Interview with ProductiveMuslim.com

The following is a true story:

An 18-year-old boy who was addicted to porn approached me for help. This is by far one of the most difficult cases I have handled. This young boy called me saying that he heard that I am willing to help those who are addicted to pornography and illegal sexual activities. He said it so frankly over the phone: ‘You are my last resort!’

I did my best to calm him down. Shortly after, I was able to convince him to come and meet me at the Center. When he came in, I immediately noticed that his mind was somewhere else. He was completely lost. He had sweat all over his face, which was extremely reddish, and quivered. Once he sat down, he said: ‘I am thinking of killing myself. Life is of no use anymore.’

Reflecting over this statement of his that is full of negativity, despair and grief made me recall the days when I was his age. I was full of energy and happiness. Life for me was everything. How could a person at his young age think of ending his life?

He said: “Pornography is killing me; I do not want it, yet I cannot quit.”

I treated him for over a year until he was able to overcome his addiction. Right now, he is doing very well. But while he is now completely free from pornography and undesirable sexual behaviors, he is being treated medically as he has developed severe Erectile Dysfunction as a result of regular masturbation during his years of addiction.

Let us ask ourselves: how many people out there can hold longer and cope with the destructive consequences of pornography? How many people can actually decide to commit suicide because of pornography? This boy reached a level where pornography was a daily practice of seven hours, yet there was no pleasure. He failed his exams, lost confidence, fought with everyone around him. At the end, he was thinking of committing suicide.

I would like to ask you as a reader: would you like this to happen to you, your family members or anyone you know? If not, then be a positive contributor and start eliminating this destructive habit from your life once and for all.

The above story and introduction were written by Br. Wael Ibrahim, founder and Chairman of Serving Islam team in Hong Kong. Ibrahim spends significant time and effort helping people realize the magnitude of consuming porn, how it damages their lives on the short and long run and how they can break free from this addiction and change to the best.

ProductiveMuslim has conducted an important interview with Ibrahim. The purpose of it is to help brothers and sisters out there become fully informed about this issue, its dimensions and how to break free from it and regain control over their lives in order to lead a pure, healthy lifestyle that is productive on every level.

We leave you with the interview.

At ProductiveMuslim, we continue to receive emails from brothers and sisters (young and old) who want to be productive and lead an active lifestyle, but unfortunately, they are facing a serious challenge with pornography addiction that it is affecting their lives.

1) Can you first define for us what pornography addiction is and what are its many forms?

Let me first define addiction itself.

The addiction of anything is a very compulsive and harmful need of having or doing something on a regular basis. In the past, people used to associate addiction with consuming hard substances like heroin, cocaine or alcohol etc. In fact, in the early ’80s, no one could have ever imagined that pornography would one day become an addictive and harmful substance.

Because pornography relies entirely on fantasy and imaginary scenes that will never exist in anyone’s life, its forms vary from one person to another. It all depends on your own fantasy that pornography has created for you. For example, we sometimes find people addicted to reading pornographic novels; others will be addicted to soft porn where private parts are not completely shown; some will only watch hardcore porn, while others will go to the extreme end and watch homosexuality and even bestiality videos.

So whichever type porn you are addicted to, the end result will remain the same. Your entire brain will be occupied most of the time with continuous sexual images that on the long run could easily ruin your life.

Pornography also comes from the Greek word porne and porneia, which mean female captives, prostitutes, fornication, sexual immorality and so on. In short, Muslims should have nothing to do with such a destructive sin. One of the most basic beliefs of Muslims is to be slaves to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and NOT to our desires.

2) How can someone tell if they are an addict or on the road to becoming one?

I will answer this question from two different angles:

  • How to tell that you are an addict

  • How to tell if others (i.e. spouse, child etc.) are addicted

First, how do you tell if you are addicted to pornography? Here are a few indicators:

  1. The secrecy of the activity: It is normal for most of us to keep their sexual activities as a secret; however, porn addicts would even deny the fact that they are watching porn if confronted. Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Righteousness is in good character, and wrongdoing is that which wavers in your soul, and which you dislike people finding out about.” [Related by Muslim]

  2. Procrastinating important tasks for the sake of porn: An addict’s level of productivity would drop instantly once his brain is enslaved to pornographic images. This is to the extent of delaying very important tasks for the sake of watching porn for hours.

  3. Your expectations and beliefs about sex change: You start comparing your wife or husband with a porn star whom you have watched recently. Not only that, but you start losing interest in the lawful intimacy as a result of disliking your spouse’s performance as compared to the porn star. Addicts are mostly unaware that porn movies are all scripted and unreal.

  4. Imagining having sex with people other than one’s spouse: A danger sign that could lead to actual zina is that once you are addicted to porn, you will start picturing real people whom you know and imagining having sex with them. These people could be your family members, neighbors, sisters or brothers in the nearby Islamic Community Center etc.

Second, how do you tell if others are addicted to pornography?

