KUALA LUMPUR - For 30 years, Feisal Fakharudin lived a heroin addict's life, sleeping on streets, getting into trouble with police and rotating in and out of drug treatment centers.
Now, he has high hopes to live like any other human being, thanks to the help of a mosque in Muslims-majority Malaysia.
"In the past, there was no one to help me," Feisal told Reuters on Thursday, May 3.
He said he used to feel like the "scum of society."
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Thanks to Ae-Rahman mosque in the capital Kuala Lumpur, Feisal is now being treated from his drug addiction.
After performing his prayers, he slips upstairs away from his fellow worshippers to receive a dose of methadone from a drug-treatment clinic - the world's first to operate in a mosque, according the World Health Organization.
Feisal attributes the success of his treatment to the spiritual guidance he gets from mosque imams, as well as the methadone syrup dispensed twice a week by medical staff.
Starting up over two years ago, the set-up of a methadone clinic in a mosque has raised eyebrows in Muslims-majority Malaysia.
Drug addiction is banned in Malaysia and drug traffickers face the death penalty.
Those caught in possession of drugs above specified quantities face trafficking charges and are presumed guilty.
"Methadone is a God-gifted medication, said Rusdi Abdul Rashid, the chief coordinator of the University of Malaya's Center of Addiction Sciences (UMCAS) that runs the clinic.
Rusdi had tried hard to convince mosque imams and religious authorities to allow the clinic to treat drug addicts.
Eventually, Islamic authorities in Malaysia, which has been a leading voice of moderate Islam, gave the green light for the treatment, deciding that methadone was not a banned substance under Islam.
It helps with long-term treatment of drug addiction and prevents patients from relapsing," said Rusdi, a lecturer and consultant psychiatrist who has been treating patients with methadone for 10 years.
UMCAS has plans to expand the program to a third of the country's 6,000 mosques by 2015 to treat 72,000 heroin users.
"The use of methadone is only one part of treating drug addicts because we also have to look at the patient's spiritual, psychological and psychosocial aspects," said Ghaffar Surip, an official with the government's Department of Islamic Development (Jakim), which enforces Islamic laws.
Malaysia has an estimated 350,000 drug addicts, which could rise to half a million by 2015 partly because of a high relapse rate.
The centre also wants to enlist Christian churches and Hindu temples, starting with the country's iconic Hindu temple at Batu Caves on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.
The patients are not always well-received.
Some who turn up at Ar-Rahman mosque face being stigmatized by the community and by the mosque officials themselves.
"People always say that drug addicts are associated with crime, and ask why the clinic is there, said Ghaffar.
They think mosques are only for 'good' people.
The treatment worked for Feisal, who first tried heroin when he was 15.
The 48-year-old father of four is now a street musician playing in Kuala Lumpur's popular tourists locations.
His vicious cycle only eased when he enrolled in a government methadone clinic six years ago, and later was among 50 patients selected for the Ar-Rahman mosque program.
"I prefer to come here because I feel closer to God. I feel cleansed," he said."It's different having treatment in the mosque compared to normal clinics. Here, we can't lie, because God is watching."
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net