Moral Teachings of Islam- Diet: Other Issues

Summary of 6.12′ “Diet: Intoxicants”
We discussed four basic areas last time.’ First of all, we discussed how Islam prohibits everything that clouds the mind.’ Even though the term used in the Quran is khamr some people mistakenly translate it into wine but rather it is anything that clouds the mind as Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said.’ Second, the prohibition in Islam is definite and strict.’ The Quran says that intoxicants are an abomination of the handy work of Satan.’ The Quran uses ijtanibuh and other derivatives of the word to refer to avoiding major sins and hell fire.’ It is also used in the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) which corroborates what the Quran already established.’ There is a Hadith narrated by Muslim where the Prophet said after the final verse prohibiting intoxicants was revealed in the Quran ‘God has made intoxicants unlawful and whoever hears this verse and has any intoxicants should stop drinking it and get rid of it.” The third point was that the prohibition did not only refer to strong drinks but any intoxicant that might be light (ex. Beer).’ This ruling applies by analogy to any other drugs that might have the same effect of clouding the mind.’ The final question was about the spread of drinking in the Muslim world.’ We said that Muslims after all are not angels but any observer would see that the spread of drinking in the Muslim world is far less than it has spread in other communities.’ Even then it is not socially acceptable as drinking is looked down upon socially and religiously speaking.

6.13 ‘ Diet: Intoxicants Continue

Host:’ What are some of the reasons for the prohibition of intoxicants that are found in the Quran or Hadith?

Jamal Badawi:

The harms of intoxicants can be found in a wide variety of resources.’ We will look at it from the Islamic point of view and try to relate it to the contemporary point of view.

A reference to this would be a verse we sited last time from the Quran in (5:90-91) ‘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.’ Satan’s plan is (but) to excite enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer: will ye not then abstain?’

If we analyze these two verses in the Quran there seems to be three basic groups of reasons given.’ First of all, it says that intoxicants are Satan’s handiwork.’ The term used in the Quran is rijs which means something unclean and improper.’ This un-cleanliness may take different forms.’ Once the person is intoxicated and his mind is beclouded, self control or inhibition is removed and a person is likely to commit moral sins.’ There is no wonder then that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said definitely that ‘Intoxicants is the mother of evils’ because it could lead to more evil.’ He also said that whoever drinks might neglect the prayer and might commit incestuous type of acts because their self control is not intact.’ This reminds me of a symbolic story that could have been true about a saint who was offered one of three alternatives under duress to kill, to commit adultery or to drink.’ He said maybe drinking is the least of these three evils se he drank.’ When he drank he committed adultery and while still under the effect of the intoxicants he committed murder.’ Whether the story is real or symbolic, it shows that we might belittle the danger that can result from intoxication.

The other thing that can be regarded as an aspect of Satan’s handiwork is that Satan has no interest in our wellbeing as humans.’ If God calls intoxicants an abomination and Satan’s handiwork there must be additional harm that is not just spiritual or moral.’ An example of this is the harm could be inflicted on us physically, the damage that it causes to the livers and the harm that it does to economic life.’ Many studies have been conducted to show the effects of intoxicants on productivity, loss of work days because of absentees or tardiness, mistakes, cost of rehabs, cost of detoxification and the high price society pays for drinking in terms of crime and accidents.’ They say that about fifty percent of fatal high way accidents are caused because of intoxication.

The second aspect that can be derived from these two verses is that Satan is interested in spreading hatred and discord between people.’ I come back to the question of crimes and because a person may get addicted to drinking to drugs he may have to steal to satisfy his thirst which could result in armed robbery and murder.’ People murder because they are under the influence of intoxicants as many homicides are connected to drinking.’ They commit suicide, as people get to high and just walking out the window from the tenth floor and fall.’ There have been studies on spouse (wife) and child abuse which were shown to be connected to a great extent with drinking.’ The discord that is caused by humans because of drinking is found to be very evident by those who study family disputes and problems.’ Many times drinking has been the cause of the break down of poorer families especially when the cost of drinking and drugs causes severe financial problems and raises family disputes.

The third aspect which is based on the scripture revealed 1400 year ago but we are now discovering more and more the extent of wisdom behind it.’ The verse says it keeps you away from remembrance of God and from prayers.’ This shows again that by clouding the mind a person is abusing one of the greatest blessings or gifts that God has given which is our intellect.’ Drinking and drugs is an escape from reality, from life, from the state of being alert which is a requirement in order for any human to perform his role on earth, to have a meaningful life and to be aware of what is going on.’ By escaping from that state one is abusing his mind and as such they are keeping away from the remembrance of God and this is the beginning of additional evils.

Host:’ How can we successfully restrict the use of intoxicants without restricting the freedom of the individual?

