S/a one and all,
I want to talk about a topic that plagues the Shia (and indeed all of humanity) and for which not a single piece of truly practical advice has ever been offered. I want to describe my own journey and realizations, and eventually, the end-point at which, alhamduIiIIah, I truly conquered the problem of masturbation so that hopefully others may benefit from my experience and find a way through it as well.
First and foremost, let me say that this post will NOT provide a magic pill that one can swallow. I suggest that the dear readers take the information as it comes. Also note that these are all my personal opinions. They work(ed) for me. Also, this is only me sharing my own experience. I don't instruct anyone to do anything. This is not advice, it is my own story. That is all. Do with it what you see fit. Lastly, this worked for me because I wanted to stop but couldn't find a practical way to stop and couldn't figure out why I couldn't seem to stop on my own. The most important thing is to want to stop and then apply a practical method. Therefore, if I had not wanted to stop, this would be useless.
Background: I had this problem for many years. The worst part of the problem was always the guilt and the loneliness aspect of the problem. I searched everywhere for a practical solution to stopping but all I found was rulings and commandments. Through it all, I constantly questioned the thing called "Choice" and why it was that, given a choice to do it or not do it, I would choose to do it. Why could I not just NOT do it?? What led to one inclining? I always wished that I could find a way of killing that choice, making it a defined thing so that I could only ever take the non-inclining option.
I thought about many things over the years. I began to investigate into the thing called "Addiction". I wanted to know what it was. Why it was. How it was. I came to many realizations about this phenomena. Let's look at the features of addictions:
1. There is a certain something that a person becomes addicted to (which I will refer to as the "thing") and this thing has an excitement factor to it. An common example of this thing may be cigarettes or drugs or other things.
2. When the person has that thing, the person enters a high state (of varied strength, depending on what it is).
3. When the person does not have that thing, they begin to experience withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness, sweating, body aches, inability to think etc, of varied strength depending on what it is.
4. The very first time, the thing provides a very good high but as the person continues its use, the high continues to decrease in strength and effectiveness until it stops giving any form of pleasure but only appeasement from withdrawal symptoms. As time goes by, an extreme feeling of emptiness begins to develop until it is so empty that it is depressing.
5. Discontinuing its use for long while and then resuming its use provides a very first high again and the cycle continues.
6. I also realized that the reason one would incline towards an addiction was the hope of achieving the feeling of the very first high. Picturing that feeling was a very strong attractive force.
Now looking at these things, I realized that it is not only drug-use that has these features. In actual fact, EVERY form of excitement has these features to a varied degree, for example, bungee jumping, video games, sight-seeing, going to the movies, shopping, eating, socializing, working at a job that one likes and, of course, our old enemy, masturbation.
I realized that I was experiencing ALL the same symptoms as listed above with masturbation. The very first time provided a high. This progressed into less and less of a high until it was completely empty and lonely and depressing and it was only providing an escape from the horrible feeling of the need. All the other features too. Also, it was the thought of imagining the (pleasurable) feelings that would draw me towards it.
Okay so then I came to an even bigger realization. I realized that addicts were addicts because they had a certain something that kept it going: a reason. A reason to continue doing whatever it was they were doing even though in many cases that thing was even fatally dangerous such as with some drugs. They wanted to continue doing it. That reason was always initially the pleasurable feeling of the high that they hoped to get and later on, the appeasement of the pain they were having in withdrawal symptoms. I also realized that the reason they kept going was because the reason FOR doing it was much greater than the reason(s) AGAINST doing it. So for example, in the mind of the addict, the pleasure of smoking is more valuable than the damage it does to the lungs. The pleasure is more important to the addict than the damage. Such is also the case with masturbation. The pleasure, in the mind of the addict, is more important than a seemingly passing anger of AIIah. I am NOT talking about right or wrong here, I'm talking about what goes through the mind of the sustaining addict.
So at this point I was convinced that, given a strong enough reason, one that out-weighs the pleasure and appeasement of the addiction, an addict would quit. The addict would want to quit and would stop wanting to go on. And without a reason to quit, no matter how many years the addict was put in rehab or locked away or restrained, the MOMENT they were set free they would do it again. No reason, no quit.
I noticed that addicts seemed to be waiting for something drastic and dramatic to happen such as getting a heart-attack, a family member dying as a result of their addiction, or something like this, in order to get a reason important enough to quit. For many extreme addicts even these reasons would not be enough. Point is: they are waiting for a really strong reason of some kind to come along to be reason enough for them to quit. While smokers and drug-abusers can rely on some drastic health issue to come up (God-forbid), masturbaters can't. No such reason will come about.
Having realized this, I remembered many-a-time absolutely wishing that Imam Zamaan (atfs) would come to me in a dream and expressly command me not to do it. This would be my reason. This was the dramatic and drastic event I was waiting for. It didn't happen. I continued.
Okay, so the most important thing required to quit an addiction of any sort is a strong enough reason to quit, one that outweighs the importance and value of the pleasure and appeasement of continuing the addiction.
