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Prevention of Smoking and Drug Abuse from the Islamic Perspective

By Dr. Malik S. Khan

A Publication of Motamar at the United Nations


A`uzubillah himminish shaytan nir‑rajim.  Bismillah hir‑rahman nir‑rahim.

The topic I have is in two portions.  One is the religious portion and the second part is about drug abuse prevention.  I will give you both portions, and you interpret it in your own way.  Life is intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and physical.  The relative importance varies from individual to individual.  In the univer­sity of Islam, we understand the concept as "Judaism is the skill of God, Christianity is the attitude of God, and Islam is the knowledge of God."  As the Quran reveals, "Rabbi zidni `ilma" – "My Lord, increase me in knowledge."  The scientific method or science has a threefold approach:  the atheistic approach, the secular approach, and the religious approach.  The scientific approach must look into the indigenous method versus foreign method in such a way that one should improve what has worked successfully for hundreds of years.  Islamic ideology for four­teen hundred years has worked in such a manner that neither are drugs, alco­hol, tobacco, and substance abuse problems of Islamic societies, nor the other byproducts such as women abuse, child abuse, family breakup, and the violation of the rights of women and children which have occurred as the result of the abuse of drugs and alcohol.  The solution is that people of all religions must revitalize their religious values and bring these values into their lives.  The fear of God can prevent any of the above‑mentioned problems.  On the demand side, people are victim of the above abuses – drug, tobacco, and substance abuse – whereas on the supply side, impoverished people, due to the lack of resources, have started to produce the demanded narcotics and other substances.  If you eliminate the problem on both sides, then the police powers and billions of dollars spent on surveillance and policing can be spent elsewhere.

Every religion preaches that the body is the temple of God where a human worships his Creator.  Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not stand with evil forces.  Thou shalt not commit adultery.  Thou shalt not steal.  And similarly, thou shalt not abuse thy body with intoxicants or harmful chemicals.  And on and on, the previous Bibles have commanded Man to behave.  But these values vanished, and as a result nonbelievers in God or non‑God‑fearing people have indulged themselves into the drug trade worldwide. 

Many of you are going to say that tobacco is Islam's problem.  I would like to inform you that in Islam one is not allowed to go to a mosque and pray after having consumed raw garlic and onions, so one can avoid the unappealing and bad breath.  So surely tobacco is forbidden in Islam.  If you take a person who has not consumed tobacco in his life and you give him one puff of smoke, that person will have spinning on his vertical and horizontal axes and his mind will be incapacitated.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, I present you the Quranic ap­proach.  Afterwards, I will go into the drug trafficking and its abuse.  I will be covering some things very briefly.

The religion of Islam, revealed through the Prophet Mo­hammed, peace and blessings be upon him, stresses the merits of, and the need to protect, five basic categories:  religion, the human mind, the human body, wealth and human dignity.  Anything that may adversely affect the soundness of any of these five catego­ries is strictly forbidden.

Therefore, shirk, (associating partnership with Allah) is the gravest sin and pushes the misguided person outside the orbit of the faith.  Abusing the human body is also forbidden.  No one is allowed to kill (except within strict limits), take away his own life or hurt another.  Wealth is not to be abused, misused, or laid to waste.  Moreover, practices not in keeping with human dignity are prohibited –such as adultery, fornication and homosexuality.

The human mind is not only to be maintained in sound condition but is to be nourished, sharpened and more developed by feeding it with knowledge,  Seeking knowledge is therefore the greatest virtue in Islam.  Conversely, any practice that would reduce the capacity of the human mind is strictly forbidden, and even punished by law, such as drinking wine and consumption of harmful drugs.  The Holy Quran declares:

"... intoxicants, gambling, and (dedication of) stones and divination by arrows are an abomination of Satanic seduction.  Eschew such (abomination) ..."  (Surah 5, ayah 93)

It is on account of the human mind that Almighty God, Allah, has made all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth subservient to man, as mentioned in Surah 45, Ayah 13 of the Quran.

Consumption of harmful drugs that reduces the capacity of the human mind temporarily or permanently is strictly forbidden, for that is self‑destruction.  The Holy Quran urges:

"O ye people!  Eat of what is on earth lawful and good and do not follow the footsteps of Satan."  (Surah 2, ayah 168)

"... And make not your own hands contribute to your destruc­tion."  (Surah 2, ayah 195)

God has made all plants for the benefit of humanity.  But each chemical and each plant is there not to abuse, but to take advantage of for proper use.  Tobacco, for instance, is excellent for keeping insects out of cotton and silk.  There may be many other uses that the human mind till now does not know.  The tobacco industry can be geared to benefit people rather than shorten their lives by committing suicide in installment, puff by puff.

