It is a well known fact that Muslims don’t drink alcohol. It is haram, which means forbidden. Muslims don’t eat foods with any kind of alcohol or ethanol, they don’t wear perfumes containing alcoholic ingredients and they stay away from all forms of intoxicating substances. Muslims in Dubai also don’t tolerate medical cannabis of any form, even harmless CBD oil. Read here about a man from the UK who was served 25 years in a Dubai prison for 4 bottles of CBD oil.
This abstinence from drugs and alcohol is a command from God, the law maker for Muslims’ health and environment. But why else is alcohol, and drugs in general, haram in Islam? Let’s take a look.
Alcohol in Islam
Linguistically, khamr (خمر) the Arabic word for “wine”, is alcohol derived from grapes. This is what is prohibited by specific texts of the Quran (see 5:90). Therefore alcohol is categorically unlawful (haraam) and considered impure (najis). Consuming any amount is unlawful, even if it doesn’t create any drunken effects. This is opposite to Judaism which consecrates its Sabbath every Friday night using alcohol specifically made from grapes.
But when we go back to Islam, 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 in the Quran was given to forbid Muslims from attending prayers while in a drunken state (Quran, 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).
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).
Don’t get into this state
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 Muslimsavoid alcohol in any form, even small amounts that are sometimes used in cooking.
1. 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 eco “wudhu” (woo-dhoo) 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. Another obligation to Muslims is the annual Hajj or Haj pilgrimage, at least once in their lifetime. This year Hajj has been cancelled, thanks to corona.
2. It’s addictive
Even when the early Muslims recognised 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. Nonetheless, some Muslims seekalcohol treatment.
3. 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 jeopardise this behaviour is forbidden, and another reason why Muslims don’t drink.
4. 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.
Bars 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 don’t have to drink to have a good time, to work or to socialise.
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,” says Dr. Abdullah bin Bayyah from Suhaibwebb.
5. 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.
6. Alcohol can lead to crime
Think about the ridiculous things you might have done when drunk. 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 isn’t 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).
All intoxicants were made haraam in Islam’s religious scripture at different times over a period of years. Even CBD oil. Over the years, the list of intoxicating substances has come to include more modern street drugs and the like. But some plants with intoxicating effects such as chewing khat in Yemen and cannabis have slipped into Islam. According to this site, the Muslim scholars are divided over khat:
“The three main positions on khat are that it is halal (permissible), makruh (detested or discouraged) or haraam (forbidden). It may be shown that each view has some support in the scholarly literature of Islam.
“Each was accepted by some members of the focus groups. Most of those who participated in the focus groups had a strong view on the correct position pursuant to Islam and this view influenced their decision to support or reject prohibition and to chew or not to chew khat.”
Young man selling khat, gat or qat leaves in Yemen
Islam prohibits the use of narcotics noting that “every intoxicant is haram (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).
We suggest you speak to your local clerics about individual use because the use of these substances is not cut and dry. Nonetheless, this drug abuse is also haram, not to mention encouraging illegal drug trade and addiction.
Without side-sweeping the nutritional value to alcoholic beverages, we must accept that wine in particular is not completely “evil”. Wine contains coronary benefits and according to studies, decreases the risk of peptic ulcers.
Hippocrates recommended specific wines to disinfect wounds, and even the great Islamic scholar Ibn Kathir noted wine’s force for better digestion.
In the Quran is the promise of Paradise for people who conserve God’s laws on Earth and leave it as they found it, or better. This Paradise contains rivers of honey, milk and wine which does not intoxicate (see 47:15):
The description of the Paradise promised to the righteous is that in it are rivers of fresh water, rivers of milk that never changes in taste, rivers of wine delicious to drink, and rivers of pure honey. There they will ˹also˺ have all kinds of fruit, and forgiveness from their Lord. ˹Can they be˺ like those who will stay in the Fire forever, left to drink boiling water that will tear apart their insides?
Some great entrepreneurs took this verse from the Quran as inspiration, leading to the production of halal approved wines such as Halal Champ Wine, and Australia’s Patritti Wines of Dover Gardens, which was accredited by the Islamic Council in 2003.
According to a more lenient school of thought in Islam, creams and deodorants containing alcohol are alright to use as it is invariably a synthetic alcohol and not wine (khamr). In Saudi Arabia though, evenfuel containing ethanol is getting the haram boot.
A contemporary fatwa (Islamic ruling) classified non-wine alcohol as permitted in external uses such as perfumes and soaps so long as it’s not used in vain or for intoxicating purposes. However, the main consensus is to religiously avoid it.
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 aren’t 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 socialising and enjoying food, a lifestyle that Muslims simply do not indulge in.
More onMuslim health issues:
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Egyptians Question the Health of Their Tap Water
If It’s Not Organic, It’s Not Halal (4 Ethical Zabiha Principles)