Then I began thinking about exactly what took place whenever I slipped up. See, many times I tried to put up a fight against my soul and the devil (la) but would find myself slipping up at some point. A few times I observed very closely what was being said and what was happening. Here's what would happen:
1. I would reach the lowest of low points at which continuing the addiction was only providing an empty depressing lonely appeasement from withdrawal symptoms. I would feel so far away from AIIah, and self-hatred was consuming me. This would suddenly become a strong reason to quit. So I'd decide to quit.
2. So I had decided to quit and I was going without my fix and my desires would begin to stir up violently to coerce me to do it.
3. Then, listen VERY carefully, shaitan (la) would come and say two things in order. The first was: "WHY are you doing this?? What is the reason? Why SHOULD you have to suffer like this?" Basically he tries to break the reason that I had used to quit. He tries to show that the reason is irrational by saying things like "Look here, its fun! It feels good! What other way do you have? God is merciful, he understands, you're young and you have desires, just forget about this. Think about how good it feels" Now depending on the reason that one has selected, shaitain (la) will tailor-make his speech to break it down. Many times I would give in at this point. But once in a while the reason was strong enough that I would say "NO! NO! I'm not going to do this. I'm not going back to that lonely depressing God-removed state."
4. If I had gotten past his testing of my reason then he'd say something even more deadly, he'd say "Okay. Fine. HOW LONG are you going to put up with this pain??" He would then convince me that putting up with this pain would eventually kill me, drain me, hurt me beyond repair, finish me off. And many many times, from the fear of suffering I gave in at this point.
So let's recap: he comes and asks two very very specific questions:
1. Why (are you putting up a fight)?
2. How long (can you keep doing this)?
In fact, according to the Qur'an there are three methods (if I remember correctly) that shaitan (la) uses to coerce us to incline towards sinful acts:
1. Giving false hopes.
2. Threatening with poverty.
3. Beautifying an ugly act or making a serious act seem light.
I realized that those two questions were an exact embodiment of these three techniques. He would start by reminding one of the "beautiful" feelings one would get when inclining towards the act - beautifying the evil act. He would promise that it would lead to such happiness and bliss when doing it even though it would only lead to depression and loneliness - false hopes. And then, if one persevered against his challenging the reason, he would threaten an person about how sad and lonely and destroyed he would become if he were to put up with all that pain - threatening with emotional poverty.
But guess what? A few times I did something very very amazing: even though it seemed like I was confirmed to doom by putting up with the pain after his second question, I decided "NO! I'm not going back!" Now it was interesting that the suffering seemed to increase a little bit after that for a few hours but two amazing things happened:
1. The pain SUDDENLY subsided and I felt peace after a period (in my case quite short). It went away. What he had told me was a complete lie. Not only did I not die, I reached peace.
2. I came to a huge realization that I was far far more powerful than I thought I was (in my power of choice) and that if I, in an instant, made a righteous decision (for the sake of the pleasure of AIIah) and PERsEVERED, I would reach peace and NOT death as shaitan was showing me.
Then I came across a verse in the Qur'an al-Karim saying: [46:13] "Those who say our Lord is AIIah and then they PERSEVERE, then no fear shall be on them and never shall they grieve" and this was an absolute confirmation of what I had experienced. If one makes a decision for the sake his Rabb, then his Rabb protects him from the seeming death and unhappiness that will come upon him as long as he PERSEVERES until peace comes. It is a strangeness, one of those absolute perceptional contradictions in life where it looks like you are stepping into flames of death but having done that it turns to "coolness and safety for Ibrahim" and in fact gives us true peace.
So to recap from this: the TWO things that are required to truly quit any addiction are:
1. A truly strong enough reason to quit. This reason would make one want to quit and remain away.
2. Perseverance with the pain for the period until one reaches the state of peace promised in the Qur'an.
At this point I began to think about the fast of the month of Ramadhan. It all made absolute sense to me. For ONE WHOLE MONTH, we muslims would keep away from the most basic things that keep us alive. There never are any chains to bind us from walking over to the fridge and eating, no one watching, and in all truth, if we did walk over to the fridge and eat something, nothing noticeable would really happen. No thunder bolt would seize us dead. AND YET... we never eat. We never drink. And why? Because we choose it that way. We make a decision and its done. And it suddenly made sense to me: once a year, by force, AIIah forces us to realize that we CAN choose to do something (or NOT do somewthing), anything at all, if we choose to do so. He forces us to see that our power of choice is much more powerful and in control than we think, than we realize. Shaitain (la) constantly bombards us with thoughts of "I CAN'T". I Can't not masturbate, I can't not listen to music, I can't not look at non-mahram's, I can't, I can't, I can't... "It's too tempting. I can't not give in. I can't seem to take control". Once a year, we are forced to realize that this is a blatant lie. We can.
