I was anonymously asked a question by a brave sister on Tumblr about a matter that many in the Muslim community, young and old face. It includes matters that are often considered taboo, and aren’t addressed for that same reason, or because people are too shy to approach Muslim scholars and counselors about the matter. So, I felt it would be wise to share my response to the sister with all of you. Be sure to share this article with your friends and family, as it is something many may not admit to struggle with, but would eagerly read in hopes of finding at least the first step to overcoming their internal struggle.

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Wa alaikum assalaam sister,

The situation you’re in is definitely a difficult one, but it is also very common. I talk to individuals about things like this more often than most would be willing to accept. So, don’t feel like this is an impossible thing to work on. It’s human nature, and will take your dedication and hard work to move forward from it, insha Allah. Trust me, you can get through this and become the person you’re aspiring to be, be-idhnillah.

No matter what the thing we’re struggling with is, the first step is almost always to first work on increasing the faith-related matters in our lives. Here are a few things you can do to get started:

  • Salah: Work on increasing your Salah, praying on time, and focusing while in Salah.
  • Dua: Make more dua, sincere dua. Learn about the etiquette of dua, and focus on composing your dua correctly.
  • Company: Surround yourself with people who inspire you to increase your Imaan. That could include going to sister’s halaqas, spending more time at the masjid, etc. The Prophet (SAW) said that we are a reflection of the company we keep. Remember that when you feel uncomfortable or out of place in the company of people you don’t usually hang around.
  • Quran: Read the Quran more often, 10 verses at a time. Study those 10 verses, memorize them, understand them, apply them to your life, and then move to the next 10 verses.

Take these things on one at a time, and slowly move towards betterment. It’s better to take small steps forward and to keep moving, than to take leaps and bounds only to fall back three times as far as you leapt forward.

I’ll try to address the specific things you mentioned in your message, to the best of my abilities. When approaching

