Where does it say that alcohol is prohibited in the Quran (part 1)
The prohibition of alcohol was introduced gradually. It happened in stages. This is gradualism. As Islam was revealed over 23 years, the dos and dont’s were not delivered in a single complete package as we have now. Rather, a process of transforming hearts, minds and social practices took place as the verses were revealed bit by bit.
Alcohol is mentioned in the Quran many times. The first reference was revealed in Makkah. And the final three were revealed in Madinah as that is when the revelations shifted from giving proof of the reality of Allah, His oneness and the akhirah, to establishing a functioning, peaceful and productive society.
As the Quran is not arranged in the chronological sequence in which the ayahs were revealed, but in the order that Allah commanded it to be arranged, the references to alcohol in the Quran do not appear in the same order as the commands came. However, there is absolutely no doubt that alcohol is prohibited when you read the verses.
The stages in which alcohol was prohibited:
Stage 1 – Mentioning alcohol as part of life and livelihood
In the first reference, in Surat an-Nahl, which was revealed in Makkah and it was number 70 in revelation, Allah Almighty said that alcohol is derived from the fruits of palm trees and vines, and that we make intoxicating drinks from them and derive benefit in the form of earning from it. At this point there was no mention of prohibition.
And from the fruits of the palm trees and grapevines you take intoxicant and good provision. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who reason. (16:67)
Stage 2 – Flagging the sin
In Surat al Baqarah, which was revealed in Madinah and it was number 87 in revelation, Allah Almighty said, in answer to questions posed by the companions, that there is both sin and benefit in alcoholic drinks. He flagged up that the sin (ithm) is great (kabir) but did not prohibit it yet.
They ask you about alcoholic drink and gambling. Say: ‘In them is a great sin, and (some) benefit for men.’ (2:219)
Omar (may Allah be pleased with him) would come the Prophet (peace be on him) and ask him about it, as he wanted a clear ruling on the matter. He was not satisfied that it was only discouraged, as he wanted alcohol prohibited.
Stage 3 – Reducing consumption and breaking addiction
Then the third revelation came, which is mentioned in Surat un-Nisa, which was revealed in Madinah and it was number 92 in revelation, telling believers not to pray while intoxicated as it impaired their brain function and they were unaware what they were reciting. He said:
O you who believe! Approach not the Salah (the prayer) when you are in a drunken state, until you know (the meaning of) what you utter. (4:43)
Each stage was preceded by different incidents. As drinking was common, the companions used to drink but when they prayed, sometimes they were drunk and made mistakes, even serious mistakes in their recitation. Some companions mentioned this to the Prophet (peace be on him) and so Allah revealed this ayah warning them not to pray in this state.
The gradual approach meant that consumption was reduced. It was widely consumed in large quantities, like water. It would not have been easy to cut it out overnight. So Allah Almighty first encouraged them to cut their consumption.
There are 5 prayers and a long gap between Fajr and Dhur, during which people would not drink because they had to go to work. Between Dhur and Asr there is not much time. The Quran told them to reduce their consumption, so they would not drink heavily. They could go wild after Isha as there is no salah after Isha til Fajr. This means that over a 24 hour period, the time of consumption has been reduced to between Isha and Fajr – where there are 9-10 hours, rather than drinking all day, at any time.
Moreover you could not drink much between prayers, so it meant they had to reduce the quantity they drank between the prayers.
Cutting the amount drunk and the time they could drink were important for them to quit their habit.
Stage 4 – FINAL PROHIBITION and complete denigration of alcohol
O you who have believed, indeed, intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone altars [to other than Allah], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful. (5:90)
Surat Al-Maidah which was revealed in Madinah was number 112 in revelation.
The final revelation on alcohol came when the Ansar were having dinner one night after Isha, drinking and boasting about which of their tribes was the best, and they got in to a brawl. One of the men picked up a jaw bone from the meat they had been eating and struck another man, injuring his face and giving him a bloody nose.
