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50 Shades of Sex Addiction

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Part 1: Conversation with a Hooker: Adultery, Sex Addiction, and Muslims

When it comes to the subject of sexual addiction, the question that arises in most minds is, “Why do men seek women other than their wives?” Unfortunately, the most common misconception is, “his wife must be insufficient that’s why he had to resort to other women.” While slightly more considerate people take the blame from the existing wife and blame it on the lack of multiple wives, “that’s why Muslim men are allowed to have four wives so they can assuage their sexual desires, impossible to be satisfied by one woman alone.”

Let me frankly ask all the readers: “Is there any ex-sex addict whose addiction was cured by adding more wives in his life?”

and

“What solution do you offer to female sex addicts?!”

As for the “insufficient wife”, while I acknowledge that lack of an enthused, sexually active wife, or one who denies sex to her husband, is one of the many reasons why some Muslim men might indulge in illegitimate sexual intimacy, it is neither the only nor the main reason for their infidelity.

To better understand the question at hand, let me divide the reasons into 2 categories:

  1. Legitimate Marital Discord
  2. Sexual Disorder/Addiction

Legitimate Marital Discord:

Since this category is not within the paradigm of the series, I will briefly summarize this group into two main legitimate marital issues causing infidelity.

Denial of Intimacy by Wife

When a wife denies sex to her husband, whether regularly or occasionally, he might seek his satisfaction elsewhere.
Briefly, the reasons why a woman may deny sex to her husband:

  • Husband’s failure of pleasing his wife with an orgasm
  • Lack of sexual interest due to improper introduction to sex, like ‘sex is bad’, ‘dirty women enjoy sex’ etc.
  • Some mishap associated with sexual intimacy, like childhood molestation, marital rape especially on the wedding night etc.
  • Sexual Anorexia
  • Channeling out anger related to other issues in the marriage through denying intimacy to her husband
  • Or there could be other reasons…

Lack of Emotional Attachment with the Wife

According to studies conducted by M. Gary Neuman, marriage counselor, 70 percent of men cheat because they were emotionally dissatisfied in their marriage.
Not to justify adultery or blame women but relaying actual reasons quoted by men on why they were emotionally distant from their wives:

    • Lack of appreciation by the wives
    • Husband felt he could never score high with his wife
    • Lack of wife’s interest in husband’s life, his job, or his interests
    • Lack of respect from the wife

Normally these legitimate marital issues cause a man to have an affair and not a one-night stand with some random woman. These men usually develop an affair with a colleague, or a family friend or an old school fellow where they feel physically satisfied and emotionally content. Whoever the other woman may be, these affairs can be physical or emotional affairs and may turn long term.
Since Legitimate Marital Discord is a separate topic of discussion, inshaAllah, MM will have a different series on this in the near future.

To seek other women outside of marriage due to a man’s sexual addiction problem, has little, if anything, to do with the success or happiness of the marriage. In fact, in many cases, an addict is happily married and the problems in the marriage are a result of his addiction not the other way around.

What is Sexual Addiction?

The best way to describe this is: When a healthy relationship with the spouse is substituted with a harmful and sinful relationship. It is an “adaptive attempt to regulate mood and tolerate stressors through the abuse of intensely stimulating sexual fantasy and behavior… It is a dysfunctional adult response to innate personality, character or emotional regulatory deficits, as well as a reaction to early attachment disorders, abuse and trauma.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders, “…a pattern of repeated sexual relationships involving a succession of lovers who are experienced by the individual only as things to be used.”

Also, “compulsive searching for multiple partners, compulsive fixation on an unattainable partner, compulsive masturbation, compulsive love relationships and compulsive sexuality in a relationship.”

Depending on a Muslim’s spiritual level—who might avoid falling into complete zina—this sexual disorder can vary from being a complete addict to occasionally falling into forbidden sexual activities which may include:

      • Pornography
      • Cyber sex (chat rooms, video sex etc.)
      • Phone Sex
      • Massage Parlors (receive a sensual massage with or without sex—again depending on a man’s level of faith)
      • In/Out Calls for sexual favors e.g. oral sex, hand job, massage etc. (with or without the actual act of penetration)

Excuses & Justifications*:

Of the excuses used to justify their behavior, sex addicts often say:

    • If I don’t do this, the pressure builds up
    • I am oversexed and have to meet my needs
    • What she [wife] doesn’t know, won’t hurt her
    • If only my wife would be more [sexually] responsive
    • Men are like animals
    • Men are more sexual than females
    • Cybersex is not “real”
    • With the stress I am under, I needed a “release”
    • I didn’t want to “make love” to my wife, I just needed to lay a woman
    • I can’t help it, we live in a hypersexual society
    • Internet chat rooms/emails don’t hurt anyone, it’s just a “mind game”
    • Women are the greatest fitnah for men, what can I do? I’m just a man!
    • If only I had a second wife…
    • I need a variety of women
    • I avoid falling into the major act [major sin] and I repent every time…For a detail study of this, please refer to: Out of the Shadows by Patrick Carnes, PhD Pg 17

What makes someone a hypersexual?

This, indeed, is a complex subject and unfortunately there isn’t any established “scientific” reason attributing to a single cause. It is more likely a combination of a build-up of conditions over time. The following are some common causes of sex addiction, but this list cannot be all-inclusive:

a. Wrong Introduction to Sex:

During childhood, they were introduced to sex in a very lewd, ethically wrong and morally corrupt way. Hence the very conception of sex was originated in a very degraded fashion causing their brain to link sexual desires with immoral actions from the very beginning.
Top that with a complete lack of “Islamic” sex education from the parents and/or from the community leaders, their concept of sex never gets rectified. Hence, they may always link sex or sexual desires to something being vulgar. Since a spouse is someone not only bonded through “holy” bond of marriage, but one who is pure and respected, an addict may mentally separate the intimacy with the spouse and the need of having an illegitimate sexual activities with “indecent” people to satisfy “impure” sexual desires [though almost all addicts have confessed that there is never any satisfaction through the illegitimate intimacy, in fact it always back fires with the sense of shame and disappointment].
b. Family Dysfunction:  
Research has shown that majority of sex addicts have complained about growing up in an emotionally distant family.
Dr. Patrick Carnes’ research indicates that 87 percent of the families of sex addicts included more than one addict in the home and a majority of them grew up in a rigid family system or a disengaged family system or both rigid and disengaged family systems. This study implies that a lot of sexual addicts come from families where their emotional needs were not met.

Of all the cases I’ve dealt with, husbands had grown up in a very distant and emotionally cut-off families. They all complained of having a very strict and rigid father whose only function was to provide for the family while the mother took care of the kitchen and the house but never tried to communicate with children about their issues and problems.
c. Power Struggle:
Growing up, getting involved in inappropriate sexual activities was their way of releasing stress or showing power over other people [women] esp. when encountered with a difficult situation at school or among friends.

In one incident, a man grew up seeing prostitutes to receive oral sex every time he felt the need to empower another person. Later, in his married life he couldn’t have his wife satisfy him through oral sex since it was “symbolic” for him and he was emotionally attached to his wife. Hence, he continued to see prostitutes for oral sex just to satisfy his need of empowering women.

Females may use their charms/bodies to seduce other men and feel empowered upon receiving the attention from men.

d. Objectifying Women:
Once introduced to sex in a morally corrupted way, these adolescents were introduced to using women as objects of pleasure, not human beings, without any emotional attachment.

It is essential to note that, in our times, those who were not necessarily introduced to sex through prostitution or porn, can still learn to objectify women through TV, Magazines, Songs, Internet etc.

It’s a way for addicts to escape physical, emotional or sexual abuse. “Emotionally for the sex addicts, sex is not really about sex but a vehicle to provide an illusion of affirmation, a veneer of control and connection in a safe environment. The sexual “fix” has become the source of pleasure and avoids unpleasant feelings, a coping mechanism to fight stress, work difficulties, interpersonal psychological and emotional problems.”

f. Thrill & Excitement:
“Experts say there is a strong link between sexual addiction and risk-taking. Even though the risk of danger is clear…”
The excitement of being discreet and leading a secret life may appeal to some individuals and may continue through their adult life, except that at first they had to be discreet from their parents and now from their spouses.
“The riskier it gets, the more adrenaline they get. Like all addictions, the more they get, the more they need.”

g. The Chemical Imbalance:
Studies show that food, abused drugs and sexual interests share a common pathway within the brains’ survival and reward systems.An addict may have conditioned his/her brain with the pleasure of illicit sex as being same as satisfying one with food when hungry, especially when growing up parents neglected to explicitly teach their children the seriousness of indulging in forbidden sexual activities.

