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Alcohol in the Quran
By Mesbahuddin Faruq (e-mail:
Over the years,
the detrimental effects of alcohol are well recorded even in
the West. The highway statistics of deaths, because of the
influence of alcohol, are astronomically high. The US Congress
once voted for the prohibition of alcohol in 1917, when cars
were rare on the streets. Organizations such as MADD (Mothers
Against Drunk Driving) sprang up in recent years to elevate
social conscience about the use of alcohol.
But alcohol as a
source of intoxication is poles apart from its beneficial
aspects. Quite often, alcohol is needed as preservative and
solvent in medicines.
frequently, sermons are heard in the mosques to avoid those
medicines that contain alcohol. Islamic journals could hardly be
browsed without stumbling upon an article, advising the devout
Muslims to check the alcohol and other ingredients in medicines.
Even tooth paste - a cleaning substance, is not spared by the
popular belief, a Koranic verse of a very revered Sura describes
the alcoholic drinks as gifted with "good nourishment", and or,
"wholesome drink". Naturally, this Koranic verse may inspire a
few truth-seekers to trace their memories on the Koran, and
relate the journals and news coverage, on the life-enhancing
marvels of selective alcoholic drinks.
371d36d75e05eda735858f8e467be99cn reality, the
medical researchers, in recent years, have confirmed that the
taking of certain red wine in a prescribed limit has been proven
to be highly deterrent against heart-attack. The effectiveness
of alcohol, in the prevention of infection during oral surgery -
and for that matter most surgery is indisputable. Nevertheless,
the mullahs, the Imams, as well as those scholars, heavily
brain-washed with the corrupted Islamic value based on the
Hadith, are adamant in their belief that the Koran prohibits
alcohol even as a life saver.
Does the Koran
really define alcohol as 'haram'? Let us examine the source -
the Koran, and keep the Hadith not to intervene in this issue.
characteristics of haram or prohibitions found in the Koran
usually begin with the expression "forbidden for you." In some
occasions, it gives a strong warning of hellfire. For instance,
about the prohibiton of swine meat, the Koran says:
"Forbidden unto you are carrion and blood and swine-flesh....
(5. Al Ma' idah: 3).
prohibition about murder states:
"Whosoever slayeth a believer of set purpose, his reward is
hellfire for ever..." (4. An-Nisa: 93).
There are five
major verses in the Koran that deal with the alcoholic drinks.
Selecting by their sequential positions in the Koran, the first
one contains the most interesting dogma and will be addressed at
the end of this topic.
The second verse
advises the followers of Islam not to engage in prayers when
they are under the influence of alcohol. The Koranic text is:
you who believe! Draw not near unto prayer when you are drunken,
till you know that which you utter,. ...." (4. An-Nisa: 43).
expression "forbidden for you" is not found anywhere nearby. Nor
the threat of 'hellfire' is directly or indirectly traceable in
the verse. Rather, the deterrence applies to praying under
The third verse
defines alcoholic drinks as "an infamy of Satan's handiwork."
and indicates the believer that to succeed in life, it is
advisable to stay away from alcoholic drinks. The Koranic text
you who believe! Strong drink and games of chance and idols and
divining arrows are only an infamy of Satan's handiwork. Leave
it aside in order that ye may succeed." (5. Al Ma' idah: 90).
word of forbiddance or the fear of hellfire is found here to
classify alcohol as 'haram'. More to the point, the advice:
"leave it aside in order that you may succeed" relates to earthy
success in life. No doubt, career successes are often impaired
and impeded because of the excessive influence of alcohol.
Amazingly, the Koran places rightful emphasis on it.
The fourth verse
relates to food in general including alcohol, and assures the
believers not to be too concerned about consuming food, as long
as they do 'good work'. The phrase 'good work' has been
emphasized repeatedly. Here again the hellfire and words of
forbiddance are missing. The verse states:
"There shall be no sin unto those who believe and do good works
for what they may have consumed. So be mindful of your duty and
do good works; and again: be mindful of your duty, and believe;
and once again: be mindful of your duty, and do right. Allah
loveth the good." (5. Al Ma' idah :93).
As stated earlier,
the fifth verse relates to a significant Sura of the Koran. It
describes the alcoholic drinks as gifted with "good
nourishment", and or, "wholesome drink" (16.An Nahl : 67) The
Koran, as translated, reads:
"And from the fruit of the palm and the grapes, you get out
wholesome drink and food: behold, in this also is a sign for
those who are wise (Yusuf Ali).
And of the fruits
of the date-palm, and grapes, whence you derive strong drink and
good nourishment. Lo! therein is indeed a portent for people who
have sense. (Pickthall).
Now we come to the
first verse that we skipped in the beginning for analytical
discussion. Here, alcoholic drinks are qualified as having both
'detrimental' and 'beneficial' aspects for the mankind. The
verse places emphasis on the 'detriment' (interpreted as sin)
than on the 'benefit'. This, in reality, is the status of
alcohol even today and its interface with numerous life saving
usage besides medicines. Incidentally, the word 'alcohol' is
derived from the Arabic word 'alkuhul' and it originates during
the Golden Periods of Islam.
