Being Drunk on Lust

There are two types of prisoners, one being far crueler than the other: a physical one within the confines of a prison, where it is iron shackles that restrict freedom; and the second, which is an inner one, where the heart is confined by desire, whose shackles of obsession are far more painful and limiting than those of iron.

A prisoner of a physical jail, if his heart is free, can be in spiritual bliss. Indeed, some of the most celebrated books in the Islamic library were authored behind bars: al-Fatāwa al-Masriyya and Iqtidā Sirāt al-Mustaqīm by Ibn Taymiyyah, Fī Dhilāl al-Qur’ān by Sayyid Qutub, and al-Sarkhasī authored al-Mabsūt in the Hanafi Fiqh in 20 volumes.

As for the prisoner of desire, whilst free to traverse the Earth, every aspect of his existence is undermined – sleep, health, focus, clarity of mind, spiritual wellbeing, and so on.

Ibn Taymiyyah said:

المحبوس من حُبس قلبه عن ربه و المأسور من أسره هواه

“The true prisoner is the one whose heart has been imprisoned from his Lord, and the true detainee is the one who has been detained by his desires.” [1]

Whether this prisoner is at work, with friends, or at home, awake or asleep, the object of obsession never ceases to hover before his very eyes.

When asked about his/ her absent-mindedness and cause of pain, it’s always the same answer:

“I’m in love.”

Love, however, is supposed to be a cause of strength, to inspire proactivity and give rise to a brimming smile, both outwardly and inwardly. These are the outcomes of love, or in Arabic, mahabba, which generally has positive connotations. If such ‘love’ renders one frail, distracted, or sleepless, then it is nearer to the Arabic concept of hawā (desire), which generally has negative connotations.

Taking a closer look at the word hawā, Ibn Fāris said that the three letters of hā, wā, and yā (هَوِيَ), when they come together, imply two meanings: خلو emptiness and سقوط plunging. [2]

As for the first meaning, emptiness, the space between the sky and land is called Hawā in Arabic, because it is empty. Similarly, Allah describes the hearts of people on the Day of Judgment:

وَأَفْـِٔدَتُهُمْ هَوَآءٌۭ

“..and their hearts are void (hawā’)” [3] …

…unable to compute anything because of the terror. And as for the second meaning, plunging, the Qur’ān describes Hell by saying:

وَأَمَّا مَنْ خَفَّتْ مَوََٰزِينُهۥُ

“And as for those whose scale is light”

فَأمُُّهۥُ هَاوِيَةٌۭ

“Will have his home in a pit (hāwiya)” [4] …

…as its inmates will plunge into it.

It is for this reason that desire is dubbed Hawā:

لَِِنَّهُ خَالٍ مِنْ كُ لِ خَيْرٍ، وَيَهْوِي بِصَاحِبِهِ فِيمَا لََ يَنْبَغِ ي

“…because it is empty from all goodness, and causes one to plunge into what is wrong.” [2]

The darkness of the prohibited

“I’m just looking for happiness.”

This is usually the go-to justification in the face of advice or criticism, not knowing that those who search for it beyond the parameters of the permissible will miss the mark every time, as the very first prey of lust is happiness.

Imam Ibn al-Qayyim said,

“Whoever becomes attached to something besides Allah will suffer at its hands in this life three times: when striving to attain it; after attaining it in the fear of its departure; and when it bids him farewell.” [5]

Imam Ibn al-Qayyim also relates the story of a man who, as he stood outside of his home, saw an attractive woman pass by while asking for the directions to Haṃām Minjāb, the name of a local spa.

The man treacherously pointed to his home, saying, “It’s here.” She went in, only for him to follow her and close the door. Having realised the setup, she faked her delight and said, “We should bring something to make this evening most worthwhile.” He left in an excited hurry, promising her to bring all that she likes, but forgot to lock the door.

Upon his return, he found that she had ran away. The man lost his mind and came out into the streets looking for her, saying:

يا رُبَّ قَائِلةٍ يَوْ م ا وَقَدْ تَعِبَتْ أَيْنَ الطَّرِيْقُ إِلى حَمام مَنْجَابِ

“Where is the woman who once said, ‘Where are the directions to Haṃām Minjāb?’”