Jamal Badawi:

Some people are not completely aware of Islamic approach as they think it is just laws.’ The approach of Islam does not start from the law it starts from the heart.’ One might recall that from the previous program when we talked how the Quran gradually moved from first discouraging people not to drink or use intoxicants then to requiring that they should pray while sober and then finally prohibiting it.’ This process took a period of time that allowed people to easily get rid of the bad habit.’ This is what is called in modern terms detoxification or rehabilitation as one can’t give this up over night.’ The most important thing about it is that it starts from the individual, his conviction, his faith, his commitment to a particular way of life that is wholesome and clean.’ Once the person is convinced he can start the process of rehabilitation.’ The additional point that would help achieve this without depending on the implementation of the law is to provide an atmosphere where these things are not easily accessible or encouraged.’ If one opens any paper whether newspapers or magazines and we find prominent advertisements for booze among other things.’ In order to cleans society and discourage these promotions of drinking would help people to get rid of this habit.’ I don’t really thing this is impossible as we find examples of champagnes against smoking because of the harm of smoking.’ Publicity, education, motivation, stimulation and people gradually move towards getting rid of these things without applying the heavy hand of the law.’ The main issue is whether society is ready to accept this or not and whether this trend is based on reasons that are deeply ingrained in the belief in God and the will to live properly?

Host:’ How come Islam strictly prohibits the use of intoxicants but one of the delights of paradise is khamr or what is interpreted as wine or intoxicants?

Jamal Badawi:

First of all when people drink or take intoxicants there could be a variety of reason why they do so.’ It can be related to stress or something similar to that, but most people drink to achieve some sort of pleasure from this state of clouding the mind.’ The main problem here is that on one hand one feels pleasure and the other hand there are draw backs (spiritually, morally, socially and economically).’ How can someone achieve the pleasures with the drawbacks?

By definition paradise is a place where no one suffers and where one is rewarded for abstaining from evil and by applying self control while on earth.’ The pleasures in paradise according to Islam include both spiritual and physical pleasure.’ How does God explain to us the nature of the pleasures of paradise?’ No human language can adequately explain how one will achieve pleasure without the drawbacks.’ But most of us can understand told that we will get better pleasure than the pleasure we get here when one gives up intoxicants here in order to drinks in paradise.’ Thos who say that forget that the Quran itself says that the type of khamr found in paradise is not of the same nature of the khamr that we have here on earth.’ In one verse in the Quran in (37:46-47) it describes it as ‘Crystal-white, of a taste delicious to those who drink (thereof), Free from headiness; nor will they suffer intoxication therefrom.” This means that the drink is of a different kind that no human language can express which give the pleasure but not the drawbacks of worldly intoxicants.’ The Quran itself indicates that the various descriptions of paradise are only similarities that describe the unimaginable reality of paradise to our mind.’ For example in (32:17) it says ‘Now no person knows what delights of the eye are kept hidden (in reserve) for them- as a reward for their (good) deeds.’

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said in order to show us that these things are only approximations ‘In paradise there are things that no eye has ever seen, no ear has ever heard and no thought could have made it occur to the human perception.” In order to please God one gives up booze here and gets an even better pleasure in paradise and in both places one is a winner (because on earth one will avoid the draw backs).

Host:’ I would like to ask about the use of alcohol to keep people warm in cold areas and the use of anesthesia for operations and in cough drops etc.?

Jamal Badawi:

As far as using alcohol to keep warm that is not the only source that can keep people warm as God has blessed humanity with lots of additional means of keeping warm.’ In fact some refer to honey as one source of ready energy as well as sports and other means.’ Every door is not closed so that we have to resort to drinking to keep warm and it may even be more costly than other available means of keeping warm.

As far as using alcohol in medicine there are two aspects of this.’ First of all, one should not jump to the first opportunity to break the law and use intoxicant if it can be avoided.’ Evidence of this is found in Muslim and Ahmad where it is reported that the Prophet (PBUH) saw someone making wine and the he said ‘No, it is an ailment not a cure.” In another saying narrated in Abu Dawood he said ‘God has created the diseases but He also created the cure so seek cure and avoid using cures which are unlawful.” In Bukhari he said ‘God did not make your cure in something that He has forbidden to you.” This is the approach that a Muslim should approach the subject with.’ However, there is also a general rule in Islam of absolute necessity.’ This means that if a situation arises where the avoidance of forbidden things means loosing a life or living with a severe disease or suffering then and only then there are exceptions.’ This is based on the Quran as it says ‘Make not your own hands contribute to (your) destruction’ as found in (2:195) or ‘Do not kill yourself’ as found in (4:29).’ On this basis Muslim jurists said that if for example a situation arises where one has to have an operation, anesthesia is a form of clouding the mind but is absolutely necessary.

As for cough drops there are alternatives.’ Islam doesn’t say suffer but there are alternative medication that can be taken for cough so why take ones that have alcohol.’ And even if there are no other medications available and the coughing is really bad there are different percents of alcohol in different medicines.’ Some have 1% and other have 25% like Niquil, so if one is forced to take the medicine one should take the one with the least amount of forbidden ingredients.’ It is still better to find a substitute for that.

Host:’ What about using alcohol in cooking, mouthwash or colognes?

Jamal Badawi:

Only in the last one there is no problem.’ However, using alcohol in cake and trying to let it burn out is not permissible.’ The texture of the cake is such that there is no guaranty that there is enough oxygen which will allow all the alcohol content to evaporate.’ The same thing goes for cooking as it may leave traces in the food.’ Above all why should a Muslim while knowing that the Quran is very strict against drinks and intoxicants use ingredients that may contain alcohol?

Mouthwash if not swallowed inadvertently is absorbed through the tissue of the mouth.’ However the use of alcohol in perfumes or colognes is ok.’ Many Muslim jurists say that there is no problem with that because after all one is not drinking or absorbing it.’ It is used as a dissolvent for the ingredients.’ There are some Muslims who prefer to use perfumes that are oil based.

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