Everyone knows, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, that drinking alcohol is considered a sin in Islam. Consuming alcohol is listed as one of the major sins; one of greater sins for which eternal punishment is promised. There are traditions by Imam Musa Kazim (a), Imam Rida (a), and Imam Muhammad Taqi (a) proving this.
Before presenting the verses of the Quran on this topic, it must be said that this law was legislated gradually. Allah didn’t reveal to the Prophet (s) in an instant and say: From this moment forward nobody can drink alcohol. Rather, he revealed this law in stages.
First the Quran states: “O you who have faith! Do not approach prayer when you are intoxicated.” (4:43).
Unfortunately some of the quote un quote Islamic leaders during the baby stages of Islam, after the demise of the Prophet (s), didn’t listen to this verse. Anyhow, the Quran then states: “They ask you concerning wine and gambling. Say, There is a great sin in both of them, and some profits for the people, but their sinfulness outweighs their profit.” (2:219)
Finally, the Quran lays down the law and says: “O’ you who have faith! Indeed wine, gambling, idols and the divining arrows are abominations of Satan’s doing, so avoid them, so that you may be felicitous. Indeed Satan seeks to cast enmity and hatred among you through wine and gambling, and to hinder you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. Will you, then, relinquish?” (5:90-91).
This verse clearly prohibits the consumption of alcohol. In it there are ten forms of emphasis: First, the verse addresses the believers. This means that faith and drinking alcohol are incongruent. A person who drinks alcohol is not a believer and a believer does not drink alcohol. Second, Alcohol is mentioned next to clear instances of prohibitions, such as gambling and idol-worship. Third, the term abomination is used to describe alcohol. Fourth, drinking alcohol is introduced as a satanic activity. Fifth, the phrase ‘so avoid them’ is clearly stating to refrain from drinking alcohol. Sixth, the phrase ‘so that you may be felicitous’ shows that one will be successful if he refrains from drinking alcohol. Seventh, Satan wants to create enmity amongst mankind through alcohol. The tools of Satan must surely be prohibited. Eighth, the phrase ‘to hinder you from the remembrance of Allah,’ is another emphasis of our claim. Whatever causes one to forget about Allah is impermissible. Ninth, Alcohol keeps one from praying. And tenth, the phrase ‘will you, then, relinquish’ is also a form of emphasis.
It is narrated that Imam Baqir (a) said: “Disobedience to the order of Allah is mostly due to alcoholism. The alcoholic abandons prayer. He can even commit incest under the influence of alcohol; he loses his senses.”
Imam Jafar Sadiq (a) is reported to have said: “Certainly even if a person swallows only a mouthful of wine, at that very moment, the angels, the Prophets, and the righteous believers send their curses upon him. And, when he drinks enough to make him intoxicated, the spirit of belief leaves his body, it is replaced by the dirty, accursed, devilish spirit.”
The Quran stated that the sin of drinking alcohol far outweighs any benefit that can be taken therefrom. Lets take a glance at what alcohol abuse does to the body. First, alcohol damages the brain. Different parts of the brain are more sensitive to alcohol than others. Alcohol abuse manifests itself both physically and psychologically. Physically it is manifested through loss of balance, impotence, numbness of the feet and hands, tremor, and even blindness. Psychological manifestations include a loss of intellectual ability, impaired ability to learn, and mental confusion.
The liver is severely damaged as well. Alcohol abuse leads to cirrhosis which in turn leads to liver failure, liver cancer, and even death. It also causes one’s stomach to endure chronic inflammation which leads to pneumonia, kidney and urinary tract infections, and kidney failure.
Alcoholism also affects the heart because it leads to high blood pressure making one at risk of heart failure or stroke. It also causes sexual problems in men. Therefore, alcohol harms one’s brain, heart, liver, kidney, and reproductive organs. Google the physical affects of alcohol and you will be amazed at how harmful this drug is.
It is interesting to note that America heavily debated this issue in its history. In the early 1800s the American Temperance Society spearheaded a movement trying to ban alcohol in America. They advocated that a prohibition of alcohol would help prevent abuse levied out by alcoholic husbands. The first state to ban alcohol was Kansas in 1881. After the ban a woman named Carrie Nation gained notoriety for enforcing the provision by walking into saloons, scolding customers, and using her hatched to destroy bottles of liquor. This issue was seen in court for years to come. For instance, Justice Harlan wrote in Mugler v. Kansas 1887: “We cannot shut out of view the fact, within the knowledge of all, that the public health, the public morals, and the public safety, may be endangered by the general sue of intoxicating drinks; nor the fact established by statistics to every one, that the idleness, disorder, pauperism, and crime existing in the country are, in some degree…traceable to this evil.”
Finally, the national prohibition of alcohol started in 1920 with the 18th amendment. This prohibition lasted 13 years until the beer companies, led by Anheuser-Busch where able to use their influence and repeal the amendment. After the amendment was repealed states were allowed to keep the ban. Mississippi was the last state to lift the ban in 1966. It might be unknown to most, but there are still many counties in the United States which prohibit the sale and consumption of alcohol. 8 percent of America is currently ‘dry’. Almost half of Mississippi remains dry. 55 of the 120 counties of Kentucky are dry.
The federal United States recognized; as do these counties, that alcohol is a danger to society. Take the following statistics into consideration. 3,000,000 violent crimes happen each year in which the victim states that the offender is under the influence of alcohol. Two-thirds of the victims of attacks by an intimate partner (meaning spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend) state that their partner was intoxicated. Close to 40 percent of the people who end up in prison state that they were drunk when they committed their offense. There are about 17 thousand alcohol related fatalities while driving under the influence (DUI) each year; this translates to one death every 31 minutes and close to 40 percent of the total traffic fatalities each year. This is why America banned this substance; this drug. This is why it is still banned in many counties throughout the country.
Islam is also against the consumption of alcohol. It is actually against more than just the consumption, it is against every single part of the alcohol trade. There is one tradition where the Prophet (s) curses ten people. Each one of these people have something to do with the alcohol trade. The list of these people are: 1. The person who plants the seed with the intention of producing wine. 2. One who cultivates the plant so that wine may be manufactured. 3. One who crushes the grapes. 4. One who drinks wine. 5. One who serves wine. 6. One who transports wine. 7. One who takes delivery from the supplier. 8. One who sells wine. 9. One who buys wine, and 10. One who uses the income that is earned by making or selling wine.
Therefore, a Muslim cannot have anything to do with alcohol; he can’t drink it, can’t sell it, can’t buy it for someone else, can’t make it, can’t deliver it, can’t transport it, and can’t use any proceeds produced from it.
In addition to the consumption of alcohol being haram, it is also considered a najis substance. There are some differences of opinion regarding this issue, so I thought it best to explain.