In today's world the United States of America feels that the anti-drug war is as important as the fight against terrorism.  The government of the United States is committed to providing a strong means to control drugs, narcotics, and substance abuse.  We must work with our beloved government to help it to stop drug trafficking, including getting rid of the causes of using drugs.  Removing drugs will enhance the hand of the government to combat crime.  Today many religious societies look down on prostitution, alcoholism, and the use of addictive or illicit drugs.  All of these promote crime.  The United Nations is committed to clear human society of all these abuses.  The United Nations and its agencies are fully committed to providing assistance, cooperation, coordination, and finance against the trafficking of illicit drugs.

Our delegation is deeply concerned at the huge and still growing drug abuse, illicit trafficking, supply and production, distribution, and demand for narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, which constitute a grave and persistent threat to the political, economic, social, and cultural health of all societies and nations.  Illegal drugs attack the lives and dignity of millions of human beings, most especially of young people.  All of society pays the price.  Even someone who has no direct in­volvement with drug abuse pays in terms of higher taxes and less access to government resources that are being drained to fighting drug‑related crime, paying welfare to those who are unemployed due to drug dependency, health care for drug addicts and the children born to them, etc.  Thus the whole social and economic development of a country is impeded.  The problem is so massive that nothing less than cooperation and coordination to control all aspects of the problem at the international, national, and regional levels will make much of a dent in the situation.  A truly collective effort is needed to curtail the cultivation, production, processing, and trafficking of narcotic drugs.  The United Nations has recognized the need for awareness and cooperation on the international level by instituting an International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking and by creating the United Nations International Drug Control Program (UNDCP).  The UNDCP is a product of the recognition that effective and concerted action and expanded international cooperation depend on improved coordination of all drug control related activities within the United Nations system. 

In Islamic countries, the problem has been less of drug abuse by the citizenry than the growing of opium poppies, canna­bis and other drug‑producing plants to supply the demand in the non‑Islamic world.  Thus, a major thrust of the effort to eradicate the drug menace from Islamic countries has included incentives to farmers to grow legal crops and provision to farmers of alternate means of in­come.  As the UN Secretary‑General so aptly put it in his Inter­national Day against Drug Abuse message, "It is not enough to destroy an opium crop or a coca plant; something else must be substituted for it, something that is as financially attractive to the cultivator as opium or coca."

As supply and demand bolster each other, programs to reduce both supply and demand must be carried out simultaneously.  Drug trafficking is being attacked through the creation or beefing up of anti‑narcotics agencies, speedily bringing alleged traffickers to trial, and increasing the penalties for those found guilty.  Drug smugglers are being pursued with greater intensity and international cooperation.  Educational programs on the evils of drug abuse are also underway.

On the regional level, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is approaching the problem of drug control through a technical committee on prevention of drug trafficking and drug abuse.  Between 1988 and 1992, the Committee carried out 20 major sub‑regional programs involving key policy makers and other professionals in the field of law enforcement and demand reduction.  Similarly, the 10‑member Economic Coopera­tion Organization (ECO) has established Anti‑Narcotics Commit­tees, thus providing another important regional framework for cooperation in combating drug trafficking.

The Global Program of Action of the United Nations focuses on several areas of multilateral cooperation.  These include in­creased involvement of specialized agencies and other United Nations bodies as well as the international financial institu­tions with regard to prevention activities and alternative devel­opment and crop substitution programs.  The International Mone­tary Fund has highlighted the drug problem as one of five global priorities.  Drug trafficking is inextricably linked with pover­ty.  The programs of international financial institutions relat­ing to poverty eradication have, therefore, important bearing on eliminating the drug menace.  International financial institu­tions must provide generous assistance to developing countries, especially those which have launched a crusade against illicit drugs.

In the context of economic assistance we believe that prior­ity should be given to the farmers in the poppy‑growing areas and industrial units be established to generate alternative income sources and employment opportunities.  The cultivators of substi­tute crops must also get a better access for the products in the international markets.  Here international cooperation is of prime importance.  Furthermore, law enforcement agencies involved in drug control programs in developing countries are in need of modern equipment to enhance their professional skills and effec­tiveness.  The developed countries can play an important role in provision of such equipment, meeting high operational costs and training of personnel of the enforcement agencies.

