Moral Teachings of Islam- Diet: Intoxicants

Summary of 6.11′ Diet: Ingredients
In terms of the main criteria for the lawful and unlawful we have objectives of Islamic law or Sharia and then we have examples of things we should avoid in order to reach those objectives.’ We mentioned that the main objective of Islamic law is to safeguard faith, life, mind, honor and property.’ In some of the previous programs we focused on measures taken to preserve or safeguard faith by avoiding shirk (associating others with God in His divine power), sorcery and tyranny.’ The second purpose of Islamic jurisprudence is to safe guard life and we discuss the prohibition of killing, suicide (related aspects like euthanasia and abortion), social injustice (may leave people in society without their fundamental needs) and we spent lots of time on things that relate to impure diets (blood, animals that died without being slaughtered and pork and the reasons behind its prohibition).’ What we are moving towards today is to cover the measures taken to safe guard the mind.

6.12 ‘ Diet: Intoxicants

Host: How widespread was the use of intoxicants amongst pre-Islamic Arabs?

Jamal Badawi:

Well it was very wide spread.’ One of the examples of this is that in Arabic before Islam they used to have 100 different names for wine.’ There was a poet who said ‘If I die and you bury me plant a grape vine plant on my grave so that my bones can get the taste of it.” This shows how engrossed by the evil of drinking.

Host:’ How did Islam succeed in illuminating it from the lives of the Arabs?

Jamal Badawi:

The main reason for Islamic success in whipping out such habits is the training of people to believe in Allah and to accept His authority in directing our lives and to train ourselves to obey Him rather than our own minds and inclinations which are usually bias towards one way or the other.’ This approach of loving and conscious submission to the will of God is reached then one would be receptive to receive any command from God.’ Once this was inculcated into the hearts of men and women it was not difficult to gradually move forward.’ But in addition to this you are right in implying that faith in itself might not have succeeded in whipping out something like this which was really part and partial of their lives.

The other wisdom that we find in the scripture of Islam is that it gradually allowed people to rid themselves of this particular habit.’ For example the first verse revealed in the Quran that discouraged people to drink or use intoxicants appears in (2:219) ‘They ask thee concerning wine and gambling. Say: ‘In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit.’ ‘Some studies show that in some States in the US for every dollar that the State earns from selling liquor they spend between two and $11 in terms of rehabilitation.’ Even if there was an economic benefit it is still less than the magnitude of the harm that comes.

In the second stage in (4:43) it went one step farther ‘O ye who believe! Approach not prayers with a mind befogged.” We must remember that a Muslim prays on a regular interval from morning till they go to bed.’ Which meant that those who were still unable to rid themselves of the habit, were restricted to drink only after the night prayer and before the early morning prayer.’ So then people started getting the hint that this is something that God doesn’t like.’ Then finally in (5:93) came the most decisive verse in the Quran about irrevocable final prohibition which reads ‘O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination,- of Satan’s handwork: eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper.” This was a decisive verse that came in one of the chapters which was among the last to be revealed in the Quran called Al-Ma’ida.’ In fact historians report that when this verse was revealed those who were half way through drinking just threw it away and those who had any jars at home broke them on the streets of Medina till the streets were flowing like rivers with the wine.’ First people were committed to obeying Allah then the there was a very gradual and effective approach instilled for eliminating bad habits.

Host:’ What is the original word used in the Quran for intoxicants?’ Why is it translated as intoxicants?

Jamal Badawi:

The original Arabic word is khamr and was commonly used to refer to any drink that causes one to be intoxicated.’ This includes things that are fermented like wines or bears or things that are distilled like whisky, jinn and brandy.’ If we take the strict meaning of khamr it relates to two very interrelated meanings.’ One is pronounced in Arabic khamra which is a verb that means covered.’ The other meaning is khamura which means fermented.’ Both meanings are related because when one drinks something that is fermented it clouds the mind.

The reason I translated the word as intoxicants is if we simply say wine there are so many other things that also cause the same clouding of the mind so it must fall in the same category.’ There are two reasons why it should not only be translated as wines or strong drinks is that in one of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) which is reported in Ahmad, Abu Dawood and An Nasai he says ‘Some of my people in later days will drink wines which they have given different names.” The name does not really matter as the effect is what really counts.’ An interesting remark was made by Omar Ibn Al Khattab the second Caliph after Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) he stood in the same place that Prophet Muhammad used to give his sermon and he said ‘Khamr is anything that clouds the mind.’

Host:’ Some people arguer that the term used in the Quran to prohibit the use of intoxicants is not as strong as the term ‘forbidden’ or haram, what is your response to this?

Jamal Badawi:

The word used in the Quran is fai’jtanibuh which some translate as avoid or keep away from.’ It is important first of all to clarify that for anything to be unlawful the word haram or that ‘this is unlawful’ in those exact terms is used.’ For example the term la’in or cursed is used for major sins which is even worst because it means that the person who commits this sin is far from the mercy of Allah.’ Sometimes the Quran describes certain deeds as being similar to the handy work of Satan which is even stronger than using the term haram.

The other point that should be kept in mind is that if this argument is correct that the word haram must be used in the Quran in order for something to forbidden we would be on shaky ground.’ There is no where in the Quran that says killing is haram or unlawful.’ Yet killing is mentioned in the Quran as being one of the most abominable acts that have ever been committed.’ Many of the major sins (which everyone agrees are unlawful) do not appear in the Quran with the word haram but other terms are used to convey the point.

