Salam Dear Abid,
Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.
What is Addiction?
First of all, let us see what addiction is. The experts who have contributed to the site, familydoctor.org write:
“Addiction is a disease that affects your brain and your behavior. You have control over your choice to start using drugs, but once you start, their pleasurable effect makes you want to keep using them. When you become addicted to alcohol or other drugs, your brain actually changes in certain ways so that a powerful urge to use drugs controls your behavior. Someone who is addicted uses drugs without thinking of the consequences, such as problems with health, money, relationships, and performance at work or at school.”
According to these experts, addiction is a disease.
But note the second sentence above: “You have control over your choice to start using drugs, but once you start, their pleasurable effect makes you want to keep using them.”
This means that if a particular person does not deliberately choose to use a drug or alcohol for the sake of pleasure, he or she will not become an addict.
This means that the real cause of addiction is a personal choice by the addict. There is something called ‘substance abuse‘.
Substance Abuse vs. Addiction
In fact, the difference between substance abuse and addiction is very thin.
Substance abuse means the use of an illegal substance, or the use of a legal substance in the wrong way.
Addiction begins as substance abuse, or the use of a substance like marijuana or cocaine. One can abuse a drug or alcohol, without having developed an addiction.
For example, if a person drank alcohol a couple of times, it does not mean that he has an addiction, but it does mean that he is abusing a substance, and that could be the starting point of an addiction.
If a person has become an addict to a substance, his body becomes dependent on that particular substance.
Even smoking cigarettes is physically addictive. And if an addict stops using a substance like drugs or alcohol he may experience withdrawal symptoms, like shaking, diarrhea, irritability, or feeling awful.
And psychologically he may develop a strong craving or desire for that substance, to such an extent that he would be ready to commit even crimes for the sake of getting it.
That is to say, a severely addicted person may feel a terrible compulsion to get the substance by any means, just to satisfy his craving.
Islam on Addiction
What Islam does is to cut the roots of addiction by declaring all addictive substances prohibited in the first place.
And anyone who goes for something prohibited commits a sin, and if he persists in committing the same sin, it becomes all the more compounded.
And psychologists and medical doctors say that those who dabble in abusive substances like drugs and alcohol run the risk of being addicted to them, as said before.
The question is, whether these addicts had a choice of not falling into the trap, and the answer is in the affirmative. Hence they are deliberate wrong-doers or sinners.
The second point to note is: There are opportunities for these persons to seek medical and psychological treatment, let alone spiritual guidance, to find a way out.
But only a few of them sincerely try to escape the clutches of their addiction.
Help for An Addict Who Is Muslim
Now consider the case of an addict who is a Muslim.
He knows that he has violated the commands of Allah by choosing to use an intoxicant prohibited by Allah Almighty.
We know that there are times when this addict is not under the influence of alcohol or drug, when he has time to remember the commandments of Allah Almighty and the example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
At that time he ought to repent and return to Allah the Almighty. And repentance is possible only in the case of a guilty person who recognizes his error and takes a firm decision to refrain from committing the sin in future.
And once a sinner thus repents and begins leading a good life, he is not a sinner any more.
Islam emphasizes a balanced outlook in all aspects of our lives. As human beings, we have not only noble desires but also low desires. And Allah has given us guidance about how to satisfy our desires in ways permitted by Allah the Most High.
It is when the evil-inciting aspects of our soul grip us that we may fall into the temptations that trap us in addiction. We become careless and our sense of God-consciousness becomes blurred.
Consequently, we tend to forget Allah, and our normal defenses against forces of transgression become weak. Then, we fall into the traps of our lower desires. This is how many people gradually descend into addictions.
Unlike other religions, Islam gives very clear guidance to its adherents about keeping away from intoxicants. And so it is no wonder that Muslims enjoy a level of sobriety unknown to the followers of most other religions.
Islam views the use of intoxicants as the ‘mother of all evils’ and hence categorically prohibits their use. Not only their use, but also their production, buying and selling; all is forbidden.
At the same time, any Muslim who is addicted to a drug or alcohol is required to seek treatment for it.
Allah is Forgiving and it is the responsibility of other Muslims to support and help any person who needs treatment for addiction, while the Muslim community as a whole should always strive for a drug-free lifestyle and environment beneficial for the whole of society.
I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.
(This is from AboutIslam’s archives and was originally published in September 2016)