No strategy to eliminate drug abuse would be complete with­out a program to rehabilitate the victims of drug abuse and reintegrate them as useful members of society.  Government hospi­tals and some private medical practitioners are providing treat­ment to drug addicts.  Governments that have not already done so should consider establishing detoxification centers at federal and district level hospitals.  These centers would provide spe­cialized services for the treatment of drug addicts in general and heroin addicts in particular.

Education is the prime means of drug abuse prevention.  Where there is a demand, suppliers will always find a way to fill it.  Education through schools, the media, and religious outlets combats the international curse of drug abuse by giving people the understanding and motivation not to use harmful substances.  Every nation must tap the resources of it families, its religious leaders, its teachers, its social workers, and its health‑care workers as well as those working in various anti‑drug government posts to work from the family unit on up to create a drug‑free society.  The United Nations and its agencies are committed to working with churches, temples, mosques, and other religious centers and educational institutions to conduct conferences, seminars, dialogues, and forums to work together to make the world drug free.  We, all the religionists, are committed to work as a team to bring successful ways using today’s media such as the Internet, television, newspapers, radios, speeches, and interfaith dialogues, to take our organizations’ programs for women, adolescents, children, and adults, to bring in their lifestyles these new dimensions to prepare them for the 21st Century. 

The government policy and welfare experts presented their departmental information on prevention programs regarding the abuse of alcohol, drugs, and other substances.  The papers very much emphasized human development, especially child development and adolescent development.  The scientists and doctors proved their points how drugs, alcohol, and AIDS affect genes, the brain, and the body.  They explained how people are affected and impaired biologically, intellectually, psychologically, and socially by AIDS and by substances such as drugs, tobacco, and alcohol.

The medical team of doctors and scholars who were specialists on this subject presented their papers detailing genes, proteins, amino acids, body cells, brain cells, neurological functions, cognitive functions and other body functions right from conception through birth, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood to the grave.  The conference stressed the cradle-to-grave effects of the environment. What humans are facing today in the 21st century was viewed in from the scientific, religious, and secular approaches.  The ultimate wisdom of the Quran always reminds how lucky we are that Allah has blessed us with His knowledge.

After listening to these research papers, "Allahu Akbar" and "Subhan Allah" came out of the mouths of those who are studying the Quran. The Bible and Quran verses were referred to in a speech.

The conference brought to the attention that the HIV epidemic continues unabated. Those who are sexually active with multiple partners have emerged at increased risk for HIV infection. Driving under the influence of alcohol is epidemic in the Western world.  There is an urgent need for expansion of prevention, screening, and treatment programs to reduce alcohol abuse as alcohol abuse is a stress on the family which can lead to family breakups, which are on the rise. A rise in teenage alcohol abuse is correlated with a rise in the rate of juvenile crime, the increase in drug use, and the rise in dropping out of school. The slogan “alcohol is good for the heart” and the portrayal of wine as an essential element of classic cuisine has produced alcoholics who started drinking with a false sense that it is safe to do so.  Modern culture has lured people to have a good time and excitement through wining, dining, womanizing and gambling, with broken families as the result. The true spiritual and religious values are the answer for many of these problems. The effects of a foreign culture come to notice when it shows positive and negative effects taking roots in the new culture. Prevention from harm within harm requires child needs the mother not the cow. It is not the alcohol in wine that protects from cardiovascular disease, as is commonly misunderstood, but the other parts of the pressed grape; indeed, intoxication has caused much damage to the human body. The Islamic principals of skill, attitude and knowledge work intellectually, spiritually, physically and emotionally with man to change his behavior only if he goes and seeks the correct course. The human sometime has a dire need to go through congregational prayer and repent to the Almighty to receive guidance.

We the humans, according to the Quran, need the blessing of the Almighty. We as man and wife conceive a baby in the world with His blessing after we make the sacred matrimonial offer and acceptance in a bond; in the same way we may bond our offspring to the will of the Almighty so we may bring them up according to the will of the Almighty.  The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing be upon him, warned people we must consume halal, meaning what is yours that you have earned with honesty, and do not consume food stolen or purchased from ill-gotten gains as in your body it will produce an action harami (illegitimate child).

