zeal to learn and practise, and potential to be a productive member of this ummah fade over the years as i spent my time – hours and hours in front of the computer getting up to no good. Some say its due to a lack of imaan, and I agree that it is, but its more complex then that. During these years in which i have sinned I have also memorized 10 juz of the Qur’an: that didn’t come easily, nor without determination, and i would bet that is more than most people who are reading this. I don’t know if that makes me a “better” porn addict than the next porn addict. But I’m certainly with those who are unhappy and want out as opposed to those who just don’t give a damn.
As to solutions, i don’t know. I personally think that it is nigh-on impossible to give it up here in the West once you’re addicted because sex and pretty women are all around you, on the TV, in the streets, at work – everywhere.
Sisters, your husbands go to work and there are pretty women all around. Don’t let it be the case too often that he comes homes to find you wearing some lame tracksuit bottoms and a T-shirt – or worse your pajamas.
What about taking another wife? I wouldn’t dismiss that as quickly as some do. What pornography offers is variety: black, white, fat, thin, tall, short, all sorts. Perhaps having a second wife might satisfy a brother’s need for variety. Perhaps not – i can’t say for sure.
What else works? Its a day to day struggle. One day its an ayah, another day its a hadith. Another day its a talk. Another day its because you met a good brother. Sometimes the boost in imaan from these things keeps you off the sin for a month, other times, only a few days.
The most helpful solution overall i found was going cold turkey with the internet: cutting it off completely. It severely restricted my access to pornography, and though the addiction didn’t cut off completely, it was definitely a practical step in the right direction.
If you can make a quiet du’a for Allah to switch off my addiction just as quickly as the light goes off when you flick the switch i would be most grateful. The one thing that keeps the struggle within me alive: Say: “O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins” [39:53]
More from Br. “Qwerty”: One sin leads to another, and this addiction makes you sin in other ways. First and worst of all, is the lying and deceit. I never, ever used to lie before, but after this addiction caught hold, lying became habitual as i concocted story after story to cover my tracks: why was i on the computer for so long last night? why do i need to take baths so often? And subhanallah, no one is as resourceful as one whose mind has been overcome by the need to satisfy his lusts. Sneaking away to be alone with the computer, altering the computer’s history so that no one could find which sites i had visited or which files i had downloaded. The secret email addresses i set up which no one knew i had but me. Saving files in deep directories where no one would think of finding them. Its embarrassing when i think about it.
But there is also an aspect of absurdity about this whole thing. Over the years I’d made online contacts who had similar “interests” as me. One was a practicing brother, we spoke about mutual “interests” but also Islamic things, and qadrullah we made repentance the same day as each other then told each other about it. I deleted the porn saved on my PC and he tells me he did the same. By Allah’s Grace he is still going good, whereas, i have found it more difficult.
Someone mentioned the trauma that the wife goes through knowing of her husband’s sick habit, and I’m telling you that my wife knows about mine. First time she found the pics i completely denied everything, and she believed me. Then she caught me again and eventually i confessed. She was very upset but eventually accepted my apology. May Allah bless her, she offered to help, and to be there and to listen to me… but the thing is, how does one speak to his wife about this habit? what does one say? it would be humiliating, way too humiliating to sit there face to face and talk about this. No, i think i need to speak to someone who doesn’t know me. It would be a full disaster if i confided this habit to someone I knew and it leaked to the community. One of the greatest blessings upon me in this regard is that Allah gave my wife the patience not to expose me to my family or my friends.
Yet, i’m still addicted.
As to your suggestions, let me tackle some of those that caught my eye:
Sh. Yasir: jazakallahu khair for mentioning this fatwa. Lengthening my prayers and sajdahs is something i have started to do as per your suggestion. And this type of advice is the advice that i need. One of the most frequent thoughts running through my mind is that I’m in a race to balance my scales. I’m in a race to make sure that i have enough good deeds to counter for my sins.
Though, i had a rather depressing thought the other day. I am involved in lots of Islamic activities, but if I were to die today and somehow my good deeds were enough to counterbalance my bad deeds, i would die being equal to a lazy Muslim who never memorized and never did da’wah work, yet didn’t sin in the way i did and so didnt need to do all those good deeds because he didn’t have as many bad deeds to make up for. I hope you follow what i’m saying.
All those who have suggested a return to a more spiritual state, dhikr and qiyam – i think this is good advice, and i will try to implement this.
Perhaps counseling is an option. I’ve seen programs on TV of people who undertook counseling to help them cope with their sex addiction.
2. The Addicts: From the Wife’s Perspective (“Aya”):
Anonymity is a bliss indeed. Let me tell you how a wife feels when she finds out about the secret life of her husband. At first i only suspected some suspicious stuff on the computer but never realized the intensity of it until years later. My mind wouldn’t go beyond chat rooms. It made me angry especially because I had been very loyal to my husband, but I didn’t let the ‘suspicions’ take over my mind.
Sometimes I would get some disgusting popups on my computer and a friend of mine told me that it would only happen if someone actually downloads them. I didn’t believe her. I was so naive. I couldn’t even picture my husband watching any such thing. I had so much respect for him. I had married him for the sake of the deen. His friends had testified for his character. Then how could I even doubt him for a second.Then a day came in my life, I wish hadn’t come. I saw what I shouldn’t have seen. It made me sick. I felt like puking. I cried and wished I was dreaming but the reality was right there in front of my eyes. But my husband promised that he would stop. He would become more ‘spiritual’ and would take any and every precaution that I would ask him to… It lasted for sometime but now I know it has started again…Day by day I fight this battle within me, on one side my love for him tells me to help him and work something out, on the other side my anger overtakes me and I think of leaving…but how? What would I tell the Imam why I seek to leave my husband? A wife is a ‘covering’ (libaas) of her husband, she hides her husband’s weaknesses and I did this for years, so how can I embarrass him now?
I want to help my husband, I want to see him successful not only here but in hereafter too. But how? I can’t keep nagging about the same subject every day. He already tells me not to act like his ‘mother’. That feeling of sorrow and guilt is not there in him anymore or at least I don’t see it. Sometimes, it takes more then reminders of Allah’s fear for a person to leave certain sins. Sometimes a death of a loved one, some diseases, some catastrophe…so I think that perhaps if I leave it will shake him deeply and he will repent.
Sometimes, by Allah, I want to get into a car accident just to ‘wake’ him up (and if i could guarantee that it would not lead to my death causing me to commit suicide, I would have done it). When he is around us/family, I am fine. I don’t let my mind wander around but when he is working on the computer, I could only doubt and suspect him. I had read that pure people are for pure people. But my mind fails to understand…I had never even looked at another man with an evil thought. I molded myself to his demands. Although, I grew up in a very ‘modest’ way, I went out of my way to get over my ‘shyness’. I did everything to please him from dressing in a certain way at home, to making our intimate life more exciting…Those of you who blame it on a wife’s lack of interest in intimacy are completely wrong. My husband will testify to this. We are a happily married couple (other then this issue) including our intimate life…sometimes I wish I hadn’t done any of this, so at least I could ‘justify’ my husband’s action!
I feel bad for my children. My sons idealize their father like anything but there comes days when I fail to see my children becoming good Muslims because I know a ‘father’s sins affect his children.’
Yet there are days when I want to give up on my own struggles of becoming a good Muslimah because I must not be ‘pure’ enough to be married to my husband. In my anger, I went a couple times on some ‘chat’ rooms just to chat dirty with someone…but I couldn’t do it…I swear by Allah I couldn’t even enter the chatroom, I felt disgusted inside me…but I fear that a day might come when I wouldn’t feel disgusted anymore…I know these are evil whisper of shaytaan, but what can I do. I came to know of a sin of his that is killing me inside. Perhaps if I see him increasing his good deeds in other ways to make up for this sin, I would stop feeling this way, but I don’t see that happening and I don’t know how to convince him into this. I have tried every way from talking to him, to requesting, to fighting to begging to crying to pleading but after all I am a wife and a wife can be everything but a ‘teacher’!
Brother Yasir Qadhi here said that it is not a major sin, my question to him is: Whenever Allah mentioned in Quraan about avoiding major sins and He will forgive the minor, He always says, ‘avoid major sins and FAWAHISH’…isn’t this act an act of Fahash? If it is, then how could it be something minor? Yes it is not the actual act of zina but if it is fahash and Allah explicitly asks to leave major sins and fawahish??And wouldn’t it fall into the category as ‘consistent minor sin in itself is a major sin’??
Anonymity is a bliss. May Allaah bless all of you for providing this opportunity for people in my situation to speak. Those of you who read this and think that it is only a ‘personal’ problem, know that it is NOT because this sin effects the people around you. I’ve heard brothers bragging about sisters’ hijaab because it is a ‘communal’ sin, and I tell you that this too is a sin that can ruin the lives of those living under your guardianship.
So change and do something about it, PLEASE do something about it…for Allah’s sake first and then for your beloved wife’s sake and for your beloved children’s sake.
1) It is not shaytan — it is the nafs. Recognize this. I have done so many dua’s and ayahs of qu’ran that would repel even the most obstinate shaytan and would still feel an intense desire. I realized it is the nafs. Once you realize this you are one step closer to personal responsibility. Try it, read ayat Al-Kursi and see if it helps. If it does not then you know it is your inner evil and not shaytan.
2) Realize that addiction is chemical as well. You will notice as you get that desire that your rate rate goes up, your body is calmer (endorphins released in your body), your heat is up. If you realize this then you’ve gotten another step closer. Why? because after a few days of going cold-turkey you’ve flushed out the chemicals/hormones that have been affecting you as well as the constant need for the high that you get. Think of it as a heroin addict, but in the case of a sex high that makes you that good feeling.
