Why Don't Muslims Drink Alcohol?

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asked May 19, 2015 by admin (4,350 points)

1 Answer

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Summary

Alcohol (specifically ethanol) is a chemical compound which has a variety of uses, one of the most prominent being as a recreational drug, served within alcoholic beverages. When used for human consumption, it has many detrimental effects, both to the health of the consumer and to society as a whole. Alcohol is the cause of millions of deaths worldwide each year, and is strongly linked with violent crime, including domestic violence and violence against children. The cost of alcohol consumption in the UK alone costs billions of US dollars every year, placing strain on healthcare and policing, as well as costing businesses billions of dollars in lost productivity.

Islam has established certain fundamental purposes which form the basis of its laws. These include the preservation and protection of religion, honour, health, wealth, and intellect. Alcohol consumption impacts every one of these fundamental purposes of Islamic legislation, and so it is no surprise that in Islam, drinking alcohol is a major sin, and is strictly forbidden. Likewise, any involvement in buying, selling, and producing alcohol for human consumption is also forbidden.

Islam recognises that there are benefits in alcohol, not least of which is financial benefit to retailers and governments through taxation, but emphatically states that the harm far outweighs the benefit, and that it is not possible for the society as a whole to drink alcohol in a way that would remove this harm:

“They ask you (O Muhammad) concerning alcoholic drink and gambling. Say: ‘In them is a great sin, and (some) benefit for men, but the sin of them is greater than their benefit.’” [The Qur’an: al-Baqarah 2:219()

As for the use of alcohol – particularly ethanol – for uses other than human consumption, such as industrial use, the scholars of Islam differed about whether or not alcohol as a substance is considered pure or impure, with many Muslims preferring to avoid using it in things like creams and perfumes.

It is important to note that as is the case in all of the rulings of Islam, the doctrine of necessity allows the use of forbidden substances, including drinking alcohol, where there is no alternative.

Full Answer

Alcohol is a generic term for a group of chemical compounds. In common speech, the word alcohol is used to refer to a particular type of alcohol, ethanol (also known as drinking alcohol), which is used as a recreational drug, all over the world.

Alcohol has various uses, aside from human consumption, including medical, scientific, and industrial uses. It is used in antiseptics, fuels, preservatives, and solvents, amongst other things.

Alcohol which is used for human consumption has many detrimental effects, both to the health of the consumer and to society as a whole. Drinking alcoholic beverages can lead to alcohol addition, and excessive consumption of alcohol is associated with several health problems, including liver failure, mental health problems, heart disease, dementia, cancer, diabetes, strokes, obesity, and depression. Even when consumed in small doses, consuming alcohol results in the loss and weakening of inhibitions, and effects a person’s emotions and speech, as well as their ability to move and think.

The consumption of alcohol continues to have a significant effect on society as a whole, including an increase in crime, with the most common alcohol-fuelled crimes including violence, rape, and theft. Significant addiction to alcohol is also associated with crimes against children, including child neglect and abuse, domestic violence, and crimes against the most vulnerable members of society.

According to the World Health Organisation, the harmful use of alcohol results in 2.5 million deaths every year worldwide, and 9% of deaths in young people between the age of 15 and 29 are from alcohol-related causes. They list alcohol as the third most significant risk factor for causing disease worldwide.

In the UK alone, it is estimated that alcohol-related harm costs the National Health Service in excess of 3.5 billion pounds ($5.75 billion US dollars) every single year. This is without factoring in the cost of policing, which is estimated to cost the UK in excess of 10 billion pounds ($16.5 billion US dollars) every year. In the USA, it is estimated that the cost of alcohol-related harm is well in excess of $200 billion US dollars a year.

Islam has established certain fundamental purposes which form the basis of its laws. These include the preservation and protection of religion, honour, health, wealth, and intellect. Alcohol consumption impacts every one of these fundamental purposes of Islamic legislation, and so it is no surprise that in Islam, drinking alcohol is a major sin, and is strictly forbidden. Likewise, any involvement in buying, selling, and producing alcohol for human consumption is also forbidden.

Allah – Almighty God – said in the Qur’an:

“Satan wants only to excite enmity and hatred between you with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah and from the prayer; so, will you not then abstain?” [The Qur’an: al-Baqarah 5:90-91()

This passage mentions two of the fundamental evils of alcohol: the enmity and hatred that it causes amongst people, and by extension, the crime and social disruption that alcohol causes; and the fact that the intoxication caused by alcohol impairs a person’s mental function, so that they are not in a fit state to perform acts of worship.