Man has implicated a gene on chromosome 11 in alcoholism. Specifically, the minor form [the A 1 allele] of the D dopamine receptor gene, or DRD2 gene, was found to be associated with a severe form of alcoholism, and studies have confirmed that genes associated with cocaine, opiate and nicotine dependence and obesity have altered phenotypic differences in neuro-cognitive and personality characteristics. Stress response and treatment outcome research by Dr. E.P. Noble opens up a variety of new areas as Islam claims that the parents spiritually pass the mood and feeling to the conceived baby. Every act is an act of worship; start with the name of Almighty to produce baby free of tendencies to become a gambler, drug addict, criminal, AIDS victim, murderer, adulterer, or violent person. The specialists discussed and presented molecular genetics, DNA, fertility, behavioral diseases, and heredity in their research papers and how we can make peoples’ lives comfortable so they will not turn to substance abuse.  Other factors affecting human life that the scientists and scholars brought to the attention of the 11th World Congress were obesity, violence, gambling, and social abuses. Gambling is a mental addiction. Many fathers put their children’s food and milk money on the line and lose themselves to crime.  Light was thrown on the horrible effects of substances abused in the 21st Century such as cocaine, opium, LSD, alcohol, and marijuana, and how to combat them.

They also showed how the media has abused the privilege of broadcasting sporting events and other special events to present advertising that makes tobacco, alcohol, and premarital sex appear manly and macho.  The expert also brought to the conference’s attention that alcohol, music, dance, sex and violence have been used to go side-by-side with advertising targets to promise a good-time experience.  It is a shame today through out the modern world how easily available to minors tobacco, alcohol, and drug paraphernalia.

Individuals are influenced by exposure to permissive societies where alcohol, gambling, sex outside of marriage, and other vices are allowed and considered fashionable. In the absence of prohibition or social disapproval, it is common for people to become enslaved to lower desires and become alcoholics, gamblers, adulterers, drug addicts and other substance abusers.

Experts presented a research paper regarding the sex, violence, drug, tobacco, alcohol, and other substance abuse are increasing at an alarming rate among the young generation which is going on disaster course.  The conference examined advertising campaigns targeting the young to make smoking, drinking, etc. look like harmless fun.  We can use truthful advertising the same way to combat and discredit these abuses, for instance, by publicizing that major motor vehicle accidents are caused by driving under the influence of alcohol or abused substances.

AIDS statistics from the United Nations databases have been presented showing a grave situation in sub-Saharan Africa.  Experts claim that 75% of the children in Western and sub-Saharan Africa are sexually active.  In the U.S.A. before graduating from high school, many children have had several sexual partners.  The shocking news also tells us that new strains of diseases are not combatable by antibiotics. 

The theories of Darwinism and humanism lack the spiritual element that motivates a person to avoid personal and social harm through the adoption of vices. Here today we endorse the theory of Creation with its concept of a divine basis to morality.  We must work as a team in faith-based groups for the prevention of drug and alcohol abuse.  This work should be open to competition by groups of all faiths equally to show success.  A positive model will result in the prevalence of drug-free schools, drug-free children and a drug-free environment.  All these concepts are great.

Just as wisely driving a vehicle involves defensive driving, a product of driving science, so we need science to live in peace and harmony in the world.  With science to check what is the truth, we will not only prevent the spread but will cure all diseases.

Some people today promote the legalization of addictive drugs, marijuana, prostitution, gambling and other vices that will definitely take us on a collision course with disaster.  Today our children are introduced to social drinking in an environment where later, as they grow more independent, peer groups, pushers and others will introduce them to much more advanced experiences. Eventually they reach the point of no return.

Millions of people are affected by HIV and AIDS.  The causes of AIDS and how it is spread is evident, yet no one talks why AIDS came and how it is spread and what went wrong.  We should learn from history to correct one wrong.  We don’t make a second mistake, but work on the first mistake to find the best solution. The Internet has some 400,000 sex websites visited by 60 million people daily.  It was proposed to have a conference in 2005 to find ways to prevent, eradicate, cure and safeguard against AIDS and HIV.  We all need to work to achieve the goal.  Under the slogan "Together We Can," we will not only prevent its spread, but we can cure and eradicate it.

We must also take spiritual healing method into consideration.  Those who will follow the holy teachings of the Almighty through His messages revealed through the prophets of mankind will be rightly guided, and those who don’t will be doomed forever.

Those who seek the Almighty find Him, and He alone is worthy of worship. He is the Creator of the Universe, and only He knows how to control it. The Prophet Muhammad informed us of the Second Coming of Jesus, peace and blessings of the Almighty be upon them. Jesus will establish long-lasting peace on Earth. He will eradicate this plague from the world.