When Stimulants Become Stressors…


What’s the first thing we do after waking up in the morning?  Besides going to the washroom, we try to freshen ourselves with a rejuvenating cup of tea or coffee and in some cases, light up a cigarette, too. Have we ever pondered over why we need such stimulants?

Stimulants are used to elevate mood and enhance self-confidence. They produce alertness, decrease fatigue and prolong physical work. All stimulants increase blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature. The body temperature is elevated by the effect caused by increased muscle activity and constricted blood vessels. Many people consider only hardcore drugs to be stimulants, while actually the classification of stimulants includes caffeine, nicotine, amphetamines and cocaine.

To every upside, there’s a downside. Stimulants provide your body with a false and unpredictable high. However, the energy boost associated with intaking any of these stimulants is short-lived. This boomerang effect of going up and down only contributes more to anxiety, depression and stress.


The main stimulant in our lives is caffeine, which is found in tea, coffee, chocolates and even carbonated beverages. It acts as a stimulant to the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, which initiates the fight/flight response, causing the adrenal glands to release more stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) into the bloodstream; these levels are already too high due to the stress we experience, and caffeine exacerbates them even more.

Caffeine is one of the most widely consumed drugs in the world today; yet, our body has absolutely no requirement for it. Professor James Lane (Duke University Medical Center) carried out research on 72 people, who regularly drank 4-5 cups of coffee a day. The data from this study revealed that this level of coffee consumption produced a 32% rise in levels of the stress hormone adrenaline and a 14% rise in the levels of the stress hormone noradrenaline. Professor Lane’s research also revealed that caffeine in 4-5 cups of coffee elevated the blood pressure, which increases the risk of stroke by 34% and the chance of heart attack by 21%.


Nicotine, another common stimulant used in our society, is claimed to give relief and feeling of freedom within an individual. However, nicotine has been linked to stress. The relation between nicotine and stress is very much like that between the chicken and the egg – which one comes first? Does stress cause people to smoke? Or maybe the nicotine in tobacco causes people to feel stressed? The answers might surprise you.

It’s all part of a trick nicotine is playing on our bodies, and it starts with nicotine addiction. While many people may feel they are using tobacco as a way to relax or de-stress, nicotine actually causes the opposite effect. Studies have found that nicotine intensifies stress. Feelings of calmness or pleasure during tobacco use are really just momentary reliefs from the unpleasant effects that come along with nicotine cravings (including stress). Those feelings of stress and anxiety will return once the nicotine leaves the body system, and the cycle begins again.

Staying Away from Stimulants

  1. Withdrawing Daily Stimulants

The body that we possess is an Amanah of Allah (swt) and we will be held accountable on the Day of Judgement, as to how we treated this Amanah. Therefore, it is our responsibility to keep ourselves healthy and focus on natural elements, rather than becoming dependent on unnecessary stimulants. Ibn Umar (rtam) reported Allah’s Messenger (sa) saying: “Every intoxicant is Khamr, and every intoxicant is forbidden. He, who drinks wine in this world and dies while he is addicted to it, not having repented, will not be given a drink in the hereafter.” (Muslim)

One might argue that stimulants are not intoxicants. However, they certainly are co-related and a leading cause of deteriorating health and untimely death. What can be more fatal?

  1. Give an Alternative to Your Body – Fruit Teas

It can take up to three days to totally eliminate all stimulants from the body, especially caffeine.  People, who have given up such stimulants, have found that they are less stressed; also, their sleep improves and they have more energy. A common mistake many people make, when withdrawing from stimulants is that they don’t drink any other fluid. It is important to maintain fluid intake.  There are a number of alternatives to caffeine and nicotine, which may include such fruit teas as black currant or apple, such herbal teas as chamomile and peppermint, fruit juices and decaffeinated tea and coffee. Limit your caffeine intake or ideally switch to caffeine free beverages.

