ukim logo
West London Islamic Centre & Jamia Masjid

Islamic Guide

Islam & the Prohibition of Alcohol

How Big a Problem is Alcohol Consumption

Everybody would admit that there are problems with alcohol. Drink driving for example, binge drinking or violent crimes in which alcohol abuse plays a part. Yet most agree that the moderate consumption of alcohol as is customary in our society does not do much harm. Let's take a hard look at the facts.

The Facts

Alcohol is a bigger problem than we tend to admit, and it starts at an early stage. According to government publications on the state of public health, 20% of 9 to 15 year olds have had their first alcoholic drink by the age of 8, and 89% by the age of 15. 12% (more than one tenth) of 11 to I5-year olds are regular drinkers.

Besides clear connections for drunkenness or drink driving, courts are kept busy with numerous offenses committed under the influence of alcohol, from domestic violence to serious vandalism or grievous bodily harm. Some 8m people are hazardous drinkers - classed as having over the recommended daily limits - while 1.1m are said to be dependent on alcohol.

The government's health and safety executive jointly with the health departments and departments of employment had to publish policies on the "problem drinker at work", and the National Health Service spends large amounts of scarce resources on illnesses caused or exacerbated by alcohol. Every Christmas there is a nation-wide campaign against drink-driving. Hospital admissions for alcoholic liver disease more than doubled in a decade, reaching 35,400 in 2004/5.

Alcoholic liver disease deaths increased by 37%. Admissions for alcoholic poisoning increased to 21,700 from 13,600 over the same 10-year period. More than 7,000 people die each year in England and Wales as a direct consequence of alcohol through liver disease, cancer and alcohol poisoning. But the impact of booze reaches much further than that. Another 30,000 deaths are linked to drinking and alcohol is estimated to cost the NHS £3bn annually.

Significant alcohol tax revenues aside, governmental representatives correctly lament the state of the nations health and drinking habits, but they don't do much more than attempt to make the sensible drinking message easier to understand. For further trends and statistics on alcohol please view www.ic.nhs.uk/pubs/alcohol08

The Islamic View

Islam takes a different view. It values the moral and spiritual health of a nation as much as its physical wellbeing. It considers anything that interferes with the normal working of the mind, numbs our senses, thereby reducing our level of shame or responsibility, control on behaviour or clouds our perception as harmful (this includes alcohol as well as other drugs altering the mind). How many a people have said and done things under the influence that has caused them, others and sometimes those they hold most dear, insumountable pain, anguish and regret?

Recognising that different people react quite differently to the same stimulant, it does not leave the judgement, as how much is acceptable to them. Too many people thought they had control over their drinking habits, 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 total prohibition of narcotic drugs, including alcohol. It forbids the use, not just the abuse of these substances.

Another Prohibition? 

Many would by now point to the prohibition period in America and how it utterly failed by driving the habit underground. As God is aware of human nature. Islam acknowledges how entrenched such habits can be in people and that they cannot be changed overnight. The gradual prohibition of alcohol has to go hand in hand with an educational campaign to build a moral awareness and spiritual identity in society.

When Islam was first established over fourteen centuries ago in Arabia, continuing the Judeo-Christian tradition of Prophets from Abraham over Moses, Jesus to Muhammad - Peace be upon them all -, the harm that alcohol caused was well recognised but it was not immediately eradicated. In a first revelation the Qur'an, the Holy Book of Muslims, acknowledged the benefits of alcohol (for example its medical applications), but pointed out that its harm out weighed those benefits by far. Next, it forbade believers from praying whilst under the influence of alcohol, thus making it clear that spirituality and drunkenness don't mix.

Finally, some time later, it was altogether prohibited as the handiwork of the devil. By then the early Muslims who had lived through the spiritual and moral teachings of the Prophet Muhammad - peace be upon him - had realised the harms of the drug as well as the benefits of the Islamic system of values as the foundation of a strong and caring society. God states in the Qur'an:

“O you who believe!  Intoxicants (all kinds of alcoholic drinks), gambling, idolatry, and diving arrows are an abomination of Satan’s handiwork.  So avoid that so that you may be successful. Shaitân (Satan) wants only to excite enmity and hatred between you with intoxicants (alcoholic drinks) and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allâh and from As-Salât (the prayer). So, will you not then abstain?" [Surah Al-Ma'idah 5:90-91]

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." And they ask you what they ought to spend. Say: "That which is beyond your needs." Thus Allâh makes clear to you His Laws in order that you may give thought. [Surah Al-Baqarah 2:219]

Upon revelation of these verses prohibiting alcohol, the companions of the Prophet (pbuh) happily and obediently spilled whatever alcoholic beverage was left in their possession, and the streets of Medinah were reported to have been awash with disposed alcohol.

Helping Society

Modern society has come a long way since those days. We pride ourselves of great technical achievements. Yet we have also fallen back into the affliction of drunkenness and the harm it does to so many people, because some would say due to our loss of moral conscience and sense of direction. We forgot that there is more to human civilisation than material advancement. Drained of true humanity, many seek escape and consolation in drink and drugs. However, this situation is not irreversible.

Whilst the approach of the American prohibition, which saw law enforcement agencies colluding with mafia syndicates,failed, Islam shows the way to how a pure and content society can be built which need not be ashamed of its darker side and need not numb its senses in guilt and desperation. Importantly those that make such sacrafices in this temporal fleeting life are given a promise by thier Lord, God says in the Qur'an:

"(Here is) a Parable of the Garden which the righteous are promised: in it are rivers of water incorruptible; rivers of milk of which the taste never changes; rivers of wine, a joy to those who drink; and rivers of honey pure and clear. In it there are for them all kinds of fruits; and Grace from their Lord. (Can those in such Bliss) be compared to such as shall dwell forever in the Fire, and be given, to drink, boiling water, so that it cuts up their bowels (to pieces)?" [Surah Muhammad 15]

"There wait on them immortal youths with bowls and ewers and a cup from a pure spring wherefrom they get no aching of the head nor any madness, and fruit that they prefer." [Surah Al-Waqi`ah: 17-20] 

The writer Sahib Mustaqim Bleher was born in Germany into a Protestant Christian family, and took career in journalism and book publishing. He embraced Islam in 1980, and later moved to Britain.


The Prophet (pbuh) said, "He who unfairly treats a non-Muslim who keeps a peace treaty with Muslims, or undermines his rights, or burdens him beyond his capacity, or takes something from him without his consent; then I will be his opponent on the Day of Judgment' [Related in Abu Dawud]
advert