3) Give mad charity. I mean a lot of charity. Tie it to your sins if you do it. This is how I did it $100, $200, $500, $1000, $2000, $2000, then I had enough. I was going bankrupt man, but I felt that every time I kept sinning and not stopping I was making a bigger sin which needed a greater amount of sadaqa to expiate. I felt as if I was ransoming my soul to get rid of sin. Alhamdulliah, anytime I didn’t pay I would get problems at work, get parking tickets (worth $100 0- $200 anyway and just goes to waste to the city rather than count as a good deed) and all sort of worldly problems. If I paid the money right away I would not run into these problems and would not lose money on tickets and stuff. GIVE SADAQA, it shows real sacrifice.
4) “A strong desire is a justifiable need”. I read this on a billboard once, for a lexus. Your deed is 100% Haram, you HAVE to come to grips with this. It is so easy to justify it. You cannot do this if you are too quit.Think of eating pork. You never went near it because you know so clearly that it is haram. It goes the same for porn. You have to not kid yourself, to realize that there is no justification except your own desires.
THERE IS NO JUSTIFICATION EXCEPT YOUR SELF. YOU DO IT TO PLEASE YOURSELF, THAT IS IT.
5) You have an addiction for life. You have to completely quit cold-turkey, and never never start again. Once you start, even just once, you will continue. I took this reality from a person I saw who was a big time smoker and quit. When offered, even though it was so tempting, he did not even take one smoke. He knows once he takes that one smoke he’s done for it.
In this case, if you can stop for a good month or so insha Allah you have to avoid all things that would lead to you thinking about porn. (cover your eyes if you are faint of heart)
Don’t reach for your penis, even once. stay away from it and know that once you feel the sensation of arousal you will not be able to control your desire.If you find yourself looking at women on the street, literally look right to the floor and walk. Get headphones, listen to qu’ran while looking down to keep your mind busy.
6) You have to make your intention to completely quit; NEVER start again. If you intend for a week or a month you will not make it. Only when you completely say (and literally have a out-loud conversation with your nafs) that you are stopping forever because:
- You don’t want to keep going like this when you are older
- You don’t want to lose your marriage
- You are afraid of losing out on rewards from Allah.…whatever makes you afraid the most.
Once you intend to completely stop, just like not eating pork, then you will have a much easier time insha Allah. You will even get used to staying away.
7) Zuhd (asceticism): Try to distance yourself from the things of the world in general. It will help you to become less attached to things. being used to disattaching will also help you disattach from porn.
8.) Get busy with dunya! what, I thought you just said be ascetic? Yes, but Idle hands are the devil’s playground.Take on medium to long-term projects, they will help you get focused. You will start thinking about it a lot, your project that is. Do some construction on the house, work on completely reorganizing. BUT make sure you have a plan, you write it down, and that you structure it. Meaning: complete this, then that, then this, in order to complete the entire project.Keeping busy is the best thing for a recovering addict because once you are bored and alone, forget it.
9) Travel, take time off, for a year if possible.For some reason I never had a problem with the addiction while traveling or being away from home. Go study arabic in a Muslim country for a year. Sure there is bad stuff there, but not as much, and not as accessible, trust me.Travel especially if you are having a hard time even stopping. Take yourself away from the environment long enough for you to get away from your habit. But if you don;t make your absolute intention to quit forever BEFORE you go, forget it.
10) Again, keep giving sadaqa. I tell you.
4. Islamic Advice:
One really good coping strategy to enslave the nafs is to spend the entire night in prayer. Although the sunnah is to sleep and then get up for salaah, but for the weak nafs–stay up all night works. Not settling for any less, but the whole night.
Brothers who are doing this need to make taubah and replace this ‘enjoyment’ with halal stuff.
Sometimes we look for answers far away but the Qur’an is only on the shelf next to you:“The inhabitants of the city came rejoicing (at the news of the young men’s arrival). Lut said: “Verily! These are my guests, so shame me not. And fear Allah and disgrace me not.” They (people of the city) said: “Did we not forbid you to entertain (or protect) any of the Alamin (people, foreigners strangers etc) from us?” Lut said: “These (the girls of the nation) are my daughters to marry lawfully) if you must act so.” (Surah 15:51-77)
So the people of Lut wanted to satisfy their desires in an unlawful matter. Allah gave them an alternative halal way. Women.The brothers who are watching porn have to leave that. Make taubah. Go to your wives, talk to them. Build up relationship. Spend more time with them. Fulfil their rights and needs and yours will be fulfilled.
Also there is a distinct lack of spirituality (WOW and this is coming from a zahiri Salafi) which leads to sin. Whilst I abhor Sufism (ittihad, hulool, whirling, whadatulwujood) I must witness that we need a great amount of tazkiyyah and must take the path of sulook that out forefathers were upon. If your salah is not taking you away from this sin then there’s something massively wrong there.
Out of Meaninglessness Comes Pornography.
Let’s take these troubled brothers and attach them to Islamic efforts, either online or elsewhere. There are many Islamic websites that are run by volunteers (this is one, I believe) where they perform a number of tasks–from designing webspace to posting Dawah on forums. We can take these brothers and hook them up with people like Yusuf Estes and get them Islamically active. If they have issues with the computer (i.e. unable to resist the urge while on the computer) then we could get them hooked with other Islamic efforts going on (soup kitchens, street dawah, Tableeghi Jamaat etc). This will have to be regular and intense at times because if you get them to be idle–they will resort to porn. If you can’t hook up with some bigtime shaykh than perhaps build a support group or another group of like-minded brothers to get dawah going on.
Muhammad AlShareef mentions in his CD lecture, “When Wolves becomes Shepherds” that when some action is committed–a new pathway is made in the brain. Based on that theory, if we can strengthen an Islamic pathway (i.e. Dawah)–it will weaken or make on forget the pornographic pathway.
O you people who believe (us!!!), repent to Allah with a sincere/true repentance (tawbatan nasooha).
What is a sincere repentance?
- Ikhlaas – gotta have sincerity. Repenting to Allah for the sake of Allah, not because we are caught in the act.
- Admit the sin – don’t ignore, trivialize or at worst, justify the sin. Admitting there is a problem is the first step to solving it.
- Feeling guilty – “Feeling guilty IS tawbah” AlMustafa, salAllaho alaihi wa sallam.
- Immediate tawbah – just like Adam (AS). This is very hard because many-a-times, after committing the sin, we feel so guilty and disgusted with ourselves that we feel ashamed to do tawbah = exactly what shaitaan wants – to delay us and our tawbah. Therefore, the solution is to do tawbah immediately.
- Increase in the good deeds – hasanat wipes away sins.
- Intend to stop the sin – make a true, sincere intention and strong resolve to never return to the sin.
If you do slip back, start over from step 1 until this step is actualized. Doesn’t matter how many times the slip happens…1000, 10000, a million, a billion times. Just keep going back to step 1 if you do fall in the sin.
If this seems like an infinite loop, then its a plot of shaitaan to make you think this way. Only Allah’s Mercy is infinite :) Subhan Allah, this is the BIGGEST step for me right now. Every time I think of committing a dreaded sin that has haunted me for years, I ask myself: “So what happened to your tawbatan nasooha? Didn’t you promise Allah that you’re not going to go back to the sin?” And then, walhamdulillah, I desist.
- Not publicize – What this means is not to boast about your sin, and to not even mention it in public out of a desire for Allah’s sitar. Because all of RasoolAllah’s (SAWS) ummah will be forgiven except those who publicize their sins.
Unless, of course, you have repented and talking about the sin brings about the benefit of bringing others away from it.
- Restore rights of others, if applicable.
For every time you sin, pray at least 2 rakaah nawafil, immediately after sinning. Even if you don’t feel guilty, make it a habit. Now you have support and that sinning will, oddly enough, push you closer to Allah SWT. I guess that’s why we sin–so Allah can bring us closer to Him.
When you are sinning, turn away from the screen, be still and know that you could die at that moment and that yes, hellfire is where you would be if that happens. This thought never gets old. Bring it back to mind as often as you can. People try and mentally overcome this thought before they commit a sin, just to make themselves feel OK and then they do the sin. And then they think later “Oh that thought didn’t work on me,” when really they didn’t want it to work on them, in the first place. So keep bringing it back to mind, even while sinning and Insha Allah it will steer you away.
A person giving up hope is disastrous to say the least but not uncommon. I’ve seen on occasion, other brothers breakdown in front of me into wailing and tears saying that Allah would never forgive them.
There is one issue that I have noticed with brothers who have this problem. They are split in two, inside and it hurts them. Being more religious than the average person yet a great sinner in the mirror.
There is an internal struggle going on. A Jihad of the nafs.
On one hand the nafs censures itself. “Oh you sinner, return to Allah”. On the other hand there is a trap of iblees.
Iblees knows that the soul wishes to repent. So he lays a trap at every door of repentance: “Allah will never forgive you. This is a sin you keep repeating. Leave off dawah, you are too dirty for ibadah.”
It is a trap of iblees designed to destroy the nafs that is in a state of muhasabah (self assessment?).
So to begin with as both of you have mentioned that you do hate what you are doing and that you have tried to stop using various means. So understand that when you do this then the soul is in a state of Jihad. And at times this internal struggle can be greater than that fought with a sword.
The nature of the sin is addiction, therefore continuity. And as Ustadh Yasir has explained that a minor sin done continuously can become major. So the habit must be broken.
Let’s say you stopped for a while and then you started again. Don’t let that make you give up trying. In fact stopping for a while shows that you can stop totally, eventually.
Also, dhikr is life. Dhikr is not just words that we say with our tongue and say 100 times in one minute. Dhikr is what quenches the thirst of our hearts, and without it, we will eventually die. I admit that one point in time I used to go around telling people to do dhikr, but I didn’t know what it actually meant. I can just say that dhikr is so much more than what we think. Dhikr is what makes live worth living. It’s our connection with Allah. Without it, we have nothing. We simply get lost in a world of delusions and continue falling and falling, until we can’t get up.