It’s important to reduce your caffeine intake slowly, over time and not to stop it all at once, because some people can suffer withdrawal effects and have severe headaches. Reduce by one cup per week and replace it with a decaffeinated version. Do this over time, until you have replaced all your caffeine drinks with non-caffeine tea, coffee, fruit tea, fruit juice, water, etc.

  1. Proper Sleep Management – Relax

A lack of sleep is a significant cause of stress. Unfortunately, stress also interrupts our sleep, as thoughts keep whirling through our heads, stopping us from relaxing enough to fall asleep.

Rather than relying on medication, your aim should be to maximize your relaxation before going to sleep. Make sure that your bedroom is a tranquil oasis with no reminders of the things that cause you stress. Avoid caffeine during the evenings, if you know that this leads to disturbed sleep. Stop doing any mentally demanding work several hours before going to bed, so that you give your brain time to calm down. Try taking a warm bath or reading a calming, undemanding book for a few minutes to relax your body, tire your eyes and help you forget about the things that worry you. You should also aim to go to bed at roughly the same time every day, so that your mind and body can get used to a predictable bedtime routine. Recite Surah Al-Mulk as per the Prophet’s (sa) Sunnah.

  1. Channel Your Stress Effectively – Exercise

Physical exercise can be used as a surrogate to metabolize the excessive stress hormones and restore your body and mind to a calmer, more relaxed state. When you feel stressed and tense, go for a brisk walk in fresh air. Try to incorporate some physical activity into your daily routine on a regular basis, either before or after work, or at lunchtime. Regular physical activity will also improve the quality of your sleep.

  1. Approach the Correct Solution – Pray and Repent

Abu Hurairah (rtam) narrated: When a matter would worry the Prophet (sa), he would raise his head up toward the sky and say: “Glory is to Allah, the Magnificent (Subhan Allahil-Adheem).” And when he would strive in supplication, he would say: “O the Living, O Sustainer (Ya Hayyu Ya Qayyum).” (At-Tirmidhi)

In yet another incident, it was narrated by Abdullah bin Abbas (rtam) that the Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “Whoever persists in asking for forgiveness, Allah (swt) will grant him relief from every worry and a way out from every hardship, and will grant him provision from (sources) he could never imagine.” This is a clear inspiration for us. Instead of relying on immediate solutions involving worldly stimulants, we should depend upon the ultimate Provider and Sustainer: Allah (swt). Ask Allah (swt) to free you from your stress, and eventually it will give you relief, Insha’Allah.

Some Conditions that can be Exacerbated by Caffeine

  • Stress
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Cystitis
  • Heart burn
  • Diabetes
  • Anger
  • Aggression
  • Irritability
  • Palpitations
  • Glaucoma
  • Menopause
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Bi-polar depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Pre-Menstrual tension
  • Mood swings

Effects of Caffeine on Our Body

  • Increases heart rate
  • Lowers blood sugar
  • Depletes vitamin B6
  • Increases blood pressure
  • Speeds up loss of vitamins and minerals
  • Increases blood cholesterol levels

Dear Haadia

Some of my friends have succumbed to smoking. When I try to stop them, they make fun of me. What should I do?

Answer: The topic of your question is a delicate one, as peer pressure can be extremely tough and exhausting to cope with. We often see that people are reluctant to give up smoking, either at gunpoint or through warning as to what is forbidden in Islam. They are unwilling to listen about the moral decadence of this addiction and the harmful effects associated with it. Although this is easier said than done, do not feel offended about being ridiculed, when inviting people towards the truth. Remember that even the messengers were mocked and ridiculed, when they invited people towards the good: “And never came a Messenger to them but they did mock at him.” (Al-Hijr 15:11)

First, sincerity on your part is absolutely essential. In warning your friends, keep your intention solely for the pleasure of Allah (swt).

Do not forget to make Dua for them and yourself that Allah (swt) may help you and grant you wisdom and strength in warning them.