“When people have sex, their bodies release dopamine, and this chemical tends to make the person feel happy, warm and powerful. Some people find this dopamine response simply fascinating, and they will do anything to achieve that feeling again. Over time, their bodies adjust to these high levels of dopamine, and it takes more of the chemical to bring on the positive feeling. The addict may need to have more sex, or different types of sex, in order to feel a dopamine response. The addiction begins to escalate. It’s important to remember that this dopamine pathway is also activated in other forms of addiction, including heroin addiction. It’s a strong and powerful chemical, and it can make people do things they wouldn’t normally do.”

True Addiction or Not?

However, it must be noted that there is a huge debate amongst psychologists as to whether sexual addiction is a true addiction or not. I will discuss that more in detail in next part inshaAllah when we cover the cures and treatments.

 Raise your Children Wisely

Before I end this part, I sincerely want to advise all the parents to please take a moment and evaluate your parenting methods.

In far majority cases, sex addicts (apart from legitimate marital discords) draw the root of their problem to their childhood or adolescent years. Parent please:

  • Build communication with your children
  • Understand the environment our kids are growing up in
  • Be friendly even if you have to sacrifice some level of respect you receive from your kids.
  • Be wise and be patient
  • Be gentle, and be understanding
  • Talk, Talk and Talk to them about anything and everything
  • Make lots and lots of du’a for your kids

In my parenting series, I have advised parents to build an open and extremely frank communication with their children. I’ve also emphasized the importance of providing sexual education at home with the help of Qur’anic verses offering a pure and uncorrupted concept of sex and sexuality.

Though we can never guarantee a sin-proof life even with best parenting, we can for sure minimize the “slip-factors” for our children and, most importantly, we can fulfill our obligations as parents. The rest we leave with Allah azza wa jall while supplicating for our children’s protection and for their guidance.

To be continued in next part:

  • Cybersex Revolution
  • True Addiction or Not
  • Role of Shaytaan and Sex Addiction
  • Cures and Treatment

Additional Resources

http://www.sexualrecovery.com/blog/sexual-addiction-sexual-objectification.php

http://billherring.info/atlanta_counseling/sexual-addiction-and-the-3-second-rule

[1] http://www.oprah.com/relationships/Why-Men-Cheat_2/1

[1] http://psychcentral.com/lib/hypersexuality-symptoms-of-sexual-addiction/00011488

[1] For a detail study of this, please refer to: Our of the Shadows by Partick Carnes. Pg 17

[1] http://freelanceatwork.hubpages.com/hub/What-Causes-Sexual-Addiction

[1] http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/The-Truth-About-Cheating-Book

[1] http://www.sexualrecovery.com/blog/sexual-addiction-sexual-objectification.php

http://billherring.info/atlanta_counseling/sexual-addiction-and-the-3-second-rule

[1] http://psychcentral.com/lib/what-is-sexual-addiction/000748

[1] http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/182473.php

[1] http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2008/09/01/another-kind-of-addict.html

[1] http://www.interventionsupport.com/sex-addiction/

Umm Reem (Saba Syed) has a bachelors degree in Islamic Studies from American Open University. She studied Arabic Language & Literature at Qatar University and at Cairo Institute in Egypt. She also received her Ijaazah in Quranic Hafs recitation in Egypt from Shaikh Muhammad al-Hamazawi. She was one of the founders of Daughters of Adam magazine and remained the publishing director until 2007. She had been actively involved with MSA, TDC, and other community activities. She has also been actively involved with the Muslim women of her community spiritually counseling with marital and mother-daughter issues. She has hosted several Islamic lectures and weekly halaqas in different communities, including special workshops regarding parenting and issues related to women.

57 Comments

57 Comments

  1. Avatar

    The Salafi Feminist

    October 11, 2013 at 6:50 AM

    Glad to see an Islamic response to the serious topic of sex addiction amongst Muslims… especially since you’re pointing out and focusing on issues that many Muslims prefer to ignore, or myths that they cling to in a sad attempt to justify these sins.
    Can’t wait for the rest of the series, inshaAllah.

  2. Avatar

    Aryel Lanes

    October 11, 2013 at 7:38 AM

    I’m not married yet (I’m only 19), but at least to me, there are NO excuses for cheating on your wife. NONE! This is disgunting. If a man does that, he lives in a fake marriage, with a FAKE LOVE. One who truly loves his wife will NEVER do it, no matter how the situation may be. You’re not satisfied with your wife? Better the divorce ! At least you won’t be cheating on someone who really loves you. It’s so sad to play with people’s emotions… It should be a crime!

    • Avatar

      johny wasagoodman

      October 11, 2013 at 1:26 PM

      When you do get married then talk …

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      October 12, 2013 at 1:23 AM

      Someone who has never dealt with issues like these will obviously think black and white like you…
      unfortunately the reality is a bit different. THere are people who love their spouses and yet fall into this grave mistake for several reasons, men and women.
      The good news is that it is curable but the challenge in the marriage is whether or not one is capable of forgiving his/her spouse.

  3. Avatar

    Hayat

    October 11, 2013 at 8:21 AM

    Great ! MashaAllah lots of lesson may Allah reward you for bringing this important subject for Umma .

  4. Avatar

    Muslim Comments (@muslimcomments)

    October 11, 2013 at 8:55 AM

    The idea that there is such a thing as sex addiction is highly contestable.

  5. Avatar

    Zaheer

    October 11, 2013 at 9:03 AM

    Salaam,

    It’s interesting that the article starts off with a tone of gender neutrality, hinting that sexual addiction can be prevalent amongst females as well as males, and maybe more often than we think,

    However, when the cause of sexual addiction are discussed – suddenly all the “Excuses & Justifications” are from the male perspective. And then, when one takes the article as a whole, it’s biased towards the view that men are generally the ones who cheat on their wives, and of those who have adulterous relationships, men are likelier to do so due to sexual addiction.

    Of course, the truth is that it’s 50-50, roughly speaking, because for a man to be adulterous he needs a woman with whom to be adulterous with. Sure, often married men will have adulterous relationships with unmarried women – however, besides the reverse being the case at times, there’s still the fact that the unmarried women are full partners in the infidelity, and their motivations for partaking in the relationship are left unanalyzed. We’re excluding non-heterosexual infidelity here as it makes up a very small amount.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m under no illusions as to the differing nature of men and women, in almost every regard. Sometimes I wonder how it’s possible we belong to the same species:-) Allah knows best, and he has indicated in His Qur’an that “..the male is not like the female” [3:36]{http://quran.com/3/36}

    I realize that large parts of the article are based on the studies quoted – and the author is not really “pushing” for any particular take on the matter; just presenting facts. Insha-Allah the next installment can provide a more balanced picture.

    May Allah instill within all of us the sanctity of marriage, Insha-Allah. Ameen

  6. Avatar

    Hyde Head Down

    October 11, 2013 at 10:40 AM

    Well a lot has happened to me since the the first article came out. Most of it haarm and probably put a check on on one or two of the above bullet points. Can’t wait for this damnation to finish once and for all….

    Can’t wait for you to write Role of Shaytaan and Sex Addiction since I am so sure the the occult plays a big role in this.

  7. Avatar

    Fatima Ariadne

    October 11, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    Masha Allah the article, can’t wait for the continuation! I read in book Women Limbo, something with title like that. There’s a research by the author that women are equally sexually responsive like their men counterpart. I think it’s the “sins” of our ummah perhaps due to culture, we just conveniently give false stereotype like “only dirty women enjoy sex”, “men are men, it’s their thing”. It’s like men are easily “forgiven” when it comes to sex addiction, but women? They’ll be blamed and shamed. While in Islam itself, guarding chastity is commanded to both men and women,not just one of them. So both genders need to be addressed too! [OK Sorry for ranting! :p]

  8. Avatar

    Abdullah

    October 11, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    Alright. I grew up in an emotionally distant family. We don’t look at eachother while talking. Sometimes my mom/dad talk to me with their backs towards me or facing in some other direction.

