From the beginning of man’s time on Earth right up until the time of our Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) has sent prophets with the purpose of establishing tawhīd and tackling the social ills that were rampant at the time. For example, the name of Prophet Lūt (ʿalayhi al-salām) is mentioned 21 times in the Qur’ān in the context of denouncing the act of sodomy, because this was the most prevailing sin of the time. Fast forward to today, we live in an ultimately shameless world packed with a plethora of social issues; particularly on matters of sexual ethics and gender relations, combined with the need for instant gratification.
An example of one such issue is pornography which, although generally viewed behind closed doors, has seen a significant rise and is a leading cause of the hyper-sexualised society we live in. It has become so widespread today that its menace is affecting children as young as 7 years of age! People are now addicted to the extent that they have become ‘pornaholics’, and the very idea of it has now shaped their ambitions in life and changed their outlook and vision. And while a person may not see the gravity of watching pornography because it does not seem to involve committing the sin of zina itself, the Prophet Muḥammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
“The eye commits zina, and the palm of the hand, the foot, the body, the tongue and private part of the body confirm it or deny it.”
Islām prohibits such vices in part to ensure that tawhīd is preserved, i.e. to ensure that our slavery is to Allāh and Allāh alone, because their manipulative capabilities can move people away from the slavery of Allāh to the slavery of their animalistic desires.
We all know that pornography is bad and no reasonable person one would openly claim any benefit in it. But we live in confusing times. There are people who advocate for its use; a director of an adult film company once claimed in a panel discussion that adult films celebrate the identity of women, enhance their sexuality and, by virtue of this, they empower women! Unfortunately, many others have also adopted this mindset.
However the scale of this crushing sin is highlighted by some mind-boggling statistics; for example, did you know that pornography sites get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined? One study shows that 37% of the internet is made up of pornographic material, showing just how easy it is to access such material. In 2010, one study showed that 29% of working adults had accessed adult websites on their work computers. Regrettably, the problem does not only affect males, with one in three women watching porn at least once a week as well. Finally, to highlight just how dire the reality is, a professor once conducted a study on the effects of pornography on young men and needed to find a control group of males who had never watched it. His response was: “We started our research seeking men in their twenties who had never consumed pornography but we couldn’t find any.” Instead, the study had to be refocused on the effect porn has on the behaviours of people.
The statistics above show that the reality of this dilemma is inescapable in our places of work, study, and, of course, our homes. It quietly affects men and women alike, both publicly and privately, and such indecent images and videos lead to humiliation, harm of the human body and the conscious; but above all, it distances the slave from Allāh and earns his wrath. This is not something to take lightly; if our hearts do not tremble when we knowingly engage in a bad habit that earns the anger of our Lord, then surely we will see the effect of this sin at a time when no one will help us. Not only can this sin lead to severe punishment in the hereafter, but it could cause excruciating pain in the grave and major hardship in the dunyā.
As for the dunyā and the impact on the mind and the body, scientists have conducted studies and have concluded that whilst witnessing these filthy images, a neurotransmitter named dopamine is released in the brain, which is involved in the pleasure sensation. However, the body becomes addicted to this and, over time, the addiction increases such that the same amount of dopamine will not be able to illicit the same amount of pleasure. Therefore the person needs to increase in the habit in order to gain the same effect. Thus this addiction becomes a trap.
Furthermore, the brain associates dopamine release with forming new synapses in the brain. If a person sees something in a state of pleasure, that image will be imprinted not only in his short term memory but permanently in his long term memory too. There exist grown Muslim men addicted to pornography to the extent that even in salāh, they recall these filthy images in their minds, leaving them void of any khushūʿ (humble presence of mind and focus in prayer).
Amongst the worst harms of this disease are those to the heart, such that īmān will no longer be able to penetrate it. Ibn al-Qayyim said “There is a connection between the sight and the heart. Watching an evil is like firing an arrow that goes through the eye directly to the heart.” This is the impact watching indecent content has on our hearts. Allāh says in the Qur’ān:
“No! Rather, the stain has covered their hearts of that which they were earning.”
In addition to the heart, the body and mind are affected in many ways too. The number of cases for erectile dysfunction affecting men aged 40 and below has significantly increased in the last 15 years; this being an age group that does not normally suffer from this condition. Behavioural psychologists lay the blame on porn addiction, while there is an obvious consequence on married life. Furthermore, it could lead to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and even OCD.
Viewing nude and unacceptable images affects our reputation, our family and the way we see the women in our lives; our mothers, our sisters and, worst of all, the way we see our own wives. Pornography devalues women and makes us downgrade our female counterparts to mere sex objects, leading to destructive marital discord (one report showed that 56% of divorces involved a spouse with a porn addiction). Addiction also leads to further problems; behind violent sexual crime often lies a pornography problem. You lose your humanity and ultimately become an animal. You lose your respect for anyone. Innocence is ultimately robbed from you.
What we must ultimately ask is: are we willing to sacrifice long term aspirations which bring success and happiness in this world and the next for temporary pleasures and superficial “happiness”? This issue needs to be tackled now. We can no longer brush it under the carpet and think Muslims are safe from it.
What practical cures can an afflicted person seek?
Allāh and His messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) spoke about the worst of problems in the most noble of ways, and we as Muslims should follow this example and aim to tackle any issue with integrity and in a dignified manner. So how can we help ourselves and others who are suffering from this issue?
The first step to overcoming any addiction is to accept you have a problem. Stop ignoring it and justifying it to yourself. Reflect upon the possibility of the punishment that awaits people that are sinful in this act. We cannot begin to imagine how horrific the hellfire is. Our aim in life is to prepare for the day we meet Allāh and the everlasting life that follows; if our actions in this life are not going to help us then we need to ask for Allāh’s forgiveness and guidance. Subsequently, start to speak to Allāh and confide in Him. Actively engage in tawbah. Find a moment where you are by yourself and pray 2 units. Tell Allāh you’re struggling; this was the way of the Prophets – to complain and confide of their pain and sorrow to Allāh.