Remember to invite with politeness and in non-argumentative ways; never strike on any individual’s integrity. You will have to build up your level of patience in this painstaking process; you might even be referred to as ‘Naik Bibi’ (pious girl). Do not get embarrassed or ashamed. In fact, when there is no negative reaction, eventually such jabs do fizzle out.

Also, remember that your role is to pass on the repercussions of this evil without nagging. An effective tool, which may be used for this purpose, is e-mail. May be you could start out by sending some interesting current discoveries and then discreetly move on to mailing information on smoking. There are many sites available, for example: http://www.missionislam.com/.

Hiba also had a special article on ‘Smoking in Shariah’ in one of its past issues. You may consult that to find out Islam’s stance and supporting evidence on the subject.

While giving the message, look for like-minded friends, so that you don’t get weakened and influenced in the process. In fact, they will be a source of strength for you, Insha’Allah.

If any of your friends wants to give up smoking, support them in any and every way possible, e.g., by offering counseling, medical help, financial or other resources. It is equally important to realize that beyond this, there is nothing else we can do, except continue praying for all such people with the utmost sincerity. Why? As we know, the ultimate guide is Allah’s (swt) will. Prophet Nuh (as) said to his people: “And my advice will not profit you, even if I wish to give you good counsel, if Allah’s will is to keep you astray.” (Hud 11:34)

Shariah Rulings on Smoking

smokingNaissance of Tobacco

Most likely, Mexicans were the first ones to know about tobacco – over 2500 years ago. A Spanish explorer brought the tobacco plant from Mexico to Spain during the reign of King Philip II. Towards the end of the sixteenth century, smoking became quite common all over Europe.

It was through Europe that Africans and Asians learnt about smoking. A Jewish man carried tobacco to Morocco and the neighbouring Arab countries towards the end of the 10th century after Hijra (16th century AD), while a Christian took it all the way from England to Turkey. It reached Egypt, the Hijaz, and the countries of central Africa.

Rulings on Smoking

According to Dr. Ahmed Al-Haji Al-Kardi: “Smoking has not been mentioned during the period of Islamic Fiqh (jurisprudence), in which the Shariah was formalized and classified. However, following generations of Fiqh scholars took it upon themselves to study the practice of smoking, since it appeared to be an underlying cause of increasing occurrences of acts of disobedience.”

This was certainly not an impediment. However, scholars have not reached a consensus. Some consider it Haram (forbidden), while others – Makrooh (disliked). Each opinion mentions the sins, with which smoking is associated, and justifies it with Daleel (proof). Following is an analysis of the ruling that considers smoking Haram and substantiates this claim. Allah knows best.

Smoking Being Haram

Based on research, medical doctors report that smoking is harmful to health in general and is the cause of some 25 different illnesses. Hence, scholars categorize it as Haram, based on Prophet’s (sa) Hadeeth: “There should be no damage made and no causing of damage” (Ibn Majah). Besides, Allah in Quran forbids believers to harm themselves: “And do not kill yourselves (or one another). Indeed, Allah is to you ever merciful.” (An-Nisa 4:29)

Tobacco kills a smoker every eight seconds. Generally, smokers are known to die 10 to 12 years earlier than non-smokers. According to data released by World Health Organization (WHO), every year tobacco kills 4.9 million people worldwide. About 500 million people alive today will be eventually killed by tobacco.

The FCTC (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) requires all tobacco companies to cover at least 30% of every cigarette pack with health warnings and to ban euphemistic adjectives, such as ‘light’ or ‘mild,’ to describe cigarettes. Even those, who manufacture it, concede to this requirement, because they are aware that smoking is injurious to health.

Tobacco contains intoxicating drugs, and all intoxicants are Haram. Umm Salamh says: “The Prophet of Allah (sa) forbade every intoxicant and everything that produces languor” (Abu Dawood).

