Addiction affects individuals from all religions, races, cultures and ethnicities
by Sanam Naran – Counselling Psychologist
The concept of addiction has been largely studied and conceptualized from a physiological and psychological standpoint. However, there is little knowledge around religious understandings of addiction. As we know, addiction does not discriminate and affects individuals from all religions, races, cultures and ethnicities. Today we delve into the understandings of addiction from Hindu and Muslim Perspectives on Addiction.
Hinduism is known to be one of the oldest religions in the world
Dating back over 4000 years and consisting of approximately 900 million followers. The primary aim of a Hindu’s life is “Moksha”, which represents the union with a higher power and the ending of the cycle of birth and death, as reincarnation is an important aspects of Hinduism. In order to achieve this, one must lead a pure life, free of any negative “Karma”. This means that they must strive to live a life of purity and avoid any unacceptable actions towards themselves and others, as one of the basic premises of Hinduism is non-violence and no harm to others.
“Meat eating is not wrong, nor alcohol, nor sex. These are natural actions of living being: but abstinence from such actions is highly rewarded” (M 5:56).
Karma is a factor in Hinduism
Another important feature of Hinduism is to achieve complete mental control over compulsions and impulses. Being able to achieve this control and disregard any activities that create immediate pleasure is seen as the ultimate goal or “Moksha”. Therefore, there is no place for substances within the Hindu religion, as these substances are seen to contradict the strive for mental control and induce negative karmic energy. It is known that most substances result in a decrease of inhibitions and may cause an individual to behave in a way that is seen as “unacceptable” which is believed to increase bad karma, which in turn, can result in “bad” rebirth.
“He who has perfect 3 fold control: that is over speech, thought and actions”. Hindu and Muslim Perspectives on Addiction
Use of Cannabis and Hashish
Contrary to this, some evidence dating back many years, suggests that “Sadhu’s” or otherwise known as, a holy person in Hinduism, would utilize medicinal plants including Cannabis and Hashish to invoke trance-like states. The use of these substances would also extend to Ayurvedic medicine for pain relief. Although, most followers of Hinduism are entirely against this. Ultimately, the concept of addiction is rejected or seen as obstructive in an individuals life, however, the use of substances are not prohibited. The question of knowing one’s limit is important in Hinduism, which seems to be at odds with the disease model of addiction.
Islam the second-largest religion in the world
Islam, on the other hand, is the second-largest religion in the world, with over 1.8 billion followers. The basic premise of Islam is submission to the will of God. That may sound familiar to some as it is the principle of Step 3 in The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Firstly, in Islam, the act of intoxication by substances “Khamr” is viewed as a sin, specifically alcohol. The use of perfumes or toiletries that contain Ethanol is equally prohibited. The holy book in Islam, known as the “Qur’an” clearly states that the use of substances can be punishable and is forbidden “Haraam”. Muhammad stipulated forty lashes for one caught under the influence of intoxicants (al-Zarkashi, Zahr al-Arish, cited in ). The reason for this is that substances are seen to diminish ones remembrance to God and breed a sense of hatred.
Islam views substance abuse as a disease
Secondly, addiction is viewed as a spiritual disease, suggesting that that the use of substances is the “handiwork of Satan”. It is said that the individual who becomes addicted to substances, has given in to satanic impulses, thus deviating from God.
“It diminishes the powers of the soul, destruction of the mind (fikr), forgetfulness (nisyan al-dhikr), vulgarization of secrets, commission of evil actions, the loss of modesty (haya’), great stubbornness, the lack of manly virtue, the suppression of jealously, wastefulness, keeping company with the devil, the omission of prayer, and the falling into unlawful activities” (, pp. 86, 89, 178). Hindu and Muslim Perspectives on Addiction
As much as the above suggest that addiction results in the severance in the relationship with God, it is also said that a weak relationship with God can be seen as an aggravating factor in one becoming prone to the utilization of substances. Although, there is still a small minority of Muslim’s that do abuse substances, despite them being prohibited. One may begin to question the amount of stigma that is attached to being an addict and the shame that is experienced around this, which can deter one from seeking help.
Cultural understandings of addiction and Hindu and Muslim Perspectives on Addiction
Religion may occasionally prove to be a contentious and controversial topic, specifically in addiction. However, it is important to understand the different beliefs around substance use and how that may influence cultural understandings of addiction. In most religions, the use of substances are not accepted, some may prohibit it more than others, however, what they do have in common, is that substances diminish ones relationship with God and progression to self-actualization. Furthermore, religious beliefs on addiction breed a sense of shame, whilst possessing secure faith is seen as a protective factor in becoming addicted.
It must be noted that Houghton House is open to treating all religions including those with no religion. Houghton House also accommodates for Halaal and Kosher meals, as well as, prayer times.
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Credit Author: Sanam Naran
Ali, Mansur. (2014). Perspectives on Drug Addiction in Islamic History and Theology. Religions. 5. 912-928. 10.3390/rel5030912.