Pornography: the elephant in the room

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Pornography degrades our society. A few decades ago, pornography was unlawful, prostitution was a crime, “sleeping around” was looked down upon and there were heavy restrictions on adult films. Now, all taboos and restrictions have been abrogated, not only has pornography been greatly accepted in society, it has become a major industry. Today, the content has become more explicit and easily accessible. There are now 1000+ different pornographic magazines. Porn sites comprise 12% of Internet. Even the music industry has become the ‘audio pornography’. All of this is nothing but a highly damaging material to the moral fabric of society, all you have to do is see the clear link with proportionate rises in prostitution, rapes, child abuse, incest, paedophilia, domestic violence, drug and alcohol related crimes, among other crimes.

Pornography is a social ill that has now become the social norm. It is irresponsible of us to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to this serious problem. It has affected it’s audience in such a way that men now see honourable dressed women and undress them in their minds; and the society wonders, “Why do we still see the ‘patriarchal behaviour’ in the midst of 21st century?!”

Most people think that the solution, for single men, is to get married. What about those who are married? “Well, if women made themselves more ‘appealing’ to their husbands then the husbands wouldn’t resort to porn”, is the common response. The harsh reality for most porn-addicts is that…they will resort to porn, whether they are ‘happily married’ or not married.

Porn-addicts need a serious detox. Hmm, ‘detox’ might put people off, or make them pretend that they don’t need it. Let’s call it, ‘Tazkiyatun Nafs’ [Purification of the Self]! You know, Islamify it a little, since that’s what Islam seems to have been narrowed down to: putting ‘Islamic’ before nouns (Islamic Clothes, Islamic Government, Islamic Finance, blah!) to feel, erm, Islamic?

I put up a post on this blog, two years ago, which highlighted the neuroscientific aspects of pornography and how it effects the mind.  Here are a few paragraphs from it:

Pornography is fantasy. Different scenes present with different women give the illusion of the watcher having a relationship with a new person every time. These “stars” subject themselves to different demeaning sexual practices by the men in the scenes. The acts in their totality are detestable to most mentally healthy people. However, the design of the act in a pornographic scene is to link one or two normally arousing and familiar elements with others that are not. This is how the viewer acquires new tastes in sexual practice. Electromagnetic waves are emitted from the screen with a fantasy that triggers a chemical reaction in the brain, releasing dopamine. The result is a feeling of a real, yet delusional, state of pleasure and satisfaction. The dopamine reinforces the new connections with newly acquired sexual tastes, and the next thing taking place is the man asking his wife to engage in a sexual fantasy that was downloaded into his subconscious.

The sequence of events in the brain is quite disturbingly simple. Synaptic plasticity works to form new connections as a result of watching pornography, and newly learned memories are stored. Since the experience is an arousing one, dopamine release results in very strong reinforcement of those new connections. Now that the scenes are in long-term memory, two consequences take place: 1) since the very same system stimulated by cocaine is being triggered by pornography, addiction is developed; and 2) the man will often attempt to create his own re-enactments with his wife, which leads to a great disappointment. The re-enactments do not live up to expectations because instead of many different women, it’s now only one. Worse yet, this only one woman doesn’t sound, act, or look the same as the ones downloaded into his mind. Although the first couple of re-enactments might be exciting, soon reality will strike and dopamine will no longer be released because pleasure is no longer derived.

Sadly, that’s not the end of it. After such a disappointment in the actual experience due to the unrealistic fantasy-based expectations, the brain not only refrains from releasing dopamine; it actually dips below baseline levels. It goes into a depression response that results in disappointment, dissatisfaction, and unhappiness in the marriage since the wife is “not up to what he expected”. Despite the efforts by many women to “spice things up” and even subject themselves to the demeaning acts that have been artificially downloaded into their husbands’ brains, the pornography-addicted husbands will only enjoy themselves for a very short while before losing interest. Meanwhile, the wife feels unattractive and emotionally abandoned despite her best efforts, not knowing that she couldn’t compete with the dopamine buzz offered by pornography.