Read now: The Path to Forgiveness
Remember that Allāh has placed a veil over your sins and thus, this problem has been hidden away from the people. Stop now, while you are shown mercy and your reputation has not been tarnished. It is not a matter of if you get exposed, but when; because a sad reality is that if the fear of Allāh does not work for you, then at least the fear of people will.
We should appreciate the clear wisdom behind the prohibition of zina, given its obvious harms. Although we are discussing the virtual form of zina, know that it is poison, and incurring sin by the second. Guarding your privates does not just mean the act of zina itself, but everything that leads to the temptation.
Recognise the blessings Allāh has given us in the form of our eyes, heart and body. Our eyes do not belong to us – they belong to Allāh. These limbs could speak against us on the Day of Judgement, as Allāh says in the Qur’ān:
“That day, We will seal over their mouths, and their hands will speak to us, and their feet will testify about what they used to earn.”
This shows that they were never truly ours; they always belonged to Allāh.
No doubt the people we surround ourselves with have a large influence on the decisions we make. If your friend is watching pornography and encouraging you to do the same, it is a cause for this sin to grow in you. These are people that will take you to the hellfire and are not worth having around you. Allāh said to the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) in the chapter of the Cave,
“And keep yourself patient by being with those who call upon their Lord in the morning and evening, seeking His countenance.”
Even the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) is being told to keep good company! By extension this message is to us because our friends can be the means by which we attain paradise.
The next step is to find the root cause of the problem and set a long term plan to make drastic lifestyle changes. Learn how Shaytān manipulates you, track his formula and ascertain how to overcome this. Allāh says in Surah al-Nūr,
“O you who have believed, do not follow the footsteps of Satan”.
Reflect where you are or who you have spent time with before you end up committing this disgusting sin. If you know that by being in a certain environment or with certain people could lead to this sin, avoid it at all costs. Identify the precursors and restrict yourself by inflicting self-imposed curfews. Stop the thought from even entering your mind. Whether that is depriving yourself of a technological device to access these websites or always being in the presence of others; whenever the urge comes to view these indecent images, do not respond to it. Strive to become better and renew your intention so that you are willing to eradicate this sin from yourself. Do this and Allāh will make it easy for you.
Do not give yourself too much free time as the wolf devours the lone, wandering sheep. Maximise your time doing different productive things. Everything needs to be given due proportion (e.g. sports and socialising), so change the setting of your day. Pornography is a bad habit, so exert your energy and channel it in the right direction instead by doing good deeds; this automatically decreases your bad deeds and develops your taqwa.
The best environments are those where the signs of Allāh are being reflected upon and the remembrance of Allāh is being mentioned. Even in the most difficult times, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) never compromised on education because when you learn about the religion of Allāh you begin to protect yourself from the sins of society. Spend time in the masjid and in the halaqas. But if you are not able to do this, then recite the Qur’ān or have it playing in the background in your home if you must be alone. This will limit the temptation.
Make constant duʿā’ to Allāh and understand it will take time. Recite the following duʿā’ regularly; whenever you pray, extend your sajdah and make this dua and any others like it. Make it for yourself, for your family and for the Ummah.
اللَّهُمَّ حَبِّبْ إلَيْنا الإيمانَ وزَيِّنْهُ في قُلُوبِنَا، وكَرِّهِ إلَيْنَا الْكُفْرَ والْفُسُوقَ والْعِصْيَانِ، واجْعَلْنَا مِنَ الرَّاشِدِينَ
“O Allāh, make īmān beloved for us and beautify it in our hearts. Make us detest disbelief, immorality and disobedience, and make us rightly guided.”
Advice to Parents
Parents, beware of allowing this filth in your homes! Many of our youth are battling with pornography; do not think your child has had a righteous upbringing so will not fall into the traps of this addiction. The figures above show that there is a very high statistical likelihood that your children will fall into this sin. A study conducted by Middlesex University found that over half of 11-16-year-olds have seen explicit material online, 94% of whom had seen it by the age of 14. We have already established that there are other factors such as friends and the ease of streaming videos online that could easily lead to one becoming a consumer of filth.
Take practical steps, such as re-thinking where you place the computer in the house. The best place is where other people can see what you are doing, while the opposite is the worst. As this is the age of technology, many households possess laptops and tablets which, although beneficial, make monitoring harder, so use parental control features on the internet.
Talk to your children. Have a mature conversation and teach them how to navigate through this problem. We often neglect this topic out of the awkwardness we may feel but this will only pave the way for them to explore other avenues to get the information they require. And do not think schools will cover this as you are the ones responsible for raising your children.
Addiction doesn’t care who you are. It doesn’t think about your present and it definitely doesn’t think about your future. It just wants to be satisfied, yet it never is. Do not give up hope in Allāh to change you. It is Allāh who allowed that addiction to hit you and He can just as well remove it. We just have to try because when the believer is willing, Allāh will not only assist him but will reward him and draw closer to him.
If not tackled, you will no longer be content with the blessings that Allāh has bestowed upon you. Boredom at your status as a man or woman will hit you due to the contamination of your mind by Shayṭān. Realise that you are gutting your own soul with your own eyes. Every sense of spirituality that you possess is being destroyed when you watch these things and it is our duty to change our lives. The only question is; are you prepared to make these changes in your life?
 Narrated by Anas Ibn Mālik – Bukhārī
 Al-Qur’ān, 83:14
 Al-Qur’ān, 36:65
 Al-Qur’ān, 18:28
 Al-Qur’ān, 24:21