The word alcohol is derived from the Arabic word al-kohl, which means fermented grains, fruits, or sugars that form an intoxicating beverage when fermented. Khamr or khamrah is the word used in the Qur'an to denote a fermented beverage that intoxicates a person when he/she drinks it. It is sometimes translated as "wine."
Khamr in Early Muslim History
Pre-Islamic Arabs had harsh lives and felt that alcohol was an indispensable way to cope with their problems. Among the troubles that the Arab people had before Islam were: tribal warfare, excessive pride and competition, prostitution, insecurity, broken homes, and female infanticide. Women were treated as slaves, and children were deprived of affection, while men were expected to be tough and competitive. These were all factors that compelled people to drink.
Sale of alcohol was so common that the name for merchant, tajir, became synonymous with the seller of khamr. Khamr shops and bars were open 24 hours a day.
The first Qur'anic verse (chronologically) to deal with alcohol was revealed in Mecca before the hijra:
"And from the fruit of the date-palm and the vine ye get out wholesome drink and food: behold in this also is a Sign for those who are wise." (16:67)
After this verse, some Muslims started to wonder about the correctness of taking khamr.Revealed in Madinah a few years later, was this verse:
"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..."(2:219)
Most Muslims continued to drink but some began to abstain or reduce their intake. Certain Muslims had been abstinent even in the pre-Islamic days, most notably, Uthman Ibn Affan, who later was the third Khalifa. Uthman said, "Al-khamr 'robs' the mind totally; and I have not yet seen anything which when entirely 'robbed' or curtailed will come back in its original intact form!"
Recent studies have shown that drinking alcohol can in fact cause permanent damage to memory and learning ability.
The third mention of alcohol by Allah (SWT) in the Qur'an occurred as follows:
"O ye who believe! Approach not prayers with a mind befogged, until ye can understand all that ye say, ..." (4:43)
Now there was a great difficulty in being drunk, since a Muslim has to pray five times a day. The Prophet (SAW) is reported to have said, "Prayer is the pillar of religion. The one who performs it has erected religion and the one who abandons it has ruined (his) religion." Since the prayers are spread throughout the day, it is difficult if not impossible, for a good Muslim to ever get drunk.
If a Muslim failed to appear at the mosque in those days, his friends would think he was ill. He would then feel guilty that really, it was just his drunkenness that prevented him from coming. The religious brotherhood of Muslims helped encourage abstinence from alcohol in those days. It is still true today, that Muslims help each other be strong in resisting such temptations. The Muslim who falls away from the rest of the community becomes like a lost sheep among wolves, and risks being engulfed by sinful ways.
Since there were no drugs in those days to help ease the pain of withdrawal symptoms, alcoholic Muslims began to slowly reduce their intake. Honey was given to these alcoholics to help them restore vitamins to their bodies and ease the detoxification process. These two techniques (slow withdrawal and honey) have been shown in recent times to be effective and helpful in treating alcoholics.
During this period of weaning from alcohol, khamr sellers also began looking for a new means of livelihood.
"...The devil wants only to cast among you enmity and hatred by means of strong drink and games of chance and to turn you from remembering Allah and from prayer. Will you then desist." (5:90-91)
These verses are the ones that declared total prohibition of alcohol to the Muslims. After this verse was revealed, the Muslim citizens of Madinah immediately began to spill their stocks of wine into the sand and streets; so that the wine ran through the streets of Madinah. Individuals who up till that moment were enjoying guiltlessly a glass of wine, quickly emptied their cups on the ground and spit out the alcohol from their mouths. They rushed to make ablutions in order to purify themselves.
Alcohol harmful effects
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, although in smaller amounts it may appear to have a mild stimulant effect. The main psychoactive ingredient in alcoholic beverages is ethyl alcohol, produced through the fermentation of sugar by yeast. Alcoholic drinks vary in strength, e.g. beer and alcoholic sodas (1-9% alcohol), wines (10-15%) and spirits (35-55%).
The effects of alcohol vary depending on a number of factors including:
- type and quantity of alcohol consumed
- age, weight and gender
- body chemistry
- food in the stomach
- drinking experience
- situation in which drinking occurs
Although it varies between individuals, there is a relationship between the concentration of alcohol in the blood (Blood Alcohol Concentration - BAC) and its effects. Mild euphoria and stimulation of behaviour occur initially with minor effects on performance which become more pronounced as the concentration of alcohol rises. Unfortunately, people often believe they are performing better rather than much worse.