Dhikr is the solution to our problems, along with admitting the lowliness of ourselves. It’s a struggle, but if we have to pretend, we pretend. It must become a habit. At the same time we need to fill our time, because idle time is a big fitnah. We need to watch the sins of our tongue every day, and try our best to become aware of every evil we utter so that we can stop uttering it.
We all need to sit down in a secluded area, ask Allah for forgiveness and think of our sins as we utter it, every time. We need to break ourselves, and it may take time, but it must be done. We need guides, so let us find them! Ask Allah and He will help you. But do whatever it may take to rid yourself of these evils, even if at first it may seem like you are struggling against forces which seem impossible to defeat. DO NOT LOSE HOPE. Once you lose hope, you are going to drown.
Four ahadith, that I (personally) count as my HOPE in front Allah ‘azza wa jal
a) the hadith of Anas ibn Malik radyAllahu ‘anh that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alaihee wa sallam said
“By Him in Whose Hand is my soul: If you committed sins to the extent that your sins filled what is between the heavens and the earth, Allah would forgive you after seeking His forgiveness. By Him in Whose hand is Muhammad’s soul, if you did not commit sins, Allah would replace you by other people who would commit sins. Then, Allah forgives them after seeking His forgiveness.” (Musnad of Imaam Ahmed)
b) The LONG hadith of Abu Dharr al-Ghifari radyAllahu ‘anh from the Prophet salAllahu ‘alaihee aw sallam that Allah said:
O My servants, I have forbidden oppression for Myself and have made it forbidden amongst you, so do not oppress one another. O My servants, all of you are astray except for those I have guided, so seek guidance of Me and I shall guide you, O My servants, all of you are hungry except for those I have fed, so seek food of Me and I shall feed you. O My servants, all of you are naked except for those I have clothed, so seek clothing of Me and I shall clothe you. O My servants, you sin by night and by day, and I forgive all sins, so seek forgiveness of Me and I shall forgive you. O My servants, you will not attain harming Me so as to harm Me, and will not attain benefiting Me so as to benefit Me. O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to be as pious as the most pious heart of any one man of you, that would not increase My kingdom in anything. O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to be as wicked as the most wicked heart of any one man of you, that would not decrease My kingdom in anything. O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to rise up in one place and make a request of Me, and were I to give everyone what he requested, that would not decrease what I have, any more that a needle decreases the sea if put into it. O My servants, it is but your deeds that I reckon up for you and then recompense you for, so let him finds good praise Allah and let him who finds other that blame no one but himself. (Muslim, Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah).
c) The hadith of ibn ‘Abbas radyAllahu ‘anh
the explanation of which was done shaykhuna Yasir hafidhahullah on this very blog: you can find it here: http://muslimmatters.org/2007/04/03/pearls-from-the-sunnah-1/ and
d) The hadith of the Prophet salAllahu ‘alaihee wa sallam, that the son of Adam will sin, repent, sin, and repent, sin, and repent.. so much so that shaytaan gives up on him! aw kamaa qaala salAllahu ‘alaihee wa sallam.
and the aya in (NOT so ironically) Surat GHAFIR
Inna la nasru rusulana WAL LADHEENA aamanoo FIL HAYYAATID DUNYA WA yawma yaqumul Ash-Haad
Verily Allah will give VICTORY to his messengers AND those who believe IN THIS LIFE AND on the day when the witnesses will be brought forth.
– The victory is IN this life…and on the day of judgement for ALL to see that YES WE (I) was victorious. They WITNESS to that. How sweet of a day that is – may Allah make us of those who are victorious.
* listen to this lecture, “Ahmed the Repenter”
(it’s the third lecture on the list) — please make sure you listen to it if you haven’t already.
*if you MUST sit on the computer by yourself, perhaps keep the light on and keep a copy of Quran on your lap or in your eyesight.
* concentrate on this and say this to yourself perhaps 100 times: “Allah is watching me right now”
* watch this video with focussed visualization:
* say the istia’adah
* think about how you’ll feel after you do the evil deed…visualization is the key here!
* collect all the URLs that you regularly visit, and block them. I believe in firefox and IE, you can add these “blocked sites” and set a password. Set a random password that you type without looking so that you don’t know how to unlock it. (haven’t checked this)
* visualize the state of the people you are watching (or lusting I should say) will be on the day of Judgement [if they continue on that path]. Imagine how ugly they will look, how fat their skin would be, how big their molar teeth would be (size of Uhud!)..subhanAllah, just think about their torture and the fact that you’re making them your “friends” in this life, that should scare you away from them. You definitely do not want to be raised with them on Yawmul qiyamah!
* also br qwerty, one thing I don’t get…if your wife already knows about your issue, can’t you just install that logger br amad gave a link to and tell her, I’m doing this so that YOU KNOW (to your wife) of what I’m doing and that inshaAllah you can trust me. You don’t have to tell her that you’re still in the habit? No?
Here in the west this is affected by what people regard as normal. As the media numbs our morality level, the norms of acceptability change.
Take a look at Henry Makow’s website. Have a look for his article that explains why watching porn can lead to homosexuality. He always writes about this stuff: http://www.savethemales.ca/000165.html
This is a problem common to all men now not just Muslim men. The Christians have clinics to counsel people off porn. It is an Information Age problem or should I say epidemic. I’m not a Psychiatrist but I do study Psychology and it can help to use some methods to stop brothers doing this.
One NLP technique would be to anchor porn with homosexuality. This can either be done in counseling or it can be addressed in any lectures done on Islamic sexual etiquette. We need to resolve this problem on a wider scale.
To understand the scale of the problem just google ‘porn addiction’: http://www.manontheroad.org/pornography_addiction.htm
Now I’m going to show you a method to break the habit for ever insha Allah:
First understand the problem (this is all common knowledge is psychology, it’s not voodoo!): When you do something that gives you a reward it releases chemicals in your brain.
So when you eat, exercise or have sex, then certain chemicals are released inside the brain. This is the reward process of the brain to keep you eating, healthy and procreating etc.
One chemical is dopamine. This reinforces the pleasure each time. In other types of addiction more drugs (higher doses) are required each time to achieve a similar level of pleasure/feeling. This is what is referred to as tolerance.Now when you watch porn I bet that over time you had to start watching different types of porn to get the same ‘feeling’. You build up a numbness or tolerance as we call it. This is what led you to use your credit cards.
Some pharma companies are developing a drug to stop this process (for heroin addicts), but we all know where that leads to. Continuous treatments so that they can make money.
What you need to do is to replace the pleasure with a greater pleasure. As Imam Ibn Qayyim Al Jawziyyah once wrote about the gaze: “The pleasure received in not looking is greater than the pleasure received in looking.”
Brother Dawud mentioned in his post that:“Muhammad AlShareef mentions in his CD lecture, “When Wolves becomes Shepherds” that when some action is committed–a new pathway is made in the brain. Based on that theory, if we can strengthen an Islamic pathway (i.e. Dawah)–it will weaken or make on forget the pornographic pathway.”
Unfortunately your other ‘porn pathway’ is probably well developed and traversed by now.In actual fact you need to change the pathway itself. In fact the best thing would be to go to Muhammad AlShareef as he is an NLP practitioner and should be able to help you immediately. Or to remain anonymous you could go to a non-Muslim one. But you need to find a reputable one near you.
I’ll provide a method here that is used by NLP people. Try and use it yourself. It is very possible to make this work, I’ve tried it with phobias and other stuff. Make sure you have confidence in the method and try it out properly. If it doesn’t work then go to an NLP practitioner.
What you need to do is use a method called anchoring, where you tie certain emotions and feelings with certain actions or triggers. This is not some voodoo. It is a psychological method used by business people all around the world for many different purposes.
First read around it so that you get an idea of what you’re about to do:
Once you have an idea about the concept then try the method on the following link, it is specifically porn orientated: Click for link
(Also ignore their comments at the start about occasional porn watching being o.k., that’s because they don’t know it’s haram!)
This method has been tested on people and does work very well. Make sure you read it a few times and understand it well before you start.
Open communication between husband and wife from day one (or should I say first night together) is needed. Unfortunately many women feel uncomfortable talking to their husband about their needs (sexual and otherwise) because sex in many cultures has always been a very hush hush subject to discuss so when it comes time for marriage, the woman, more often than the man it seems, are a bit lost because all of a sudden this is right in the open, something it never was before. If she is unsure or hesitant to his desires, that doesn’t give the husband the right to turn to porn. He ALSO needs to make an effort to be open and communicate his needs to his wife, otherwise both parties involved are straining their own relationship. This goes back to your last post about education and how it is so much needed, especially to young married couples.
One must remember that women are shy by nature so it is natural that they refrain from talking about this subject even with their husbands especially in the early period of marriage. Sometimes they have certain needs/sexual desires and they feel shy to inform their husbands about it. And perhaps that is why they become disinterested in the sexual life causing dissatisfaction to the husbands.That’s why I believe that husbands should take the initiative and talk/ask their wives about this.
As I read this, a light bulb popped… you may know that there is an activity logger software. We have installed this for our little kids. See this.
One thing a person in a similar position as yours may want to do, to “force” the issue on himself (kind of like what you mentioned) i.e. install this software… with cooperation from the wife, and have her set the password. This way, everything is logged and if the person is hiding this from the wife and doesn’t want to mess up that relationship, then it will provide a big deterrent if the wife can track the internet activity. This program actually works quite well and tracks everything, incl. taking snapshots (I recommend this for parents as well— its free to try).
Another thing someone mentioned is to have the computer in a “open area”. Like my uncle has all the computers set up in the living room, in clear view of anyone passing. Still, if the wife’s gone, the Shaytan will play… so the logging software may watch.
