The History of Alcohol in Islam

This is a cross-post by Lord Curzon from Coming Anarchy


Muslims are prohibited from drinking alcohol. But why? In objectively reviewing for the ban in the Koran, one can only leave bewildered. Occasional passages that do not refer to alcohol as it is known today is interpreted as being a complete prohibition on alcohol consumption, without exception.

The Koran has a few sections that cryptically refer to alcohol. In 4:43, Muslims are forbidden to attend to prayers while intoxicated; in 2:219, intoxicants are said to contain good and evil, but the evil is greater than the good. In these two sections, the word for “intoxicated” is sukara which is derived from the word “sugar” and means drunk or intoxicated. In 5:90, “intoxicants” are called “abominations of Satan’s handiwork” intended to turn people away from God and prayer, and Muslims are therefore ordered to abstain. Here, the word is al-khamr, which is related to the verb “to ferment,” and probably refers to fermented sugar drinks. This word could be used to describe other intoxicants such as the Roman era wine.

Yet these stern words from the prophet didn’t stop the keen chemists of the early Islamic world from vigrously involving themselves in the developing alcohol. Indeed, they pioneered it! Distilling alcohol as a pure compound was first achieved by Muslim chemists in the 8th century, and like the English words algebra and alchemy, the word alcohol comes from Arabic. Persian scientists later mastered distillation, which was introduced to Europe in the 12th century by various European authors who translated and popularized the discoveries of the Muslim world.

Exactly when alcohol became banned in the Arab world and the Muslim world beyond is unclear, and it is all but impossible to find any objective history of the topic. All that is known is that Islamic scientists. But the debate lasted for many, many centuries, and the case of coffee shows an interesting example of compromise. Coffee from Ethiopia developed into a popular drink in Islam in the 15th century, but due to its intoxicating effect, it was banned in Egypt and Mecca in the 16th century for several decades. The ban, however, could not overcome the popularity of the drink and after several decades, the religious leaders of both Egypt and Mecca gave up on trying to ban the drink. Today, drinking and talking over cups of concentrated Arabic coffee is one of the most popular social activities among the Bedou of the Arabian peninsula.

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21 Comments

  1. Yeasin
    Posted July 8, 2010 at 11:51 PM | Permalink

    Tut…tut…tut Munafiqoon, now you want us to have a merry old knees up, daaan the boozer, next you’ll be telling us to puke on each other and piss down alley ways hehehehehehe.

    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 http://www.ic.nhs.uk/pubs/alcohol08

    The Islamic View

    Islam takes a different view. As a holistic way of life, it values the moral and spiritual health of a nation as much as its physical well-being. 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 (yes system Munafiqoon:) 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.

  2. Abu Faris
    Posted July 9, 2010 at 1:25 AM | Permalink

    Make mine a treble!

  3. Yeasin
    Posted July 9, 2010 at 11:14 AM | Permalink

    Ahhhh, Abu Faris you dim-wit, please tell me the succinctness and vigor of the article wound the shit out of you and got right under your skin, as it would do any hypocrite, just as such things would infuriate the enemies of the Prophet of Allah during his time, when he would call people to the truth and towards that which Islam had prescribed. Hehehehehehe

  4. Posted July 9, 2010 at 12:31 PM | Permalink

    Isn’t it your round next, Yeasin? ;-)

    Only pulling your leg, I know you probably think drinking is a grave sin. Although there is a quality of the abusive drunken tramp about you.

  5. Abu Faris
    Posted July 9, 2010 at 1:40 PM | Permalink

    Yea, Yeasin, don’t be such a tight-wad! Get them in… mine’s a treble!

    Cheers!

  6. Abu Faris
    Posted July 9, 2010 at 1:45 PM | Permalink

    “The writer Sahib Mustaqim Bleher…”

    Wooooooah! Stop right there! You mean that nutcase from the loopy Islamic Party of Britain.

    Says it all, really.