In a person of average build, one standard drink will raise the BAC by approximately 0.01-0.03% in an hour, and as a rough guide it will be broken down at a similar rate, i.e. one standard drink per hour.
Effects on Behaviour
Feeling of well-being
Up to .05 g%
- More confident
- Acts and feels self-confident
- Judgment and movement impaired
- Inhibitions reduced
- Speech slurred
- Balance and coordination impaired
- Reflexes slowed
- Visual attention impaired
- Unstable emotions
- Nausea, vomiting
- Unable to walk without help
- Apathetic, sleepy
- Laboured breathing
- Unable to remember events
- Loss of bladder control
- Possible loss of consciousness
Over .30 g%
Intoxication is the most common cause of alcohol-related problems, leading to injuries and premature deaths. As a result, intoxication accounts for two-thirds of the years of life lost from drinking. Alcohol is responsible for:
- 30% of road accidents
- 44% of fire injuries
- 34% of falls and drownings
- 16% of child abuse cases
- 12% of suicides
- 10% of industrial accidents
As well as deaths, short-term effects of alcohol result in illness and loss of work productivity (e.g. hangovers, drink driving offences). In addition, alcohol contributes to criminal behaviour - in Australia over 70% of prisoners convicted of violent assaults have drunk alcohol before committing the offence and more than 40% of domestic violence incidents involve alcohol.
Each year approximately 3000 people die in Australia as a result of excessive alcohol consumption and around 65 000 people are hospitalised. Long-term excessive alcohol consumption is associated with:
- heart damage
- high blood pressure and stroke
- liver damage
- cancers of the digestive system
- other digestive system disorders (e.g. stomach ulcers)
- sexual impotence and reduced fertility
- increasing risk of breast cancer
- sleeping difficulties
- brain damage with mood and personality changes
- concentration and memory problems
In addition to health problems, alcohol also impacts on relationships, finances, work, and may result in legal problems.
Tolerance and Dependence
A regular drinker may develop tolerance and dependence. Tolerance means that they feel less effect than they used to with the same amount of alcohol. Dependence means that the alcohol becomes central in their life - a lot of time is spent thinking about alcohol, obtaining it, consuming it and recovering from it. The person will find it difficult to stop drinking or to control the amount consumed.
Someone who is physically dependent on alcohol will experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking or substantially reduce their intake. Symptoms usually commence 6-24 hours after the last drink, last for about 5 days and include:
- difficulty sleeping (may last several weeks)
Alcohol withdrawal can be very dangerous; people drinking more than 8 standard drinks a day are advised to discuss a decision to stop drinking with a doctor as medical treatment may be required to prevent complications.
The Mother of Every Evil
One day, as he came out from his mosque, the Prophet Muhammad, may God send praises upon him, noticed his cousin and son-in-law, Ali b. Abi Talib, visibly upset. When the concerned Prophet asked Ali what was troubling him, Ali simply pointed to the bloody carcass of his dearly cherished camel - no ordinary camel, but the war-weathered camel that Ali would mount in his valiant defense of the Prophet and Islam on the battlefield. Ali told the Prophet that one of their uncles had been responsible for the unsanctioned slaughter of his animal, and so the Prophet went to ascertain his (i.e. the uncle's) side of the story.
Entering in the presence of his uncle, the Prophet found him drunk with wine. Upon seeing the displeasure in his nephew's face, the uncle knew at once, despite his intoxication, that the Prophet had come to question him about Ali's beast of war. With nothing good to say in his defense, the guilt-ridden, drunken uncle blurted out to his nephew: "You and your father are my slaves!" The Prophet's only response to the blasphemous outburst was to exclaim: "Truly, alcohol is the mother of every evil!"
And so, from the biography of the Prophet Muhammad we learn a weighty lesson as regards the colossal and evil consequences of alcoholic drink. Any one of the alcohol-inspired acts in this short episode from the blessed Prophet's life would suffice the reader as an admonition: whether it be the culling of Ali's camel, the drunken state of an uncle of a Prophet of God - let alone His last and final messenger to mankind - or the wicked insult he spewed out against him and his own deceased brother, who was no less than the father of the Prophet of God. How much worse then when we consider all these crimes together? Not to mention the many evils indirectly resulting from the uncle's consumption of the alcohol, such as the loss to the Muslim community of one its battle-hardened steeds of war, or the pain, anguish and, perhaps, embarrassment that Muhammad must have felt at this tragic family affair. No doubt, it was precisely because the Prophet recognized that it was the alcohol that gave birth to and nurtured all these foul sins that he denounced it as: "the mother of every evil!"