Here’s my advice, get rid of the internet. If you need to check your e-mail or something go to a public library. Sure it will be tough, but not nearly as tough as the anger of Allah on the Day Of Judgment.
To the husband, Qwerty:
1) Regarding Qwerty’s situation, it reminded me of a fatwa I read from a great modern alim – someone whom I know personally very well and greatly admire. He was asked about a similar situation (person addicted to porn and masturbation). His response – I only wish I could find the original Arabic – almost moved me to tears. He started off with the basic advice of informing him that this was a sin and he should desist from it, and continually repent to Allah. So far it was standard. But then he continued on. He said that this sin, despite its evil nature, is not a major sin in and of itself (for example like actual zina), and as long as one repented and felt guilty it would not come under the rule ‘a habitual minor sin becomes a major sin’. Then he said – and this was the most beautiful point –
‘And make sure that Shaytan does not use this sin to prevent you from being of benefit to the Ummah in other ways, for this would be a greater victory for Shaytan than the actual sin you are committing’.
Meaning that the sin is a problem, but then sitting down in your house, despairing, and becoming totally useless to the Ummah is an even greater problem! So feel guilty for your sin, but use that guilt to make sure you generate more good deeds in order to make it up. Which leads me to my second point.
2) Qwerty, and those in your boat, make sure you have more than the ‘average’ good deeds to show. Pray some extra nafls regularly, read Quran (and memorize, as you were doing), do dhikr… when in sajdah prolong it for that short extra time, realizing you need those blessings. During wudhu, perfect it and realize that for every drop of water that falls down a sin is removed. Saying isighfar, and especially the ‘sayyid al-istighfar’ regularly, meaning what you say.
And indeed it is possible, if you do all this and more, that you will rise higher *because* of your sin, since it led you to higher heights. Again this is not a justification of the sin, but rather a ray of hope for the sinner that not all is lost. No human is sinless, and what you are doing is a (minor) sin, hence use it to be a better Muslim, and make du’aa to al-Rahman that He forgives you, and to al-Sitteer that He covers up and conceals it from others.
3) MW, your last comment – I swear by Allah – made my heart tremble and hair stand on end. Do you realize what you have just said? By Allah this one statement of yours is worse than any sin you could have done, so repent for it. Do you think that you, and you alone, can be so sinful that Allah’s mercy cannot encompass you? That you have so much ‘power’ to commit sins that the infinite mercy of Allah is powerless when faced with it?!
Understand the implications of what you say and repent for this one statement, before you repent from the lesser sins that you say you have done. For indeed a hadeeth tells us that ‘The greatest of all major sins is shirk with Allah, and despairing of the mercy of Allah, and losing hope of the help of Allah.’ See how the Rasool (saw) equated giving up hope in Allah and His Mercy with shirk.Indeed, Allah forgives all sins….for He is al-Ghafoor, al-Ghafaar, al-Raheem, al-Rahman, al-Tawwaab, al-Haleem, and al-Afuw. He is forgiving and loves to forgive.O Allah, forgive us all for our shortcomings, and conceal our faults from others, and cover us up with your mercy, Ameen!
To the wife, Aya:
Salaam alaikum Sr. Aya. My heart really bled for you – your pain and suffering is understandable, may Allah make it easy for you.
ut one point of advice: never ever wish for any misfortune on yourself or your husband. I can understand the frustration, but don’t be like those whom Allah says in the Quran ”And man asks for evil [upon himself] as he asks for good, and indeed Allah is quick [in responding]” Of the interpretations of this verse is that a person makes du’aa AGAINST himself, as you yourself are about to do, so be careful in this regard, and do not despair of Allah’s mercy.
Also I would not advise you to leave your husband permanently. Perhaps your presence is minimizing these sins, and if you were to leave he would become worse, so consider yourself as protecting him in some ways. And do not ever thing you are part of the problem (as for those who commented that a man’s addiction might be his wife’s fault – really that is so chauvinistic and ignorant it is unbelievable).
Lastly, about your question: we need to define a kabeerah (major sin) versus a sagheerah (minor sin). A major sin, according to the strongest opinion, is a sin that entails Allah’s curse, or threat of punishment of Hell. So actual fornication is a major sin, but the steps leading to it (e.g., talking to a woman, looking at her, etc.) does not constitute a major sin. No doubt some ‘minor’ sins are more major than others, but they are still in the realm of minor sins. Hence, even if a sin is ‘disgusting’ it does not necessarily follow that it is a kabeerah.
Not to trivialize minor sins here, but we need to remain clear about these matters.(Shameless plug: this matter will be discussed in much greater detail in a future AlMaghrib class insha Allah!!!)
Now, a minor sin is transformed into a major one when a person habitually does it without any remorse or regret. What makes it a major sin is the lack of guilt and lack of repentance – if a person continue to repent and then fall into a minor sin, it remains a minor sin. Hence, if a person *tries* to give up a sin and continues to slip into it, then that does NOT constitute a major sin. Only if a person loses all modesty and habitually commits such sins without any guilt or attempt to change will such minor sins be considered a major sin.
Hope that clarifies this issue insha Allah…
And I sincerely pray that Allah makes your situation easy for you, and guides you and your husband to that which pleases Him!
Oh my self what will calm you?
Can’t you remain patient for a day or two?
I try to contain you but your strength overpowers
But when we die life will seem like hours
So can’t you be patient for part of a day?
And remain steadfast upon the straight way?
The direction you’re taking leads to my worst fears
Of the day we stand for fifty thousand years
No one will joke nor talk nor smile
And the sun from our heads will be at a mile
Nowhere to hide and nowhere to flee
Standing for what seems an eternity
Then the judgment begins and the books will land
Either on your right or your left handOh my self …
Do not become like those who left the right track
And put their left hands behind their back
Oh self how do you plan to cross the sirat suspended in the air?
Craftier than a fox, sharper than a sword and thinner than a hair?
How do you plan to cross? Or will you cross at all?
The blink of an eye? Run? Or would you rather crawl?
The bad deeds you command will drop you from it
And only good deeds put you back upon it
Oh self it’s a five hundred year-drop suspension
Over a terrible place I’d rather not mentionOh self…
Do not be fooled by this world and its illusions
And keep in mind judgment, the grave and other conclusions
Oh self wake up! Don’t follow your desire
And ask for forgiveness to avoid the fire
Oh self keep the commands and avoid prohibitions
And pay close attention to these admonitions
Be amongst those who were the best of planners
Who prepared for the future with good deeds and good mannersOh self it simply about your control
Being patient now so as to reach your goal
I don’t mean to put a burden, or put much stress
Just to warn of a day when the limbs confess
Sins add up as you live through the years
Then sadness won’t save you and nor will the tears
Every time you sin the Shaytan is winning
So remember the One against Whom you’re sinningOh my self…
Life is short and ends when you least expect it
And then what will you say when you’re resurrected?
The angel of death overlooked you and took the souls of your brothers
And one day he’ll come to you and overlook others
For great rewards plant the righteous seeds
Oh Allah, I seek refuge from the evil of my self and from the evil of my deeds.
I a 25 year old male, a recovering addict to porn and masturbation.
It all started at about the age of 10/11, when I accidentally discovered masturbation. Back then I did not understand what I was doing and did not realise that this was haram (But I have to say, I would always do it in secret, even though I was young I had an inkling that this was wrong). Anyway I continued in this fashion for a year or two, and then I discovered porn. At first I was too embarrassed to simply walk into a shop and buy a magazine, so I would literally look in people’s garbage, in the hope of finding pornographic material. I remember staying awake late at night and turning on the TV once my parents slept, in order to watch late night TV which often showed soft-core porn. (I remember in shame the lengths I would go to conceal my secret, e.g. closing the door, but not completely so that I can hear approaching footsteps and hiding a pornographic video underneath a loose floorboard that was nearly discovered by my father).
It got so bad, and I felt so guilty, that one day, I was about 13 years old then, I took a brave step and confessed to my father, who was extremely supportive and gave me practical tips to my problem. It worked for a few months and my father thought he was successful, but unfortunately I relapsed and went back to my old ways.
I continued like this for a few years until about the age of 15/16 (throughout this time I always felt guilty and ashamed but continued any way), that was when the internet became mainstream. To me this was the start of a new level in watching porn, as it made it so easy, (no need for embarrassing walks in to an adult shop, and off course the ease of access and variety of porno content on the web). I started off by simply watching nude pics and downloading free video-clips (you see the porn barons are very much like drug dealers, you get your first joint for free, then you’re hooked and forced to go back to the dealer, but this time you have to pay to get the harder content). However, after about 2 yrs the free stuff simply was not enough, I needed more to quench my ever-increasing lustfulness. This was when I crossed another fence, using my credit card (a bit like a previous post).
This continued until about the age of 20. This was when it really got out of control as I started to contemplate visiting prostitutes; you see watching porn alone was not enough. Again, its like drugs, you start with cannabis and end up with crack/heroin. Again the internet made it very easy to do this, as prostitutes advertise themselves on the web on certain specialist websites. At first, like the previous post I would only call these women, it kind of gave me a kick. I would justify it to my self by saying that ‘its not haram to talk, as long as I don’t actually act on my feelings’, but yes… you guessed it, I moved on to the next level and committed Zina. After the first experience which left me feeling quite guilty, I decided to repent to Allah and stop watching porn, but once you have been addicted to something for so long it’s very easy to relapse. In fact, I started to visit prostitutes on a regular basis, justifying it to myself by saying ‘ as long as I do not engage in penetrative sex then my sin is not so great’.
After a year or two, I decided that the only way to solve my problem is to get married. Unfortunately, marriage only helped for a few months, and then I relapsed once more.