What God addressed
to prophet Muhammad in the Koran, can logically be understood
"They question you about strong drink and games of chance. Say:
In both is great abuse and usefulness for mankind; but the
abusive side of them is greater than their usefulness." (2. Al-Baqarah
It is worth
mentioning here that the word "abuse" has been replaced as "sin"
by the early promoters of Islam. It is really a mind-boggling
issue whether the word "sin" is an appropriate opposite of
the experts of languages tell us that they find groups of
languages that have similar root words and similar ways of
expressing the same idea. They, however, find in other areas of
languages, an altogether different grammatical scheme. With all
these linguistic characteristics, the antonyms or the opposite
words of all languages are the same. For instance the opposite
of 'good' is 'bad' and definitely not 'dog'. Thus, when the
opposite of 'usefulness' is arbitrarily made to mean 'sin',
question arises as to the credence to the interpretation and its
total absence of the fear of hellfire and prohibitive
connotation, it is really a thought provoking question: Why
alcohol is known as a prohibited (haram) drink in Islam?
Perhaps, the answer is not apparent, rather buried under the
rubbles of historical antiquities.
access to the Koran was limited to a few people in the early
days of Islam because of the absence of paper and printing
press. Paper, though an ancient commodity in China, came to the
Arab's hand and subsequently to the West only during the tenth
century. And not until Johann Gutenberg's invention of printing
press in the fifteenth century, the mass production of any book
was feasible, including the Koran.
religious elite, possessing copies of the Koran in parchment
with golden calligraphy, had no rival in challenging their
marinated interpretation, with their own recipe. Over the years,
the unchallenged interpretations got ingrained in the religious
belief and kept passing from generations to generations.
that's the way the Koranic verses have been interpreted,
translated and propagated. In other words, the Koranic
interpreters had to bend the linguistic rules to suit the whim
of Islam's promoters during those early days, closer to 300
years after Prophet Muhammad.
History tells us
that the Seljuk warlords were mostly originated in Turkey,
Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan. Towards the collapsing days of the
Abbasid dynasty, the Seljuks captured the administration of the
Abbasid kingdom. The Abbasid Sultans remained happy only with a
yearly allowance and hearing their names mentioned during the "Khutba"
of the Friday-prayer.
the historical sequence of the Abbasid dynasty, some historians
are of the opinion that it was the Seljuk generals who
chopped-off alcoholic drinks for their soldiers in the
battlefield. A few years before the Seljuks, the Buyids
systematically had formulated their theological and judicial
ideas. And more than ever the ulemas got prominance in
functioning as the interpreters of Islamic laws.
previously exposed to Christianity, were the new converts to
Islam. It was a juncture of the time when the dominance of
Bukhari's Hadith was more prevalent than the Koran. After all,
when Bukhari insisted that his Hadith was no inferior to the
Koran, it was normal for the Seljuks to place more importance on
the Hadith - presumed to be the updated Islamic guidance than
adhering to the Quran - viewed as old and outdated. The Hadith
provided the Seljuks all the ammunition to rule the country in
the false pretext of Muhammad's precedents.
In fact, most
Sharia Laws were developed during this Seljuk period of Islam
based on the Hadith. The dreadful powers of Fatwa, apostasy,
stoning to death, honour killing, Jihad with a reward of 70
virgins in the heaven and many more were enshrined in the Hadith
while they were totally absent in the Koran. Obviously it
doesn't leave any room for the researchers to ponder other than
to conclude that the prohibition of alcohol too was a strategy
of the Seljuks. It was largely the Seljuks that tossed Islam
from its original orbit.
It is an irony
that the alcoholic drink had been a normal beverage during the
time of the prophets prior to Muhammad. Wine was a significant
item when Jesus was having his last supper with his twelve
disciples. Even one of his miracles involved the making of wine
for the guests in a party. In fact, the use of wine could be
traced in the Old Testament to all the notable prophets
including Moses, David and Solomon.
The Koran tells us
that wine is one of the significant attributes and rewards in
the Heaven. Yet the early Imams arbitrarily made it a forbidden
drink despite the fact that neither the word, 'forbidden', nor
the warning of 'hellfire' relates to alcohol in the verses of
Presumably, it is
a high time for the rational Muslims to ponder and read the
verses of the Koran for themselves instead of relying solely on
the hearsay. After all, the Islamic God Himself has declared the
"....a lecture in Arabic containing no crookedness.... (Aa-Zumar
Could the Koran
then be so complicated? Have the Muslims not been assured in the
very preamble of Surah Al-Baqarah that the Koran is a
the ill-educated mullahs, misinterpreting the message of the
Koran for political and military purposes, the Muslims are
perceived today as backward people with nothing to offer to the
rest of the world. While God allows even the forbidden
swine-flesh to save life, what could be more evil than avoiding
medicines because of their alcoholic contents?
Translation of the Koran, by Yusuf Ali, Pickthall and Shakir;
The Holy Bible, King James Version; Classical Islam, Von