وَلَا تَقْرَبُوا الزِّنَا ۖ إِنَّهُ كَانَ فَاحِشَةً وَسَاءَ سَبِيلًا
And do not go anywhere near unlawful sexual relations: it is an outrage, and an evil path.
There are some in our Muslim community who have all the outside qualifications for marriage but remain without a spouse. They’ve established their prayers, have a college degree, possess a stable income, and have achieved relative career stability. Moreover, they spend their free time volunteering at their local masjid, coordinating youth-related activities while also teaching at Sunday school. They pray day and night for a partner, but to no avail. Why isn’t their prayer being answered?
While many may carry all the right external qualifications for marriage, some are grappling with dire internal issues that need addressing before marriage becomes an option for them. Chief among these internal issues is an addiction to pornography. 93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to Internet porn before the age of 18 with the average age of first exposure to pornography being around 13 years old. It would be beyond naive to assume that the Muslim community is somehow immune to this toxic issue. Many in our community are in a cycle of addiction they’ve been battling for years. These same people may be amongst the “qualified” bachelors and bachelorettes described above, but in His mercy, Allāh has withheld marriage from them while they tackle this demon.
There is a misconceived notion that getting married will help end pornography addiction. The theory proposes that if there is a real spouse to have relations with, then the need for a virtual relationship will fade away. Unfortunately, breaking the habit is rarely this easy and such thinking reveals an ignorance to the true dangers of pornography. In fact, pornography may actually be the reason a marriage never takes off.
There are also those reading who, by the grace of Allāh, do not have this issue and do not see the need to understand it. How does this affect them? Unfortunately, as pervasive as this crisis has become, it is likely that they may interact with one or more potential spouses who are dealing with this problem. By appreciating the dangers associated with this type of addiction, they can help to protect themselves from getting involved in a relationship that has a heightened chance of a poor ending.
For the woman considering a man who she knows is struggling with pornography addiction, consider that his view of women may be distorted and corrupted from his prolonged virtual distractions. I feel this point is best described by Chris Hedges who writes in his book, Empire of Illusions:
“Women, porn asserts, whether they know it or not, are objects… [They] deserve to be dominated and abused. And once men have had their way with them, [they] are to be discarded. Porn glorifies the cruelty and domination of sexual exploitation in the same way popular culture… glorifies the domination and cruelty of war. It is the same disease. It is the belief that “because I have the ability to use force and control to make others do as I please, I have a right to use this force and control.” It is the disease of corporate and imperial power. It extinguishes the sacred and the human to worship power, control, force, and pain. It replaces empathy, eros, and compassion with the illusion that we are gods.”
Empire of Illusions, Page 87
The above excerpt does well to help explain why exposure to X-rated material has been shown to correlate to a six-fold increase in self-reported sexually aggressive behavior. This type of material dehumanizes women and can lead to abuse in what would otherwise be a healthy marriage.
As for the man considering a woman who he knows is struggling with pornography addiction, consider that she is getting her sexual fulfillment from a means other than you, so her willfulness to engage with you will be much lower. Of course, this can apply both ways, but a man typically has a higher sex drive. The frustration that you will feel from this will take its toll as the relationship goes on. On the side of the men, some studies show a correlation between pornography use and erectile dysfunction. This dilemma then furthers the addiction problem because now one of the partners cannot find satisfaction except through their virtual vices. It’s no wonder then that pornography use can increase the marital infidelity rate by more than 300%, with each spouse seeking satisfaction outside of the marriage.
It’s time Muslims start asking questions about pornography use during their pre-marriage screening questions. This would, of course, require the utmost respect and trust on the part of the questioner, but the answers to these questions could be the difference between a healthy marriage and an early divorce. As is always the case, past sins should not be divulged unless their effects are still being felt today. Someone’s tawbah (repentance) is between them and their Master, and it is in His mercy that people do not know of the sin in the first place.
All this isn’t to say that someone addicted to pornography is doomed to never be in a healthy relationship. If anything, the above should act as a catalyst to seek the proper help – whether you’re single or already married – and rid oneself of the problem. This is a good place to mention the words of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ who is reported to have said,
“Nothing extends one’s life span but righteousness, nothing averts the Divine Decree but supplication, and nothing deprives a man of provision but the sin that he commits.”
And how many “provisions” are better than a righteous spouse and healthy relationship? Your online sin may be the one thing holding you back from finding the spouse you’ve been praying for.
Learn more at Nikah101, the Muslim Marriage Guide that helps to prepare Muslims for marriage.