However, things changed exactly 1 year ago. As I’m sure you have realised, this beast of an addiction has been the storey of my life, it has absolutely consumed me in every way, I have tried so many times to slay the beast, but every time I fail. Yet, something happened to me exactly one year ago that allows me to stand before this forum today, and announce that I have finally slayed this beast. In fact, today is my 1 year anniversary of victory. Like all other addicts whenever I repented I knew at the back of my mind that this will not last. 1 year ago, when I repented I came to the realisation that I cannot have this thought at the back of my mind, as it made my repentance worthless. I then sat down and brainstormed all the Ill consequences of porn; I came up with the following,
1) The most important one off course is going to HELL
2) Constantly feeling guilty and worthless
3) Constantly feeling ashamed of my self, this led to poor self-esteem and lack of confidence.
4) Wasting my precious time. Time that can be spent learning new things or simply enjoying the company of friends
5) Having to constantly lie to cover my tracks, and then to lie again to cover my previous lies, and so on
6) Sexual contact with my wife became a chore rather than something to look forward to, as I simply was no longer excited by my wife (and bless her little heart, she tries so hard to seduce me)
7) The feeling of utter emptiness after masturbating, compared to the feeling of joy when hugging my wife in bed
The amount of money wasted: I can honestly say that in the space of about 10 years, I blew approximately fifteen thousand pounds (£15000) on porn and prostitutes. This money could have gone to the poor, it could have gone towards my mortgage, it would have paid for about 10 holidays, or at least 4/5 visits to the holy city of Mecca.
9) The inability to do anything that would please Allah (such as read quran, or help the Muslim UMMA), as I always felt ‘what’s the point of doing a good deed, as I have committed so many disgusting sins’
10) The utter humiliation I would feel had my wife found out, not to mention the enormous amount of pain I would cause her had she found out I was watching porn and even cheated on her’.
So, how did I stop? It’s a combination of everything really.
1) Constantly reminding myself of the 10 disadvantages outlined above (I have them stored on my organiser, and read them every day)
2) Reading quran and dua everyday, and paying charity.
3) Never staying home alone if possible
4) Praying on time
5) Going to my wife when ever I felt the desire (off course it helps that I have a wife who is very enthusiastic when it comes to sexual matters)
6) Encouraging my wife to always dress provocatively when we are at home.
7) Remember how guilty, depressed and ashamed you wil feel, after commiting the sin of watching porn or masturbating.
8) A lot of you will probably agree with me that you watch porn when you are bored and have free time on your hand. There is a verse in the Quran about free time and how it should be used. I also recently heard a lecture in which the Imam said that all evil comes from spare time, as this is when a human is at his most vulnerable, you have nothing to do, nothing to pre-occupy your mind, so in order to fill this void, you commit a sin such as watching porn. The message here is always occupy your mind with something useful ( read a book, visit a friend, play football/sports, start a project, watch a comedy, anything really, as long as it is not haram ) never remain idle when you have time on your hands as boredom can be your downfall, and lead you to the wrong path.
Apart from these 8 points, I have a few more tips that have worked for me.
1) 1 year ago, I made a Nidhr to Allah, so that if I was to relapse I would have to fast 120 days continuously.
2) every day, I go in front of the mirror and I psyche myself up, screaming ‘NEVER’, ‘NEVER’, ‘NEVER’, over and over again, ( ‘NEVER’, as in I will ‘never’ go back to my old ways again)
3) I have a secret book that I purchased specifically for this purpose. I have marked all the dates of the year on it for the next couple of years. Next to every day I either have a tick which would represent a successful day, in other words a day I did not watch porn in, or I would have a cross, which would represent failure. Alhamdu-lilllah I now have 365 ticks, and not a single cross. I look at all these ticks every day, and it gives me a sense of achievement. I would not want to see a cross in this book, as it would symbolise a return to the old ways. Seeing that cross would seriously depress me, hence I avoid it at all cost.
I hope these tips will help. Please read dua for me as I want to continue on the right track. I know I can. I know I can. I know I can. Allah is on my side. Allah is on my side. Allah is on my side.
NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER
Related Posts on MM:
A Word On Muslim Attitudes Toward Abortion
The Qur’an describes Muslims committed to its mores as “a moderate nation,” and that sense of balance qualifies them to stand as “witnesses over humanity” (Q 2:143). Contemporary Muslims revel in this assertion, especially when it seems that “Islam” proposes a via media solution to a highly polarizing subject as abortion. What currently constitutes “Islam” on a given topic, however, often reflects the personal prerogative apparently offered to the average Muslim by a list of diverse legal perspectives. In other words, the mere fact that multiple legal opinions exist on one or more topics is now taken as license to appropriate any one of them, without any deep ethical reflection on the implications of the opinion, however anomalous it may be.
“Islam is the golden mean between all ethical extremes” is what certain Muslims would assert. So if one extreme bars abortion under all circumstances and the other seeks to allow it throughout the duration of the pregnancy, one would assume that Islam must land somewhere in the middle, both forbidding and allowing abortion in certain circumstances. This moral assumption isn’t far from the truth. However, the mere existence of multiple opinions on a topic does not mean that each opinion has equal validity, nor does it mean that every opinion is valid for one to adopt. Similarly, “Islam” or “Islamic law” cannot be summed up into a simple formula like “majority rules” or “when in doubt about prohibition or allowance, the action is, therefore, merely disliked.”
Legal positivism plagues both religious and secular-minded people. Just as an act does not acquire its moral strength simply because it is legal, morally appropriate opinions are not always codified into law. If it is true that any unjust law is no law at all, where is the injustice and to whom is it being perpetrated against in the debate between pro-lifers and pro-choicers? Is it deemed unjust to prevent a pregnant woman from disposing of an “insignificant lifeless part of her body” that no one other than herself should be able to decide what to do with? Or is one “depriving a helpless growing person” of the opportunity and right to exist after its Creator initiated its journey into the world? Does a law that prevents a woman impregnated by a family member or rapist from an abortion oppress her? Or does such a law protect the life of a vulnerable fetus, who, like other weak members of society, is expected to be protected by the strong? Does it do both or neither? And if one is taking the “life” of this fetus, what proof is there that it is a living creature?
While these are all extremely important questions, this missive is neither intended necessarily to answer them nor to resolve today’s raging political debate. The main goal here is to offer ideas that should be on the minds of Muslims when deciding to join such debates or promoting the idea that their “religion” provides the best solution to social polarization, when by “religion” we mean the opinion of a small minority of scholars in some place and time in Muslim history.
Islamic law is very sophisticated; the legislative process is not facile, nor is it a place where any Muslim is entitled to pragmatically select the opinions that he/she finds attractive and accommodating. It demands knowledge of particular aims, the ability to properly realize those aims in the lives of people, and understanding the epistemic and metaphysical foundations that ensure that judgments conform to coherent rationale. In other words, the laws of Islam and the opinions of jurists cannot be divorced from their philosophical and evidentiary underpinnings. Otherwise, the thread holding the moral tapestry of Islam together falls apart completely at its seams.
Is Abortion Lawful in Islam?
Many past and present have written about the Islamic view of abortion. The ancient scholars prohibited it at all stages of the pregnancy and made practically no exception. Some would later allow for it only if the mother’s life was in danger. That notwithstanding, six popular legal opinions exist regarding abortion:
- Unlawful (haram), in all stages of the pregnancy.
- Permitted (ja’iz), during the first 40 days but unlawful (haram) afterwards.
- Disliked (makruh), before the passage of 40 days but unlawful (haram) afterwards.
- Permitted (ja’iz), if it is from illicit intercourse (zina).
- Permitted (ja’iz) without conditions, before 120 days.
- Permitted only for a legitimate excuse.
The late mufti of Fez, Morocco, Shaykh Muhammad Al-Ta’wil (d. 2015) said,
The first opinion forbidding that during the [first] 40 [days] and beyond, regardless of whether or not it is due to an excuse, even if from illicit intercourse, is the view of the supermajority [of jurists].
The Qur’an is a Book of Ethical Teaching
The reasons for the cavalier attitude among contemporary Muslims about abortion are multiple. The most significant reason may be that at times Islam is seen as a synonym for shariah. The truth, however, is that the shariah is only part of Islam. Islam covers law (fiqh), creed (aqidah), and ethics (akhlaq). Even though the Qur’an consists of laws, it is not a book of law. It is a book of ethical teachings. Merely 10%–12% of the Qur’an relates to legal injunctions. It is not characteristic of the Qur’an to enjoin upon Muslims to command what is “compulsory” or “recommended” and to forbid what is “unlawful” and “disliked.” What is common though is for it to command us to do what is “ma’ruf” and to avoid what is “munkar.”
“Ma’ruf” and “munkar” can be translated respectively as “what is socially commendable” and “what is socially condemnatory.” This is in spite of the fact that social acceptability and unacceptability are often subjective. This does not mean that the Qur’an is morally relativistic. It is quite the contrary. What this means, however, is that the Qur’an’s aim is not merely to teach Muslims what one can and cannot do. It means, rather, that the Qur’an has a greater concern with what Muslims “should” and “should not” do. For this very reason, the companions of the Prophet seldom differentiated between his encouragement and discouragement of acts by the juristic values of disliked, unlawful, recommended, and compulsory. Rather, if the Prophet encouraged something beneficial, they complied. And, if he discouraged from something potentially harmful, they refrained.
The Qur’an permits many actions. However, to permit an act is not equivalent to encouraging it. It permits polygyny (Q 4:3), the enslavement of non-Muslim war captives (Q 8:70), and marrying the sister of one’s ex-wife (Q 4:23). Similarly, some Muslim jurists validate marriage agreements wherein the man secretly intends to divorce the woman after a certain period of time known only to him. This is the case, even though the average Muslim man is monogamous; practically no Muslim today believes it is moral to enslave a person; the vast majority of Muslims find the marriage of one’s sister-in-law upon the death of one’s wife to be taboo; and they chide men who marry with a temporary intention of marriage. If the mere existence of permission or legal opinion permitting a socially condemnable act is a legitimate reason to adopt it, why would Muslims be uneasy about these cases but inclined to take a different stance when it comes to abortion?
