The Subject of Addiction
The Islamic View
Our discussion will cover those habit-forming substances, such as, heroin, nicotine and alcohol, and the attempt will be to give the Islamic view concerning the ideas and prohibitions regarding these.
The definition of addiction, found in the dictionary, is: A compulsive or persistent need and use of a substance known by the user to be harmful.
In today's adult sectors of the society, it cannot be used as an excuse that due to lack of information, one does not know the ill effects of heroin, nicotine (found in cigarettes) or alcohol as reason to partake in the use of these substances. Technology and communications are so great that all up-to-date statistics regarding the harm of these substances is readily available to all.
As a general rule, everything intoxicant or narcotic is definitely injurious to human health. They undermine physical and mental fitness, as well.
Here, a couple of verses from the Qur'an refer to the subject:
(Holy Qur'an 2:219) "They ask thee concerning wine and gambling. Say: In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit..."
(Holy Qur'an 5:90) "O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination,--of Satan's handiwork: eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper.
In the beginning, man fell ill or became worried over some uncontrollable event, and sought a way to relieve his misery.
This instigated man to experiment with different substances to use as medicines to relieve the discomfort he faced. One such substance was Opium.
As long ago as 100 A.D., opium had been used as a medicine, taken with a beverage or swallowed as a solid. It was understood to work as a powerful pain reliever.
It produced a feeling of pleasure and euphoria, but it was realized to be addictive, causing extremely uncomfortable symptoms upon withdrawal, which include kicking movements in the legs, anxiety, insomnia, nausea, sweating, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea and fever.
Doctors hoped that injecting morphine (a by-product of opium) directly into the bloodstream would avoid the addictive effects of smoking or eating opium, but instead it proved to be more addictive.
Heroin, a preparation synthesized from morphine, was introduced in 1898 as a cough suppressant, but soon it was realized it was more addictive than morphine.
The Opium Wars (1839-1843, 1856-1860) were two wars between England and China in which Western powers gained significant commercial privileges and territory, when the Chinese government tried to stop the illegal importation of opium by British merchants.
Therefore, it is seen that opium, a drug used as a medicine, was turned into a drug of casual use for 'having fun' and gaining pleasure, at the cost of many lives.
The reason: So some humans can become rich off the misery and torment of others. The animal kingdom does not even witness, in itself, such a blatant disregard for its fellow creatures.
Smoking cigarettes, is, for some reason, still an accepted form of addiction. That's right! Cigarettes are addictive, and the main addictive ingredient is nicotine. Nicotine effects the sympathetic nervous system, is highly addictive, and produces an increased heart rate, as well as, raised blood pressure. Nevertheless, cigarette sales are a major industry, again, for money and gaining the luxuries of a man-made utopia in this world.
Liquor or alcohol contains ethanol, a colorless volatile flammable liquid (C2H5OH) which is the intoxicating agent in liquors and is, also, used as a solvent in cleaners. Used casually, it appears not to be addictive, however, it can be very addictive and especially harmful to the liver. A person can fall into its trap before he knows it, because like cigarettes, drinking alcoholic beverages, is a 'socially acceptable pastime', in some societies.
We can refer to the state of this 'socially acceptable pastime' in the following verse:
(Holy Qur'an 62:11) "But when they see some bargain or some amusement, they disperse headlong to it, and leave you standing. Say: The (blessing) from the Presence of Allah is better than any amusement or bargain! And Allah is the best to provide (for all needs)."
These bargains and amusements are very short lived, indeed, but when a person gets tied up in them, it is difficult to separate from them. Therefore, the best course is to abstain from them, altogether.
Once a person decides to quit using substances like those mentioned above, though, he or she is faced with little help. However, those that can get help go under treatment where the main goal is abstinence.
Therapeutic communities require the drug abuser to take personal responsibility for his or her problem. Drug addicts are seen as emotionally immature and it is thought that they should be given a second chance to grow up.