Later on in life, as he experienced the throes of death, those around him urged him to say “lā ʾilāha ʾillā Allah” – for people will be resurrected upon their last actions – to which he responded:

“Where is the woman who once said, ‘Where are the directions to Haṃām Minjāb?’” [5]

He repeated it over and over again, until his soul departed. Are such relationships and endeavours a heavenly pursuit, or a hellish nightmare that are to be fled from?

Those who wait until marriage for sex suffer a fraction of the divorce rate as compared to those who do not, because those who engage in it outside of marriage find that the experience imprints on them much more than the individual does, so they live the rest of their lives trying to recreate that initial experience, chasing a memory in vain.

Those, however, who limit their sexual encounters to marriage will remember the individual much more than the experience, and hence their relationships are stronger.

This isn’t to say that your fate is doomed, but it will need a bit more hard work, similar to those of low metabolism; they can still get to a healthy weight, but will require greater effort than those with high metabolism.

I remember a lady who led a self-confessed unchaste life saying that, much like Velcro that eventually loses its fastening quality because of constant tearing away, she described having parts of her essence taken away after each sexual encounter, until she now feels soulless.

Indeed, how can you become a wholesome human being if you had gotten with x individual, then ripped away, then with y individual, then ripped away, with countless people having walked away with pieces of you? Your ability to respond positively to commitment and marriage later on in the future will deteriorate so long as this type of behaviour is not put an end to. Particularly for women, the levels of oxytocin – called the “love hormone” – that is released during intimacy, into the bloodstream and that which helps women connect, are released in lesser and lesser amounts, the more sexual partners she has had. [6]

Which of the two is happier? Is it s/he who pursues a relationship outside of wedlock under the cover of night in order to spend a short-lived moment of pleasure that’s followed by excruciating guilt and piercing pain? That is because they realise – as a Muslim – that the Prophet (ﷺ) had seen the fornicators suffering inside of ovens within their graves; and having recalled Allah’s description of fornication:

“And do not approach fornication. Indeed, it is ever an abomination and is evil as a way.” [7]

During their intimate moment, should someone knock on their front door, they may both leap in fear as their conscience has already been terrifying them about what they’re engaging in. Then, should she get pregnant, it’s further gloom, which, in many cases, is followed by abortion, which only compounds the gloom and furthers their sorrow.

Is this person happy? Or is it the one who distances himself from the prohibited, finding strength in salāh, du’ā, Qur’ān, knowledge, the masjid, and good companionship, patiently awaiting the arrival of that righteous spouse who marries them publicly? During their wedding, families are happy, gifts are offered, smiles are exchanged, and happiness is all around. Later on, should they be intimate with one another, their consciences are at peace and their hearts are at bay, knowing that what they’re engaged in is pleasing to Allah, not angering, as they recall the hadīth:

“…and cohabiting with your spouse is considered a charity.” [8]

Should someone knock on their front door during these moments, they remain unfazed in the least. Why should they be? They aren’t doing anything wrong. Then, should she become pregnant, their happiness is only furthered by the prospect of children who will be an extension of their Islamic legacy. Then, when she delivers, an ‘Aqīqa feast is arranged, and – once again – families are happy, gifts are offered, smiles are exchanged, and happiness is all around. Which of the two are happier?

The wakeful believer refuses to condemn himself to a fate of failure, every time a test presents itself, whether in the form of a smile in the mall, a conversation within a canteen, or a DM.

Below are a few luminous examples of those who refused that exact fate:

Prophet Yusuf (ʿalayhi al-Salām)

Perhaps the most famous of them was the example of Prophet Yusuf (ʿalayhi al-Salām), who found himself in a room with an ill-intentioned woman.

Allah says,

وَرَاوَدَتْهُ الَّتِي هُوَ فِي بَيْتِهَا عَنْ نَفْسِهِ وَغَلَّقَتِ الْأَبْوَابَ وَقَالَتْ هَيْتَ لَكَ

“And she – in whose house he was in – sought to seduce him, and she closed the doors and said: ‘Come to me’.” [9]

This was not your usual temptation. Consider the sheer number of factors that facilitated the potential crime that was laid bare before Yusuf (ʿalayhi al-Salām):

  1. Yusuf was a young man, when desires rage more than other times;
  2. Yusuf was single without any other permissible channel to redirect his desire;
  3. Yusuf was a guest in Egypt – strangers are less fearful of exposure than natives;
  4. Yusuf was a slave; hence Yusuf could have argued a case for coercion;
  5. She was a beautiful woman;
  6. She was a high ranking woman who was perfectly able to cover up the sin;
  7. She ensured complete privacy, having fastened shut all doors;
  8. She was the one making the move, so there was no fear of rejection;
  9. It was not a casual invitation, but one that involved an aggressive chase;
  10. She threatened to punish him, should he fail to comply.