    Does this mean im going to be a sex addict ?
    (Im not married but ive been a porn addict for many years …Not anymore inshaAllah)

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      October 12, 2013 at 3:50 AM

      Abdullah, not *every* person who grew up in an emotionally distant family becomes a sex addict.

      May Allah protect you. Maybe you can share with us how you controlled your addiction.

      • Avatar

        Abdullah

        October 14, 2013 at 6:37 PM

        I was first exposed to it when I was 14 and it was by accident (I was randomly changing channels). It always bothered me and I tried to quit and failed several times.
        Im 23 now.

        …..I really don’t know how I got off it . Maybe because I made sincere dua last Ramadan…lots and lots of dua.

        ….Also I take extra care to not look at anything that would stimulate my desires.
        …..I stopped being alone with any device that has internet access.
        (Im still afraid ill go back to that filth , that’s why I don’t have internet on my cell phone)
        ……I rarely watch TV.
        …… Ive programmed my mind to believe theres no way im going back to it except if im alone ……so Im never alone with any access to pornographic material.

        From my previous failed attempts to quit , I had learned that once im off pornography for couple of months ….My strength to fight my nafs becomes stronger and stronger …. And even if I relapsed ….I never gave in without a fight ….

        Please make dua that Allah keeps me and all the young brothers/sisters
        steadfast and patient.

        • Avatar

          Abdullah

          October 14, 2013 at 6:44 PM

          Ive also tried joining the “purify your gaze” program by brother zain Ramadan to help people quit porn addiction. But they charged a lot and I was only a student. <<could be useful for anyone who wishes to quit.

  9. Avatar

    Roberto

    October 11, 2013 at 2:45 PM

    Congratulation for the article. It’s the very first time that I’ve found several well-treated psychology topics by muslims. Usually it isn’t rooted in islamic culture and I ever felt the lack! Alhamdollilah, well done!

  10. Avatar

    M.G.H

    October 11, 2013 at 5:36 PM

    Interesting !! I have learned a new term : Sexual Anorexia , not really sure what it means.
    People use Sexual Addiction as a way to escape from having a real relationship with someone because real relationships get messy and stressful.

    Also sex is used as a way to escape from dealing with your own true feelings. Many people who engage in this type of behavior have been raped and or molested.

    Also for men the need to perform can be overwhelming, they find quickies with a prostitute less stressful.

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      October 12, 2013 at 3:38 AM

      I am traveling at the moment but once I get home (in 2 weeks inshaAllah), I can better explain Sexual Anorexia as my books are at home and I don’t want to misquote Dr. Carnes…

  11. Avatar

    Siraaj

    October 11, 2013 at 6:30 PM

    Also, can you comment on the difference between an addict and a “recreational” user? Meaning, in the same way there are people addicted to cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol, there are also recreational users, social users, and so on. There are gambling addicts and there are people who gamble occasionally.

    Likewise, where is the line drawn for sexual / porn addiction vs the “recreational” user (which we still acknowledge is a problem). Sometimes I feel as I read material and discussion from Muslim authors, every problem of a sexual nature is an addiction. When we talk about pornography, we always seem to talk about it as an addiction rather mentioning the possibility that it is a bad habit that happens to not be an addiction.

    Siraaj

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      October 12, 2013 at 3:48 AM

      it is a very good question br. siraaj. I was planning to discuss this in the part of “True Addiction or Not” in the next series.

      But in a nutshell a habit is frequent repetition of something to the point that one’s brain becomes programmed to perform it automatically. An addiction is a compulsive need of a certain thing or substance to the body. A habit is easier to control and change without any professional help but addiction needs a lot more effort and commitment to control and, in most cases, requires professional help.
      However, a habit can easily turn into an addiction.

    • Avatar

      Megan Wyatt

      October 29, 2013 at 4:00 AM

      The distinction is that an addiction is something that is having a detrimental effect on your life, and continues to take over having major consequences.

      A man is looking at pornography at work even though if caught he can get fired, has gotten caught even, and has a warning..

      A man plans much of his day around a ritual related to pornography and it’s an ingrained pattern he cannot quit no matter how many times he has tried.

      A woman is losing sleep staying up extremely late in chat rooms, and it’s affecting her focus in school, but she keeps going back over and over. Her grades are suffering, she might fail exams, but she cannot quit even though she told herself she would…

      A man is married, but instead of being intimate with his wife, says he has work to do, stays up late, waits until she sleeps, and then acts out looking at pornography. He has lost interest in his wife….

      These are all real examples, and the difference is the consequence in life.

      Unfortunately, pornography is such a slippery slope, that so many people are unable to maintain it as just a “bad habit” as you mentioned, and it continues to spiral downwards over time.

      And some people think it’s just a bad habit, and in fact, have other things that make it an addiction – so until someone speaks with someone regarding why it’s not out of their life one hundred percent, as it should be, they may not know the difference.

      Lots of Muslims are in denial how bad things really are – until things get to intense, everything starts falling apart. I hope more people don’t wait that long.

  12. Avatar

    ZAI

    October 11, 2013 at 8:02 PM

    Good article…
    I dunno if sex addiction is an actual disease,or more a symptom of another
    underlying disease…like perhaps Obessive Compulsive Disorder. Whatever, the
    cause it’s definitely a problem though.

    One thing I’d like to add though, is that sometimes…or often…it IS the fact
    that a person is dissatisfied with a partners physical appearance. This is something
    that cannot be totally denied. I wouldn’t say it’s the case in the majority of cases,
    but it is a factor for some people.

    In fact in the Muslim community w/ our arranged
    marriages and the priorities that are pushed, it might be MORE of a problem than
    in the general population. A lot of Muslims might be trying to live the ideal of “marrying for
    deen”, or pleasing their parents choices or their culture giving disproportionate importance
    to money as opposed to other things when searching for a spouse. This can backfire in
    the marriage if there is no sexual attraction as a result. There HAS to be a minimum level
    of physical attraction…or it is a great temptation outside of marriage and that unfulfilled desire
    will be sought out with the haraam.

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      October 12, 2013 at 3:28 AM

      This is something that cannot be totally denied. I wouldn’t say it’s the case in the majority of cases,
      but it is a factor for some people.

      when you study the pattern of the addicts, it is usually *them* who have issues. When I was attending the sessions with the sex therapist, she emphasized this again and again that an addict could be married to the most beautiful looking person in the world, and will still look for other sexual partners.
      IN addition, she also emphasized that almost all her clients, esp. those who see prostitutes, have always described as the prostitutes ugly or less attractive than their spouses…

      I’m sure there are minority cases like this but we usually look at the majority. Besides, the pattern of struggle and shame that an addict goes through, they would rather divorce and marry someone else than go through the pain they do in their lives if it could solve their problem. And Allah knows best…

      As I said before, when the interest in others occur because of a legit marital problem (and not being physically attracted to the spouse is a legit problem), it usually turn into a long term affairs with colleague/friends/family rather than a one-night-stand with a total stranger.

      • Avatar

        ZAI

        October 12, 2013 at 8:11 AM

        Salaam Umm Reem,
        I do not doubt the overall statistics you’ve cited or arguments you’ve presented concerning addicts or people with compulsive behavior. The question is whether all or most people engaged in these activities are addicts or simply immoral. The actual percentage given to the number of legitimate addicts amongst people who engage in these activities over-all would be interesting to ascertain. As siraaj alluded to above, a person might simply form a habit which is seen as an addiction, but is just a preference that’s become frequent as a choice.

        Regarding the rest of my comments, they apply to that group that isn’t addicted but simply doing these things out of choice. I bring up Muslims specifically because the arranged marriage system results in certain unique contexts and paradigms not present in so-called loved marriages. Family involvement, socio-cultural pressure/norms and even religious priorities shift the playing-field as it were. There are for example many Muslim women who are NOT attracted to certain proposals at the physical level, but pressured by families to consent for status, money, etc. Likewise for men. There are also other issues such as men losing attraction for wives who’ve had children or have become out of shape, and vice versa.

        I would not say these are “majority” issues, but they’re definitely an issue for much more than a fringe minority that can be dismissed. I also wouldn’t say there is a “problem” with the partner with whom fault is being found. It’s a matter of perspective.