Hence, we find Islam completely forbidding the consumption of alcohol, whether in large or small amounts. The Prophet Muhammad said:
"If a large amount of anything causes intoxication, a small amount of it is also prohibited." [Narrated by the Companion, Jaabir, and recorded in the collections of Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud & Ibn Majah]
In this one hadeeth narration, we see the perfection of Islam as a religion, its conclusiveness as a legal code, and its comprehensiveness as a way of life. As one German convert to Islam noted:
"[Islam] values the moral and spiritual health of a nation as much as its physical well-being. It considers anything that interferes with the normal working of the mind, numbs our senses, thereby reducing our level of shame or responsibility, or clouds our perception as harmful (this includes alcohol as well as other drugs altering the mind). And recognizing that different people react quite differently to the same stimulant, it does not leave the judgment, as to how much is acceptable to them. Too many people thought they had control over their drinking habit, yet ended up having 'one glass too many'. Islam categorically states that if a substance can destroy the clarity of the mind in large quantities, it is harmful even in minute quantities. Islam, therefore, advocates a total prohibition of narcotic drugs, including alcohol. It forbids the use, not just the abuse of these substances." [Sahib M. Bleher, One glass too many. Pg. 199]
Yes, there are some benefits to be derived from alcoholic beverages. For example, alcohol can give one strength and confidence; it helps one to relax and, in small quantities, is even good for the health of one's heart. However, as the Glorious Quran states, the harms associated with alcohol far outweigh its benefits. As such, in the final analysis, alcohol is a foe, not a friend of its consumer.
"They ask you (O Prophet) concerning alcoholic drink and gambling. Say: 'In them is a great sin, and (some) benefit for men, but their sin is greater than their benefit.'" (Quran 2:219)
It is only because Islam seeks the benefit and betterment of man that Islamic law criminalizes the consumption, production, transportation and sale of alcoholic drink.
["Allah curses all intoxicants (alcoholic beverages); (He also curses) the one who drinks it and the one who serves it, the one who sells it and the one who buys it, the one who makes it and the one who asks that it be made for him, the one who delivers it and the one to whom it is delivered." (Abu Dawood)]
In fact, the mere consumption of alcohol is a criminal pursuit so serious that it carries with it a severe corporal punishment. As for the Hereafter, the punishment is truly grotesque:
"Every intoxicant is prohibited. God has made a covenant regarding those who consume intoxicants to give them to drink the discharge (of the inhabitants of Hell)!" [Saheeh Muslim]
To conclude, it is perhaps useful to have the reader ponder over the following well-known story; well-known at least to many a cautious Muslim.
Once upon a time, a bad woman invited a good man to bad deeds. The man, fearing God, flatly refused. But, determined not to let her prey escape, the woman offered him one of three choices, each one more dastardly than the other: to consume alcohol, to commit adultery, or to murder her child from a previous marriage. If the man refused, she would cry rape. So, after having pondered his predicament, the pious man chose what he reckoned to be the lesser of the three evils. However, upon taking the alcohol, the man became drunk and then, under the influence of his brain-killing beverage, he killed the child and committed adultery with the wicked woman.
Ponder, and then consider how easily you yourself could degenerate as a human being if, that is, you too were to embrace "the mother of every evil."
Muslim Values Make Alcohol Unnecessary
Islam instilled family values and gave security to the people. Thus, with Islam, there is no longer a "need" to drink in order to relieve unhappiness and stress by slipping into a fantasy world. One American convert to Islam, who used to drink before in her pre-Muslim days, comments, "I think that being Muslim has made me face up to a lot of things, which is painful, but by working them out I feel much less need to run away from my problems, and alcohol is basically the best way to run away from problems."
The fear of God helps Muslims keep away from not only alcohol, but all other evils prohibited by the Qur'an, such as adultery, abuse of wives and children, and gambling. Peer pressure (brotherhood) also helps Muslims abstain from these sins.
Attempts to abolish alcohol in America (during the Prohibition period) and drugs (the "War on Drugs") were not successful, because the factors that cause people in America to drink and use drugs have not been eliminated.