So, this was not your standard “I miss you” message from an ex, but a fierce crossroads in the life of Yusuf (ʿalayhi al-Salām), and an intensely trying moment. Yet despite these factors combined, Yusuf’s response was one for the ages, saying:

مَعَاذَ اللَّه

“Allah forbid…” [9]

A young merchant

A young merchant by the name of Abu Bakr was once walking through the streets to sell his goods. A woman opened the door of her home and asked him to enter so as to see what he was selling. No sooner did he enter, than she shut the door and enticed him towards the forbidden.

He admonished her, but it was of no use. She threatened to scream out and accuse him of attacking her if he refused. He reminded her of Allah, but to no avail.

When he saw that there was no way of evading the situation, he told her that he needed the bathroom. There, he defecated and smeared his body with it. He then came out to her.

Upon seeing this, she screamed and kicked him out of the house. As he walked through the streets in this state, the children pointed at him and said “Mad man, mad man!” He arrived home and washed himself.

Thereafter, the fragrance of musk emanated from his body until the day he died. [10]

An Arab Bedouin woman

A man found himself alone with an Arab Bedouin woman. He seduced her, but she refused his invitation and said to him,

ثكلتك أمك أمالك زاجر من كرم ؟ أمالك ناه من دين ؟

“What is wrong with you? Where is your honour? Where is your Dīn?!” [11]

He responded to her jokingly, saying,

والله لَ يرانا إلَ الكواكب

“No one can see us except the planets.” [11]

She replied back,

وأين مكوكبها ؟

“So where is the One who put them there?” [11]

What do all these examples, along with all those until the end of time who endure similar tests, have in common? They feared the standing before their Lord on the Day of Reckoning, having led their lives as if they could see Allah.

Speaking about this blessed group, Allah says,

وَأَمَّا مَنْ خَافَ مَقَامَ رَب هِ وَنَهَى النَّفْسَ عَنِ الْهَوَى (40) فَإِنَّ الْجَنَّةَ هِيَ الْمَأْوَ ى

“But as for him who feared standing before his Lord, and restrained himself from impure evil desires and lusts, Then surely Paradise – that will be the home.” [12]

In their explanation of this ayah, Mujāhid and Ibrāhīm al-Nakhaʿī said,

هو الرجل يهم بالمعصية فيذكر مقامه بين يدي الله فيتركها خوفا من الله

“This is in reference to he who intends on committing a sin, then remembers his standing before his Lord, and so walks away from it, out of fear of Allah.” [13]

This is the meaning of freedom and liberalism in their truest sense; to be freed from the constant impulses of both jinn and human whisperings, not living as a slave to the next image, next text, or communication.

For those who find themselves entangled in the nets of a prohibited relationship, I share with them several steps for recovery, the effectiveness of which depends on their sincerity in wanting self-reformation, and on their persistence in applying them:

1 | Shielding your eyes

One who complains of being chastised by lust, yet does not restrain his glance, is analogous to a person who keeps windows open on a gusty day, yet complains of a draught.

Imam Ibn al-Qayyim said,

لَ يمكن أن يجتمع فى القلب حب الرحمن الِعلى وعشق الصور بل هما ضدان لَ يتلاقيان بل لَ بد أن يخرجأحدهما صاحبه

“It is not possible for the love of al-Rahman and lust for images to gather in one heart. They are opposites that cannot coexist. One will certainly evict the other.” [5]

He also said,

الصبر على غض البصر أيسر من الصبر على ألم ما بعده

“Patience towards lowering the gaze is easier than the consequences of not doing so.” [5]

2 | Marriage, if it is an option

The Prophet (ﷺ) said,

لم يُ ر للمُتحاب ينَ مِثلُ الن كا حِ

“There is nothing like marriage, for two who love one another.” [14]

The same fire that devastates nations is the same fire that heats your home and cooks your food. What’s the difference?

