Pornography: The Virtual Drug
Warning! This article covers sensitive issues which I will endeavour to approach in the most dignified manner possible.
If there was a drug in our country that 90 percent of men and 60 percent of women had tried, 70 percent of men and 30 percent of women regularly consumed, teenagers and young adults were the largest proportion of its consumers, highly addictive, rewired the brain, left long-term psychological and physical damage, destroyed marriages, fueled violent crimes such as rape and assault and was readily available to all, would you not hasten to warn against it? Would you not protect yourself and your loved ones from it? This drug exists and it is affecting the lives of many, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. This drug is pornography.
Pornography addiction can cause deep rooted shame and guilt for its victims. It wastes their time. They feel worthless and hypocritical around the people they know. It feels like a double life. They hate what they are doing, they know it’s bad, but they cannot let go. They hide it from everyone for years, decades, all the while harbouring self-hate. Victims want to improve themselves; spiritually and emotionally, but their secret dependence on this virtual drug holds them back. It’s rare to see others admit to it. It’s a pain most victims feel like they are suffering alone, yet so many others are just like them.
The silence is deafening. For such a rampant issue, the dangers of pornography are barely discussed. As a Muslim community, we have to remove the notion that our community is immune from it. We are not. Addiction doesn’t discriminate based on religion. There are shuyookh, students of knowledge, doctors, lawyers and teachers who suffer from it. We need to overcome the communal shame surrounding this topic and talk about it more in our circles. In our digital age, a Muslim teenager would have almost certaintly come across porn. It is a multi trillion dollar profit-driven industry, accounting for 30 percent of all internet traffic. We warn extensively about the dangers of alcohol and drugs, which we should, but why don’t we put the same emphasis on pornography? Statistically, a Muslim teen is far more likely to be addicted to pornography than to alcohol.
Admit it’s an Addiction
If you regularly watch pornography, you may downplay the notion of an addiction. Maybe because it isn’t something physically consumed like traditional drugs, the ease at which you can access it or because you know most other people consume pornography as well. But when you have the insatiable urge to return to it after a day, a week, a month, and if you don’t, you experience very physical withdrawal symptoms such as an inability to concentrate and severe edginess, this is a real addiction that you need to address. If you don’t address it now, it WILL affect you later in life.
Recognise its Physical Effects
Usually when you are with your spouse or experience an achievement, a moderate amount of the ‘feel good’ hormone dopamine is released in the brain. However, when viewing pornography, an excessive amount of this dopamine is released. After repeated porn viewings, your brain becomes accustomed to this excessive dopamine rush yet it still craves that initial high. So you view more porn and often more graphic porn as well. This perpetual cycle of addiction soon causes your brain to be totally dependent on porn to the extent you experience withdrawal symptoms if you come off it. In fact, the brain activity of pornography addicts mirrors that of compulsive drug addicts.
Pornography sets unrealistic beauty standards and it is an extremely inaccurate representation of what intimacy is really like. Most adult performers are selected because they look a certain way. They often undergo cosmetic surgery and perform acts that would either be unpleasant, impossible or very painful in real life. 88% of pornography contains some form of physical aggression and the industry is inherently mysoginistic and discriminatory. When your main educator for intimacy is pornography, you become unpleased with your spouse and yourself. You lose confidence. Your perception of love and affection becomes distorted, leading to infidelity, marriage breakdowns and even violence. Males can also develop premature ejaculation or Pornography Induced Erectile Dysfunction (PIED) where they lose the ability to have an intimate relationship with their spouse.
Recognise it’s Spiritual Effects
Pornography consumption earns the displeasure of Allah, promoting shamelessness and destroying your heart.
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Verily, when the servant commits a sin, a black mark appears upon his heart. If he abandons the sin, seeks forgiveness, and repents, then his heart will be polished. If he returns to the sin, the blackness will be increased until it overcomes his heart.” (Sunan al-Tirmidhi)
Constantly viewing pornography causes your heart to become so black that you cannot fear Allah, your imaan decreases and you can no longer find attentiveness in your prayer. Imam Shafi’i once accidently saw the ankle of a woman and that affected his memory for one week, so what about seeing naked people in porn every second day? And because you usually need to do ghusl after watching it, it can even cause you to miss prayers. You become like an animal, unable to lower your gaze and always fantasising about the opposite gender. If you don’t stop, this can lead you to the hellfire.
Thawbaan reported: The Prophet ﷺ said: “I certainly know people of my ummah who will come on the Day of Resurrection with good deeds like the mountains of Tihaamah, but Allaah will make them like scattered dust.” Thawbaan said: O Messenger of Allaah, describe them to us and tell us more, so that we will not become of them unknowingly. He said: “They are your brothers and from your race, worshipping at night as you do, but they will be people who, when they are alone, transgress the sacred limits of Allaah.” (Ibn Maajah)
Every time you watch pornography, Allah is watching you. You feel shameful if others were to catch you watching pornography yet you are comfortable with the Creator of all people to see you. A common misconception is that pornography prevents you from doing much worse. Rather, your heart will eventually become so black and your cravings so intense that pornography isn’t enough anymore — resorting to either fornication with an unlawful person, prostitution, or rape just so you get that same dopamine kick.