The Prophet (peace be on him) was very upset with them. The episode created bad feeling between the two groups and especially with the man who was injured. This was not a one off incident, as alcohol had been the root of many such incidents before it. However, this time Allah Almighty revealed the ayah.
Gambling, alcohol, sacrificing to idols, and using chance to make decisions
Allah Almighty in the last ayah, says ‘intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone altars [to other than Allah], and divining arrows’ are filth. So I wonder how anyone can say that alcohol is not haram, when the Quran is calling it filth?
They say it is permissible because the Quran did not use the word ‘haram’. Even if I go along with this argument and say, ‘yes Allah did not use the word haram, what about gambling?’
When the Quran says fajtanibuh (do not go near) ‘intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone altars [to other than Allah], and divining arrows’ by your own reasoning, does this mean gambling and taking idols are halal?
Can you offer sacrifices to idols in your house and cast lots? No. We know these are definitely haram, so what about alcohol which has been grouped with them?
How do we know alcohol is haram?
Allah Almighty described ‘intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone altars [to other than Allah], and divining arrows’ as:
- Rijsun, which is najaz – meaning filth. Najasah which includes urine and faeces. Are you allowed to consume or use filth? If Allah calls alcohol filth, should you drink it? Scholars consider alcohol physically and metaphorically filthy. You cannot pray if these substances are on your garment.
- Allah Almighty says these four are made by Shaytan. Imagine if Shaytan prepared a drink for you, and offered it, would you drink it? If the tin says ‘made by Shaytan’, would you open it and eat it? He is the one who whispers to you to cast lots and gamble and drink. All of these are encouragement of Shaytan.
- Allah Almighty says fajtanibuh ‘Refrain from it’. For any sane person, when he hears the description that it is filthy and made by Shaytan, automatically he will refrain and stay clear of it.
In fact, alcohol is not just haram, it is Extra Haram. Why? If I say something is haram then you don’t consume it. But if I say, ‘Don’t come near it’ that is not just haram, it is even more haram, because you mustn’t go anywhere near it.
We see a similar injunction in Surat al Isra when Allah Almighty talks about adultery (zina) and says ‘do not go near’ it, which is a clear prohibition. He did not use the word haram, because He is saying stay well clear of any situation that could land you anywhere near the act that is haram.
وَلَا تَقْرَبُوا۟ ٱلزِّنَىٰٓ ۖ إِنَّهُۥ كَانَ فَـٰحِشَةًۭ وَسَآءَ سَبِيلًۭا ٣٢
Another way of explaining it is that if I tell you it is haram for you to talk to someone in your school, it means you can still pass by him in the playground and sit next to him in class. But if I say don’t go near him, it means can’t be in the same room with him. It’s more than social distancing.
Those who are played by Shaytan argue that the Quran does not use the word haram for alcohol, but there are stronger words than haram in the Quran. Fajtanibu (refrain from) is one of these.
Anything which is classified as an intoxicant is haram – whatever it is, wine, beer, champagne etc.
Why wasn’t alcohol banned in the first instance?
Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani mentioned that the prohibition came down 8th year of Hjra which is 21 years after the first revelation. This was to make sure that the foundation had been laid, and imaan and commitment and the understanding was deep before people gave up consumption and their drinking habit.
If this imaan had not been in place, Aisha, the mother of the Believers, (may Allah be pleased with her) said that no one may have quit:
When people embraced Islam, the verses regarding legal and illegal things were revealed. If the first thing to be revealed was: ‘Do not drink alcoholic drinks.’ people would have said, ‘We will never leave alcoholic drinks,’ and if there had been revealed, ‘Do not commit illegal sexual intercourse,’ they would have said, ‘We will never give up illegal sexual intercourse.’ (Bukhari)
The Sunnah on alcohol
I want to shed light on current misconceptions and misunderstandings and practices in our community, to clarify and project the prophetic practice.