Another link between alcohol and gambling that are both mentioned in this passage is the wasting of money. A rising trend in recent times involves people saving up wealth during the week only to throw it away all on alcohol at the end of the week, sometimes not even leaving enough to pay for necessary living costs such as bills or food. Allah said in the Qur’an:

“Indeed, the wasteful are brothers of the devils, and Satan is ever ungrateful to his Lord.” [The Qur’an: aal-Israa’ 17:27()

One of the most common arguments put forward by those who support the consumption of alcohol is that a small amount of alcohol is associated with some health benefits, and that it brings profits to both retailers and governments, who benefit through heavy taxation. The Qur’an recognises these benefits, but emphatically states that the harm far outweighs the benefit:

“They ask you (O Muhammad) concerning alcoholic drink and gambling. Say: ‘In them is a great sin, and (some) benefit for men, but the sin of them is greater than their benefit.’” [The Qur’an: al-Baqarah 2:219()

So, helping to reduce the risk of heart disease in a small percentage of people is not worth mentioning in the face of millions of deaths a year, especially when there are many other ways to reduce the risk of heart disease. Likewise, the fact that alcohol brings businesses and governments revenue is insignificant in the face of the huge cost of healthcare, policing, and loss of productivity caused by it, as well as the crime and the breakdown of the society that it causes.

Another argument put forward by those who support the consumption of alcohol is that the greatest harms of alcohol are found when people don’t drink responsibly, and that the answer to the harms of alcohol is to encourage responsible drinking, rather than banning alcohol completely. This is opposed by Islam for a number of reasons:

1. Islam has a clear principle, set down by the Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) when he said, “Whatever intoxicates in large amounts is [also] forbidden in small amounts.” [at-Tirmidhi]. This is because the very nature of alcohol is that one glass leads to another.

2. Even a small amount of alcohol impacts the way that the brain functions, removing and lessening inhibitions, according to the amount that is consumed and how regularly a person consumes it. This contradicts two of the fundamental purposes of Islamic legislation: the protection of the intellect, and the protection of honour.

3. Alcohol, even in small amounts, is a waste of money for no benefit, which is something that runs contrary to the fundamental purposes of Islamic legislation and is warned against in the Qur’an, as we have already seen.

4. The greatest purpose of Islamic legislation is to establish the worship of God. The consumption of alcohol impacts upon this, even in relatively small amounts, causing a person to forget about God and lose their consciousness of Him. One of the main reasons people drink alcohol is a form of escapism; they want to escape their lives and stress. This concept of escapism is completely alien to Islam, and runs contrary to the Muslim belief that a person must strive to be in a state of God-consciousness. A Muslim believes that relief from stress comes through the remembrance of Allah and the prayer, as Allah said:

“Those who believe and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah . Indeed, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” [The Qur’an: ar-Ra’d 13:28()

And the Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to say to his caller to the prayer:

“Give us rest by [announcing] the prayer, O Bilal.”

5. Islam looks at the society as a whole. While there may well be a percentage of people who drink alcohol and are able to do so responsibly, there are many others (perhaps even a majority) who are not able to do so, and who cause irreparable harm to themselves and others, at a huge cost to society as a whole.

6. There are hundreds of governmental programmes around the world to reduce the consumption of alcohol and encourage responsible drinking. From high impact media campaigns to minimum unit prices, not one of these programmes has made a significant impact in reducing the harms that are associated with alcohol. The proponents may talk about a 5% reduction, or a 10% reduction in alcohol-fuelled crime, or alcohol-related deaths; however, this is nowhere near reaching the point where the benefit outweighs the harm, let alone removing the harm completely.

One of the major reasons that people consume alcohol is because it helps them to socialise and to feel more socially included amongst their friends and peers. However, Muslims – and indeed others – who refrain from drinking alcohol find that they don’t need alcohol in order to be able to socialise. Muslims should be naturally sociable and kind people, because Islam develops a person’s character in a positive way, encouraging brotherhood and friendship, even among people that are not friends and acquaintances. Islam also eradicates social ills, like making fun of people, backbiting and deception. This combines to make gatherings places where people don’t need to drink alcohol to make friends or to feel socially included.