Make the Intention to Quit and Ask for Allah’s Forgiveness
No matter what sins you might be engaged in, know that Allah is Ar-Rahman (The Most Merciful). Even if you have been watching pornography for decades, even if you transgressed beyond porn, just make a sincere intention to stop, regretting it all, and ask for Allah’s forgiveness. He WILL forgive you. Allah’s love for you is more than that of a mother to her child (Bukhari, Muslim). If He could stretch the earth for and forgive a man who killed 100 people (Bukhari, Muslim), He can forgive you for watching pornography. But you have to take the necessary steps towards change.
Limit Triggers Which Lead You to View Pornography
قُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَغُضُّوا مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِمْ وَيَحْفَظُوا فُرُوجَهُمْ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ أَزْكَىٰ لَهُمْ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا يَصْنَعُونَ
Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts, etc.). That is purer for them. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what they do. (Surah Nur, Verse 30)
Minimising triggers and if possible, removing them can help to lower your gaze. These triggers might include aimlessly scrolling through social media, watching TV shows or movies with inappropriate scenes or spending unnecessary time in public areas with full view of the opposite gender such as at university. To combat these, you could delete some social media apps from your phone and not chill at university after your classes finish. Busy yourself and try to be around your family and beneficial friends as much as possible. The less time you spend alone, the less chance you will watch porn.
Identify Your Underlying Reasons for Viewing Porn
You must also identify and resolve the underlying reasons you come back to porn. I cannot stress this enough. The aforementioned triggers are branches you can cut, but the problem will grow back if you don’t take out it’s roots. These roots could be a lack of emotional and sexual companionship, it could be a traumatic experience earlier in life or maybe just an escape from emptiness. Ask yourself why you watch pornography. You need to do some deep soul searching to pinpoint these underlying reasons and then take suitable measures to address them.
“Ask yourself why you watch pornography.”
Marriage isn’t the Complete Solution, but it can Help
The Prophet ﷺ gave us practical advice to protect ourselves from any sexual immorality where he said,
“Whoever has the means, let him contract a marriage. Whoever does not have the means should fast, as fasting will restrain his impulses.” (Ibn Maajah)
After addressing your addiction directly, marriage is the halal way to release your sexual impulses and curb any desire to watch pornography in the long-run. But if marriage isn’t possible, fasting is excellent to lessen those impulses and increase in taqwa (God-consciousness). It works, so do it!
Although marriage can provide invaluable emotional and sexual companionship, pornography addiction is a psychological and spiritual problem which marriage alone cannot cure. What usually happens is that the initial bliss of marriage keeps addicts off porn for the first few months. But then their cravings reignite and they return to it.
Within the Muslim community here in Sydney, pornography addiction has reached a point where practicing husbands and wives have both become addicted. Hufadth have cheated on their wife with their wife’s best friend and more and more Muslim couples are seeking a divorce because love and initmacy is lost in their marriage.
Speak To Someone
Years of suffering from pornography addiction can build up immense internalised shame. You may not be able to forgive yourself and this can further fuel your addiction. YOU MUST ASK FOR HELP. It is almost impossible to quit alone. Release your negative emotions by sharing every single detail with someone you REALLY TRUST and who can support you in the process of quitting. This can be a therapist, a close friend or even your spouse. Talk to them about how you became addicted, your emotions and your past attempts to quit. Whether you choose to do this anonymously or not, it helps to alleviate the shame, identify issues you can’t detect yourself and places greater accountability on you if you do slip.
“You must ask for help. It is almost impossible to quit alone”
If someone you know does decide to come to you for help, don’t shun them. Don’t look down upon them. They hate pornography as much as you do and they sincerely believe you can help them. Support them as much as possible, hear them out, and if you think it’s too much for you, redirect them to a therapist or someone else you genuinely believe can help.
It’s not an Easy Fix
Coming off porn for good will take time and countless relapses. That’s just the nature of an addiction. It might take hundreds of attempts and a couple of years before you can confidently say you are off porn for good. It will take time to re-rewire your brain and untie the shackles of shame but it can be done if you put in the effort. The key is that you recognise it’s a problem, turn back to Allah, alleviate the internalised shame and take both practical and spiritual measures to come off it.
Furthermore, you warning others about the dangers of pornography not only helps them, it also reinforces those lessons to you which helps to alleviate your own addiction. It can also help release your internalised shame in a healthy and inadvertent way. The more this conversation spreads, the easier it will be for others to tackle this addiction.
If you have read up to here, I thank you dearly. I hope this article has been informative. Please spread the word and share this article, this topic needs to be discussed more. And if you are suffering from pornography addiction, stay strong! Hopefully you can take some benefits from this article. Here are a few good resources to view and Muslim therapists you can contact;
Br Wael Ibrahim (Islamic speaker and life coach who speaks extensively about this topic)