Those who say it is not haram insist there is no prohibition of alcohol in the Quran – I don’t know how they pray. Do they pray 4 rakaats at Dhuhr? Where does it say in the Quran to pray 4 rakaats Dhuhr? Show me the ayah? Yes the Quran did not use the word ‘haram’ specifically, it used a stronger word than haram. So where did they get the four rak’at from? They got it from the sunnah.
The sunnah is very clear on the prohibition of alcohol. There is no ambiguity in it at all. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) has cursed ten who come into contact with alcohol. Not just drink it. From the one who makes, to the one who markets it and is associated with it- not just the one who consumes it.
Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
Avoid Khamr for it is the mother of all evils. (Nasa’i)
It was narrated from Abu Darda’ that my close friend (peace be on him) advised me:
Do not drink wine, for it is the key to all evil. (Ibn Majah)
The curse on those associated with alcohol
Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) cursed ten with regard to alcohol: the one who squeezes (the grapes etc), the one for whom it is squeezed, the one who drinks it, the one who carries it, the one to whom it is carried, the one who pours it, the one who sells it and consumes its price, the one who buys it and the one for whom it is bought. (Tirmidhi and Abu Dawood)
This is a clear message that there is zero tolerance for the creation, promotion or consumption of alcohol in the same way that governments dispense fines and prison sentences to those who take drugs, carry drugs, make drugs and supply drugs by selling, dealing or sharing them). By doing this, the law is making clear that this substance is not wanted.
Is it permissible to be in gatherings or establishments where alcohol is served?
It is clear from the hadith that alcohol is detested so much that Allah Almighty does not want His believers to be anywhere near it.
This means that it is not acceptable to be in a gathering where alcohol is being served, particularly if alcohol is on your table, even if you are not drinking it .
Living in the West it is not always easy to find options for dining out where alcohol is not served. It is preferable to find restaurants where alcohol is not served and as a minimum ensure that no one on your table is drinking.
Jabir bin Abdillah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace be on him) said:
Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, then he is not to sit at a table in which Khamr is circulated. (Tirmidhi)
Is it permissible to organise and attend fundraisers where alcohol is served?
While the intention to raise money for good causes is good, this does not eliminate the haram element in alcohol. The haram remains haram even if the intention behind serving it is good. Do not mix the two.
Using sophistry to persuade yourself you are not engaged in haram
If it is not haram why is every single person associated with it cursed? When people want to convince themselves that it is fine to drink or that their alcohol-related earning is halal, which it is not for sure, they come up with their own reasons to prove it.
The punishment for drinking
The punishment in the time of the Prophet (peace be on him) and Abu Bakr was 40 lashes, but in Omar’s time it was 80 lashes.
Maqasid Al-Shariah the aims of the Shariah are 5.
1-These are the preservation of the deen, 2-life, 3-property, 4-intellect and 5-lineage/honour and reputation.
The prohibition of alcohol is for the protection of one’s intellect. There are specific punishments for those whose actions are an attack on any of these. For this reason we have a specific punishment for theft, being drunk, adultery and so on.
The one who drinks is breaking the boundaries put in place by Allah Almighty for the safety of the community, physically and socially.
Salah of the one who drinks is not accepted
Allah Almighty showed the severity of breaking His command, by refusing to accept the salah of the one who drinks.
Amr ibn al ‘Aas narrated that the Prophet (peace be on him) said:
Whoever drinks wine and gets drunk, his prayer will not be accepted for forty days. (Ibn Majah)
Imam AI-Nawawi says it means that if someone has drunk alcohol they should keep praying salah, but they will not receive the reward for their salah for 40 days. It shows us the enforcement of the prohibition. It shows us that there is no room to take a sip. Drinking alcohol is not a small sin.
If you drink but then do not pray, because your salah will not be accepted, you will be sinful for not praying as well as drinking. If someone drinks, they need to repent, not to do it again and replace their bad deed with a good deed.
Imam Qushayri in his Lataif al Isharaat, commentary on the Quran in his commentary on this ayah, said:
Whoever has drunk the alcohol of this world is prevented from salah, and whoever is intoxicated by ghafla (heedlessness) is prevented from connection with Allah Almighty.