  • Music: This is something I struggled with a lot growing up, so I can understand how difficult it can be. Some believe that it’s not haram, others believe it is. I choose to play it safe, considering this is my Hereafter I’m putting on the line, and just avoid music. That said, it’s a process to overcome. To start, when you want to listen to music, begin with listening to Muslim HipHop and things like that. There are other genres, but yeah. Then, slowly move towards listening to nasheeds with music in the background. Then, slowly to nasheeds without music, and finally, towards listening to Quran and seminars. It will take time, and everyone has their own pace, but you’ll get there, insha Allah.
  • Not covering up: In our Deen, both men and women have been prescribed guidelines as to what is Islamically sound and what isn’t when it comes to the matters of maintaining our modesty and appearance. It’s not my place to speak on hijab, so I won’t. But, I can speak on the benefits that covering up have had on my life. There is something about covering up that results in a greater level of confidence, power, and conviction in all that I do. On top of this, I have this sense of privacy, because of which I find it difficult to feel any sense of comfort if something as small as a bit of my back showing when I go into sujood (prostration) during Salah. That has come through an appreciation and love for humility and modesty. I know those two words (humility and modesty) get thrown around alot, making them lose the weight they carry, but honestly, I believe that what differentiates many of us is how sincere we are in the genuine aspects of human nature that make us different from those who have forgotten those sincere aspects, regardless of who they are or what they stand for. Finally, we strive to live our lives in a way that is an emulation of the Prophet (SAW) and his companions (RA). Ask yourself what they would’ve done, and try to emulate that. Oh, and one more thing that always inspired me to cover up is that Musa (AS) had a physique and overall appearance that was amongst the best, but he would always remain covered out of shyness. A man like him, so strong, wise, and genuine in his leadership qualities, was shy. That shows me that shyness is a good quality to have, and one that I hope to possess myself, insha Allah.
  • Pornography: The world we live in today makes access to pornography as easy as, well, using google. That’s a scary thought, but it’s something that simply needs to be battled within our hearts and souls, through filling our time with other matters that are more beneficial to us. What I have recommended to others in the past (that has worked for them, alhamdulillah), is to avoid using computers for any more reason than is necessary for work or school. Turn your phone or tablets, or any of that stuff off once you come home from school/work. Head to bed early. Wake up early. Take up working out, martial arts classes, a women’s only gym class or sessions, etc. Start going to those halaqas at sister’s groups or at the masjid. Find a new hobby (one that doesn’t involve too much interaction with men). Set goals and work towards them every day, and track your progress. Buy/Make a calendar, and for every day you indulge in pornography or masturbate or anything like that, put a black or red mark on the calendar date you do any of those things on. Don’t put any other labels on it, to maintain your privacy. Just a simple calendar with marks on it. If anyone asks, say that you’re just working on a habit you’re trying to form (which is to live without pornography – but don’t tell them this detail). Try to reduce the markings as much as possible until you’re left with a clean calendar for at least 3 weeks straight (studies have shown that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit). Only look at the calendar if you indulge, otherwise, leave it aside in a private place. This builds on “out of sight, out of mind”. Reminding yourself of it often will make it difficult to fully move forward. Take your time with this, don’t give up no matter how difficult it becomes, hold yourself accountable for your actions, but don’t let that depress you. Instead, let it motivate you to fight to remove this addiction from your heart and life.
  • Partying with boys: Alhamdulillah, this is one of those things that’s easier to work on. From my own experiences, I spent most of my life surrounded by women. Most of my relatives are women, and my home includes my dad and I along with my grandmother, mother, and three sisters. So, I found more comfort and belonging amongst women. That meant that growing up, a lot of my friends would be women, I would rarely interact with guys to the extent of having them be my close friends, etc. Then, as I began learning more about Islam, and began applying what I learned to my life, I reduced my interaction with women significantly, striving to maintain it within the bounds of the teachings of Islam, alhamdulillah. The reason I bring up my own story is because the advice I gave you about making the Deen a bigger part of your life through Salah, Dua, reading Quran, and surrounding yourself around fellow sisters that inspire you towards becoming a better Muslim, is a reflection of the same things I did to overcome this matter. It took it’s time, but alhamdulillah, it worked. Fill your time with other things that are beneficial for you in this life and the Next, limit your interaction with guys (that aren’t your mahram) to only what is necessary to conduct business (i.e. school projects, work, etc.), and whenever you’re invited or have the urge to go out and party, pray 2 rakah of voluntary salah, or make dua, and ask yourself, “Is this something Allah would be pleased with? If I die, would I be able to face Allah about this?” If you’re answer is yes, then move forward. If it isn’t, then leave the matter for the sake of Allah, and trust Him to reward you and to replace what you left with something that’s better for you in this life and the Next. We live in a time where peer pressure is immensely strong in matters like these, where people take the matter of interaction with opposite gender too lightly. It’s a matter that should be taken more seriously, and should be recognized as a source of temptation towards other things, like the things you mentioned you struggle with. Run everything you do through the filter of Islam, and if you find that there’s even the slightest doubt of what you’re considering to be something that Allah and His Messenger (SAW) would be pleased with, leave it. It’ll be hard at first, but it will pay off.

Everything I’ve mentioned in response to your question comes with the understanding that you will have to work hard to overcome these struggles, and that the journey will not be easy. But, as they say, “Nothing worth having comes easy,” you know that your reward in this life and the Next will be worth the efforts. I pray that Allah grants you ease and success as you take on this inner battle, and that He rewards you immensely throughout this life and the Hereafter, so that your Imaan and love for Allah will continue to increase exponentially throughout your life, insha Allah. Ameen. If you have any more questions, you’re more than welcome to email me to book an appointment to discuss things further, insha Allah, either over video counseling or chat counseling. My email address is mail@nadirkeval.com. Take care!

Wassalaamu alaikum,

– Nadir Keval (www.nadirkeval.com)