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Confronting Sex and Porn Addiction In Muslims

This brother in his 60s with a beard and jubbah sat in front of me with his head hung down and hands clasped firmly together while his knuckles were turning white due to the pressure. I could see that talking about his issue was draining and it was taking every ounce of courage and willpower. He said he knew it was wrong and he was totally devastated and guilt ridden after each episode. He had huge regrets for he had caused so much sadness in their marriage but he just couldn’t stop acting out. He was regular in his prayers, righteous in performing his other Islamic duties, volunteered at the local charitable causes and by all means was a law abiding and extremely humble and mellow mannered individual.

This brother had an addiction for watching pornography and he had along with his wife suffered for over 30 years in a cycle of compulsion, secrets, shame, frustration, guilt, hopelessness, worthlessness and inevitable isolation. With Allah’s mercy and guidance a year of regular therapy generated amazing results where he finally broke the cycle of addiction and managed to begin repairing his relationship with Allah, himself, his wife and his children. He was as a child sexually abused from the age of 6. He also witnessed a lot of physical abuse directed towards his mother by his father and was bullied throughout school.

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This brother’s addiction was trauma and attachment induced and throughout his life his way of dealing with his painful memories and lack of assertiveness and confidence was to use porn as an anesthetizing tool. I worked with him by addressing his childhood issues and by giving those wounds a closure and slowly building his confidence and self-esteem. We used relapse prevention techniques and introduced a deeper understanding of triggers and how a sustainable sense of accountability to Allah, himself and family.

Sex and porn addiction is a real problem and just like drugs and alcohol this pandemic has secretly and slowly permeated the Muslim community too. In the United States an estimated 30 Million individuals are struggling with sex addiction. This includes out of control sexual behaviours like compulsive use of pornography, visiting sex workers, using adult hook-up apps or multiple affairs.

With an estimated 1.7 billion active users on Facebook alone, 90% of 16-24 year olds in the western world own a smartphone. In a recent study carried out by the NSPCC of 1,000 children aged 11-16, 94% admitted they had been exposed to pornography by the age of 14. Porn is a 97million dollar industry-more than Apple, Google, Netflix, yahoo combined.

Neuroscientists believe that the changes in the brain of the sex addict are the same which are seen in a drug addict. Dopamine is the common denominator in all addictions.

Although at presen, we don’t have any specific statistics for Muslims, it is an increasing presentation in in my therapy experience. It is a real problem and we cannot minimise it or just leave it to the individual’s spiritual growth and ability to abstain and refrain. Remember for a long time we Muslims had the same attitude towards mental health issues where we linked depression and anxiety to lack of imaan and lack of patience. This meant many people struggled and suffered in silence, not knowing that depression is an illness which needs treatment, at times medication and psychological intervention, or both. Alhumdulilah, we have made progress with mental health and I hope insha’Allah once we openly start talking of sex addiction as a real problem which is for many is not a choice but a compulsion, it will give people who are suffering the courage and permission to speak and to seek help.

My model of working with the individuals who struggle with sex addiction is to use the core therapeutic skills of being compassionate and non-judgemental, so that a neutral platform is provided where the addict can come for help.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) told his Beloved Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) “so by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him] (3:159)

Spiritual, emotional and psychological healing comes hand in hand during therapy and as gradually the shame and hopelessness is reduced, the client begins to connect again with the true concept of Allah’s Mercy and instead of shame — which mocks and rebukes, making the person feel inadequate.

We work on connecting with self-reflection and remorse so gradually an inner accountability is developed. Treatment is based on developing new habits based on surrender, gratitude, renewed spiritual connection and establishing and re-establishing meaningful relationships.

Sex addiction festers in darkness. People can go about their “normal” everyday lives on the surface but in the claws of compulsion leaves them surrendering to the lure of desire coupled by the deep rooted belief that they are doomed destined for hell and they can’t be cured/ saved. This is of course only a trap from the Shaytan. A sex addict starts recovering when he or she moves from a place of darkness to light and hope. Healing comes when body, mind and heart are all seeking the same thing, so the focus of the therapy is to work on all three areas. Alhumdullilah.

Sex addiction is a sin. It may not be a crime by the law of the countries we reside in but it is a sin! But who said there is no hope for sinners? We all know the story of the prostitute who was given the glad tidings of Jannah because of her charitable act of kindness of giving water to a thirsty dog!