Of course, some Muslims may well drink alcohol, just as some Muslims may steal, lie, or fornicate. This doesn’t mean that Islam allows them to do so, and on the other hand, it doesn’t mean they aren’t Muslim; rather, they are committing a major sin, and are deserving of punishment if they don’t stop and repent for their actions. Islam sets out everything that a person needs to be happy in this world and the next, but recognises that human beings make mistakes, as the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

“All of the children of Adam frequently make mistakes, and the best of those who frequently make mistakes are those who frequently repent.”

It is important to note that as is the case in all of the rulings of Islam, the doctrine of necessity allows the use of forbidden substances, including drinking alcohol, where there is no alternative, and the usage is in accordance with the purposes of Islamic legislation, such as saving lives and treating severe illnesses. This has strict conditions which must be considered on a case by case basis, and the scholars of Islam have issued many rulings about the use of drinking alcohol in certain medicines and medical procedures.

It is also important to note that, as mentioned in the beginning of the article, Islam makes no distinction between drinking alcohol, and buying, selling, or producing it, even if it is sold or produced for non-Muslims. All of this is completely forbidden, based on the principle enshrined in the following passage of the Qur’an:

“And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and transgression. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is severe in penalty.” [The Qur’an: al-Maa’idah 5:2()

Furthermore, a Muslim is prohibited from eating at a table where alcohol is served. The Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him not sit at a table at which alcohol is served.” [at-Tirmidhi]

As for the use of alcohol – particularly ethanol – for uses other than human consumption, such as industrial use, the scholars of Islam differed about whether or not alcohol as a substance is considered pure or impure, based on the statement of Allah in the Qur’an:

“O you who believe; indeed, intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone alters [to other than Allah], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful.” [The Qur’an: al-Maa’idah 5:90()

Some of them understood the word defilement to mean that alcohol is an impure substance, and so can’t be handled or used, except in cases of necessity, and others understood that the defilement is not a physical impurity, but an impurity in meaning. For this reason, many Muslims are uncomfortable with the use of anything containing alcohol, including creams and perfumes, and some may even consider them to be forbidden. Others, however, have no such concern, and are happy to use them. Some Muslims may feel that it is better to avoid them, in order to be safe, even if they don’t consider alcohol to be impure.

In all cases, alcohol must be handled in a way that is safe and cannot be abused or diverted for use in intoxicants, and any industrial or medical uses of alcohol must not promote or encourage the consumption of alcohol, or fund companies that trade in alcohol which is used for human consumption.

In summary, alcohol (specifically ethanol) is a chemical compound which has a variety of uses, one of the most prominent being as a recreational drug, served within alcoholic beverages. When used for human consumption, it has many detrimental effects, both to the health of the consumer and to society as a whole. Alcohol is the cause of millions of deaths worldwide each year, and is strongly linked with violent crime, including domestic violence and violence against children. The cost of alcohol consumption in the UK alone costs billions of US dollars every year, placing strain on healthcare and policing, as well as costing businesses billions of dollars in lost productivity.

Islam has established certain fundamental purposes which form the basis of its laws. These include the preservation and protection of religion, honour, health, wealth, and intellect. Alcohol consumption impacts every one of these fundamental purposes of Islamic legislation, and so it is no surprise that in Islam, drinking alcohol is a major sin, and is strictly forbidden. Likewise, any involvement in buying, selling, and producing alcohol for human consumption is also forbidden.

Islam recognises that there are benefits in alcohol, not least of which is financial benefit to retailers and governments through taxation, but emphatically states that the harm far outweighs the benefit, and that it is not possible for the society as a whole to drink alcohol in a way that would remove this harm:

“They ask you (O Muhammad) concerning alcoholic drink and gambling. Say: ‘In them is a great sin, and (some) benefit for men, but the sin of them is greater than their benefit.’” [The Qur’an: al-Baqarah 2:219()

As for the use of alcohol – particularly ethanol – for uses other than human consumption, such as industrial use, the scholars of Islam differed about whether or not alcohol as a substance is considered pure or impure, with many Muslims preferring to avoid using it in things like creams and perfumes.

It is important to note that as is the case in all of the rulings of Islam, the doctrine of necessity allows the use of forbidden substances, including drinking alcohol, where there is no alternative.

answered May 19, 2015 by admin (4,350 points)
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