Smoking causes bad breath, which is not permissible. This is justified by the Hadeeth narrated by Jabir: “The angels dislike, whatever the children of Adam dislike.” (Muslim)

For passive smokers, the danger of smoke doesn’t lessen. For this very reason even in secular countries, such as USA, no-smoking zones have been created not to jeopardize public health.

Smoking is a waste, and waste is Haram. The following Quranic verses support this: “.. But spend not wastefully (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift. Verily, the spendthrifts are brothers of the Shaitan…” (Al-Isra 17:26-27)

Economically the downside to smoking is copious. In countries, such as USA, medical care for smoking-related illnesses costs about USD50 billion annually. Pakistan government cannot even dream of spending this kind of money on healthcare, though similar illnesses cost exorbitantly households, which have patients suffering from smoking-related diseases.

In the developing nations, where food is scarce, fertile land is used to cultivate tobacco for the top five consumers of the world: China, Japan, USA, Russia, and Indonesia. The poor simply go hungry. Many middle class people spend a large proportion of their income on tobacco rather than food.

In developed nations, careless disposal of cigarettes has been a leading cause for starting forest fires.

Pakistan — A Haven for Tobacco Industry

Dr. Zubair Shaheen reported in Dawn, how the tobacco industry has discovered a haven in many developing countries, where the regulations are often lax. To capture emerging markets, they lower the prices, advertise generously, and promote their product, especially among the youth. Pakistan Paediatric Association states that 1,000 to 1,200 children between the ages of six and sixteen years take up smoking every day.

Pakistan has ratified the FCTC, which is the world’s first global agreement devoted entirely to tobacco control. Issues addressed in the FCTC include tobacco advertising, promotion, smuggling, taxes, cessation, treatment, passive smoking, and tobacco product regulations.

The government of Pakistan has promulgated the ordinance entitled “Prohibition of Smoking at Public Places and Protection of Non-Smokers Health Ordinance 2002” aimed to restrict the promotional campaigns of tobacco industry. These restrictions, though partial in nature, are the first statutory move towards restricting smoking. There is urgent need now for effective implementation of laws and regulations.

Ironically, according to Pakistna Tobacco Corporation, since 1947 Pakistan has earned approximately Rs.54 billion worth of revenue. It also offers jobs to nearly 2 million individuals. This can be a temptation for the government to look the other way.

The Irreversible Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking

The American Council on Science and Health has disclosed the following ailments that can affect smokers:

Respiratory System

Smoking is a cause of lung cancer. It directly irritates and damages the respiratory tract, leading to bad breath, cough, sputum production, and wheezing.

Heart and Circulation

It is also responsible for Atherosclerosis (the progression of fatty deposits in the carotid artery) and Cerebrovascular accident or stroke that causes brain damage.

Eyes and Vision

Macular degeneration (irreversible form of blindness) and cataracts (clouding of the lenses) are some of the results of smoking.

Mouth and Throat

Smoking can lead to mouth, throat, and esophageal cancer, gum disease, tooth loss, and   permanent damage to the larynx tissues.

Digestive Organs

Smoking decreases esophageal sphincter pressure leading to esophagitis and to permanent esophageal stricture. It is also a risk factor for pancreatic and colon cancer.

Musculoskeletal System

Osteoporosis (thinning of the bones due to loss of bone minerals) in women and spinal disk disease in both sexes can be developed by smokers.


Infertility, miscarriage, and stillbirth are more common among smokers. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is another risk factor.

The Skin

Smoking causes premature facial wrinkling through vasoconstriction of the capillaries of the face.

As rational humans, none of us would dare to consume poison, since we realize it will lead us to instant death. However, we ignore all the warnings that do not have an instant impact, such as puffing cigarettes. Whether smoking is a need, social practice, or a stress reliever, kick the habit for lifetime, before you become a statistic, too. No further evidence or debate is required to prove that if you smoke, you are on your way to taking your own life.