In my work with converts, I have come to love and respect many sisters who are dealing with addiction. I also have a number of both Muslim and non-Muslim friends who are in various stages of recovery and I have moderated online discussions of convert sisters who are dealing with various stages of addiction and recovery.
Many Muslims don’t really know how to “handle” the subject of addiction because our knee-jerk reflex is “alcohol and drugs are haram, period” and “if you can’t control yourself around substances you must be a bad person.”
As a public health student, we learn that the medical definition of addiction is that it is a disease and that treatment of the disease has both medical and self-control components, similar to diabetes.
In my roles as a public health student, convert counselor, spiritual advisor, and also as a friend, I can tell you that people in recovery are some of the most beautiful and strong people you will ever meet.
Most Muslims struggling with addiction are full of shame and embarrassment. I’ve had sisters tell me I’m the only Muslim they have told about their struggles with addiction. In one case, a friend of mine went public with her recovery journey when she started AA and got sober and I was privately contacted by other Muslims who told me I should advise her that it’s “haram to openly discuss your sins and normalize alcoholism among Muslims.”
I can tell you that that nobody WANTS to be an addict. Addicts see and know painfully well the negative impacts their addiction has on their lives. They don’t need a lecture about the evils of alcohol or the harmfulness of drugs. They don’t need you to tell them it’s haram. They don’t need Qur’an verses or Hadiths about punishments and warnings. In fact they probably know more than the average Muslim, from lived experience, the meaning of “there is harm and benefit in them but the harm is greater than the benefit (2:219).
This Hadith (which you can find in the 40 Hadith Nawawi collection) is important for anyone struggling with addiction:
On the authority of Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him), from the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), from what he has related from his Lord: Verily Allah ta’ala has written down the good deeds and the evil deeds, and then explained it [by saying]: “Whosoever intended to perform a good deed, but did not do it, then Allah writes it down with Himself as a complete good deed. And if he intended to perform it and then did perform it, then Allah writes it down with Himself as from ten good deeds up to seven hundred times, up to many times multiplied. And if he intended to perform an evil deed, but did not do it, then Allah writes it down with Himself as a complete good deed. And if he intended it [i.e., the evil deed] and then performed it, then Allah writes it down as one evil deed.” [Al-Bukhari] [Muslim].
Observe what we learn here:
- If a person does a good deed and they do it, they are rewarded for doing it 10 times.
- If a person is on track to do a good deed and something gets in their way and they end up not doing it, they still get the credit for having done it once anyway.
- If a person does a bad deed they only get credited for doing it once.
- And if a person is on track to do a bad deed and they DON’T do it, they get credited as having done one good deed.
- People struggling with addiction are constantly working to keep themselves from doing bad deeds.
- People struggling with addiction are often living day-to-day (“One Day at a Time” as they say in AA), or even hour-to-hour and minute-to-minute.
- EVERY TIME a person struggling with addiction makes that decision not to drink or use, they are getting credited for a good deed. Over and over again, multiple times per day. The rest of us have to actually DO a good deed to get that good deed.
- In the end, a person who struggles with addiction may achieve a higher spiritual rank because of that daily struggle. Just sitting on the couch,just existing, brings good deeds. That is more muraqabah (self-monitoring) than most of us will ever achieve.
So for those of you who are struggling with addiction, know that God sees you, I see you. You are beloved to God.
And if anyone tells you about that Hadith that “your salah is not accepted for 40 days if you drink” know that this Hadith only applies to someone who has not repented and is happy with their drinking. It does NOT apply to people struggling with addiction. DO NOT stop praying your salah. If you are drunk or under the influence, wait until you have recovered and then pray. If you have missed some prayers you can make them up. But know that your prayers ARE heard and accepted. It doesn’t even have to be a “good” prayer, just showing up to the prayer rug and making the best effort you can is enough.
And to those of you reading this who, like me, have never struggled with addiction: Educate yourselves. One thing I have learned in life is that there is no one struggling except that they can teach you more about hard work, honesty, and compassion than you can ever imagine. The most you will ever learn and grow is from serving people who are struggling with things you don’t understand. Instead of judgment, learn to be of service to those who are struggling.
The Night Before Eid: Substance Abuse and the Muslim Community: Sh. Suhaib Webb
Muslims and the Problem of Addiction: Ustadh Mohamed Ghilan
I Saw My Husband Smoking Marijuana: Seekershub