I Can’t Control My Urge of Stealing & Lying

12 December, 2016
Q Assalamu-alaikum. I’m struggling really hard. I can’t talk about this to my parents, siblings or friends. I get strong tendency to steal from others. It’s an urge that I can’t control. Most of the times, it’s a small amount of money or some simple items like a USB or memory card which I can afford to buy. I feel that it’s a small thing not valuable enough, or the other person probably might not need it so it’s okay if it take it. I know it is wrong, but I fail to restrain myself from doing it. I always feel guilty after stealing and throw away what I stole (not cash as I steel cash only if these is some expense to meet and I spend it). I do make dua to help me to get out of this habit, but it doesn’t seem to work. And even though I wish I could apologize to those whom I stole from, there is no way I can do it. What shall I do? When will Allah forgive me? I had made tawbah numerous times and yet again returned to it. I need to stop this, please help. I also have a problem with lying. I always lie for no reason. When others are talking, just to make myself a part of it, I coome up with some stories, or else say something to make me look someone who knows about things. I don’t want to lie and I always make dua to help me to stop lying, but I can’t help myself. Most of the time, I feel it’s not a big deal that I’m lying about such small stuff. I know it’s wrong. How can I stop it?

Answer

Answer:

As-Salamu ‘Alaykum brother,

Thank you for writing to us with your concerns and most serious issues. As you know, stealing and lying are major sins. Regarding lying the Qur’an says,

“Woe to every sinful liar” (45:7)

and for thieves,

“[As for] the thief, the male and the female, amputate their hands in recompense for what they committed as a deterrent [punishment] from Allah. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise”. (5:38)

As we can see, even though certain conditions must be met regarding the punishment for stealing, it is severe. As you stated you have tried to stop, you have made tawbah many times, du’aa’, and still you cannot refrain from either behavior. As both the stealing and lying appear to go hand in hand, I am going to address them together, with kleptomania being the major possible issue. However, I cannot diagnose you, brother; I can only advise based on what you have written.

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While I am not sure how old you are or how long you have been lying and stealing, or what made you start stealing and lying, you know you must stop. This is clear by your efforts as well as your worrying about if Allah (swt) would forgive you. It is a good sign, brother.

While there are many in denial about their lying and stealing, I respect you for seeking help to end these sinful behaviors. People with kleptomania usually do not come forth for help. They usually hide it. It is clear you want to stop and have sought means to do so. Allah (swt) sees your efforts to stop, in sha’ Allah. Allah (swt) is most merciful and only He (swt) knows your hearts intent. Let’s look at this from a psychological perspective.

Kleptomania is a complex disorder characterized by repeated, failed attempts to stop stealing. It is often seen in patients who are chemically dependent or who have a coexisting mood, anxiety, or eating disorder.”  The symptoms and diagnosis of kleptomania is based upon the following criteria: „Repeated theft of objects that are unnecessary for either personal use or monetary value; Increasing tension immediately before the theft; Pleasure or relief upon committing the theft; The theft is not motivated by anger or vengeance, and is not caused by a delusion or hallucination; The behavior is not better accounted for by a conduct disorder, manic episode, or antisocial personality disorder.”

Brother, I ask you to review this carefully and please list the criteria which you fit. Also, I would like you to think back to when you first started stealing (and lying). Write a list. Why did you start? What was your first lie and why? What was the first item you stole and why? How did you fee in both instances? Were you practicing Islam back then?  In sha’ Allah, please look at your life. How was your childhood (often times stressors or trauma in the home was present)? Please notate any trauma, significant life events or issues. Do you have any other mental health symptoms such as depression, anxiety, mood disorders or obsessive compulsive tendencies (other than stealing and lying)? If you are not familiar with these terms, please do look them up and take a complete self-inventory. When you are finished, I would kindly ask that you take a look at what you have written. Look for significant events, patterns in other behaviors, family trauma as well as other mental health symptoms.

Kleptomania is often part of the obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) spectrum as well as with eating disorders such as bulimia. It deals with issues of impulse control, and is found by researchers to be linked with addictive behaviors, brain injury and mood disorders. Recent studies view kleptomania as an addiction which is the platform in which some therapists formulate treatment plans.

I, therefore, kindly suggest that you approach treatment for these serious issues from two perspectives: psychological and spiritual. I highly suggest that you seek out a qualified therapist in your area for assessment and treatment. As therapists may specialize in different areas, please ask if the therapist is experienced in OCD, addictions, mood disorders and trauma. In sha’ Allah, when you go for an assessment, bring with you the notes and lists you did regarding the questions I asked. It may be easier to answer questions and look retrospectively in your past for possible etiologies. While therapists will usually focus on the here and now and symptom reduction-remission, it is useful and helpful to have a complete piece of history, if only for your own peace of mind regarding why this behavior may have started. Treatment is usually comprised of cognitive behavioral therapy and medication.

I would also suggest that you ask about support groups in your area for kleptomania.   While there may not be a group exactly for this disorder, there should be similar groups which will provide you with on-going peer support, increased coping skills as well as the opportunities to hear others success stories which will be inspirational and provide hope. It will not be an easy road brother, but it will be worth it.

As far as your spirituality and your relationship with Allah (swt), if this is truly an illness, Allah (swt) is most merciful and loves to forgive. Please, do sincerely repent and make du’aa’ frequently for Allah (swt) to guide and heal you from this disorder(s). Allah (swt) loves to forgive. Spend your time reciting Qur’an, seeking Islamic knowledge, and doing dhkir. If you ever feel like stealing or lying, imagine a big red stop sign and immediately start doing dhkir or making du’aa’. You must be consistent in this. As we depend upon Allah (swt) for everything, we must also take advantage of what help there is out there to remedy our condition (therapy).

Please do attend your Masjid and keep your Islamic requirements as well as spend time reading about the Prophet Mohammad’s (saw) life. A good book is called “The Sealed Nectar”. I think you will find it inspiring, comforting as well as healing for your heart.

As far as wanting to apologize to others, first heal, then seek your therapist’s recommendations for making reparations. 

Please, do follow up on these advices dear brother as your life is important as is your relationship with Allah (swt), but you must take the first steps and seek the help which you need.  You are in our prayers, we wish you the best.

Salam,

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About Aisha Mohammad
Aisha received her PhD in psychology in 2000 and an MS in public health in 2009. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. Aisha specializes in trauma, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach. Aisha works at a Family Resource Center, and has a part-time practice in which she integrates healing and spirituality using a holistic approach. Aisha plans to open a holistic care counseling center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocate for social & food justice. In her spare time she enjoys her family, martial arts classes, Islamic studies as well as working on her book and spoken word projects.