Addiction whether it is to drugs, alcohol, gambling, online gaming, shopping, eating, starving or pornography is a serious problem. It affects people from all walks of life, regardless of race, religion, and affluence.
So, of course, there are Muslims who are tormented by addiction or suffering because a loved one is an addict. The BBC reported in an article published in 2011 and entitled, ‘British Bangladeshis battle against drugs’ that:
“Social workers and community leaders are perplexed as to how a very traditional and hardworking community, with conservative religious and social values, acquired this problem.”
Interestingly, another article entitled, ‘How Muslim Drug Dealers Square Their Job with Their Faith.’ Published on vice.com in 2017 about Muslims in Bradford, included the following:
“Although alcohol is strictly prohibited under Islam, most of the guys drank it, and some were heavy drinkers. But while they were happy to become involved in drug dealing and taking, in other respects, Qasim saw, they were religiously strict. For example, none of them would touch meat that was not halal, let alone pork. He also noticed that jail time usually strengthened their faith. However, this heightened faith was more likely to lead to them insisting on their sisters wearing hijabs, rather than preclude them from selling drugs.
“They drank alcohol, slept around with girls and were involved with the consumption and sale of drugs,” says Qasim. “But the boys considered Islamic faith to be imperative. They were selective as to which of Islam’s teachings they adhered to and which they did not want to adhere to. It could be argued that faith was a coping strategy in difficult times.”
(I have underlined what I want to draw attention to)
People usually turn to the Muslim clergy for guidance. The clergy usually advise the addicted are reminded what they are doing is forbidden in Islam, that the person should fear Allah and death and so on.
I believe this approach is of limited value. Too little, too late as addictive behaviours are not so easily changed. Advice is simply not enough.
I believe the problem lies in outsourcing the religion. When we as a Muslim community believe the understanding, the comprehension, and the responsibility of the religion lies with the ‘scholars’ – this is our first mistake.
The second, is a by-product of the first. When we neglect knowledge and a deeper understanding of the religion, we are left with just the rituals of the religion. Not eating pork for example or women covering.
The lack of knowledge on a personal level means our youth are growing up DOING without really understanding what it is they believe in.
So, what should we do?
A common thread in the psychology of addicts seems to be a lack of coping skills or a lack of purpose/direction. Islam offers both.
Allah states in Surah Ad Dhariyaat, verse 56:
وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالإِنسَ إِلاَّ لِيَعْبُدُونِ
And I created not the Jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me.
The purpose of life is to worship and this, while being a simple statement has powerful impact. Understanding and believing your life has a goal, a direction, forms the basis for morals and values as well as a good work ethic. Children need to be taught that life is meant to be hard and taught that gratitude, prayer and keeping a connection with the Lord will help them cope during tough times. In other words, they need to be true believers, armed with knowledge as opposed to just doers of superficial rituals.
When our beliefs are correct from the start, the religion becomes part of who we are and we make the right choices in life. There is no doubt, we will always come across troubled times. Knowledge and sound belief in Islam ensure you come out the other side.