With stomach-churning horror and disgust, I watched an interview with an 18-year-old American girl, calmly describing her choice of profession as a ‘porn star.’ She had made more than a hundred films since turning the legal age of eighteen.

The Internet has catapulted the profits made by the ‘adult industry’. No longer restricted to magazines and videotapes, pornography on the Internet does away with the need to leave our home. It now conveniently brings graphic sex to our homes. They are easily accessible at the click of a mouse in the form of animated or real videos and pictures.

As an individual starts to view pornography, at first he just wants to satisfy his curiosity. Eventually, if not curbed, the action becomes a habit, and soon, without even realizing it, a compulsive addiction sets in. The causes of pornography addiction are the desires of the Nafs coupled with the insinuations of Satan.

Naïve people might assume that only unmarried ‘perverts’ are hooked to Internet porn. Actually, statistics reveal that girls, boys, men and women of all ages are pornography addicts, regardless of whether they are single, divorced or happily married with children.

It goes without saying that viewing pornography is Haram in Islam. It is Zina (fornication) of the eyes and hands that the Prophet Muhammad (sa) described: “The eyes commit Zina, the hands commit Zina, the feet commit Zina, and the genitals commit Zina.” (Ahmad)

The Fatwa Committee of IslamQA.com states in response to Question No. 42165:

“It is not permissible to look at pornographic pictures that show the charms of women, either on Internet websites or in newspapers or magazines, etc. That is because looking at them is a means of enjoying them and knowing the beauty of the woman in the picture.”

Symptoms of pornography addiction

  • Not using the computer in a common area, such as the living room; always using it only in complete privacy.
  • Being extremely private/possessive about one’s laptop or computer, e.g., disliking anyone else using it, turning it on or even touching it.
  • Staying locked up alone for hours in a room at the computer.
  • Using the computer mostly at night, when others are asleep and the house is quiet.
  • Being irritable and grouchy around family, for no apparent reason.
  • Being unusually defensive about religiosity.

When the blog MuslimMatters.org published “Pornography Addiction among Muslims,” several Muslim men and women anonymously revealed their personal struggle with pornography addiction. One married Muslim man of 25-30 years stated:

“I fell into the Fitnah when I was in my teens. I don’t want to go into the details, but soon after I was introduced to pornography, I was hooked on it. What fanned the flames of desire was access to the Internet. When I was new to the sin, I would never have dared to buy a dirty magazine from the local store, out of a sense of shame and embarrassment. But the Internet made everything accessible to me, and I could see what I wanted when I wanted, all in the privacy of my own home. Another problem was that my family resisted, when I suggested that I marry in my early twenties.”

It is indeed a grave problem that thousands of men of the Muslim Ummah are stuck in the vicious cycle of pornography addiction. Sadly, persistent masturbation whilst viewing dirty websites, gradually renders them impotent, so that when the younger ones do get married, their problems are compounded rather than solved. Another byproduct of mass-scale viewing of pornography is the rise of homosexuality among Muslim men.

Parents’ usual attitude on finding incriminating evidence on their children’s computers follows a typical pattern: at first, shock and denial; giving their son/daughter a huge shouting/spanking, followed by complete confiscation of Internet privileges. Eventually, however, as months pass they relent and choose to look the other way, telling themselves nonchalantly: “He’ll outgrow it. How can we stop him?” The same applies for discovery of pornography by wives of addicts; only, they are more hurt and at a total loss as to how to stop their husbands.

If, as a parent, sister or wife, you come across incriminating material on the computer, what should you do? Here are some tips:

  • Abstain from thinking that your child/brother/husband is a pervert. He is a victim, who has been afflicted severely by the pornography Fitnah. Don’t judge him – he needs your sincere help.
  • Do NOT tell anyone about his addiction to unburden yourself. Allah (swt) has commanded us to cover other people’s faults and sins. Tell someone only if they will be able to help you put a stop to it, e.g., if a sister discovers her brother’s pornographic pictures, she may tell their mother.
  • Gain knowledge of why Allah (swt) has forbidden the viewing of sexually explicit material. Go to the website Google.com.pk, search with the terms “pornography addiction Muslims” and read the articles that appear.
  • Do not consider yourself better than pornography addicts – this is another trap of Satan; tell yourself that perhaps, in the long-term, Allah (swt) might accept their repentance and grant them a higher level of Jannah.
  • Before a confrontation, plan on what you will say and how you will say it. Maintain a normal tone and abstain from hurling accusations or passing judgements.
  • Sincerely have pity for the victim of pornography. Make sincere Dua for them to be able to stop.
  • If you have the authority to do so, confiscate their Internet privileges.

How does one get rid of this addiction? There are several tips and remedies recommended by Muslim scholars. The topmost tips are: to fear Allah (swt), keep busy in beneficial work, increase in good deeds, and go ‘cold turkey’ on the Internet (i.e., relinquish it completely) for a while. Gaining knowledge of the Quran and involving oneself with Dawah and outdoor activities (recreation, family) helps.

It is a bitter struggle to get out of pornography, but it is possible. The verses from the Quran that give most hope are:

Say: “O Ibadi (My slaves) who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah, verily Allah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

“And turn in repentance and in obedience with true Faith (Islamic Monotheism) to your Lord and submit to Him, (in Islam), before the torment comes upon you, then you will not be helped.

“And follow the best of that which is sent down to you from your Lord (i.e. this Quran, do what it orders you to do and keep away from what it forbids), before the torment comes on you suddenly while you perceive not!” (Az-Zumar 39:53-55)