Like all sinners, the sex addict needs to painfully unlearn old habits, to dismantle old scenarios, to pay old debts, and then to move steadfastly along the road to recovery one small, secure step at a time. (Hall, 2016)

Our imaams and scholars need to use their platforms to talk about this issue to help raise awareness and to help us devise and set groups that can help people who are struggling. The treatment model is based on understanding where the issue stems from and giving strategies which work for the individual in recovery and to provide relapse prevention.

Abeda is a qualified therapist based in Birmingham who specialises in relationship issues and is also sex addiction therapist who works with Muslim clients. You can contact her on info@amanahcounselling.com 07846724568

www.Amanahcounselling.com.

Related articles:

https://muslimmatters.org/2014/01/30/whats-matter-masturbation-addict/

https://muslimmatters.org/2013/07/01/a-conversation-with-a-hooker/

https://muslimmatters.org/2013/10/11/50-shades-sex-addiction/

https://muslimmatters.org/2012/07/11/pornography-respect-and-responsibility-a-letter-to-the-hotel-industry/

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Abeda is a qualified therapist based in Birmingham who specialises in relationship issues and is also sex addiction therapist who works with Muslim clients. You can contact her on info@amanahcounselling.com

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Muslim

    March 10, 2018 at 11:23 AM

    The article is a harsh reality of everyday muslims. I want to give hope to the readers that there free resources available for recovery, 12 step program whose sobriety definition is consistent with Islamic definition.

    The problem with forums like mm and other islamic websites is that the recovery options generally written about are very expensive. The writers session costs almost 100$ canadian per 50 minutes. Only the affluent people can afford that.

    I hope forums like these also point to free or cheaper resources for recovery.

    To addicts struggling in isolation, there is hope and free help available. Find your nearest 12 step group. The rich can always afford the recovery programs that are offered by the likes of the writer.

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#Life

What Repentance Can Teach You About Success

When losing weight, one piece of advice you’ll hear often is the following – if you fall off your eating plan one day, pick yourself back up and think of the next day as a fresh start.

Annoying, isn’t it?

You’ll hear this advice from people who have “made it” – they’ve lost a lot of weight, their lives have changed, and they’ll tell you to stick through it, and you’ll be like, yeah, I have, I tried, and I keep failing. I keep trying, I can’t sustain the motivation, I have life factors, I have stuff going on that makes this difficult.

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And you’re right.

You don’t have millions of dollars, a dedicated personal trainer and chef, the free time and lack of commitments others do, the lack of sleep, the injuries, or personal life circumstances that advantage others, nor do they have those that disadvantage you.

That’s not the point.

When you make a mistake, if you run through the process of regret, repentance, and retrying to do the right thing, Allah (swt) is pleased with you. And if you keep failing, repenting, and trying again, and again, and again, until you die, Allah keeps forgiving you.

The process of both recognizing your weakness, of getting out of denial, and humbling yourself and not thinking yourself so high and mighty has its own sobering effect. Not only does it help you in dealing with that atom’s weight of arrogance you don’t want to meet Allah (swt) with on the Day of Judgment, it helps make you a better human being, a more compassionate one, a more empathetic one, when calling others away from mistakes.

I’m not perfect, and you’re not perfect. Perfection is only for Allah (swt). But we’re trying. And the process of recognizing your weakness and at least attempting to rectify it means that maybe you’ll sin a little less, maybe you’ll still not invent excuses for mistakes and you’ll teach others, “Hey man, I know this is a sin, I know this is wrong, I hope you can do better than me.” And maybe they do change, and you’re both better for it.

Maybe in trying and failing again and again, what you end up doing is coming a little bit closer to success, and that process of trying and failing is the teacher you needed to get you out of your weakness and to then help others do likewise. Maybe that learning process serves you in succeeding elsewhere down the road in other treacherous turns and trials of life.

Whether it’s in losing weight, fixing broken relationships, pulling away from a heavy nafs addiction (eg pornography), don’t ever put yourself mentally in a position where “you’ve lost” and “you may as well give up” because “there’s no hope for me”. Don’t identify yourself by your failures.

So then, what is the point?