  1. Isolation: The person always wants to be alone. So parents should be alert and not allow any Internet devices to be used in their children’s private rooms.

  2. Sleeplessness and Internet all night: Most Internet users will be watching porn late at night. Spending hours on their computers or cellphones at that time with excuses of being busy checking emails, responding to urgent messages etc., could be an indication of their addiction.

  3. Browsing history is always deleted: Porn users will always make sure to delete the computer’s history regularly. This is somehow a certain sign that the person is addicted and does not want anyone to know about his/her activity online.

  4. Violent behavior: If you are a wife and you started to notice violent behavior during intimacy, or things your husband never did before and has now started to perform, it’s a clear indication that he has learned those moves from porn.

3) There have been countless studies done on the effect of pornography on the person’s thinking and lifestyle (see yourbrainonporn.com). The question though remains: what are the factors and reasons that drive Muslims (young/old, brothers/sisters) to seek porn in the first place even though it’s clearly prohibited in Islam?

Islam is a beautiful religion; it does not only prohibit the act of zina, but anything remotely associated with it, or anything that could lead to the actual act. And that’s why Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in the Qur’an:

“And do not approach unlawful sexual intercourse. Indeed, it is ever an immorality and is evil as a way.” [Qur’an: Chapter 17, Verse 32]

So, do not come NEAR zina or anything that leads you to it. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) also says:

“O you who have believed, enter into Islam completely [and perfectly] and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy.” [Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 208]

The command given is not only about following Satan, but rather his footsteps, his tricks and his traps that might lead to evildoing.

Similarly, the first exposure to porn could happen while watching what is called an ‘innocent’ movie, browsing through a sister’s profile on Facebook, a video clip on YouTube, a romantic novel and so on. That first trigger could lead to a massive production of a hormone in the brain called dopamine [a hormone responsible for our pleasures, happiness and addictions]. This will immediately register the activity as part of our “survival kit” and that same hormone will be produced regularly in larger quantities, day after day, week after week, year after year until you are completely enslaved to this addiction.

So what is the solution?

  1. Identify your triggerWhat is it that pushes your sexual desire on? Identify it and do your best to avoid it. Whether it is a movie, Facebook or any other trigger. These imaginary movies have got a very negative impact on our brains, and so your expectation of intimacy will be nothing but these filthy and twisted ideas you are watching on porn. So one of the first reasons why people are hooked on porn is what is called ‘the entertainment business’ – avoid that because in most cases, this is your biggest and first trigger.

  2. Accountability partner: In most cases, an addict cannot fight the battle of pornography alone, so it is always wise to inform someone who you trust to keep track of your activities and make sure that you will not access these images for a year or more to ensure that you are totally free form the addiction. You can tell a parent, a wife, a trusted friend or a professional counselor/coach. But in all cases, you have to be very careful in choosing the right person to tell.

4) How and why does this addiction adversely affect a person’s overall productivity (spiritual, social, personal, professional)?

Pornography is, without a doubt, one of the top issues in our modern age that adversely affect our level of productivity. Here are some points I thought are important for people to know:

  1. As indicated earlier, pornography is proven by scientists today to be a ‘dopamine addiction.’ This means the more you watch, the more you want. Therefore, the addiction has the ability to twist and change your brain chemistry and your very sexual behavior. Porn addicts would tell you that they cannot stay an hour without thinking of sex. Therefore, productivity level drops.

  2. The less time you spend on your electronic devices, the more you spend doing something else beneficial and productive, i.e. spending time with family members, good friends, reading books, engaging in sports activities etc. And the opposite is obviously true. The simple equation is: No porn = less time spent on computers = no masturbation = more productive work.

  3. Pornography twists the very basic beliefs about intimacy and our relationship with women. As a result, it destroys marital relationships, thus negatively affecting our level of productivity.

  4. The more you watch, the more chances for males to have Erectile Dysfunction. Enough said.

  5. Pornography promises nothing but isolation, depression, anxiety and a severe lack of motivation, due to the drop of dopamine level in your brain or when it is produced in greater quantities. How could anyone depressed be productive?

  6. Our eyes and brains register these images for a long time. Now imagine someone praying to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) while these images are crossing their imagination! So the negative impact on one’s faith and spirituality is going to be very painful.

  7. Lastly, lack of sexual confidence when facing real intimacy with your lawful wife. This point is particularly addressing men because in most cases, they want to apply what they have been watching for years, but because of their lack of understanding that whatever they have been watching is fake, scripted and that it takes hours to shoot a two-minute scene, they fail to satisfy themselves or their wives. And that causes a lot of depression and grief, i.e. lack of productivity.

5) It’s easy to assume that most porn addicts are perhaps people who are not religious or don’t fear Allah and we can be very judgmental of people. However, according to some anecdotes and practitioners in this field, there’s a percentage of practicing/active brothers and sisters in the community who have also fallen for this. How do we reconcile this? Why do you think they face this duality in their lifestyle?