The proper Islamic position on any given issue of public or private concern should not only consider what the law or jurists have to say about the topic. Rather, one should also consider how theology and ethics connect with those laws or opinions. That is to say, one should ask, “What wisdom does God seek to realize from this injunction or opinion?” assuming that such a wisdom can be identified. Secondly, one need ask,
“Who and how many will be helped or harmed if this action is undertaken?”
The Qur’an is the primary source of Islam’s ethics. And, one often observes a major difference between its morality and the morality validated by certain jurists, often lacking a clear connection to Qur’anic and prophetic precepts. That notwithstanding, a juristic opinion can sometimes masquerade as one that is authentically Islamic, especially when it aims to appease or assuage a social or political concern. Consequently, one finds some contemporary scholars championing opinions simply because they exist, like that of mainstream Shafi’is who traditionally argued that the reason for jihad was to rid the world of unIslamic doctrines (kufr); or certain contemporaries who validated taking of the lives of innocent women, children, and other non-combatants in suicide bombings; those who endorsed the execution of Jews for converting to Christianity and vice versa; or others who classified slaves as animals rather than human beings? For, surely, there are Muslim jurists who validate each one of these opinions, despite their evidentiary weakness. Hence, simply because there is an opinion allowing for abortions does not necessarily mean that it is something Islam allows, even in cases of rape and incest.
When Does Life Begin?
Medieval Muslim scholars, naturally, lacked the scientific tools that we have today to determine whether or not the fetus growing in its mother’s womb was actually a viable creation and a living creature from conception. Other than when the fetus first showed signs of movement in its mother’s belly, scholars took their cues from the Qur’an and prophetic tradition on when the fetus possessed a soul or if it did so at all. For this reason, very few scholars have offered clear answers to the question of when human life begins, while they agreed that upon 120 days, the child is definitely a living person.
According to the Andalusian scholar of Seville, Ibn al-‘Arabi (d. 1148),
The child has three states: 1) one state prior to coming into [material] existence …, 2) a state after the womb takes hold of the sperm …, and 3) a state after its formation and before the soul is breathed into it …, and when the soul is breathed into it, it is the taking of a life. 
Al-Ghazzali (d. 1111) said,
Coitus interruptus (‘azl) is not like abortion and infanticide (wa’d) because it [abortion] is a crime against an actualized existence (mawjud hasil). And, it has stages, the first being the stage of the sperm entering into the womb, then mixing with the woman’s fluid, and then preparing for the acceptance of life. To disturb that is a crime. Then, if it becomes a clot (‘alaqah) or a lump (mudghah), the crime is more severe. Then, if the soul is breathed into it and the physical form is established, the crime increases in gravity. 
These are some of the most explicit statements from Medieval Muslim scholars; they deemed that life begins at inception. The Qur’an states, “Does man think that he will be left for naught (sudan)? Was he not a sperm-drop ejected from sexual fluid?” (75:36-37). In other words, the “sperm-drop” phase is the start of human existence, and existence is the basis for human dignity, as with other living creatures. The human being was a “sperm-drop.” If that is so, this strongly suggests that meddling with this fluid, even before the fetus begins to grow and develop limbs and organs, would be to violate the sanctity of a protected creature. The Qur’an further says, “Did We not create you from a despicable fluid? And then, We placed you in a firm resting place, until a defined scope” (Q 77:20-22). The use of the second person plural pronoun (you) in these verses strongly suggests that the start of human life begins at inception. This is not to mention the multiple verses forbidding one from killing one’s children due to poverty, fear of poverty, or out of shame or folly.
The Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad similarly offers sufficient indication that even though the fetus is not fully formed, it is still an actualized existence and living creature. The Prophet reportedly said, “The miscarried fetus will remain humbly lying with its face down at the gates of heaven saying, ‘I will only enter when my parents do.’” Similarly, it is reported that when the second caliph ‘Umar b. al-Khattab ordered that an adulteress discovered to be pregnant be stoned to death, the companion, Mu’adh b. Jabal, said to him, “Even if you have a right to punish her, you do not have a right to punish what is in her belly.” The Prophet and his followers after him never executed a pregnant woman guilty of a capital crime until she gave birth and someone had taken on the care of the child. In addition, they imposed a hefty fine on those who were directly responsible for a woman’s miscarriage. All of this indicates that the fetus is to be respected from the time the male’s sperm reaches the ovum of the woman.
Imam Al-Razi’s Ethical Reflection on the Qur’anic Verse, 6:140
God says in the Qur’an, “Ruined are those who murder their children foolishly without knowledge and forbid what God has provided them with while inventing falsehoods against God. They have strayed and are not guided aright” (6:140).
About this verse, Imam Fakr al-Din al-Razi (d. 1210) comments,
Many issues relate to the verse: the first issue is that God mentioned, in the preceding verse, their murder of their children while depriving themselves of the sustenance that God provided them with. Then, God brings these two matters together in this verse while clarifying to them all that is a logical consequence of this judgment, such as ruin, folly, lack of knowledge, the deprivation of what God has provided them, false statements against God, straying, and the privation of guidance. So these are seven characteristics, each of which is an independent cause for censure. The first is ruin (khusran), and that is because a child is an immense blessing from God upon a person, so when one strives to terminate its existence, he/she suffers great ruin and especially deserves great censure in life and a severe punishment in the hereafter due to terminating its existence. Censure in life is warranted because people say one has murdered one’s child out of fear of it eating one’s food. And there is no censure in life greater than such. Punishment in the hereafter is warranted because the closeness resulting from childbirth is one of the greatest sources of love. Then, upon achieving it, one sets out to deliver the greatest of harms to it [the child], thereby committing one of the gravest sins. As a consequence, one of the greatest punishments is warranted. The second is folly (safahah), which is an expression of condemnable frivolousness. That is because the murder of the child is only committed in light of the fear of poverty. And, even though poverty is itself a harm, murder is a much graver harm. Additionally, this murder is actualized, while the poverty [feared] is merely potential (mawhum). So enforcing the maximum harm in anticipation of a potential minimal harm is, without doubt, folly. The third regards God’s saying, “without knowledge.” The intent is that this folly was only born of the absence of knowledge. And there is no doubt that ignorance is one of the most objectionable and despicable of things. The fourth regards depriving one’s self of what God has made lawful. It is also one of the worst kinds of stupidity, because one denies one’s self those benefits and good things, becoming entitled by reason of that deprivation of the severest torment and chastisement. The fifth is blaspheming God. And it is known that boldness against God and blaspheming Him is one of the cardinal sins. The sixth is straying from prudence (rushd) with relation to the interests of the faith (din) and the benefits found in the world. The seventh is that they are not guided aright. The benefit of it is that a person might stray from the truth but may return to proper guidance. So God clarifies that they have strayed without ever obtaining proper direction. So it is established that God has censured those described as having murdered children and denied what God has made lawful for them, with these seven characteristics necessitating the worse types of censure. And that is the ultimate hyperbole.
The Ethical Contentions of a Moroccan Mufti
We have already quoted Shaykh Muhammad Al-Ta’wil of Morocco. Like the medieval scholars, he maintained a very conservative opinion on abortion, allowing it only if the mother’s life was at risk. The following is a list of his nine ethical contentions against abortion and those scholarly opinions allowing it. The bulk of what follows is a literal translation of his views. Regarding why abortion is immoral, he says:
- Firstly, it is a transgression against a vulnerable creature who has committed neither sin nor crime, a denial of it from its right to existence and life that God has given it and Islam has guaranteed as well as the taking of a life in some situations.
- Secondly, it is a clear challenge to God’s will and a demonstratively defiant act meant to stubbornly contend with God’s action, creative will, and judgment. And that manifests itself in the murder of what God has created, the voiding of its existence, and a commission of what He deems unlawful.
- Thirdly, it a decisively demonstrative proof of hard-heartedness, the absence of mercy, and the loss of motherly and fatherly affection or rather the loss of humanity from the hearts of those who daringly undertake the act of abortion with dead hearts and wicked dark souls.
- Fourthly, it is the epitome of self-centeredness, selfishness, narcissism, and sacrifice of what is most precious¾one’s own flesh and blood, sons and daughters¾to gratify the self and enjoy life and its attractions far away from the screams of infants, the troubles of children, and the fatigue resulting from them.
- Fifthly, it is a practical expression of one’s bad opinion of God, the lack of trust in His promise to which He decisively bounded Himself to guarantee the sustenance of His creation and servants. It also shows ignorance of His saying, “And, there is not a single creature on earth except that God is responsible for its sustenance, just as He knows its resting place and place from which it departs. Every thing is in a manifest record (Q 11:6); as well as His saying, “And do not kill your children due to poverty. We will provide for you as well as for them” (Q 6:151); in addition to His saying, “And, do not kill your children out of fear of poverty. We will provide for them and for you” (Q 17:31). This is in addition to other verses and prophetic traditions that indicate that all provisions are in God’s control and that no soul will die until it exacts its sustenance in full as the Prophet said.
- Sixthly, it is a bloody war against the Islamic goal, introduced by the Prophet and to which he called and strongly encouraged, of population growth and increase in posterity.
- Seventhly, it undermines the aims of the Islamic moral code that considers the preservation of offspring to be one of the five essentials upon which the sanctified revealed moral code is built.
- Eighthly, it goes against the nature to which God has disposed both animals and human beings to of love of children, childbearing, and the survival of progeny….