What’s alarming about this information is that the brain acts as a whole entity; its plasticity is global. Change in one area affects other regions. It is a literal re-wiring of overall neural connections as a result of pornography viewing. The extent of influence on other parts of the brain and cognition is an area of research requiring attention.

To sum up, porn is a problem that is at our doorstep, why then are we worried about issues in the other parts of the world? Porn is ruining marriages and families. Even ‘students of knowledge’ have become effected by it, who masturbate over porn at night and then share “Islamic posts” during the day. We need to tackle this sickness head-on and give it the serious attention that it deserves.

“Oppose both the Self and the Devil” — Imam Busiri

Imam Muhammad al-Busiri [d.695 AH] says in his al-Burdah (The Prophetic Eulogy):

And contradict both the Self and Devil, and disobey!
And if they give true advice to you, still look sceptically.

Imam Ibrahim al-Bajuri [d. 1277 AH] said in explanation of the verses mentioned above [Sharh al-Burdah pg. 31-32]:

His (Busiri’s) words, “And contradict both the Self and Devil“, meaning if your Self and Devil order you with a matter, or your Self or Devil forbid you from a matter, then oppose them for they both are your enemy.

His words, “and disobey” (them both), indicate that it is not sufficient to merely oppose them—because one may oppose them to that which they both are pleased with—rather it is necessary to disobey them.

The author preceded the mention of the Self before the Devil because the Self is more harmful than the Devil; its tribulation is greater than the Devil’s tribulation. This is because the Self is an enemy in the form of a friend and a person is not aware of the plots of a friend. Also, it is an enemy from within, as opposed to the Devil for he is a clear enemy. And it is said, “Escaping from the Self is the greatest blessing, because it is the greatest veil between a person and Allah ﷻ”.

Sahl bin Abdullah said, “Allah has not been worshipped with a thing like the opposing of the Self and desire”.

So generally, the opposing of the Self is the peak of worship and the first of the levels of felicity. Look to the action of the Devil with your father (Adam)! The Devil swore that he was a sincere advisor to him, yet how is he with you when he has sworn to misguide you?

His words, “And if they give true advice to you, still look sceptically”, meaning if they both offer you advice, such as; they both say to you, ‘Fulfil this desire so that you may focus towards obedience with an untroubled heart’; or they both say to you, ‘Be gentle with yourself in worship so that you are able to be consistent in it’, or to increase your worship so as to attain high ranks or its like. Be sceptical of them by attributing treachery to them, because nothing emanates from them except deception. Thus it is said, ‘Devil opens ninety-nine doors of good for a person so as to land him in one door of evil’.

The speciality of this verse, as well as the one after it, is that the one who is persistent in its (recitation) will overcome his Self and his Devil, and will be granted protection by Allah from them both, Allah willing.

Source: Karima Foundation

Farewell O Blessed Rabiʿ al-Awwal

By Abdul Samad Ali

“Love”, according to Shibli, “is what obliterates everything from the heart except the Beloved.” Al-Hajweri then explains,

But what Love is, in reality, cannot be described by the word ‘love’, for love is a feeling and feelings cannot be expressed by words. Love is a Divine Gifted and cannot be achieved by effort. Man is finite but love is infinite, and the finite has no control over the infinite.”

The point is, we try to express this love for our Master Muhammad ﷺ in the month of His Blessed Birth – Rabiʿ al-Awwal – but between one Rabiʿ al-Awwal to the next, we do everything that offends “our Beloved”. God knows how weak we are, even “our Beloved” knows. He ﷺ is the one to whom our deeds are presented every morning and evening; He ﷺ is the one who asks God to forgive us for our transgressions and praises God upon seeing the little good that we do.