The answer is quite shocking. I believe that most people who are addicted to porn or frequently visit these websites are religious people. You see, atheist and other non-religious groups will have no issues watching porn and committing all types of illegal sexual activities that we can think of. However, religious groups who are addicted to porn will try to justify the activity by saying “Porn is better than fornication or adultery” – they will “halalize” their indulgence with porn to avoid the major sin of zina. That’s why a lot of religious groups, Muslims and others, are suffering from this severely.

The problem is, they have failed to realize that sooner or later, there will be no pleasure whatsoever from watching porn, and as a result many will be seeking the actual act of zina. So watching porn does not in most cases prevent the actual zina; in fact, in most cases people will end up committing the very zina they were trying to avoid.

6) How can we stop being judgmental about people who face this issue and start treating this addiction as a real disease?

The reason why we are judgmental in general is that we tend to forget that we too are sinful. The only difference is that our sins are still hidden and no one knows about them except Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). However, when someone else’s sin is being exposed we tend to react as if we are angels and have never committed any shameful activity throughout our lives. So what should we do?

  1. Remember that we are sinners too, and Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has given us the opportunity to repent, yet we are still falling short. So be a reason for someone else to repent and find a way out of his difficulty. Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:“Whoever relieves the hardship of a believer in this world, Allah will relieve his hardship on the Day of Resurrection. Whoever helps ease someone in difficulty, Allah will make it easy for him in this world and in the Hereafter. Whoever covers the faults of a Muslim, Allah will cover his faults in this world and in the Hereafter. Allah helps the servant as long as he helps his brother.” [Muslim]We need to be very compassionate when someone reveals his/her secret to us. Only then can we offer the necessary help so that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) can help us too on the Day of Judgment.

  2. We need to genuinely educate ourselves about the science behind this addiction, so that we may feel the agony of those who are addicted to it. In most cases, we act judgmental because we think that addicts are perverted and immoral people. The fact is, they are not. Many of them are very devoted worshipers, memorize the Qur’an, niqabis and even imams. However, they are suffering form this severe brain disease, which is very compulsive and they need our help. So, start getting some books to educate yourself or enroll in any of the courses related to this matter and offer a helping hand.

7) Some individuals claim that they watch pornography to be better spouses. Is this true and what are some healthy, halal ways to improve intimacy between husband and wife?

This was the belief of sex therapists and counselors in the past. They used to recommend X-rated videos and images to help their clients improve their sexual performance. But that view completely changed in the mid-1990s with the rise of Internet and when these same clients were troubled with porn-related problems. One of these problems is lack of sexual pleasure between spouses and loss of interest in intimacy as a result of comparing each other with porn actors and actresses.

In Islam, Alhamdulillah, Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) did not leave this area unattended. In this regard, I would highly recommend a book titled “Islamic Guide To Sexual Relationship” published by Huma Press. It discusses a great deal of how Islam provides a complete guideline to enhance and energize our sexual relationship with our lawful spouses. That includes one’s intention, rights of husbands and wives in this regard, preferred and disliked times of intimacy, preparation, cleanliness, beautification, foreplay and many other halal tips.

8) Why do you think Muslim brothers/sisters don’t want to seek treatment for this addiction?

They do want to seek treatment and they want it so badly. What prevents them from telling anyone, however, is the feeling of shame and guilt. It is so embarrassing to reveal such a secret. That’s why I started to call them up during my lectures to reach out to me. I believe the first step towards recovery is to TELL SOMEONE.

Aside from the above reasons, some Muslims think that they are hypocrites and that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will never forgive them, because they know that pornography is prohibited, yet they cannot quit. To them, I would say that hypocrisy is to pretend that you believe in something, yet practice something else. However, in your case you are not pretending at all; you are compelled as a result of your addiction. You are struggling and that’s enough evidence that you are sincere and doing your best to get rid of this very compulsive habit. However, maybe all the methods that you have been trying are wrong, and so it’s time now to seek the appropriate ways, and I am fully committed to helping you out, in sha Allah.

9) Over the course of five years of experience, how many individuals have you tried to help quit this destructive habit? How did their productivity levels change as a result?

Since the day I have started researching the topic, I was approached by hundreds of affected brothers and sisters. And today, Alhamdulillah I could say that over 65 cases that I have coached in the past have completely recovered and are now living a very happy life; a ‘life of freedom’ as many of them would call it. Now many of them are focusing on their studies like never before, others feel their sexual activity with their spouses has improved dramatically, and even some of them are now selling handicrafts products which to them one day was a forgotten talent due to their indulgence in pornography.

Wael Ibrahim is the founder of Serving Islam Team [Hong Kong] and Connect Institute [Global].

So, to all my brothers and sisters who are still watching porn, I know you are enjoying the fun, excitement and sexual pleasure that you get from porn, but believe me at the end of the journey, you will be denied of all fun, excitement and sexual ecstasy. So what is the point? You are watching to enjoy but at the end you will be left out depressed and dissatisfied! So why enjoy for a few seconds and ruin your life for years to come?

Break free today.

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