What compels people to drink? A variety of factors, including people whose jobs bring them into contact with alcohol, or who find themselves in social settings where alcohol is available or even "pushed" on them. Also, being able to afford the luxury of spending money on alcohol and having the leisure time to drink it, as well as being beguiled by ads which allure a person to think that drinking alcohol is a way to have a good time, or appear sexy, rich, powerful and cosmopolitan. Finally, the example of other drinkers, usually friends or family can lure a person into thinking that it is okay to drink. Alcoholics (people addicted to excessive drinking of alcohol) tend to want immediate gratification and are addicted to this-worldly pleasure. They don't tend to care about the long term consequences.
Sellers of khamr in Madinah were given ample warning that they should find another trade, so the change away from an alcohol-laden economy was gradual and not disruptive. Today in America, much of the economy revolves around the alcohol industry. The government, for example, collects a hefty sum of money from taxes on alcohol. Do you think that the U.S. government today could be serious about wanting to get rid of alcohol? Companies which produce alcohol continue to spend grandly on ads and TV commercials, and then donate a portion of their profit to "help" some of the people whose lives have been ruined by consumption of their product.
A practicing Muslim will not touch alcohol out of fear of God. Those who do usually feel much guilt on breaking a Qur'anic injunction. Many drinkers will cease this activity during Ramadan. Sometimes, excessive drinkers find themselves so changed by the experience of Hajj (pilgrimage) that they never drink again.
In a true Islamic State, a person is not likely to ever reach the point of physical dependence on alcohol. Friends, family and neighbors will not just look away while a person destroys himself and his family. Muslims are supposed to be very involved in correcting wrongs that they see. Islam is a very community-oriented faith. There is no place for an individual to do what he wants to do, if it hurts others. And by hurting yourself through drinking, you inadvertently hurt others.
Too much guilt about drinking alcohol can make a person feel so bad that he or she drinks just to smother the guilt. To balance feelings of guilt, Muslims need to remember the mercy and forgiveness of Allah.
"And those who, having done something to be ashamed of, or wronged their own souls, earnestly bring Allah to mind, and ask for forgiveness for their sins, --- and who can forgive sins except Allah? --- and are never obstinate in persisting knowingly in (the wrong) they have done." (3:135)
Modern methods of curing alcoholics have not been very successful; many will regress to drinking again. Among the new methods of "treating" alcoholics is injecting the drinker with a drug like apomorphine, which makes the victim feel sick and vomit as soon as the drink is taken. This is done repeatedly over several weeks so that the drinker learns to associate drinking with nausea and vomiting. Temporary paralysis via scoline injection and electric shocks are other techniques Western doctors use to try to get heavy drinkers to quit.
The Perspective of Islam and Christianity
Proverbs 31: 6-7 "" Give intoxicating liquor, you people, to the one about to perish, and wine to those who are bitter of soul . Let one drink and forget one's poverty, and let one remember one's own trouble no more.""
Genesis 9:21-22 "" And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.""
Genesis 9:24 "" And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.""
Genesis 19:32 "" Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.""
Numbers 6:20 "" And the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the LORD: this is holy for the priest, with the wave breast and heave shoulder: and after that the Nazarite may drink wine.""
Numbers 28:7 "" And the drink offering thereof shall be the fourth part of an hin for the one lamb: in the holy place shalt thou cause the strong wine to be poured unto the LORD for a drink offering.""
The Holy Quran, 5:90-91 "You who believe! Intoxicants and Gambling, all are an abomination of Satan's handiwork. Eschew such abomination, that you 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 God, and from prayer; will you not then abstain?"
The Holy Quran, 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." They ask thee how much they are to spend; Say: "What is beyond your needs." Thus doth Allah Make clear to you His Signs: In order that ye may consider."
We, Muslims, are ordered by Allah (swt), in the Koran, to believe in the former Divine Messages which are intact, i.e. void of interpolation and distortion. Do you believe that pathologists and physicians know better than our Creator, the Omniscient about the bad effects of intoxicants on the human body systems which are the "make" of God?
We, Muslims, deny and absolutely reject such non-sense to be believed as revelation of God in the Holy scriptures! It is man, not God, who added that "Praise" of the intoxicants to the Holy Scriptures for human selfish purposes, just as we see and read in our present time the commercial promotions which try hard to convince the people about the wholesomeness and great advantage the intoxicants give to the body and mind of man!
Adding for the benefit, the number one leading cause of death in America is DWI, Driving While Intoxicated. In fact, Alcoholism is responsible for more than 50% of crimes reported in the United States alone.
·Alcohol and Its Effects [Drug & Alcohol Services South Australia]
·Alcohol: The Devil's Deadly Disease. By Ben Adam
·Alcohol and Muslims. By Alyssa [islamawareness.net]