The Sunday Times of Malta (July 11) carried the findings of a research study by the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD), titled ‘Alcohol use among young people – the national situation’.
This study shows that alcohol remains the most widely consumed substance both in Malta and across Europe. It did find a decrease in alcohol consumption and risky drinking behaviours but suggested that this is “still relatively high”.
The findings of this research, and similar studies, show some common factors among youth in relation to alcohol consumption. These include peer-pressure to try something new, to have fun and party, the pressure from social circles and the easy availability of alcoholic drinks.
Whenever the subject of drinking comes up in discussion, many are defensive: “I don’t drink a lot”, “I don’t drink regularly” or “I only drink a few times a week”.
This reminds me of a story. There was once a man who had committed many crimes and had exceeded all limits. After he was caught and was about to be hanged for all his crimes, he was asked whether he had a last wish.
He said he wished to meet his mother. When his mother came closer he told her he wanted to say something in her ear. He then bit her ear so hard that she cried loudly in pain.
Hearing all this noise, the guards rushed forward and cursed him: had he no shame? Despite having committed so many crimes, moments before his death he does injury to his own mother.
The criminal replied: “Indeed, today is when I have done a good deed. When I committed petty crimes and people used to complain to my mother, she took my side and, despite knowing the truth, she did not reprimand me. As a result, I became bolder and a big criminal. Had she stopped me from committing minor evils at the time, I would not have become a criminal.”
The moral of this story is that every habit, good or bad, starts with small steps. With the passage of time, it becomes an unbreakable habit and then an addiction.
Had my mother stopped me from committing minor evils at the time, I would not have become a criminal
To avoid falling into addiction, it is important to be resistant early on. Vanity disguised as entertainment can quickly turn into a serious problem, affecting behaviour, health and one’s social and economic well-being. Addiction leads to an aversion towards the more important matters of life. In the Holy Quran, believers are admonished to shun all that which is vain (23:4).
If someone has already developed bad habits, how is it possible to overcome them?
Once again, God has taught us another beautiful way to remove bad habits and help addicts. God says: “Surely good works drive away the evil ones” (Quran, 11:115).
This everlasting principle suggests effective ways to overcome and eradicate these habits. Setting a good example is one such method, as it wins over the hearts of others and makes them improve themselves. The emulation of good habits makes bad habits gradually disappear.
It further means that if a person desires to get rid of an evil habit, he should begin to practise a corresponding virtue. In this way, he will soon get rid of his evil habit.
These words tell us that, to avoid the evil consequences of our misdeeds, we should engage in virtuous acts. The more virtue we practise, the more secure we will become from the consequences of our evil deeds.
This is a very simple yet rational and profound principle: counter bad habits with that which is good, replace evil with virtue, replace a bad habit with a good one.
Mere abstention would not serve the purpose unless it is replaced by something valuable, something greater, something more attractive, which cultivates a positive change in a person.
There is no one better than parents to guide their young children, through their compassionate training and by leading with their own excellent example.
Laiq Ahmed Atif, President, Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Malta
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