        My dad tells a funny story about a man in Qandahar in the 60’s when he was growing up: He was known as Hassan e Baqaal(Hassan the Grocer). He was getting married and at the wedding they got to the part of the Afghan ceremony where the bride and groom sit under a cloth canopy held up by the elder women of the family, with a Qur’an held over their heads as well. The bride and groom then get their first look at each other through a mirror shown to each of them. It’s called aine mushaf. Anyways…Hassan e Baqaal looked in the mirror and let out a scream that even the jinn probably heard and ran at the speed of light outta there…lol. He was never seen again though…because his family had wanted that marriage and he’d shamed them by fleeing, and if he ever showed his face again his own family would have punished him for it.

        Now, this story is of course not the norm in the States. It has a rural and pre-modern context. But the point is a lot of our young people are pressured into marriages they don’t find ideal. I cannot discount that when I look at issues of marriages going badly, including those where adultery, sexual promiscuity, etc. are taking place. Getting out of marriages is not necessarily so easy in our immigrant communities either…

        • Avatar

          Umm Reem

          October 12, 2013 at 9:10 AM

          wa alaikum assaalm ZAI,

          Yes there is a different between someone simply giving into the temptations of shaytaan and one suffering through an addiction. And as I said, I will discuss this in the next part of ‘real addiction or not’.
          however, you must understand that it is not an easy discussion, even the psychologists differ whether or not sex addiction is truly an addiction or not…

          As for this issue among the Muslims, I agree with you. I wish we could do a survey among the Muslims but we are still trying to get the suffering Muslims to open up and seek help. The intense sense of shame and the guilt of sin keep them from seeking help and as a consequence they keep drowning deeper and in many cases either their marriages break or their spouses suffer along with them.

      • Avatar

        Aisha

        December 2, 2013 at 3:23 AM

        “not being physically attracted to the spouse is a legit problem”

        Oh my God. That makes me scared because I am a 23 yro girl who’s gonna get married soon, and I’m…not very pretty. I’m ugly. I don’t think any man would be attracted to my physical appearance. Even with makeup it’s not much better. I’m really scared he won’t like me, even if I try to be nice. Because men value beauty in a woman, so I’m screwed here :(

        • Avatar

          HonestMale

          February 22, 2014 at 1:36 PM

          @Aisha: I was about to post something very mean. I had it figured out and all. But then I felt bad. I felt something. My cynicism should not be shared. At the end of the day, marriage is about watching each other’s back and walking carefully — together — towards the grave. There’s nothing else to it. How you look has no bearing when the lights of life go out. In life, during those moments of darkness, can we see anything but moonlit eyes?

        • Avatar

          Z ebrahim

          February 26, 2014 at 3:14 PM

          @Aisha
          Dearest sister, Alaah created you. He is the best Fashioner. Can we doubt the design of the Most Wise? Trust in Allah and read O Allah beautify my character just as You have beautified me.good character makes brown look gold. Uhibbuki fill ah.

  13. Avatar

    grace

    October 11, 2013 at 10:50 PM

    The usage of the term” Sexual Anorexia “bothered me as the parent of an anorexic, it is a very serious issue, sometimes life or death.
    Something I did not see mentioned is the idea that people are using Sexual Addiction as way to avoid dealing with their feelings,Gary Zukav’s book Heart of the Soul gives a lot of insight into Sexual Addiction and many other types of addictions.

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      October 12, 2013 at 3:09 AM

      Dr. Partrick Carnes uses the term “Sexual Anorexia” in his book “Facing the Shadows” which is basically a 12-step recovery workbook. I didn’t discuss the details of it because it was out of the scope of this article.

    • Avatar

      Marina

      October 16, 2014 at 1:43 PM

      @Aisha. this makes me so sad. you are not ugly, for one thing, and you don’t even need to get married if no one is good enough to see your beauty. It’s okay to be single. God will still love you and you can still be an amazing Muslim. Look people, this is the ugliness we CAUSE in our community when we make people think it’s all about physical beauty and when we put a stamp of approval on men’s shopping around and consumption of women’s physicality – as if they are objects. Attraction to mate comes from bonding activity, not from the actual looks of the person: http://www.reuniting.info/content/attraction-karezza-and-neuroplasticity
      and this is why the Prophet peace be upon him insisted that there be foreplay along with intercourse. not just for the woman, but for the man too.

  14. Avatar

    AM

    October 12, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    Like Yasir Qadhi said in one lecture, there is a good reason why it is prohibited for a woman to withhold sexual intimacy. Additionally, there is nothing worse than a woman who is carrying a baby from extra-marital adultery.

    • Avatar

      Fritz

      October 15, 2013 at 10:07 AM

      In the West this concept is alien; a woman has no responsibility towards her husband in this regard. Women are free to use intimacy as a bargaining tool within a marriage to try and control the other partner. The emotional disconnect and disastrous results which follow are plain to see. (of course there are other reasons and this does not excuse the other side)

      • Avatar

        J Camp

        December 31, 2015 at 11:32 AM

        As a Westerner, I have to disagree that Muslim concepts on marriage are alien. I am intrigued by this site seeing that sex addiction is also an issue for Muslims.
        I am an American woman, married to a sex addict. I have never used sex against my husband in any way. I want to please him as much as I want to be pleased. He is my chosen partner to walk to the grave with…as one of you commenters so beautifully phrased it.
        I have been a good wife. My husband tells me this too. But due to emotional issues and sexual trauma growing up, he became a sex addict at a young age and hid it from me during our entire relationship. If I brought it up, it would be denied and covered up. I trusted him, so I let it go.
        It was during my pregnancy with our first child that I noticed I was getting more attention from other men than my own husband. I was carrying his child, which is a very beautiful act. Still, he was turning to his sex chat sites and ignored me. I felt ashamed of my body and if the life I was carrying. I felt that I was no longer attractive. After our daughter was born, I waited 5 months to see if he would touch me again. I lost weight and took care of myself and our daughter. Still nothing.
        I confronted him about his resorting to porn instead of me. I told him I felt unloved and I had to leave the marriage and hoped he would find happiness with someone else. He told me it wasn’t like that and went to work. When he returned he sat me down and told me that he had an addiction and would seek help. I am proud of him for admitting to the addiction. It couldn’t have been easy. Now we’re in couples therapy and he’s also seeing a sex addiction therapist. I’m trying to learn to trust and live him again, but it’s a painful course that well take time to heal.
        Not once in our marriage did I ever withhold sex, use it as a bargaining tool or make him feel that sex was dirty. So this isn’t a concept lost amongst Westerners. Some couples, sure; and our media portrays it a lot. But the concept stems from ancient Greek comedies of women withholding sex to keep the men from going to war.
        I am a good wife and mother. I did not deserve to be lied to for so many years. I hope he repents. I hope he follows through with treatment. It has done a number on my trust issues, so I don’t know if I will continue to be by him. We will continue therapy and see where it goes.
        Westerners and Muslims can have common issues. When it comes to addiction, there is no discrimination. Thank you for reading and understanding.

    • Avatar

      The Salafi Feminist

      October 16, 2013 at 4:39 AM

      Actually, there *is* something worse than a woman pregnant from zina. Riba. Backbiting. Shirk. Or a man who commits zina not just once or twice, but numerous times, who fathers many children from the zina, and yet never repents from it.

      Al-Ghaamidiyyah was a sahabiyyah who was married, who committed zina, who became pregnant from that zina… yet Allah revealed that her repentance was so great that it was sufficient for 70 of the people of Madinah – people such as Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali, Khalid ibn Waleed, Usamah ibn Zaid… etc.

      The stereotypical narrative that women are solely responsible for the sexual behavior of men is not only tired, but incorrect. There are numerous reasons for which men (and women) alike commit zina, and for the most part, the blame falls not on their spouses, but on themselves. I pray that we can soon come to the enlightened realization that Allah holds us all to account individually for our sins, and that therefore there is really no benefit in constantly accusing women of being the reason for which zina is committed.

  15. Avatar

    amuslim

    October 12, 2013 at 1:27 PM

    It is true some men have high sex drive and that’s ok. The Prophet Muhammad SAW himself saw all of his wives in a single night. It is important for the wife to meet her husband’s needs as it is prohibited not to do that and she must stay chaste when he is not around.