The one who has drunk alcohol should be punished by lashes, the one who is drunk on ghafla should be punished by the lashes of fear of Allah Almighty.
As the drunk person can’t be punished while he is drunk, the one who is in the state of ghafla, cannot be advised until he is awake.
This is a very difficult situation when you are disconnected from Allah. His heart and mind is drunk on dunya, this is ghafla.
Until he is awake, advice will not penetrate his mind. He is not suggesting that you shouldn’t advise someone who is heedless, but he is saying that for the advice to be effective the person needs to be listening. Otherwise he will be absent and your words will go in one ear and out the other. They will not reach his heart. So keep trying gently and reminding him kindly, because you are only a reminder, and you do not know when the window will open, when you can reach his heart.
Sometime in order to wake up the person needs a slap, which might be a virtual slap from Allah, that they lose some one they love or fail an exam and through this painful experience they are woken up and shown that they need to take a different junction.
Can you use alcohol for medicine
There are different opinions but the hadith in the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be on him) is that he never put cure in anything haram. This is in the hadith when a man came to ask if he could drink alcohol as was not drinking it recreationally, but as medicine.
Umm Salamah (may Allah be pleased with her) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said:
Allah did not make your cure in what He made Haram (unlawful) to you. (Bayhaqi and Ibn Hibban).
This is a general opinion.
The Hanafi school have another opinion, not against the hadith, but they go with general guidance in the Quran which says:
Prohibited for you are: carrion, blood, the flesh of swine, and those upon which (a name) other than that of Allah has been invoked (at the time of slaughter), animal killed by strangulation, or killed by a blow, or by a fall, or by goring, or that which is eaten by a beast unless you have properly slaughtered it; and that which has been slaughtered before the idols, and that you determine shares through the arrows. (All of) this is sin…. But whoever is compelled by extreme hunger, having no inclination towards sin, then Allah is Most-Forgiving, Very-Merciful. (5:3)
This is the concept of necessity Darurah. When it is a matter of Darurah, which is a special need or necessity; it is a matter of life and death but the only way you can survive is by eating or drinking haram. This is what we discussed before. If there is no other option, then yes in an exceptional, you can use it.
What are the medical options?
Many doctors ask if something which has elements of pig or alcohol then can they prescribe it? I ask if there is an alternative available. If there is, then it is a no go area. We have to take the alternative even if it has 80% of the efficacy of the one with alcohol in it.
If there is no alternative, and someone has a chronic disease with no cure, except this which contains some haram elements in it, then they are allowed to take this medicine. But we need to do the assessment in the first place. You need to go through the details.
Some doctors ask if they can use pig valves instead of cow valves during heart surgery. If the cow valve is available and will be effective then they should use it. However the cow one has less lifespan, whereas the pig one lasts longer, it depends on the case. If the patient is weak, fragile and elderly and their situation is not stable, then using the cow valve will create more harm for him than the pig one. If the patient is otherwise young and fairly stable, the cow one would be a better option.
In general it is haram but I cannot issue a fatwa without the specific details of each situation. We act in accordance with general guidance as best as possible.
Should a new Muslim give up alcohol first or become Muslim first?
New Muslims should accept Islam and leave drinking. If they find this difficult they can give up slowly, but try their best to give it up as soon as possible. It is better to die a Muslim who sinns, than to die a sinner who did not believe in Allah. We cannot say, ‘Yes its fine to drink, because you are a new Muslim’, but we say, ‘Try your best to quit and Allah will support you’.
It is quite clear that alcohol is the root of many ills. Even though someone may think, they do not get intoxicated by alcohol, that they can handle their drink, or that they are responsible or social drinkers, Allah Almighty did prohibit alcohol to keep you safe and dignified,
May Allah enable us to be worthy of being His servants, to follow His commands and to hear and obey. Ameen.
Delivered by Shaykh Haytham Tamim to the Ladies Tafseer Class on 24th June 2020.
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