Were it not for his concern, his enemies would have been crushed by the very mountains that surround them. Were it not for his solicitude towards us, we would not have been blessed with the light of guidance. But we still don’t know and can’t comprehend who “our Beloved” is. He ﷺ is the Beloved of God. God did not love anyone like He loved him nor did He bring anyone as close to His presence as He brought him. What is this rank before the Divine Presence? What Sayyidna ʿUmar and Sayyidna ʿAli saw was nothing but the shadow of “our Beloved”, then what about us? What we know of him is nothing compared to what our Lord has given to our Master Muhammad ﷺ. He is the Beloved of the Great Lord.

O God allow us to realise! O God grant us the ability to love our Master Muhammad ﷺ as he should be loved. You know our sinful states, but we hope that by loving Your Beloved, our Master Muhammad ﷺ, we attain salvation. And by loving His Family (Ahlul Bayt) our loved ones will attain eternal bliss. Allahumma Ameen!

اللهم صل على سيدنا محمد عبدك ونبيك ورسولك النبي الامي وعلى آله وصحبه وسلم تسليماعدد ما احاط به علمك وخط به قلمك واحصاه كتابك والرضاءعن ساداتنا ابي بكر وعمر وعثمان وعلي وعن الصحابة اجمعين وعن التابعين وتابع التابعين لهم باحسان الى يوم الدين

Farewell O Blessed month of Rabiʿ al-Anwar.

29 Rabiʿ al-Awwal, 1436

The cure for intrusive thoughts

Principle 86, from Sidi Ahmad Zarruq’s, Qawa`id at-Tasawwuf:

Perfection of worship is achieved by observing the acts of worship and being mindful of them. This is achieved by following their inner and outer rules without negligence or exaggeration. Negligence leads to perdition while exaggeration leads to innovation, especially if excessive deeds are thought to lead to proximity to God.

Thus it has been said,

– “Subhāna’l-Maliki’l-Khallāq” (Glory be to the King, the Creator), and
– “In-yasha’ Yudh-hibkum wa Yāti bi-Khalqin Jadīd” (If He wills, He can do away with you and bring in a  new creation).

The person affected by intrusive thoughts (wasawis) recites that formula, constantly, whenever he is reading his daily litany (wird). He complements that by frequently practicing forms of recreation (deflecting his mind away from those intrusive thoughts) and by acting in accordance with concessionary rulings (rukhas) of the Shariah, which have been advocated by people of knowledge in order to banish such intrusive thoughts. That is different from scrambling around for concessionary rulings in the various juristic schools across the board of human situations, for that is mere perdition and straying into error. So understand!

The Intentions for Attending Mawlid Gatherings

  1. To attend a gathering to invoke blessing and prayers upon the Prophet ﷺ.
  2. To attend a gathering which the scholars encourage people to attend.
  3. To listen to an account of the life of al-Mustafa – The Chosen One ﷺ.
  4. To attend a gathering of counsel and guidance.
  5. To implement what you have heard of the Muhammadan characteristics.
  6. To occupy your time in what is good.
  7. To increase the number of people of truth.
  8. So that Allah may grant you the Prophet’s ﷺ character and qualities, as described in the mawlid.
  9. So that through your attendance you are able to fulfil some of your duties towards the Envoy ﷺ.
  10. So that you will be ennobled by Allah with a vision of the Prophet ﷺ.

[Al-Habib Muhammad bin Alawi al-Aydarus, al-Kitab al-Niyyat (The Book of Intentions) Chapter 19]

Why is my du‘a not being answered?

Ibn ‘Aṭāillāh al-Iskandari [d. 709AH/1309CE] says in his famous work, al-Ḥikam – or “Aphorisms”:

6. If, in spite of intense supplication, there is a delay in the timing of the Gift, let that not be the cause for your despair. For He ﷻ has guaranteed you a response in what He ﷻ chooses for you, not in what you choose for yourself; and at the time He ﷻ desires, not the time you desire.

‘Abd al-Majīd al-Shurnūbī [d. 1348H/1929CE] explains this aphorism in his work, Sharḥ al-Ḥikam:

That is, let not a delay in the timing of a gift [response] – despite persistence and firm continuance in making du‘a – be a cause to despair about a response to the du‘a. For Allah, transcendent is He, has guaranteed you a response, as per His ﷻ words: “Call upon Me, and I will respond to you” [60:40] in what He ﷻ chooses for you, not what you choose for yourself. For He ﷻ knows what is better for you than you do. Perhaps you may ask for a thing, the denial of which is better for you.