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  17. Avatar

    Brenna

    October 17, 2013 at 3:59 PM

    Men reject their wives just as much, if not more than wives reject their husbands.

    People need to quit acting like its just the men. A lot of men reject their wives for sex, hugs and kisses and will turn around and screw everything BUT their wives and then lie about it.

  18. Avatar

    Sumaira

    October 17, 2013 at 7:12 PM

    I recently found out my husband was calling escorts. He denies going but I found the address in his phones sat nav as well. He said it was a habit to check where things were. I’m not stupid.
    Anyway I also recently found out I was pregnant the day before I saw the escorts number on husbands phone. Only been married 11 months and totally confused. I thought my husband was madly attracted to me and in love with me. I don’t know how to get over this. I keep visiting the escort sites and looking at these filthy women and what they offer and cry on the realisation I have married a man who from he religious devoted husband I thought he was.

  19. Avatar

    Raheel

    October 19, 2013 at 5:17 PM

    The key to conquering this problem for men consists of a physical part and a mental part. The physical part is to lower the gaze and maintain a high degree of formality in dealing with women. Only after that, then the mental part is that one has to keep track of where his mind is wandering off to and if he finds that its even approching questionable areas, then immediately stop it in its tracks. One has to continually do this until death approches.

  20. Avatar

    Aisha

    December 2, 2013 at 3:33 AM

    Also, I agree with some posters here. Most of this article is blaming the wife. Where is the self-restraint of the man? Where are his MORALS? I understand that physical temptation is hard, but I truly believe that if a man has a strong level in spirituality, he can (with dua) overcome them. Obviously his wife and his relationship with his wife plays a huge factor, but I’m just saying that the self-restraint on the part of the man is completely lacking from this article. There’s only so much a woman can do.

    Also – men tend to have affairs with women from work/school (as mentioned in the article). Like the poster above said – men need to keep themselves from becoming too emotionally attached and overly friendly with these women (esp in the West). It’s always best if the man is not working in an environment near women – attractions will become inevitable. Unfortunately this is impossible here in the West.

  21. Avatar

    Parvez

    December 4, 2013 at 9:06 PM

    It was an interesting article and its related articles are somewhat beneficial for me.

    However i as a 21 yr old have some problems.
    I’m too embarassed to talk about marriage to my family. And my parents will not let me marry till when i’m abt 30.

    i do have problem with this delay since i am struggling for self restraint and have commited too many sins.
    I ask for forgivness from Allah (swt) but i still fall to this related sin and have sinful thoughts.

    I have fasted but i’m still stumbling and i lack that strong determination for self control.

    i dont know what to do. Plz help

  22. Avatar

    Ammena Tarannum

    December 11, 2013 at 11:41 PM

    MashaAllah! Such a good educative series. JazakAllah!

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  24. Avatar

    Dan

    January 30, 2014 at 10:21 PM

    This piece assumes that a man’s attraction to anyone/thing other than his wife is pathological. Men just aren’t built that way (women are, at least some of them). A man can love his wife, be committed to her, and screw prostitutes right and left. Or masturbate to porn. Why is this a surprise? In what time in history have men been different?

    • Avatar

      Parvez Khan

      February 5, 2014 at 1:45 PM

      loyalty is important in a marriage.
      the attraction alone is not a sin.
      but ofcourse adultery is a sin.

  25. Avatar

    Halima

    June 19, 2014 at 4:44 PM

    what if you are not attracted to your husband…and you have to force yourself to do your wifey duties? he is not financially able but wants to take a second wife…..you are not entirely asexual just not attracted to you husband…any solutions?

  26. Avatar

    G.Mariam

    November 6, 2014 at 3:15 PM

    ASA,
    Thanks for an excellent article and comments..I am a single muslimah struggling with online porn (not doing any real life zina) but very ashamed and angry at how this has taken over my life.

    I would like to get support in the form on an online buddy to I can install porn blocking software and have someone else have the password so I am not tempted.

    Any advice, support much appreciated as I want this filth out of my life. Only serious replies please.. Thank you

    • Avatar

      confused

      April 15, 2015 at 7:16 PM

      Salam alykum g. Mariam. My Allah make this easy for you. I really hope your no longer going through this problem inshallah but if you are I’m more than happy to help you InshaAllah and be your online buddy.

  27. Avatar

    confused

    April 15, 2015 at 7:13 PM

    Assalam alykum,

    JazakAllahu khair for your informative post!! Most other muslim website just suggest repenting and don’t really understand the core issues surrounding sex addiction.

    I have been married to my husband for 5 years. Prior to marrying me he came across as pious but everything changed once we got married. I found out that my husband suffers from mental health problems, we didnt consumate our marriage for 2 years and still intimacy is a very bad. He smokes, drinks and call chat lines, watches porn and goes out partying. Everytime I find out what he done he has blamed his mental health issues. After finding him watching porn during ramadhan and researching stds and escort services and buying viagra online; I’ve come to the conclusion that he is a sex addict. I’m at my wits ends. I don’t know what to do anymore. I have no support and i cant tell my family or his because they don’t understand and I don’t want to embarrass him. I have 2 children and 1 divorce left. I don’t know what to do.. just being with him has caused me to suffer from depression and really bad self worth and self esteem issues. I don’t trust him and I believe he would have committed zina. I know if it’s an addiction it’s out of his control but is it fair that I have to suffer like this also? Am I meant to live my whole life depressed and always searching through his things to make sure he hasn’t relapsed or isn’t engaging in more haram and thinking about what girl he’s touched or how I am not enough. I don’t know what to do

    • Avatar

      Ir...

      September 1, 2016 at 3:32 AM

      W/salam sister. I am also suffering some sort of sexual addiction which is different from your husband. However, the more you keep it to yourselves, the more it damages your life/kids/whole family. May Allah give happiness to your family. I know the pain. Coz I am also a sufferer hence my family yoo.. Probably your husband must be going through those mentioned mental illness. I believe he must be suffering some sort of issues since childhood due to some reasons. End of the day sexual addiction is not really a sexual need. It is due to underlying core issues – like childhood trauma/depression/loneliness/anxiety/low self esteem/hopelessness/boredem & etc. . Unless he is trying to change, the change will not happen. Then only Allah’s help will come. I also relapse and getting better – then again relapes and getting better. This is my vicious cycle. Pls listen to lectures like Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan & etc whose lectures are quite motivating for people like me/your husband. He gives the Positive side of Allah and Islam which gives us hope. Please request your husband to listen to his lectures on Youtube if possible. Handle him kindly. I believe & pray he might change Insha Allah. Every Muslims husband/or wife who is going through this problem should change. May Allah accept this Dua… !!.. Also, there is a good Muslim website I suggest you that you can request your husband to try. which is “http://purifyyourgaze.com/”. Just try out that and subscribe if possible. Speak out to someone in the family/some counsellors -for sure .Dont keep it for yourself. Think of your children. The more we keep inside the more we struggle and more the damages. End of the day yours/mine/all muslim families children should become good human beings on this face of earth.. Specially those who are being brought up in such families need special supplication.. And last one thing.. Women should avoid feel self-esteem or worthless, coz this issue is not because of
      you, but because of him..it is brought up in his mind since childhood in some way.

      Please go through below sites :

      http://www.straightpathtorecovery.com/?tag=muslims-sex-addiction
      http://mentalhealth4muslims.com/ask-us/#&panel1-9

      Br. Nouman Ali Khan lecture on Porn :
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzFcwmtTR_0

      May Allah cure us all who are suffering from this problem.

  28. Avatar

    ameena

    June 24, 2015 at 12:57 AM

    Assalamu alaikum, this is a great article. I just want to ask for some help, I know somebody who is very close to who is trying to beat the sex addiction, is there any resources that I can recommend to help the person. Hoping for your response. Jazaakallahu khair.

  29. Avatar

    Rima

    September 16, 2015 at 11:08 PM

    V. Informative.
    Thanks

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  31. Avatar

    Anonymous

    March 16, 2016 at 12:44 AM

    I found this very insightful. But not extremely useful. Living in Australia, what can a Muslim actually do about such addictions?

    In my case I’m not married and don’t have a girlfriend obviously. Though I am at the age where I probably should. For me I guess porn and other places are my main struggle. I sometimes contemplate whether finding a partner will solve all my problems. But I can’t imagine it would. I feel like making the claim that ‘having a wife to calm my sexual urges will stop me from becoming a sex addict’ is kind of like saying ‘watching porn to vent out my feelings will keep me out of other places’… which it doesn’t. I feel like if I ever do have a wife and children, its my responsibility to get a good handle of this issue beforehand or else I would be stupid to think things will just work themselves out when the time comes.

    The problem is I don’t know what the heck to do. This post helped me understand a little better the things that might be causing my behaviours (a, b and g, under what causes the hypersexual). But I’m not sure what I’m meant to do about it now.

    And please no feminist responses. I want a helpful reply, not annoying commentary explaining basic social concepts effecting modern societies. This, although interesting, is not very helpful to me. And I am also not sure how this post became a chatroom for feminist discussions. Even if sexual addiction was a majority male issue (which is doubtful to say the least), how does it help society to make it a female only discussion?

    • Avatar

      Lebanese

      July 10, 2016 at 7:15 PM

      I’m sorry bro for hearing your sufferings, I can vouch about it too, I also suffer from sexual addiction having bad childhood, fragile family, bad friends when I was a teen and many encounters that leads to this addiction, I’m not lying here but the thing is to start in the right direction you need someone who u trust to tell him what’s going with ur life and hopefully he will help u. What people don’t understand is that sex addicts binge and don’t do it like every hour, we build up the urge and when we just can’t take it anymore we go do it. Islam was taught in my childhood black and white concept, and not a lifestyle concept and how to actually use the wisdom from it and apply it in my life so all in all not very good start to life and not good start to adulthood I may say. About getting a wife, well tbh I won’t be able to answer ur question but I can tell u this that islam teaches to not cheat on other people, today we are single yes we are doing haram but no one but us are suffering from the concequence , when u get married its completely different case because u have fused ur heart, mind, and soul with another human.

  32. Avatar

    Anonymous sinner

    July 8, 2016 at 2:17 PM

    Salam,

    first of all I apologize for my bad English…
    I’m a 25yo dude from SEA, I’m still single and not married yet…
    I have really major problem in my life that is the sex addiction…Let me be honest with you guys…
    I’ve been raised good by my parents…with islamic knowledge, quran reading and praying 5 times a day..
    as I grew up my desire to have sex has been totally out of control…no matter how many times I tried to control it..
    It will only last not more than 2 months…and with the easy access for prostitutes in my country it’s almost impossible to get rid of it…I’ve tried everything, from fasting to read the quran and many more….there’s always this sex drive that trigger me to commit sins…and every time things have been done I felt so guilty…I need to get back on track…
    This is not normal man….I really messed up my life…I pray 5 times a day…and still commit the same sins over and over again…
    I read most of the comments and nobody confessed things like this…
    To be honest with you guys, nobody knows about my wrong doings…Only Allah Azza Wa Jal knows it..I have been reminded by Him so many times…the only problem is I never took it as a reminder…I took it as a punishment…
    I know there’re alot of you will be mad at me because I’m pretender or a Munafiq..but please I need to get back on my feet and face this…

    Regards,
    Anonymous Sinner

  33. Avatar

    Kathy

    October 27, 2016 at 2:58 AM

    My husband cheats on me because now he only wants sex in a way which is forbidden …this desire has made him stop praying and go to hotels and have relationships with many women because they please his needs. Now he has become more violent and agressive, neglecting his 5 children and me. I take care of myself and my home. We have always lived a very exciting and fulfilled sexual life, but he has strayed so far now and explored so much into this dark world that my good is no longer good enough. I am beyond disgusted by his actions and kafir behavior. He has destroyed his family and will deprive himself from barakah on his way to being fuel in jahanam.

    *This comment was edited by the MM Comments Team in order to comply with our Comments Policy*

  34. Avatar

    Thayub

    May 5, 2019 at 7:09 AM

    Where is the second part? please reply

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#Life

Mindful or Mind-full? Going From AutoPilot to Aware

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Mindful

Modeling Mindfulness

Mindfull

“Remember that God knows what is in your souls, so be mindful of Him.”

[Sūrat al-Baqarah 2:235]

Mindful or Mind-full?

Ever felt frustrated when you were trying to talk to your spouse, your children, your students, or your youth group and they would just not pay attention? This is a prime example of being on autopilot and getting carried away without actually being aware of what is most important in the present moment.

A recent Harvard study shows that our minds are not present in the moment and wander about 47% of the time1. In a world of technology and continuous sensory overload, the lines between work and home, friends and family, necessity vs. purpose, world-centric vs. Allah-centric have become blurred. We are either living in the past or ruminating about the future, and in the process, we are forgetting to live, enjoy, cherish, and make the most of our present moments.

For parents, teachers, youth leaders, and anyone in the beautiful role of guiding, teaching, coaching, or mentoring others, we can make a huge difference by modeling Mindfulness ourselves. But where do we start? The answer is to go from autopilot to becoming aware.

Autopilot to Aware

Being on autopilot is when you are distracted in the present moment, where your mind is wandering into the past or the future, and you are less aware of yourself, surroundings, or others. Autopilot can actually be pretty helpful for your regular habits. Waking up, brushing your teeth, getting ready for your day, going to school or work – many of the things we do habitually every day can be done more seamlessly without having to think, and that is a good thing. But there are times when you have to learn to turn off your autopilot to become aware. But how?

Here is a Mindfulness tool that can be done in just a minute or two for you to become more aware.

Step 1: Breath as a Tool. Say Bismillah. Focus on your breath. See where you experience the breath – the breathing in and breathing out of your body. Is your breath stemming from your nostrils, your chest, or your stomach? Just bring your attention to your breath and relax and stay with it there for a few moments.

Step 2: Body as a Tool. Relax your body. We carry so many emotions in our bodies2. Our stress from the past or anticipation for the future sometimes finds its way into our necks, other times in our chest muscles or our backs. Pay attention to what emotions and sensations do you feel, and try to relax all parts of your body.

Step 3: Intention as a Tool. As you have centered your thoughts to the present moment through your breath and your body, ask yourself: “What is most important now? In this present moment?”

Just simply being aware makes us more mindful parents, teachers, youth and professionals – being aware makes us more Mindful of Allah SWT. Mindfulness is the ability to be aware of your mind and body and bring your attention to the present moment.

Mindful

Real Life in the Present Moment

You are an on-the-go parent: It has been a long day and you have to pick up the kids from school, but work is still pending. You’re picking up the kids from school, feeding them, and then shuffling everyone to their afterschool activities, be it Qur’an, softball, soccer, swimming, or the million other things that kids seem to have these days. You squeeze pending work in between drop-offs and pick-ups, and you function by living from one task to the next.

The Autopilot Impact: You’re getting a lot done, but are so engrossed in quickly moving your children along from one thing to another that you are unable to really cherish your time together.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: You can try to go from autopilot to awareness by focusing on your breath, paying attention to your emotions, and relaxing your body. As you do so, ask yourself: “What is most important now?” Make the intention to slow down, listen to the children more mindfully, and cherish and enjoy your time together.

You are a busy teacher: Last night you had to take all the grading home and spent two hours poring over students’ work. This morning, you woke up early to pick up some classroom supplies after dropping off your own kids to school. You’ve already had two cups of coffee and are trying to think through everything you have to do today. You like the idea of Mindfulness, living life in the present moment, and enjoying every day to its fullest, but your mind is not free to even enjoy the beautiful morning sunrise as you drive to school.

The Autopilot Impact: You want to listen and pay attention to every child’s needs, and enjoy the rewards of their growth, but you can’t. What’s more, you judge yourself for just trying to get through your activities for the day. You wish you could connect with your students better.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: Whenever you are stressed with an unpleasant parent or student interaction, think about breathing, relaxing your body, and asking what you need to focus on now. Try to do one thing at a time, and relax into what you’re doing.

You are an overstretched youth director: You are a role model. You have this major weekend event you are planning with the youth. Your budget is still pending from the board, you have to call all these people, have to get the graphics and remind everyone about the event, you have to visit all these masjids and MSAs to announce and remind people about the weekend.