Third, the word used in the Quran faijtanibuh means to take aside or keep away from.’ The Quran uses this term in something that no Muslim or non-Muslim would dispute as being absolutely unlawful in Islam, which is the worship of Idols or to put associates of God.’ This appears in the Quran in (16:36) as ‘avoided false Gods’ so can anyone says that this is not unlawful as it uses the derivative of the same word.’ The Quran also speaks of the major sins Kaba’ir which appear in more than one verse in the Quran in (42:37), (53:32) and (4:30) which all talk about major sins and use the word ijtanibu.

The story of Abraham in (14:35) praying to God to ‘Preserve (w- ijnubni) me and my sons from worshipping idols’ also uses the same word.’ When the Quran talks about avoiding the fire on the Day of Judgment in (92:17) it uses the same term.

The Quran also uses the term rijs which means impurity and un-cleanliness in (22:30) which refers to the worship of idols and is also used in (5:93) to refer to drinking.’ The fact that the term rijs is used leaves no doubt that it is absolutely forbidden.’ There has never been a doubt as there has always been agreement amongst all Muslim jurists throughout history that it is definitely haram as confirmed in the Quran and in the sayings Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Host:’ What are some examples of what the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had to say about the use of intoxicants?

Jamal Badawi:

As we should take his behavior as example we should point out that he never touched intoxicants even before he became a prophet.’ He also has decisive statements about this subject.’ One of them is that God will not accept the prayers of a person who drinks for 40 days unless he repents.’ He says a person who drinks in this life will not enjoy wine (which does not cause intoxication) in the hereafter.’ He says in a Hadith narrated in Ahmad that a person who dies addicted to drinking or intoxicants would meet God as if he worshiped idols unless he repents before his death.’ In another saying of the prophet narrated in Bukhari and Muslim he says ‘Everything that causes intoxication is khamr (intoxicant) and every khamr (intoxicant) is haram (unlawful).” There is no wonder that intoxicants are called the mother of abominations but in fact people who drink may commit any number of moral offenses.

Host:’ Is social drinking (small amounts) or drinking things other than hard liquor permissible?

Jamal Badawi:

A saying of the Prophet (PBUH) makes the answer to this very clear as found in Abu Dawood and Ahmad he says that if one needs to drink a lot of something to get high then even small amounts of it are forbidden.’ In another similar saying narrated in Ahmad, Abu Dawood and Altirmithi he says ‘If one needs a certain amount (sixteen pounds) in order to get high even a handful of that is haram.’

There are also some scientific studies that show that even though not everyone who drinks becomes addicted to alcohol that in many cases addiction starts by social drinking.’ Islam closes the door on this because not everyone is able to control themselves once they start.

Host:’ What about other intoxicants such as hashes and marihuana etc.?

Jamal Badawi:

The basis for this is from the hadith that ‘Everything that causes intoxication is khamr (intoxicant) and every khamr (intoxicant) is haram (unlawful)’ which doesn’t say that the item that creates intoxication is a drink or liquor.’ The other basis for this is by analogy which is a rule in Islamic jurisprudence that if there is something harmful and has been forbidden and there is something else that has the same effect then by analogy it should also be forbidden.’ Some things have the same effects or even more harmful effects like cocaine.

Host:’ Can a Muslim buy sell or deal with liquor or intoxicants even if they do not use it themselves?

Jamal Badawi:

Islam is practical.’ It doesn’t ask one to do something and then provide a social, political or economic environment that encourages the opposite or the wrong thing.’ When something is forbidden in Islam the way is paved so that the entire system operates in the same direction.’ In the collections of Hadith by Tirmithi and Ibn Maja Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was reported as saying that there are ten categories of people who are cursed who have anything to do with intoxicants.’ First of all the one who makes it, the one who asks someone to make it for him, a person who drinks it, a person who carries it, a person to whom it is carried, a person who serves it, a person sells it, a person who takes its price, a person who buys it and a person for whom it is purchased.’ Some jurists even say that a person who raises grapes (which is legitimate) with the intention of selling it to wineries is also contributing to this prohibited act.

There is also a saying of Prophet Muhammad narrated in Ahmad in which he says a person who really believes in Allah and the hereafter should not sit at the same table where wine or intoxicants are served.’ It is also important to stay away from places where wine is served.

Host:’ How wide spread is drinking and the use of drugs within Muslim communities?

Jamal Badawi:

To start with I must say that Muslims are not angels and followers of any faith follow their faith to some degree or the other.’ It is however interesting to note that in Muslim countries and others.’ Even though Muslims today do not necessarily follow their faith very strictly or else they would not be in the pathetic situation they are in today.’ Even then the strength of this Quranic prohibition is noted.’ Indeed there are several countries which prohibit buying, selling or importing wines.’ There are some countries that have it in their legislative process bills for the absolute prohibition of dealing with liquor.’ Above all the spread the spread of drinking is far less than in other places.’ Of course there are Muslims who drink and take drugs but they are mostly among the more corrupt or more affluent segment of society who might see it as a sign of prestige or those who have weakness in their heart and they feel that by imitating the technologically advanced that the yare being advanced.’ On the whole it is less prevalent and statistics can be checked for numbers on this matter.

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