The first fire was uncontained, hence it destroyed, whereas the second fire was contained, hence it became a cause for life.

The same can be said about relationships and sex; when they break free from the limits of Sharia, they burn up livelihoods, peace of mind, and wellbeing, and burn you in the Hereafter, as well. When, however, that relationship is managed through the vessels of an Islamic marriage, you grow, become wholesome, and experience a pleasure that is perhaps only second place to the joy of knowing Allah and being a Muslim.

It is either an endeavour for marriage, or – if it proves impractical – then one is to end the relationship there and then. Do not give her your Islamic justification for your decision, do not give him farewells, but walk away, lock the door and throw away the key. With time, the pain of separation will ease, until one rediscovers himself, alone with the bigger picture of life.

Imam Ibn Taymiyyah advised a questioner – who had been struck by Shaytān’s arrows – in the following words,

إن البعد جفا ومتى قل الذكر ضعف الِثر في القلب

“Distance causes dryness, and so when remembrance of a matter reduces, its effects on the heart are reduced.” [15]

3 | Recalling the deficiencies of the beloved

One poet said,

لو فكر العاشق في منتهى **** حسن الذي يسبيه لم يسبه

“Had lovers thought about the reality of their beloved, they would not have fallen for them.” [16]

Whilst some do need genuine advice about their predicaments, others simply need to be told to get a grip.

Behind that filter from which she hides, and behind his façade of chivalry is, at the end of the day, a human who sneezes, belches, snores, urinates, menstruates, and vomits. S/he has terrible breath in the morning, bodily hair and odour, and all sorts of disgusting habits that have been meticulously obscured and Photoshopped during the courting phase, via the mask of obsession.

Imam Ibn Taymiyyah said:

 قيل: العشق هو فساد الإدراك، والتخيل، والمعرفة; فإن العاشق يُخَيَّل له المعشوق على خلاف ما هو به

“It is said that lust is the corruption of perception, imagination, and knowledge, for the infatuated one imagines the beloved in ways that are contrary to his/ her reality.” [17]

4 | Recalling the perfection of what awaits believers in Paradise

As for the men, the Prophet (ﷺ) said:

إِنَّ الرَّجُلَ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ يُعْطَى قُوَّةَ مِائَةِ رَجُلٍ فِي الأَكْلِ وَالشُّرْبِ وَالشَّهْوَةِ وَالْجِمَاعِ

“Men in paradise are given the vitality of one hundred men with respect to eating, drinking, desire, and marital relations.” [18]

They are free from beards and bodily hair, with eyes lined with Kohl, and having taken the beautiful appearance of their father Adam (ʿalayhi al-Salām).

As for the women, the Prophet (ﷺ) said:

وَلَوْ أَنَّ امْرَأَةً مِنْ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ اطَّلَعَتْ إِلَى أَهْلِ الْأَرْضِ لَأَضَاءَتْ مَا بَيْنَهُمَا وَلَمَلَأَتْهُ رِيحًا وَلَنَصِيفُهَا عَلَى رَأْسِهَا خَيْرٌ مِنْ الدُّنْيَا وَمَا فِيهَا

“If a woman from among the people of Paradise were to look out over the Earth, she would illuminate everything that is in between them, and would fill everything that is in between them with fragrance. And the scarf on her head is better than this world and everything in it.” [19]

5 | To be sure that those who make sacrifices are not left empty-handed

A promise that provides much needed strength, particularly to the young Muslim who may be struggling with specific addictions and private doings that he knows will distance him from Allah and success in the Hereafter:

Abu Qatāda and Abu al-Dahmā said,

أتينا على رجلٌ من أهلِ الباديةِ فقلنا هل سمعتَ من رسولِ اللهِ صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّم شيئًا

“We approached a Bedouin man and asked him, ‘Have you heard any knowledge from the Prophet (ﷺ)?’

قال نعم سمعته يقولُ إنك لن تدعَ شيئ ا للهِ عزَّ وجلَّ إلَ أبدلك اللهُ به ما هو خي ر لك من ه

“He said, ‘Yes, I heard him say, ‘There isn’t anything which you leave for the sake of Allah, except that He will replace it with something better.’’” [20]

One man who experienced this promise was Prophet Yusuf (ʿalayhi al-Salām); had he acted upon his sin, the outcome would have been a short-lived moment of pleasure, followed by eternal guilt. Instead, he refrained, and the outcome was flipped around; a short-lived moment of restraint, followed by eternal praise in the book of Allah.