- Ninthly, it is the grossest display of bad manners towards God and the epitome of ingratitude towards a blessing and the rejection of it. And that is because both pregnancy and children are among God’s favors upon His servants and among His gifts to the expectant mother and her husband.
These are some important matters of consideration. Every Muslim, woman, and man, will ultimately need to decide what burdens he/she is prepared to meet God with. While abortion is an emotionally charged matter, especially in Western politics, emotions play no role in the right or wrong of legislation. Although our laws currently may not consider a fetus aborted before its survival outside of the womb to be viable, the Muslim who understands that legal positivism does not trump objective or moral truths should be more conscientious and less cavalier in his/her attitude about the taking of life and removing the viability of life.
 Al-Ta’wil, Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Qasim. Shadharat al-Dhahab fi ma jadda fi Qadaya al-Nikah wa al-Talaq wa al-Nasab. Hollad: Sunni Pubs, 2010, p. 148.
 Muhammad b. ‘Abd Al-Baqi Al-Zurqani quotes Ibn ‘Abd Al-Barr as saying,
They unanimously agreed that anyone who marries without mention of a particular condition while having the intention to remain with her for a period that he has in mind is permitted (ja’iz), and it is not a temporary marriage. However, Malik said this is not an attractive thing to do (laysi hadha min al-jamil). Nor is it part the conduct of moral people (la min akhlaq al-nas). Al-‘Awza’i took a solitary view saying that it is a temporary marriage. And, there is no good in it (la khayra fihi). ‘Ayyad stated it.
Al-Zurqani, Muhammad b. ‘Abd Al-Baqi b. Yusuf. Sharh al-Zurqani ‘ala Muwatta’ al-Imam Malik. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, (no date), 3/201.
 Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani said about the prophetic tradition, “Kill whoever changes his lifepath”, “Some Shafi’i jurists clung to it concerning the killing of anyone who changes from one non-Islamic faith to another non-Islamic faith (din kufr)…”
Al-‘Asqalani, Ahmad b. ‘Ali b. Hajar. Fath Al-Bari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari. Muhammad Fu’ad ‘Abd Al-Baqi Edition. Riyadh: Al-Maktabah Al-Salafiyyah, (no date), 12/272.
 Al-Ra’ini, Muhammad al-Hattab. Qurrah al-‘Ayn bi Sharh Waraqat al-Imam al-Haramayn. Beirut: Mu’assassah al-Kutub al-Thaqafiyyah, 2013, p. 78.
 Al-Wazzani, Abu ‘Isa Sidi al-Mahdi. Al-Nawazil Al-Jadidah Al-Kubra fi ma li Ahl Fas wa ghayrihim min al-Badw wa al-Qura al-Musammah bi Al-Mi’yar Al-Jadid Al-Jami’ Al-Mu’rib ‘an Fatawa al-Muta’akhkhirin min ‘Ulama al-Maghrib. Rabat: Wizarah al-Awqaf wa al-Shu’un al-Islamiyyah, 1997, 3/376.
 Al-Ghazali, Muhammad Abu Hamid. Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din. Beirut: Dar Ibn Hazm, p. 491.
 This is how Qadi Abu Bakr b. al-‘Arabi relates the report as related by Al-Wazzani in his Nawazil 3/376. In the Musnad of Abu Hanifah, however, the Prophet reportedly said, “You will see the miscarried fetus filled with rage.” When it is asked, “Enter Paradise”, it will respond, “Not until my parents come in [too].” Al-Hanafi, Mulla ‘Ali Al-Qari. Sharh Musnad Abi Hanifah. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1985, p. 252.
 Ibn ‘Asakir, Abu al-Qasim ‘Ali b. al-Hasan. Tarikh Madinah Dimashq wa Dhikr Fadliha wa Tasmiyah man hallaha min al-Amathil aw ijtaza bi Nawahiha min Waridiha wa Ahliha. Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1997, p. 342.
 Among the fines due for causing the miscarriage of a fetus are: 1) prison or flogging; 2) the penance for murder (kaffarah), which is the freeing of a slave, fasting two consecutive months which is compulsory for Shafi’is and recommended for Malikis; and 3) the gifting of a slave to the woman who lost her child.
 Al-Razi, Fakr al-Dina. Tafsir al-Fakr al-Razi al-Mushtahir bi Al-Tafsir Al-Kabir wa Mafatih al-Ghayb. Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1981, pp. 220-221
Shaykh Power © – Righteous Leaders, Superheroes, Shallow Celebrities or Hungry Wolves?
“With great power, comes great responsibility.” -Uncle Ben.
Clergy -or shayukh- in Muslim communities hold sacred power in that their positions symbolize a representation of character and religious authority in their community.
The role of a shaykh is complex in that community members can turn to their him for financial advice, marital counseling, matchmaking, conflict resolution, religious classes, youth engagement, and pretty much anything else a community needs. You name it and a shaykh is approached for it. In most communities, the shaykh is a critical component of a healthy community, but in some cases – the great power is used to facilitate great abuse instead.
Understanding Shaykh Power©:
Shaykh Power© doesn’t mean the ability to bless or forgive, it simply means the effect a shaykh can have on the general public for the very reason that he preaches about religion.
People subconsciously associate their spiritual growth with the shaykh, building a bond of love, respect and trust. It’s perfectly natural – someone who has helped you, taught you, or supported you through a difficult time is likely to become dear to you regardless of their position. As a result it’s natural for people to:
- Look up to a shaykh
- Become attached to the shaykh whose da’wah or lecture may have helped them find, or re-find Islam
- Trust a shaykh and hold him in honor
- Be influenced, which is a consequence of being held in honor
- Giving him a place of authority in their lives
Again, it is natural for people to attach themselves to a shaykh, and it is completely okay for a shaykh to be respected and trusted to that level. It is a relationship built on faith, in which the shaykh earns trusts by demonstrating trustworthiness, fearing Allah in the relationship with his congregants, and maintaining a consciousness of his actions and consequences with God.
There is no conflict in this trust when viewed alongside human fallibility. No one is sin-free, not even a shaykh. They are humans and humans are weak. A healthy community is not one with a sin-free shaykh. However, the line is between fallibility and abuse is crossed when the shaykh’s sins or inherent weakness start hurting others, and the authority they hold is abused to give into those weaknesses.
What is Abuse of “Shaykh-power©”
The abuse of a shaykh’s power happens if a shaykh uses his position, authority, or religious knowledge to manipulate people into compliance or obedience to his sin.
A very simple example of a shaykh using all three – position, authority, and knowledge – to manipulate someone into compliance came from a woman who covers her face. During a Skype call related to business -and not marriage at all- a well-known shaykh diverted from the agenda to convince her to remove her face-veil as he was a “shaykh” and it was okay for him to see her face. The shaykh tried to establish a religious basis for his exception to the rule and made his female student believe that as a shaykh he had “special privileges”.
There are common patterns of “special privileges” that emerge.
The Secret Marriage
Secret marriages occur where the shaykh uses his authority to wrongly legitimize a marriage without witnesses. Please be aware, there is no marriage valid without 2 witnesses, and in majority of the fiqhs, marriage is not valid without a woman’s wali (representative guardian) present.
While the term “marriage” is used, what happens in secret marriage is not what Islam recognizes as marriage. Rather than entering a serious, long-term commitment in which each party agrees to honor the rights and terms decreed by Allah, a secret marriage is usually the culmination of grooming and manipulation. The victim is led to believe that the shaykh is sincere in his pursuit of their marriage and future together, but cannot go public for whatever reason. He convinces the victim that their secret marriage is valid by manipulating Islamic information is his favor, and the result is that the victim consents to what is an otherwise shady arrangement.
After the “marriage” is consummated, the women are divorced – also in secret and without due Islamic process. They have no legal recourse – since they were not legally married. They don’t even have Islamic recourse since oftentimes there are no witnesses to the secret marriage. Some shayukh misinform the women that they don’t need witnesses because as a person of knowledge, a shaykh is sufficient as a witness to finalize his own marriage contract.
Consider the difference between marriage as a communal celebration, a public declaration, and a legal protection of the rights of both spouses – and compare it to a verbal agreement with one man in a hotel room. Consummation followed by divorce, with no intention to sign a marriage-contract or honor the woman as a wife, is not a valid marriage.
The impermissibility of secret marriages has been discussed in detail here.
Some argue that women who are legally adults and gave their consent to the secret marriage have no claim to victimhood. It is true that secret marriage and serial marriage are not rape, but secret marriage is an abuse of the trust that our community places in a shaykh.
Women are deceived into marrying by means of the shaykh’s authority. The shaykh – a person of religious credibility with community trust – implies that something halal, lasting, and keeping with the Islamic sanctity of the family will happen. What happens instead is a woman falling victim to the shaykh’s pattern of marrying a variety of women to satisfy carnal curiosity, and then divorcing women once the desires are satisfied.
The abuse of women goes beyond just the women- the entire community is deceived when a shaykh abuses their religious credibility. They trust that the man committed to the spiritual betterment of their families will act in keeping with that trust. There is no way to legitimize the secret wooing, secret wedding, and immediate, premeditated divorcing of anyone in the community.
Divorce can happen under completely normal circumstances, just because a man is a shaykh doesn’t mean he has to stay in a bad marriage. However, when a pattern is developed to frequently marry and divorce, sometimes after a week or less, and a shaykh does so knowing that the position and reputation will help him replace the wife soon enough- then this is not what either marriage or divorce is for. This is abuse.
A man on the podium, delivering the Message of God and helping people connect with their Lord holds enormous spiritual power over his community. Unfortunately, some shaykhs can and do use that power to satisfy their desires in religiously inexcusable ways.
