By Abdullah bin Islam
Yes, I've smoked weed. I've blazed white widow, purple haze and terrible home-grown. I've had bongs, hot-boxes and I've pulled whiteys. I've bought Ounces, Henry's and a few mint leaves wrapped in a load of tinfoil. I've taken exams while high. I've sat down on the side of the road at the dead of night, trying to get control of my balance so I can get home and sneak upstairs without waking my parents. I've trekked halfway across London to pick up a tens, because all my regular dealers had ran out because it was Notting Hill Carnival weekend. I've boasted about being high-grade and looked down on people who couldn't smoke more than one spliff without their face turning green.
But then, after years of the same-old same-old, I realised something. Things had changed. I used to giggle for about 15 minutes after sharing one zoot with my friends, and all my problems had seemed to be irrelevant when I was smoking. But now it was less enjoyable. Or not even enjoyable at all. Something inside was telling me that I wanted to get high (just to get by), but when I was smoking, I didn't laugh any more. I didn't even want to smile, or do very much at all. My friends were the same.
"Hey, what's good?"
"Not much. What you doing tonight?"
"Dunno. Have you got any 'food'?"
"Yeah, a little. Wanna come round?"
"OK, I guess..."
And that was about it. If no-one had any 'food', then there wouldn't be any point meeting up. And I found I could hardly get to sleep if I wasn't lying in my bed feeling lightly toasted, either. Another thing that happened, was that we all seemed to be getting a bit over-protective about our personal stash. Friends I'd had since I was in nappies would argue with me over a crumb of weed. We were far from the caring, sharing hippy-style stoners in terrible American movies. This was skunk we were smoking, something altogether different from the weak bush-weed they had in Cheech and Chong. I would hide mine in a pocket and smoke my friend's weed, only to take our my stash after he'd gone.
I started to hate the 'stoned' version of me. The trouble was, I didn't really know anybody else that I could be. I'd been smoking for five or six years, almost every day. I was in a permanently lazy frame of mind, and I wouldn't have confidence to talk to new people if I hadn't smoked anything. It seemed that all my friends were the same, and the ones who weren't stoners were off, out in the big wide-world, achieving things without me.
And, after all this, what had I achieved? I thought of a lyric by Andre from Outkast (before he got all funny-looking): "At age 15 he started smoking 'Billy Clint', and now he's 21 and wants to know where the time went." Was life really just about being a wasteman? Was there nothing worth working hard and striving for?
This is when I started questioning myself, and my place here on earth. I had never believed in God, I could never accept anything other than what I could see around me. With no God, then the only purpose of life is to have fun, right? And smoking weed is fun, right? Drinking alcohol is fun, right? Investing in bonds that accumulate interest over time is fun, right? In reality, my life was little more than that of a pig, rolling around in a pile of mud. I may have thought I was having a great time, but I wasn't fulfilling anywhere near what a human should be able to achieve.
At around this time I was fortunate enough to become friends with some Muslims, I used to pick up weed for them sometimes (God most certainly works in mysterious ways). We also used to discuss things from time-to-time. I'd ask them about how they saw life and they seemed so sure of themselves, so content with everything. They may not have been very practising Muslims (at the time, anyway), but they gave me the keys I needed and showed me the door to a whole new way of thinking. I started to read. I hadn't read anything since year nine, but now I was reading about Islam all the time. "I like big books and I cannot lie!" I couldn't get enough of it: all of a sudden life started to make sense to me. Islam made sense to me. I slowly started to believe in Allah (swt) and the Last Day.
Something that really affected me was the verse of the Qur'an that says: They ask you about intoxicants and gambling. Say, "In them is great harm and benefit for people. But their harm is greater than their benefit" (Qur'an 2:219). I had seen the benefit of drinking and smoking. I had enjoyed lazy days in the park, I'd been to wild parties and any problems or stress I had suffered during the day would vanish into thin air. But I'd also been victim to the harm of these things too. Missing deadlines and doing much worse at college than I could have, waking up feeling like rubbish every morning and, most of all, finding that all my problems and stress were still waiting for me as soon as I sobered up. Intoxicants are not the answer to anything, they just dull the pain of a day-to-day life that doesn't have any sense of purpose, of meaning. Opium is the religion of the masses.
So I realised that I had to stop the drugs and alcohol. Giving up alcohol was easy, I had never enjoyed drinking much, but weed would be more difficult. I stopped myself seeing my stoner friends as much, whenever I met them I was tempted to start blazing with them and, even if I didn't smoke anything, I found they had become extremely boring and just watched DVDs in stunned silence and talked nonsense. The Prophet said: "A person is upon the way of life of his close friend, so beware whom you befriend." [Abu Daawood and At-Tirmithi] I found that other people I made friends with were more energetic and lively, they talked about more interesting things and the conversations didn't go round in circles. They weren't late for everything and wouldn't forget what day of the week it was, either.
But surely I would miss the feeling of lightness that I got taking that first pull on a spliff, wouldn't I? Surely I would miss the sense of peace I felt when my head hit the pillow at the end of a long session. What on earth would replace these in my life? The rapper Gift of Gab from Blackalicious said: "The greatest high is that natural high within," and guess what? He was right.
When I started praying, I quickly realised what all the weed smoking had been for. I had been trying to reach a feeling inside my heart, of real comfort and tranquillity. In Arabic this is called Sakinah. It is when your heart is at rest, that small moment when everything around you ceases to matter, that 'Quantum of Solace' that can only be felt on rare occasions. The high I got from weed was something similar to this, but it wasn't the same. True Sakinah is not accompanied by slight nausea or a sudden urge for Cheesy Wotsits. Weed can only get you a small part of the way, but real Sakinah is only achieved through hard work and devotion to our Creator. It may not be easy, but it is well worth the effort.
The feeling of Sakinah goes way beyond the biggest high you could ever get from any drugs or alcohol, any type of music or number of cars or amount of bling. It is a deeper emotion than you can even get from seeing the people you love. It is a personal, internal feeling that touches the deepest reaches of your soul and makes you realise that everything around us, everything we see or hear or smell, is nothing, nothing compared to what awaits us in the hereafter. With this feeling of Sakinah in my mind, going off to smoke weed seemed so pathetic and worthless. What an utter waste of time and money. You may as well spend your days rolling around in mud.