This weekend’s theme is Living a Life of Purpose and you are super passionate about it. However, the whole week you have had a hard time remembering to even pray one Salah with focus. Instead, your mind has been preoccupied with all the endless planning for this weekend. You love what you do but you wonder how to also be mindful in your everyday worship while you are always prepping and planning engaging activities for the youth.

The Autopilot Impact: You enjoy shaping the youth but you are losing steam. You are always planning the next program and unable to focus on your own personal and spiritual development. It is difficult for you to pray even one salah without thinking about all the events and activities planned for that week.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: Get serious about taking some time for yourself. Know that becoming more mindful about your own prayers and self-development will also make you a better role model. Take a minute or two before every Salah to practice the simple, 3-Step Mindfulness Tool. You say Bismillah and breathe, focus your mind, and then relax your body. Empty your mind from everything else – what has past and what’s to come – and ask “What’s most important now?” to develop better focus in your Salah.

In Conclusion: Practice Simple but Solid Steps towards becoming more Mindful Muslims

Mindfulness is to open a window to let the Divine light in.

[Imam Al Ghazali]

Mindfulness gives us the ability to be aware. We can use Mindfulness tools to remember Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), refocus, renew our intentions, and engage with the present moment in a more effective and enjoyable way. Mindfulness also invites awareness of our potential negligence in being our best selves with both Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and His creation. To put it simply, being more aware of our selves can help us be better versions of our selves.

Mindfulness is both an art and a science, with brain and behavioral science research validating the importance of Mindfulness in improving our health, managing our stress, navigating our emotions, and positively impacting our lives3. In today’s modern and distracted world, let us treasure every tool that helps us center our attention on what matters the most.

  1. Bradt, Steve (2010). Wandering mind not a happy mind. Harvard Gazette. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2010/11/wandering-mind-not-a-happy-mind/
  2. Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riitta Hari, Jari K. Hietanen (2013). Bodily maps of emotions. National Academy of Sciences. https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/12/26/1321664111
  3. “What are the benefits of mindfulness,” American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.aspx

To learn more about how to become mindful take the Define Course on Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence.

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#Society

A Code of Conduct To Protect Against Spiritual Abuse

Danish Qasim

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Code of Conduct for Islamic Leadership, Institutions

When there is a claim of spiritual abuse, the initial reaction of concerned Muslims is often to go to another Muslim leader and expect that leader to take care of it.  Most of the time, however, religious leaders in the community have no authority over other religious leaders who are found abusing their position. Many of these leaders feel a foreboding sense of powerlessness to exert change, leaving those who abuse, to do so freely and with impunity. 

There have been attempts by some leaders to take action against abusive religious figures. However, when this happens, it is usually followed by a public or ‘in-group’ campaign against the abusive figure, and the abusive figure and his supporters return in kind. This becomes messy, quickly. There is name-calling, mud-slinging, and threats, but in the end, it amounts to nothing, in the end, leaving everyone involved to make their own decision as to whether or not to continue support for the alleged perpetrator. Other religious leaders may know the accused is guilty, but due to friendships or programs they wish to continue doing with the accused, they will cover for them, especially when there is only a perceived low level of evidence that the public could ever discover it. 

There are several methods and excuses through which abuse is covered up.

The Wall of Silence

In cases of tightly knit groups, whether Sufi tariqas, super Salafi cliques, activist groups, or preachers who have formed a team, the abuser will be protected by a wall of silence, while the victim is targeted, maligned, and ostracized for speaking out against the leader. They, not the abuser, are held accountable, liable, and blamed. While the abuser is expected to be ‘forgiven,’ the victim is socially shamed for a crime committed against him or her. More often than not, the victim is intimidated into silence, while the perpetrator is left free to continue abusing. 

The Kafir Court Rationale

There have been countless situations when there have been legal claims made against a transgressing spiritual leader, but through coercion and pressure, the shaykh (or those close to him) will be able to convince his victim that they are not allowed to go to kafir court systems to solve issues between Muslims. Ironically, these same shaykhs see no difficulty signing legally binding contracts with other Muslims they do business with, or when they give classes, which stands to reason, they are perfectly fine accepting the same ‘kafir court’ as a source of protection when it is for themselves. 

Stop Hurting the Dawah Plea

In other cases, when the disputes are between fellow students, or representatives of the shaykh and those lower ranking students, the shaykh himself is able to get on the phone with the disgruntled victim, give him or her special attention, and convince the person to drop it and not pursue justice, as that may ‘hurt the dawah.’ Sometimes, the shaykhs will ostensibly push for Islamic mechanisms of justice and call for arbitration by other religious figures who they know will decide in his favor. It is critical not to fall victim to these arguments. 

Your Vile Nafs Culpe

Far too often in these groups, particularly the more spiritually inclined ones, everyone will acknowledge the abuse, whether illicit sexual behavior, groping, financial fraud, secret temporary marriages, or bullying by a Shaykh, but steadfastly invoke the ‘only prophets are perfect, and our Shaykh is a wali–– but he can make mistakes’ refrain. Then, when those seeking recourse dare disclose these issues, even when there is no dispute about the factuality of their claims, they are browbeaten into compliance; told their focus on the negative is a sign that they are ‘veiled from the more important, positive efforts of the group, and it is they who should overcome their vile nafs.’ With such groups, leaving may be the only solution. 

Pray it Away Pretext

Sometimes, a target of abuse may go to other teachers or other people in the community to seek help, guidance, or direction. The victims hold these teachers in high regard and believe that they can trust them. However, instead of these teachers acting to protect the victims, the victims are often placated, told to pray it away. They are left with empty platitudes, but nothing concrete is ever done to protect them, nor is there any follow-up. 

The Forgive and Forget Pardon

They are told to forgive…

Forgiveness has its place and time, but at that critical moment, when a victim is in crisis and requires guidance and help, their wellbeing should remain paramount. To counsel victims that their primary job and focus at that pivotal juncture is to forgive their abuser is highly objectionable. Forgiveness is not the obligation of the victim and for any teacher or religious leader to invalidate the wrong that took place is not only counterproductive but dangerous––even if the intention behind the advice came from a wholesome place.

The Dire Need For A Code of Conduct

It is very easy to feel let down when nothing is done about teachers who abuse, but we have to understand that without a Code of Conduct, there really isn’t much that can be done when the spiritual abuse is not considered illegal. It is the duty of Islamic institutions to protect employees, attendees, and religious leaders. We also must demand that. 

Justice is a process. It is not a net result. This means that sometimes we will follow the process of justice and still come up short. The best thing we can do to hold abusers accountable for our institutions is to set up a process of accountability. A code of conduct will not eliminate spiritual abuse. Institutions that adopt this code may still cover up abuse, in which case victims will need to take action against the institution for violating the code. This code of conduct will also protect teachers who can be targetted and falsely accused.

As members of the community, we should expect more.  Here is how:

  •  Demand your Islamic institutions to have and instill a code of conduct. 
  •  If you are in a group outside of an institution, get clarity on the limits of the Shaykh.
  •  Understand that anyone, no matter their social status, is capable of doing horrible things, even the religious figures who talk about the importance of justice, accountability, and transparency. 
  • When it comes to money, expect more from your leadership than emotional appeals. Fundraising causes follow trends, and while supporting good causes is a positive thing, doing so without a proper audit or accountability is not. It lends itself to financial abuse, mistrust, and misappropriation.  

Establish a Protocol

A lot of hurt can be saved and distrust salvaged if victims are provided with honest non-judgment. Even in the event that there is a lack of concrete evidence, a protocol to handle these kinds of sensitive situations can provide a victim with a safe space to go to where they know they won’t be ignored or treated callously. We may not be able to guarantee an outcome, but we can ensure that we’ll try.

Using Contract Law to Hold Abusers Accountable – Danya Shakfeh

In cases of spiritual abuse, legal recourse (or any recourse for that matter) has been rare due to there being no standard of conduct and no legal means to hold abusers accountable.  In order to solve this problem, our Code of Conduct creates a legal mechanism of enforcement through contract law.

The reason why contract law is important and applicable is that the law does not always address unethical behavior.  You have heard the refrain “Just because it is legal, it does not mean it is ethical.” The law, for varying reasons, has its limits. Although we associate the law with justice and morality, the law and justice and morality are not always interchangeable and can even be at odds with each other.  