Misuse of Polygamy through “Shaykh Power”:
Polygamy itself is not the issue here. Polygamy itself becomes abused when it is used to justify secret marriage and divorce of multiple women, without having any sincere intention or giving any marriage or divorce it’s due Islamic rights or process.
Shayukh who abuse polygamy paint a glamorous picture of polygamy, making it a special mission to “revive the sunnah”, and practicing polygamy almost a measure of a woman’s level of iman.
The delusional idea of becoming more religious under the wings of a shaykh as his wife is also used to entice women seeking closeness to Allah. A more intimate relationship to the shaykh is directly conflated with a more intimate relationship with Allah.
What the shayukh are luring women into is not a revival of polygamous marriage, as much as it is a revival of temporary marriage – without the decency of telling the women up front what they are consenting to. The woman believes she will be the shaykh’s second wife. Instead, she is third, or fourth, or fifth ex-wife.
Do We Have a Solution?
The first step towards resolving an issue is to acknowledge that problem exists. As a community, we have tried to conceal our dirty laundry in the name of gheerah and satr, only to suppress ‘adl instead. As an ummah, we need to address the harmful behavior of shayukh who abuse their our religion and their power to manipulate and use women – leaving them emotionally and spiritually broken in the name of a religion that is mean to protect them.
Stopping sisters-only sessions with shaykhs or banning sisters from contacting shayukh for personal or Islamic questions is not a foundational solution. Women have to consult knowledgeable men for a variety of issues: spiritual and marital counseling, for Islamic rulings on life matters etc.
Stricter segregation between shayukh and women, or building physical barriers in the masajid is a suggested preventative measure but not a solution either. Frankly, many shayukh have the dignity to respect their boundaries with women without a barrier in their masjid, while many have crossed all lines despite physical barriers.
It is women’s religious right to have access to a religious scholarship for knowledge and seeking verdicts, and the mistakes of few cannot outweigh the virtues of many.
1400 years ago, we– Muslim women — were given protection from a society that sold their daughters in exchange of money and loaned out their wives to other men. Our Prophet taught and showed us how to treat women with honor, and he then entrusted the knowledge of Islam to his inheritors– the shayukh.
Consider the gravity of that abuse, when our scholars are trusted to carry forward the Prophet’s legacy, and instead weaponize the Prophet’s words to abuse us instead.
Needless to say, not every shaykh is abusive of his congregants. Alhamdulillah, the abuse is the exception and trust fulfilled is the norm. However, that doesn’t mean that silence should be the norm as well. As a community, we are responsible for each other, in standing up to our oppressors and standing up for our oppressed.
Sexual Abuse: Crime or Sin? | Shaykh Dr. Mohammad Akram Nadwi
Sexual abuse, whether of women, men, or children, cannot be prevented by law. At most, law agencies can punish abuse after the fact when it has already done the terrible, lasting psychological and social damage that it does.
Over the last seventy years, in the Western world any notion of ‘sin’ attached to sexual behaviours traditionally regarded as abhorrent has been dissolved. Steadily, over this period, the notion of ‘sin’ has been replaced by a legal concept, namely the concept of ‘consent’. This fits well with the Western cultural ideal of ‘personal autonomy’, the ideal that anyone should be free to behave as they please so long as their behaviour is not harming any other’s right to the same autonomy. In sexual relations between people, ‘abuse’ is recorded only when any of the partners involved has not freely given consent. For children, of course, the concept of legal minority applies, meaning that a child can never give consent. Otherwise, anything that any consenting adults do is legally ok.
This should mean that sexual abuse, as a legally defined crime, is no more of a problem for society than other crimes such as assault, theft, fraud, murder, and so on.
The problem with this approach is that sexuality (abusive or non-abusive) is not limited to the act of sexual intercourse itself. The relevance of consent to the actual performance of sexual acts is accordingly rather limited. Sexuality is an expression of desire, and (among humans) desire can arise even when there is no external stimulus for it, even when there is no possibility of contact or conversation with any potential sexual partner. Both biologically and religiously, sexuality is understood to be something connected with the appetite and need to reproduce. The need for reproduction is carried among human beings by the engine of desire. This engine can be active, fueled up, and running, in the absence of any object of desire and any conscious will to reproduce. In the present time, human consciousness is overwhelmed by super-intense audio and visual images (especially by highly repetitive multimedia advertising in private and public spaces and on hand-held devices at any time of day or night). As a result, the engine of desire is never allowed to settle into idling mode, never allowed to quieten and slow down.
All religious traditions strive to inhibit and regulate sexual desire by connecting it to the responsibility of parenting, so that sex is associated not only with mating and producing children, but also with nurturing them and making them fully competent social beings. This is a very long process (some twenty years), and requires a huge expenditure of psychological, social, and economic effort. The only context in which this effort can be sustained, especially for the benefit of the children, is marriage and family life. All the moral and religious-legal inhibitions surrounding sexuality are concerned with building a strong, stable bond between sexual desire and responsibility for others.
Modern Western cultural norms, which encourage the indulgence of short-term personal preferences over any long-term goals (personal or social), have combined with advances in the technology of contraception and with the legalisation of abortion, to dissociate sex from reproduction, which necessarily dissociates sex from responsibility to oneself and others.
As I have said, sexual desire is the engine of a fundamental need, the need to reproduce. It is a fierce, powerful energy, cruelly strong in youth and early maturity, but one that persists at some level throughout life. Sexual desire is mixed with other impulses and behaviours that characterise animal behaviour generally, and human behaviour most conspicuously. Notably, the desire to mark out and protect a territory (home) where the children can be raised and the desire to mark out and protect the values (identity, belonging, customs and practices, etc.) that are inculcated in the children and, through them, transmitted through time – all of these desires are mixed up inside the need to reproduce. This mixture also affects sexual behaviours and the norms that grow around them. Rivalry, domination, possessiveness, jealousy, envy – the desire not to possess some object of desire for its own sake but to prevent someone else from possessing that object – negative emotional states like this can intervene in sexual behaviour and make it exploitative and destructive regardless of consent. And how, in any case, does one legally determine consent? Is it really possible to determine when consent was given, and to what precisely, and for how long?
There is no law imaginable, no force of coercion or persuasion, which can control desire itself. Only the one who carries (or is carried by) desire can, from within, control or discipline it for the sake of being responsible and unselfish. This is a matter of interior discipline, not exterior discipline.
The role of religious teaching (and of the various cultural-legal traditions based on religious teaching) is to provide an environment in which self-discipline and self-control are more highly valued than their opposites – self-indulgence and control of others. This environment usually consists of conventions of dress and speech, and special rites (such as weddings) which mark out the boundaries between the persons and occasions where sexual desire is allowed and those where it is not.
It is possible, as with any convention, to appear to follow it, without really following it. In other words conventions, just like laws, can only work to the extent that people believe those conventions to be right and beneficial. People must believe that they are doing the right thing because it is the right thing. Equally, they must believe that disregarding the conventions is wrong, a sin, which threatens harm for both individuals and society. In religious perspective, consenting to a wrong does not make it right.
It is not possible, in my opinion, to build within a culture so massively dedicated to self-indulgence, self-serving, and non-stop distraction, any sustained practice of self-discipline and service to others. That requires regular reflection and regular presentation of oneself as answerable to other human beings and to the judgement of God. The habits of self-inspection and self-control are reliably matured and improved through prayer and other religious practices like fasting.
There is no regime of exterior rules and punishments that will serve to deter sexual abuse in a society. If, and only if, such rules and punishments are universally and impartially applied – which is nowhere the case – it may be possible to drive sexual abuse out of sight, so that it is not always in the news. But it will still go on: celebrity actors and actresses may not have to suffer it, but ordinary men, women, and children among the poor and unnoticed of society, and people in places far removed from the countries which control the flow of news, will go on being vulnerable to sexual abuse. There is no legal substitute for an ethical determination to control oneself and to never hurt the person and dignity of another human being. There is no substitute for the concept of sin. Whether it is definable as a crime or not, sexual abuse is a sin.
For Muslims, there is a duty to help one another in steadfastness and righteousness, and not to help one another in selfishness and wrong-doing. This means that we must be ready to condemn, privately and publicly, those who commit sexual abuse. We must be willing to rescue those who are victims of such abuse, and willing to help them recover psychologically, emotionally, and socially. That entails providing from one’s resources (of time and money) to assist those groups (usually women and usually ex-victims) who are active in providing the necessary shelters and comforts to abuse victims. It also entails a vigorous campaign to help our communities admit that abuse goes on, to recognise the sin of it, and to convince them of the effectiveness of prayer and fasting in defeating sinful impulses and behaviours. This is a roundabout way of saying that Muslims must help one another to re-connect sexuality and parenting and the role of good parenting in teaching self-control and the ability to distinguish right from wrong.
5 Quick Things Americans Can Do For Uyghurs Today
The Unexpected Blessings of Being Alone
Why Israel Should Be ‘Singled Out’ For Its Human Rights Record
This Article Could be Zakat-Eligible
Ya Qawmi: Strengthen Civic Roots In Society To Be A Force For Good
Etiquettes of Praying For Your Brother And Sister | Imam Omar Suleiman
More Baby, Less Shark: Planning For Kids In The Masjid
Swallowing Your Pride For A Moment Is Harder Than Praying All Night | Imam Omar Suleiman
Chronicles of A Muslim Father: It All Began With a Prayer
Seyran Ates, A Sixty-Eighter In Islamic Camouflage
#Islam4 weeks ago
Etiquettes of Praying For Your Brother And Sister | Imam Omar Suleiman
featured4 weeks ago
More Baby, Less Shark: Planning For Kids In The Masjid
#Islam2 weeks ago
Swallowing Your Pride For A Moment Is Harder Than Praying All Night | Imam Omar Suleiman
#Life2 weeks ago
Chronicles of A Muslim Father: It All Began With a Prayer