Furthermore, Yusuf (ʿalayhi al-Salām) was then rescued from prison, his name was cleared, he was given a position of authority in Egypt, and he was reunited with his loved ones.

Needless to say, you are no exception to the rule, for the One who gave Yusuf (ʿalayhi al-Salām) restraint is the same God who will give it to you, and the God who replaced for Yusuf (ʿalayhi al-Salām) with that which is better is the same God who promises to do the same for you.

6 | Busy yourself with a life and afterlife-defining activity

One poet said:

اتانى هواها قبل أن اعرف الهوى *** فصادف قلبا خاليا فتمكن

“My love of her came to me before I even knew what desire was. It met an empty heart and so it took hold.” [21]

A heart that is devoid of grand meanings and lofty objectives is a fertile ground for every Satanic whispering, wherein he varies his assaults between physical desires and religious doubts.

Some enquire about the shortage of prophetic narrations that deal with adolescents and hormonal youth, despite our religion being one that deals with every micro aspect of life.

The answer to this is the Prophet (ﷺ) managed the urges of this age group by entrusting to them huge responsibilities; Usāma Ibn Zayd led an army when he was seventeen, ‘Ali was given the role of head of intelligence, Mu’ādh was sent to Yemen to invite the people to Islam, whereas Mus’ab was sent to Madinah for a similar cause.

Hence, their youthful desire was managed by a sense of purpose that the Prophet (ﷺ) had activated within them, which prevented them from distractions or from being slowed down.

7 | My Superior has answers

Many will scream in anguish, saying,

“The entanglement is too much, and I simply don’t know how to navigate all of this.”

However, I know someone who does. Prophet Yusuf (ʿalayhi al-Salām) went to Him when seduction intensified, saying:

وَإِلََّ تَصْرِفْ عَ ن ى كَيْدَهُنَّ أَصْبُ إِلَيْهِنَّ وَأَكُن منَ ٱلْجََٰهِلِينَ

“.. and if You do not avert from me their plan, I might incline toward them and [thus] be of the ignorant.” [22]

The outcome did not disappoint:

ف ٱسْتَجَابَ لَهۥُ رَبُّهۥُ فَصَرَفَ عَنْهُ كَيْدَهُنَّ إِنَّهۥُ هُوَ ٱلسَّمِيعُ ٱلْعَلِيمُ

“So his Lord responded to him and protected him from their treachery. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Knowing.” [23]

Human beings have a tendency to look for happiness in the places where it is easiest to search, rather than the places where it’s likely to be. When all is said and done, the ultimate remedy for lust is to find a way to the love of Allah. That is because attachment to people is injury, anguish, and a scorching heat, whereas the attachment to Allah is peace, inner expanse, and a cure.

Search for Him, and you will find a Lord who is not obsessed with your habits, but One who wants your heart. Give Him your heart, and He will change your habits.

Source: Islam21c


[1] al-Wābil al-Sayyib

[2] Maqāyīs al-Lugha

[3] al-Qur’ān, 14:43

[4] al-Qur’ān, 101:8-9

[5] al-Jawāb al-Kāfi


[7] al-Qur’ān, 17:32

[8] Muslim, on the authority of Abū Dharr

[9] al-Qur’ān, 12:23

[10] al-Targhīb wa al-Tarhīb, al-Yāfi’i

[11] Shu’ab ul-Īmān by al-Bayhaqi’

[12] al-Qur’ān, 79:40-41

[13] Tafsīr al-Qurtubi

[14] Ibn Mājah, on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbās

[15] Majmū’ al-Fatāwā

[16] From the poetry of al-Mutanabbi

[17] Qā’ida fī al-Mahabba by Ibn Taymiyyah

[18] Ahmad, Zayd Ibn Arqām

[19] al-Bukhāri, on the authority of Anas

[20] Ahmad

[21] From the poetry of Dīk al-Jinn

[22] al-Qur’ān, 12:33

[23] al-Qur’ān, 12:34

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