OnIslam.net

Are You Porn Addict? It’s Time to Purify Your Gaze

By Zeyad Ramadan
Founder of Imancipate
porn-addiction
Statistics show that 90% of American kids will have come into direct contact with pornography at least once, accidentally, by the age of 11.
It all started when I was in my final year of elementary school abroad. My siblings and I had rented a movie which was PG in Asia but PG13 in the West. I came to realize later on in life that I was too young to have watched that movie. There was a split second in the movie where a picture of a naked woman was shown. I was intrigued to the extent that before returning it I watched and stared at that particular moment alone in our apartment at night while everyone was sleeping. I must have been 12 at the time.

Upon my return home I started high school and my first real experience of porn came during a tournament for our high school volleyball team. We had an overnight stay during one of our out of town trips and I was in a room with 3 other teammates.

At night they all waited till 12am to wait for a show that played soft-core porn every week on regular TV (not cable). I was disgusted and told the guys I don’t watch this stuff, I turned away listening to the movie for the next hour. My eyes ventured a couple of times and I was curious and excited as to what I saw. From then on I would try to catch that same show at home whenever I got the chance, staying up that late was a hurdle as well as making sure everyone was asleep. My usage steadily became more consistent. During this time I would also venture on the Internet to look at pictures of nude women.

This was a reflection from one of the participants who worked with me in the most recent sexual addiction recovery program I lead on how years of secrecy, frustration, loneliness, and depression began for him. The experience that the brother shared above is so common from the hundreds of Muslims addicted to pornography that I’ve interacted with online and through phone conversations.

Before, you jump to conclusions and say something like, “This brother needs to fear Allah more…” or “This brother and others should just practice lowering their gaze and there wouldn’t be a problem anymore,” there’s an important thing you need to know.

Statistics show that 90% of American kids will have come into direct contact with pornography at least once, accidentally, by the age of 11. That’s right – age 11, if not younger. The problem often starts before anyone, including the user, is even aware that it could lead to such a destructive lifestyle.

The majority of these brothers (and yes even some sisters have contacted me asking for help) are practicing Muslims actively participating in the community.

As one brother messaged me saying, “I’m involved in my local youth group, and I feel like such a hypocrite telling these youths what to do while I’m involved in such filth…”

This is not a case of the “evil party animal who can’t stop womanizing” Muslim that needs to return back to Allah.

Clearly, there’s something deeper going on in this situation.

One huge obstacle to the pornography problem and individuals looking to change has to do with us as a Muslim community. Although we have come a long way as a community in addressing social issues, there is still the pervading black and white version of Islam where everything is either halaal (allowed) or haraam (forbidden) in how we solve problems.

Many brothers out there looking for help, or wives who have discovered their husbands’ pornography use, go to the only place they know of for guidance: a fatwa (an Islamic ruling given by a scholarly opinion) website.  Unfortunately, the fatwa websites offer little help for both sufferers. The addict knows already that his behavior is haraam, what he needs, however, is a way out.

Maybe at best, there will be a khutbah (sermon) or a lecture topic on the importance of lowering the gaze where the khateeb (person who gives the sermon) will give all the evidences from the Qur’an and Sunnah about the importance of lowering the gaze and that yes it is hard but it needs to be done to solve the problem.

And that’s the end of that conversation; you won’t hear anything else about it again for another year. So the listeners get the same message they are already acquainted with: “You better lower your gaze, and try harder, or else you won’t be a complete Muslim…”

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Trying harder is not the solution, it’s the problem itself, because what are being treated is only the symptoms of a problem and not the root causes of the behavioral pattern appearing in the first place.

In psychology, this is known as only making a “first-order change” and essentially it is like the old French saying, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” The more you try to change a problem on a surface level by just changing the symptoms, the more of the madness remaining is exactly the same.

One of the great traditions that have been established in this country is the 12 step program which was started by two alcoholics looking to recover in a wholesome way and to stop the idea of: “I’ll man handle this addiction”.

The first step in all 12-step recovery groups is the admission of powerlessness in the situation and the need to let go of “knowing everything”, that life had become unmanageable, and that there was a new way of living and handling life.

As Muslims, we clearly have that same message in the very first revelation that was given to our beloved Prophet Muhammad, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, to “Recite by the Name of your Lord”…

There have been volumes written on the letter “baa” in the Arabic language translated as “by” in this verse and the power of seeking aid outside of yourself and by the Power and Might of Allah (God) the Almighty.

As the verses continue, we are told about the transgression of man when he believed himself to be self-sufficient, and that is exactly what happens when the addict keeps on continuing the insanity of trying to solve it alone and figuring things out by himself.

The key for us as a community and for individuals that are affected by pornography addiction and other manifestations of sexual addiction is not to just keep on trying harder.


The key is to come to a place of acceptance of self and acceptance of ourselves as a community that we have a problem here and it’s deeper than just a man needing to lower his gaze, and that there are chemical effects of addiction, the history of addiction running in a family, and the deeper psychological factors at play.


What does acceptance of self look like?

It is all explained in a concept that I teach to my students called Finding Power Through Powerlessness.

The reason why this concept is important for an individual beginning his or her journey to recovery is that it means death of self-sufficiency must take place otherwise the individual will never be able to change. What will happen instead is that the individual will move in life from one addiction to another addiction, never finding joy or peace of heart.

It’s what Allah (God) describes in Surah Al-Baqarah, (Qur’an, 2:165), “And [yet], among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals [to Him]. They love them as they [should] love Allah …”

They go through life constantly afraid without a deep foundation to rely on, and because of this they jump from one thing to another trying to find that safety and peace of heart.

It’s being able to move from a place of denial, self-sufficiency, and arrogance to a place of humility, submission, and surrender. There are some things in life that we just cannot do alone, and yes we are broken by them, but they are in fact blessings in disguise from Allah (God) the Almighty.

We have the hadith of the Prophet who said, “Allah (God) wonders at those people who will enter Paradise in chains.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Yes the hadith is referring to those captives of war who by choice surrender their will to Allah (God), but by the same token we are sometimes brought to Allah (God) through the chains of our desires, and when we surrender our will to Allah (God) and admit we can’t do this alone, we have found freedom.

Overcoming an addiction to pornography is one of those things that cannot be done alone, and it does not necessitate that the individual in this journey is bad or evil. In fact, being chosen as one of the few to learn this valuable life lesson of admitting powerlessness and fully surrendering your will to Allah (God), is an experience that most people in life will not have.

This is just the beginning of our conversations as a community on the seriousness of pornography addiction and other manifestations of sexual addiction, and its effects on the individual, the spouse, the children, and the community. I am spearheading an initiative called ‘Purify Your Gaze’, based upon the famous Quranic verse addressing the believers to lower their gaze in order to attain purity for themselves, on the realities of pornography addiction in the Muslim community.

Until the launch of this campaign, I am asking for your support in sharing the following link: www.PurifyYourGaze.com/case-study where we hope to gather statistical data on the effects of addiction on the individuals struggling with pornography and also their spouses who are often very ignored in this process, and insha’Allah (God-willed) release the findings of this study to the public.

I ask for the community’s support and encourage those who are interested to visit the website and to take part in this awareness campaign and from Allah comes all success.

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