The point isn’t that you hit your goal perfectly. The point is that give your best, even with the little that you have, and that is good enough for you and for all of us. Ask Allah (swt) to help you better yourself, and in these 10 Days of Dhul-Hijjah, increase in your du’a, cry to Him for help, in whatever area of life it is you’re trying to improve.

And whatever you fail at, don’t fall off for weeks on end. Acknowledge your mistake, own it completely and take full responsibility. Try to figure out where you went wrong in your process, get help from others if you need to. Forgive yourself, and don’t resign yourself to an identity based on your mistakes.

Never get tired of failing, getting knocked down, and picking yourself back up and trying to do and be better again.

It’s always a brand new day tomorrow.

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30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 19: My Mercy Encompasses All Things

Now that we have learnt about when the angels surround us, let’s now talk about how Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy encompasses all things.

We say بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ  (bismillah Ar-Rahman ar-Raheem) a lot, right? It means ‘in the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate.’ 

We say it when we pray, before we eat, and we’re encouraged to say it before we begin any new task. But do we really understand what rahma (mercy) means? 

Question: What do you think rahma means?

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Do you know that the word rahma comes from the root word, رحم (rahim), which means womb? 

Question: Who can tell me what a womb is?

That’s right. A baby is usually in their mommy’s womb for 40 weeks. The baby gets all the nourishment it requires; the temperature in the womb is perfect, the nutrients are always administered, it is safe and warm. All the baby has to do is grow, and alhamdulillah all its needs are being met. 

Question: How do you think the womb relates to Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy?

Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy is constantly surrounding us like a safety net. That doesn’t mean that we’ll never experience any pain, but Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is constantly showing us mercy with every breath we take. Even blinking is a mercy from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) that we don’t even have to think about. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) even has more mercy for us than a mother has for her own child! 

One day the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was walking with a group of his companions, and they passed by a woman who was frantically looking for her child. She would take any child to her breast and try to feed him/her. Then the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said to the companions: “Do you think that this lady can throw her son in the fire?” We replied, “No, if she has the power not to throw it (in the fire).” The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) then said, “Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is more merciful to His slaves than this lady to her son.”

And guess what? There’s even more mercy in the hereafter than we’re experiencing right now. 

Salman al-Farisi reported: The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Verily, on the day Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) created the heavens and earth, He created one hundred parts of mercy. Each part can fill what is between heaven and earth. He made one part of mercy for the earth, from it a mother has compassion for her child, animals and birds have compassion for each other. On the Day of Resurrection, He will perfect this mercy.” [Sahih Muslim]

99 parts of mercy on the Day of Judgment! That is one reason why it’s so important to have a good opinion of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)! Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) even tells us in Surat Al-A’raaf:

وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ ۚ

“My mercy encompasses all things” (Surat Al-A’raaf; 156]

And you all, my dears, are all encompassed by Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy, alhamdulillah. 

 

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30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 18: When the Angels Surround Us

Now that we have learnt about Hajar raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) and her sa’i, let’s now talk about when the angels surround us.

Do you know that every time we sit together and remember Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), we are not alone in our meeting? We have very special visitors, and these visitors love to hear us praising Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)and thanking Him. 

Question: Who can tell me who these visitors are?

Yes! They are angels! Can anyone name some angels for me?

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We have Angel Jibril 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) who has delivered every message to every Prophet since the beginning of time. We also have our angels on our left and right who write down our deeds.

Question: Does anyone know the name of the angel that is in control of the weather? 

His name is Angel Mikai’l. 

There are so many gifts that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) grants us when we gather together and remember him. Four things happen every single time! I want you to pay close attention to this hadith, because I’m going to ask you what those four things are after I read it. 

Are you ready?

‏لا يقعد قوم يذكرون الله عز وجل إلا حفتهم الملائكة، وغشيتهم الرحمة ونزلت عليهم السكينة، وذكرهم الله فيمن عنده‏

The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “When a group of people assemble for the remembrance of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), the angels surround them (with their wings), (Allah’s) mercy envelops them, tranquility descends upon them, and Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) makes a mention of them before those who are near Him.”

Question: Can you believe that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) makes mention of your name when you make mention of His? What do you think it means when “tranquility descends upon us?” Do you feel how calm your heart is? 

That is a gift from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and He tells us that our hearts find rest in His remembrance:

أَلَا بِذِكْرِ اللَّـهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ

“…Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured” [Surah Ar-Ra’d; 28] 

 

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