The author writes later: “Sometimes He ﷻ gives while depriving you, and sometimes He ﷻ deprives while giving to you.” This is witnessed by those who realise the station: It may be that you hate a thing though it is good for you, or love a thing though it is bad for you. Allah knows, but you know not.” [2:216] This is why one of the gnostics stated: “His ﷻ withholding from you is, in reality, a form of giving.”

Likewise, He ﷻ has guaranteed you a response in the time He ﷻ chooses, not in the time of your choosing. You ought to cultivate a Moses like patience, for patience and avoiding hastiness more befits the servant. Don’t you see that Moses would supplicate against Pharaoh and his people, and Aaron would say: “Amen” to it: “O Lord, destroy their riches and harden their hearts so that they persist in disbelief, until they face the painful torment.” [10:88] Yet only after forty years were their prayers answered, as He ﷻ said: “Your prayer is answered. Follow, both of you, the right path and do not walk in the footsteps of those who know not.” [10:89] In one ḥadīth [it says]: “Indeed, Allah loves those who are persistent in supplicating.” It has also been related that when a righteous slave supplicates to Allah, exalted is He, Gabriel says: O Lord, your slave wants a need of his fulfilled. So Allah ﷻ responds: “Leave my slave; for I love him and love to hear his voice.”

So, O aspirant, fulfil what Allah ﷻ has instructed you with in respect to supplication, and submit to His ﷻ will. Perhaps you will be responded to by Him ﷻ withholding from you and giving you other than what you were seeking, by which you are then granted the greatest good, and even more. [10:26]


Source: The Humble “I”
Picture by: Umar Khan ©

The Etiquette of Punctuality

Aniversario“Muslim Standard Time” has become something of an accepted custom amongst Muslims – viewing it as acceptable to be late to appointments and other arrangements.

This is something that goes directly against the etiquettes of a Muslim, as it displays open disrespect towards those transgressed against, and also shows a lack of appreciation of the value of time. During the closing du‘ā’ of Rihla 2014, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf repeated thrice: “Oh Allah, protect us from wasting our time.”

Unfortunately, this has also become commonplace amongst students of knowledge and often scholars of religion. So let this be a reminder to us, one & all.

Being late is a form of stealing. When you make others wait for you, you rob minutes from them that they’ll never get back.

Being late is arrogant and shows an overestimation of ones worth. Being on time shows your respect for others.

Being late is essentially breaking a promise. Being on time shows others that you are a man of your word.

In the first verse of Sūrat al—Mā’ida, Allah called upon the believers, O you who believe! Fulfil your promises (Quran, 5:1). Allah also praised Prophet Ismā‘īl, He was true to his promise, He was a Messenger and a Prophet (Quran, 19:54).

Keeping appointments is vital to our lives. Time is the most precious commodity. Once wasted, it can never be recovered. If you made an appointment, whether with a friend, colleague or for business, you should do your utmost to keep this appointment. This is the right of the other persons who, despite other commitments, favoured you with a part of their valuable time. If you do not come on time, not only have you disrupted their schedule but you have also marred your image and reputation. If your punctuality becomes poor, you will lose people’s respect. You should keep all your appointments whether they are with an important person, a close friend or a business colleague. You will then be responding to the call of Allah, And keep the promise; the promise is a responsibility (Quran, 17:34).

Never make a promise while intending not to keep it. This is forbidden as it falls within lying and hypocrisy. Bukhārī and Muslim narrated that the Prophet said,

“Three traits single out a hypocrite, even if he prays or fasts and claims to be Muslim:
If he speaks, he lies.
If he makes a promise, he does not keep it.
If he is entrusted, he betrays the trust.”

Source: Islamic Manners, by Shaykh Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah