Why Muslims Don’t Drink Alcohol

drunk-alcohol

It is a well known fact that Muslims do not drink alcohol. It is haraam, forbidden. They do not eat foods with ethanol, they do not wear perfumes containing alcoholic ingredients and they stay away from all forms of intoxicating substances. This abstinence is a command from God, the law maker for Muslims’ health and environment.

But why else is alcohol haraam in Islam?

Let’s take a look.

Alcohol in Islam

Linguistically, khamr Arabic for “wine”, is alcohol derived from grapes. This is what is prohibited by specific texts of the Quran.

“O  you  who  have  believed,  indeed,  intoxicants,  gambling,  [sacrificing  on]  stone  alters  [to other  than Allah ],  and  divining  arrows  are  but  defilement  from  the  work  of  Satan,  so avoid  it  that  you  may  be  successful.” [Surah Al-Ma'idah 5:90]

Therefore alcohol is categorically unlawful (haraam) and considered impure (najis). Consuming any amount is unlawful, even if it does not create any drunken effects.

The Prophet Muhammad of Islam said, “Intoxicants are from these two trees,” while pointing to grapevines and date-palms. Alcohol derived from dates or raisins is also prohibited, again regardless of the amount consumed.

At first, a general warning was given to forbid Muslims from attending prayers while in a drunken state (Quran, 4:43).

“O  you  who  have  believed,  do  not  approach  prayer  while  you  are  intoxicated  until  you know  what  you  are  saying  or  in  a  state  of  janabah,  except  those  passing  through  [a place  of  prayer],  until  you  have  washed  [your  whole  body].  And  if  you  are  ill  or  on  a journey  or  one  of  you  comes  from  the  place  of  relieving  himself  or  you  have  contacted women  and  find  no  water,  then  seek  clean  earth  and  wipe  over  your  faces  and  your hands  [with  it].  Indeed, Allah is  ever  Pardoning  and  Forgiving.” [Surah An-Nisa' 4:43]

Then a later verse was revealed to Prophet Muhammad which said that while specifically alcohol had some medicinal benefits, the negative effects of it outweighed the good (Quran, 2:219).

“They ask you about wine and gambling. Say, “In them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people. But their sin is greater than their benefit.” And they ask you what they should spend. Say, “The excess [beyond needs].” Thus Allah makes clear to you the verses [of revelation] that you might give thought.” [Surah Al-Baqarah 2:219]

Finally, “intoxicants and gambling” were called “abominations of Satan’s handiwork,” which warned people with self-consciousness to not turn away from God and forget about prayer, and Muslims were ordered to abstain (Quran, 5:90-91).

“O  you  who  have  believed,  indeed,  intoxicants,  gambling,  [sacrificing  on]  stone  alters  [to other  than Allah ],  and  divining  arrows  are  but  defilement  from  the  work  of  Satan,  so avoid  it  that  you  may  be  successful.”

“Satan  only  wants  to  cause  between  you  animosity  and  hatred  through  intoxicants  and gambling  and  to  avert  you  from  the  remembrance  of Allah and  from  prayer.  So  will  you not  desist?”  [Surah Al-Ma'idah 5:90-91]

The Prophet Muhammad also instructed his companions to avoid any intoxicating substances (paraphrased), “if it intoxicates in a large amount, it is forbidden even in a small amount.” For this reason, most observant Muslims avoid alcohol in any form, even small amounts that are sometimes used in cooking.

Why Muslims Don’t Drink Alcohol

  • Alcohol and prayer do not mix. Prayer (salat) is a fundamental part of the Muslim lifestyle, an obligatory call to God five times a day. A ritual “wudhu” (ablution) is necessary before the prayer which involves a water saving ablution to spiritually connect to environment, health and creation. The presence of alcohol in the same room does not affect the prayer, according to Islamic scholars, but anyone who drinks alcohol cannot pray for a month, unless he or she repents.
  • It is addictive. Even when the early Muslims recognized alcohol for its medicinal uses, Prophet Muhammad likened the drink to a “disease”, saying there is no cure in things that God has forbidden. Like the first puff of a cigarette, it is up to individual will-power to continue or stop drinking.
  • Liquor clouds the intellect. Khamr also describes how alcohol consumption makes it difficult to differentiate between right and wrong. Muslim faith is founded on the intellect, rational thought and good judgement. Anything that could jeopardize this behaviour is forbidden, and another reason why Muslims do not drink.
  • It gives the wrong message to children. Sitting in a restaurant where alcohol is served is not the same as drinking it. This is why Islamic law has the flexibility to say if someone needs to sit in such a restaurant for a work meeting or because no other diners are available, he/she can, but should not sit at a table where alcohol is served.

Muslims dont drinkBars and environments where alcohol is served could lead to drinking and in the presence of children, it could teach them to explore drinking. Mature Muslim adults are role models and carry a message that you do not have to drink to have a good time, to work or to specialize.

Classical and contemporary Islamic scholars have helped explain why an alcohol zone can be as bad as drinking itself,

“The difference between [prohibitions in environment] and [prohibitions related to the end goals] is that while both are forbidden, the former is considered lesser in weight because it is related to causes, whereas the latter is related to an actual forbidden act. Thus, sitting at the table, although not the same as drinking, could lead to it whereas drinking in itself is absolutely forbidden.”Dr. Abdullah bin Bayyah (Suhaibwebb.com)

  • Alcohol makes one forget. Any intoxicating substance, whether it’s wine, beer, gin, whiskey or drugs, affects a person’s faculties and behaviour. The result is the same, and the Quran outlines that it is the intoxication-which makes one forgetful of God and prayer-that is harmful.
  • Alcohol can lead to criminality. Although a controversial statement, in Islam alcohol is viewed as the “key to every evil” (hadith), because of its close relation to creating or making criminal behaviour easier to commit. That is not an omission of the medicinal uses of alcohol, but to say that a prevention is better than a cure. Thus, the Quran explains, “(in alcohol) there is a great sin, and (some) benefits, but the sin outweighs its benefit)” (2:219).

Muslims Don’t Do Dope

All intoxicants were made haraam in Islam’s religious scripture at different times over a period of years. Over the years, the list of intoxicating substances has come to include more modern street drugs and the like.

Islam prohibits the use of narcotics noting that “every intoxicant is haraam (unlawful)”. ‘Recreational’ drugs have become the social culture and despite religious prohibitions, Muslims are just as susceptible to cannabis (marijuana), hashish, and the supposedly herbal ‘hukkah‘ (a tobacco smoking pipe).

Nonetheless, this drug abuse is also haraam, not to mention encouraging illegal drug trade and addiction.

Buying and selling wine

For Muslims, when something is made haraam, this means that thing is harmful to one’s health and contribution to the community. That also means Muslims are not supposed to encourage others to consume in any haraam, irrespective of who they are.

Dealing with the alcohol trade comes under the haraam category. The Prophet Muhammad forbade people from all actions related to the wine industry, including pressing wine, drinking it, serving it, selling it or buying it. This severity is to stop the expansion of harm caused by alcohol.

And above all, drinking is a lifestyle choice for socializing and enjoying food, a lifestyle that Muslims simply do not indulge in.

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