At this point, we have come to an understanding, by the information given above, that people who become addicts have emotional problems. They have not been able to cope with their surroundings, and or have been under the influence of their friends, and societies, as a whole.
After being tricked by the idea that there is nothing wrong in casual use, they seem to be looking for ways in which to escape; escape pain, hardship and responsibility.
Taking these reasons for using addictive substances into consideration, let's see what the Holy Qur'an, the sacred book of Allah, says about the subject.
(Holy Qur'an 6:70) "...every soul delivers itself to ruin by its own acts: It will find for itself no protector or intercessor except Allah.."
(Holy Qur'an 6:164) "...Every soul draws the meed of its acts on none but itself: No bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another. Your goal in the end is towards Allah..."
A person with a negative spirit can turn into a debased slave to a powerful substance, and were someone to debase himself to that extent, he would completely undermine his own personality and forfeit the power to govern his own affairs.
He would lose his ability to choose his direction in life and give up his god-given right to be free. When one cannot govern oneself, and everything goes beyond reason, punishment is the fruit that unsuspectedly ripens within the flower of the pleasure which hid it.
We see that this point is addressed in the following verses:
(Holy Qur'an 7:58) "...but from the land that is bad, springs up nothing but that which is contemptible: Thus do we explain the Signs by various (symbols) to those who are grateful."
(Holy Qur'an 7:51) "Such as took their religion to be mere amusement and play, and were deceived by the life of the world. That day shall We forget them as they forgot the meeting of this day of theirs, and as they were wont to reject Our Signs."
An example of the world is that of seawater; the more a thirsty person drinks from it, the thirstier he becomes until it kills him.
People who use such addictive substances, and many more of their kind, wrestle with a kind of fear inside themselves. Fear is one of the basic instincts of every living creature when face to face with some kind of danger. The purpose of fear is to move a person's energy to deliver him from danger. Fear keeps a watch over the human heart, and hope is the soul's intercessor and that of its aspirations.
However, when fear goes beyond its normal function, then it can diminish the level of one's mental judgement. This condition is characteristic of the childhood years until a person reaches the age of mental maturity, the age where he is able to make sound decisions.
There is always hope for a better day and the Qur'an refers to it, thus:
(Holy Qur'an 94:5) "So, verily, with every difficulty, there is relief."
(Holy Qur'an 47:2) "...He will remove from them their ills and improve their condition."
The adversary of fear is faith. Faith not only removes anguish and anxiety from the human heart, it can protect it from being overwhelmed by confusion and agony. The Qur'an describes the role of faith in these words:
(Holy Qur'an 3:139) "If you have faith, do not yield to fear and sorrow, for you have an upper hand over the others on account of this asset of faith."
A person under the partial or total influence of foreign agents in his body is like a drowning man, clinging to everything that he can catch hold of, but which cannot save him. Ultimately, nothing that is transitory and impermanent can give him true peace.
On the other hand, a person who enjoys an active intellect is not overwhelmed by the world and it does not appear to him to be dark and frightful. Rather, he immediately turns to the enjoyment of spiritual pleasures, thereby, taking himself into a world free from the bondage of suffering and where he can quench his thirst with a cup of tranquility.
(Holy Qur'an 48:4) "It is He Who sent down tranquility into the hearts of the faithful..."
There is no need to use addictive substances to alter our lives, or to become dependent on. Mental peace and security can be found if we just look in the right place. Islam relieves the human being of every kind of fear, which oppresses the soul and has no bearing on real life. It gives us hope and liberation.
(Holy Qur'an 48:2) "That Allah may forgive thee thy faults of the past and those to follow; fulfil His favour to thee; and guide thee on the Straight Way."
Islam does not deprive anyone of wholesome joys and pleasures, and does not ask people to turn their back on worldly matters. However, it redirects hopes from false and illusory values to real and true values and worthy ambitions.
It warns man that he should not be deceived by transitory thrills, thus failing to realize what everlasting and true delights really are.