So I set out trying to prove to myself a bunch of "I cans". I stopped listening to the halaal music (according to my marja') that I listened to just to prove to myself I can. And like any addiction, I felt HUGE withdrawal symptoms for two weeks including sweating and body aches and pains. But I can. And I did. And eventually I reached a state of mental peace in which music was not buzzing in my head anymore. But then, since it was halaal and I had proved to myself that I can and the qur'an instructs us not to make that which is halaal haraam for ourselves, I resumed it. I began sitting up completely straight in tashahud after a life time of slumping. It might seem small to some, it was a big deal for me. To this day I sit up straight and after only a few days of struggle, it became natural and easy, as is promised in the qur'an. I did many other thing just to prove that I can.
I'm not saying I can DO whatever I put my mind to, I'm saying I can CHOOSE to do whatever I put my mind to. AIIah decides what actually happens.
Ok, so I've said all this, but hold on a second: my journey was not done with. Having realized all this, I was still faced with a major problem: I still did not have a truly major reason to be able to stop masturbating once and for all. Yes, the loneliness and perceived separation from the creator was a good enough reason for a while, but then when the desires really kicked in full house, it seemed to go back to "Look here, its fun! It feels good! What other way do you have? God is merciful, he understands, you're young and you have desires, just forget about this. Think about how good it feels" and there it would go.
I couldn't understand it. One the one hand, for one month in Ramadhan, I would so fear AIIah that eating or drinking was not even a temptation. It was not an option. One the other hand, it didn't seem to be a strong enough reason when it came to masturbation! Why not??! I couldn't understand!
I began thinking deeply about exactly what it was about eating and drinking in ramadhan that made it so unfavourable as to make it not even an option. I realized that the main thing that scared the living daylights out of me was the fear of having to pay back SIXTY fasts for every one fast I broke and being accountable for all those fasts on the day of judgement! I perceived this as a serious sin whereas, in my mind, masturbation on its own was perceived as minor sin, hence the lack of fear. Paying back SIXTY fasts was so undoable and so out of proportion that it was terrifying. I realized that I saw breaking my fast as a sure way into jahannam and so it was not even an option. It was a strong enough reason to break the addiction to food far greater than the pleasure or appeasement of eating on those days.
At this point, I so wished that there would be some way that masturbating could carry similar grave consquences. I had read hadith that Imam Ali (a.s) had punished a man for doing it by beating his hands till it went red. This was not nearly threatening enough and so had been the years of continued inclincation towards the addiction.
I was reading the resaIIa one night and came across the section on Oaths and saw that if one makes an oath and breaks it, they would have to pay back 3 consecutive fasts. This was quite good. I was onto something. I would go ahead and make an oath that I would never masturbate again. But then I came across the section on Covenants and saw that this was far far more serious. Making a convenant with AIIah is a truly serious affair and breaking it would be attoned with SIXTY consecutive fasts. I would make a convenant with AIIah that I would never masturbate, never stimulate, never nothing like that ever again for the rest of my life. I decided there and then to say "MY lord is AIIah" as the qur'an said and wait for the promise of "not having fear on me and never grieving" and making the convenant and taking the leap of faith.
Let me say, this was quite a scary thing to do. Questions arise in one's mind at that moment, the source of which is mostly the desires and shaitan (la) and which are always in the form of the two questions I mentioned before, that is, 1. "Why (would you ever want to do such a crazy thing)?" and 2. "How long (do you think you'll survive without this)?" It is scary. The actual questions may sound something like this: "Are you CRAZY?? Do you know what you're about to do??! Think of the pleasure you get from it! Think of those lovely feelings you get! Why would you want to put that aside? Doing this is your only source of excitement! It's not as big a sin as you think as you think! You're putting an unreasonable constraint on yourself! Don't do this! You CAN'T" and then "How long will you survive?? How will you go without it?? You're not married, you have no way to do mut'a, how do you think you'll feel just 2 weeks down the line? Look at how you're feeling NOW!!"
My dear siblings in Islam and Shiaism, I can tell you firmly here and now from personal experience that I never regreted making that convenant. Yes, I found it really tough for the first week or two and also occasionally when the shaitan (la)-infested media force feeds something sexually exciting as well. But every time I implored AIIah and the ahlul-bait for help and they did help. But within those one or two weeks, the feelings begin to subside until... I now feel just like I do in ramadhan, masturbation's not an option. It's not a choice. It's just a feeling that comes and then subsides after I leave it for a while. And in a few days, the soul realizes that it's not an option anymore. It stops asking for it. The feeling for me now, is just like standing in the really hot sun. It feels uncomfortable and I must bear with it until I find some shade and it subsides and goes away then.
After the convenant, I have made a final realization which is huge. The reason the desire for masturbating was so strong all the time was because it was an option. It was something that I could choose to do or choose not to do. After the convenant, after it has ceased to be something that is an option, the desire to do it has almost completely subsided. As I said, it feels like standing in the hot sun. It's just uncomfortable and then subsides when I put my mind to something else like watching something. It did NOT kill me as shaitain (la) would have liked me to believe.
I have quit for good by the grace of AIIah.
I hope this helps and share your knowledge and experiences as well please. And if this helps, please make a dua for me and for my forgiveness.
Edited by madzi, 15 June 2011 - 08:20 AM.