Ultimately, specifically in a secular society, the law is a set man-made rules and sometimes those rules are arbitrary and actually unfair. For example, there is a class of laws called ‘strict liability’ laws. These laws make a defendant liable even if the person committed the offense by accident.  One example of strict liability law is selling alcohol to a minor. In some states, even if the person tried to confirm the minor’s legal age, the seller could still be held liable for the offense. On the flip-side, there are is a lack of anti-bullying laws on the books in the United States. This allows employers to cause serious emotional damage to employees, yet the employer can get away with such offensive behavior.  Accordingly, the law does not always protect nor is it always ‘just.’

On Power, Boundaries, And The Accountability Of Imams

This is one of the reasons that victims of spiritual abuse have had little success in having their claims addressed at a legal level.  Because abuses are not legally recognized as such, there is often no associated remedy. For example, when a woman enters into a secret second marriage only to find that the husband is not giving her all her Islamic legal rights, that woman’s recourse is very limited because the law does not recognize this as abuse and does not even recognize the marriage.

Further, if a victim of spiritual abuse is abused due to religious manipulation unless the abuser engaged in a stand-alone crime or civil claim, the victim also has no legal recourse. For example, if a religious scholar exploits a congregant’s vulnerabilities in order to convince the congregant to turn over large amounts of money and the congregant later learns that the Islamic scholar did not really need the money, he or she may have no legal recourse.  This is because manipulation (as long as there is no fraud) is not illegal and depending on how clever the religious scholar was, the congregant would have no legal recourse. Our way of solving this problem is by using contract law to set and enforce the standard for ethical behavior.

Use of Institutional Handbooks

Whether people realize it or not, institutional handbooks are a type of contract. Though an attorney should be consulted in order to ensure that they these documents are binding, policies do not necessarily need to be signed by every party nor do they need to be called a “contract” in order to be legally binding.  By creating institutional handbooks and employment policies that relate to common issues of spiritual abuse, we can finally provide guidelines and remedies.

When an employee at an institution violates the institution’s policies, this is a “breach of contract” that can result in firing or even monetary damages. In other words, the policy is that document which victims and institutions can use to back their cases when there are allegations involving abuse.  Policies can also hold institutions themselves liable for not enforcing the policy and remedies as to victims’ abuse. Policies also serve the purpose of putting the community and their beneficiaries and patrons on notice as to what is expected of them.

Our Code of Conduct is the most comprehensive of created ethical guidelines for Muslims leaders and institutions for making spiritual abuse remedies actionable. We believe it will provide remedies to victims that would otherwise not be available through other legal means.  By binding the parties to a contract, victims and institutions can take these contracts, along with the abusers, to court and use the contract to fill in the gap for appropriate behavior that the law otherwise does not fill.

Download the Code of Conduct For Islamic Leadership By In Shaykh’s Clothing

Blurred Lines: Women, “Celebrity” Shaykhs, and Spiritual Abuse

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Ya Qawmi: Strengthen Civic Roots In Society To Be A Force For Good

Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari

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For believers the traditions and teachings of the Prophets (blessings on them), particularly Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), are paramount. Each Prophet of God belonged to a community which is termed as their Qawm in the Qur’an. Prophet Lut (Lot) was born in Iraq, but settled in Trans-Jordan and then became part of the people, Qawm of Lut, in his new-found home. All the Prophets addressed those around them as ‘Ya Qawmi’ (O, my people) while inviting them to the religion of submission, Islam. Those who accepted the Prophets’ message became part of their Ummah. So, individuals from any ethnicity or community could become part of the Ummah – such as the Ummah of Prophet Muhammad.

Believers thus have dual obligations: a) towards their own Qawm (country), and b) towards their Ummah (religious companions). As God’s grateful servants, Muslims should strive to give their best to both their Qawm and Ummah with their ability, time and skillset. It is imperative for practising and active Muslims to carry out Islah (improvement of character, etc) of people in their Ummah and be a witness of Islam to non-Muslims in their Qawm and beyond. This in effect is their service to humanity and to please their Creator. With this basic understanding of the concept, every Muslim should prioritise his or her activities and try their utmost to serve human beings with honesty, integrity and competence. Finding excuses or adopting escapism can bring harm in this world and a penalty in the Hereafter.

Like many other parts of the world, Britain is going through a phase lacking in ethical and competent leadership. People are confused, frustrated and worried; some are angry. Nativist (White) nationalism in many western countries, with a dislike or even hatred of minority immigrant people (particularly Muslims and Jews), is on the rise. This is exacerbated through lowering religious literacy, widespread mistrust and an increase in hateful rhetoric being spread on social media. As people’s patience and tolerance levels continue to erode, this can bring unknown adverse consequences.

The positive side is that civil society groups with a sense of justice are still robust in most developed countries. While there seem to be many Muslims who love to remain in the comfort zone of their bubbles, a growing number of Muslims, particularly the youth, are also effectively contributing towards the common good of all.

As social divisions are widening, a battle for common sense and sanity continues. The choice of Muslims (particularly those that are socially active), as to whether they would proactively engage in grass-roots civic works or social justice issues along with others, has never been more acute. Genuine steps should be taken to understand the dynamics of mainstream society and improve their social engagement skills.

From history, we learn that during better times, Muslims proactively endeavoured to be a force for good wherever they went. Their urge for interaction with their neighbours and exemplary personal characters sowed the seeds of bridge building between people of all backgrounds. No material barrier could divert their urge for service to their Qawm and their Ummah. This must be replicated and amplified.

Although Muslims are some way away from these ideals, focusing on two key areas can and should strengthen their activities in the towns and cities they have chosen as their home. This is vital to promote a tolerant society and establish civic roots. Indifference and frustration are not a solution.

Muslim individuals and families

  1. Muslims must develop a reading and thinking habit in order to prioritise their tasks in life, including the focus of their activism. They should, according to their ability and available opportunities, endeavour to contribute to the Qawm and Ummah. This should start in their neighbourhoods and workplaces. There are many sayings of the Prophet Muhammad on one’s obligations to their neighbour; one that stands out – Gabriel kept advising me to be good to my neighbour so much that I thought he would ask that he (neighbour) should inherit me) – Sahih Al-Bukhari.
  2. They must invest in their new generation and build a future leadership based on ethics and professionalism to confidently interact and engage with the mainstream society, whilst holding firm to Islamic roots and core practices.
  3. Their Islah and dawah should be professionalised, effective and amplified; their outreach should be beyond their tribal/ethnic/sectarian boundaries.
  4. They should jettison any doubts, avoid escapism and focus where and how they can contribute. If they think they can best serve the Ummah’s cause abroad, they should do this by all means. But if they focus on contributing to Britain:
    • They must develop their mindset and learn how to work with the mainstream society to normalise the Muslim presence in an often hostile environment.
    • They should work with indigenous/European Muslims or those who have already gained valuable experience here.
    • They should be better equipped with knowledge and skills, especially in political and media literacy, to address the mainstream media where needed.

Muslim bodies and institutions

  • Muslim bodies and institutions such as mosques have unique responsibilities to bring communities together, provide a positive environment for young Muslims to flourish and help the community to link, liaise and interact with the wider society.
  • By trying to replicate the Prophet’s mosque in Madinah, they should try to make mosques real hubs of social and spiritual life and not just beautiful buildings. They should invest more in young people, particularly those with professional backgrounds. They should not forget what happened to many places where the Muslim presence was thought to be deep-rooted such as Spain.
  • It is appreciated that the first generation Muslims had to establish organisations with people of their own ethnic/geographical backgrounds. While there may still be a need for this for some sections of the community, in a post-7/7 Britain Muslim institutions must open up for others qualitatively and their workers should be able to work with all. History tells that living in your own comfort zone will lead to isolation.
  • Muslim bodies, in their current situation, must have a practical 5-10 year plan, This will bring new blood and change organisational dynamics. Younger, talented, dedicated and confident leadership with deep-rooted Islamic ideals is now desperately needed.
  • Muslim bodies must also have a 5-10 year plan to encourage young Muslims within their spheres to choose careers that can take the community to the next level. Our community needs nationally recognised leaders from practising Muslims in areas such as university academia, policy making, politics, print and electronic journalism, etc.

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