  7. Abu Faris
    Posted July 9, 2010 at 1:46 PM | Permalink

    Oh, and while you are at the bar, Yeasin, don’t forget the cheese and onion crisps and pickled egg.

    Cheers!

  8. Hassan
    Posted July 9, 2010 at 8:05 PM | Permalink

    Interesting article, many thanks for posting.

    Consumption of alcohol is still widespread in many Muslim-majority countries, though it is often the reserve of the elite. A friend and cousin of mine, who live in Oman and Pakistan respectively, both frequent ‘secret’ booze-filled parties, attended, more often than not, by multitudes of horny men, and a handful of women.

    That aside, i see much benefit in the islamic prohibition of alcohol. And it is a prohibition, despite the eminent Lord Curzon’s opinions to the contrary.

    Toodles.

  9. Abu Talib
    Posted July 9, 2010 at 8:27 PM | Permalink

    A refreshing, stiff gin and tonic or a mint julep as opposed to a goblet of warm khamr (fermented date juice) is perfectly halal in this weather.

    cheers.

  10. Selim the Sot
    Posted July 9, 2010 at 10:18 PM | Permalink

    Introduction

    When We look at Islam ,We find that Liquors are banned and prohibited, Even Harsh Punishment awaits those who drink.However, When you ponder on Islam and Investigate it from its core, you will find the un-expected. We shall prove that the Quran doesnt prohibit Liquor and that Muhammad did Drink Liquor.

    Refuting the Ban of Alcohol in the Quran

    Let Us first examine the Quranic verses that are supposed to ban Alcoholic Drinks , and We shall refute them:

    Quran 2:219 ”They ask you concerning alcoholic drinks and Games of Chance, Say:In them are harm and goods for men,but their harm exceeds their good effects.”

    It only says that there is harm in alcoholic drinks, and if you drink too much ,I agree that it will harm you, but it doesnt prohibit it here.

    Quran 4:43 ”Do not approach prayers while you are drunk”

    It says not to pray while you are drunk, which is a good idea.

    Quran 5:90 ”O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination,- of Satan’s handwork: so avoid it that you may prosper”

    Notice, God says here to avoid alcohol so that you may prosper, He doesnt say do not drink at all.The verses are only saying that Alcohol has bad effects and good effects, but best is to avoid it.

    Does the Quran speaks good of Alcohol?

    Yes it Does, and I will show you a verse concerning it. Let Us read the verses in context :

    16:66 ”And most surely there is a lesson for you in the cattle; We give you to drink of what is in their bellies — from betwixt the feces and the blood — pure milk, easy and agreeable to swallow for those who drink.

    Notice it talks of Drinks here, Keep in Mind that the context of the verse is about Drinks.

    16:67 ”And of the fruits of the date-palms and the grapes, you obtain Alcoholic drinks and goods. Verily in that is a Sign for a people who use their understanding.”

    Notice that the verse here tells us that God bestowed upon Us Grapes and Dates so that we can take Alcoholic drinks from them, thus God is encouraging Us to make alcoholic drinks here.Also it says that from Date palms and grapes ,We make Alcoholic drinks and goodly provision. In arabic the sentences says :”Tatakhedoon menha sokran wa rezkan hasanan” , In this context, Goods also refers to Alcoholic drinks.

    Muhammad: Has He ever drank alcohol?

    I can provide tens of Hadiths proving Muhammad drank alcoholic drinks, but I will give only some examples.

    Muslim-Drinks-3753

    ”We were with the Prophet of Allah,and He was thirsty,and a man said :O prophet of Allah, Do you want to drink wine? Prophet of allah said: Yes. The Man went to get the wine. The Prophet of Allah said : Make it Intoxicated. And He(Muhamad) Drank.

    The arabic word used is Nabeed which means wine, it can be free from intoxication, however in that hadith the prophet insisted that it must be intoxicated, isnt that fascinating?

    Muslim-Drinks-3721

    ”The Prophet of Allah used to pour alcoholic drinks in a Bowel of Stone”

    Seems He used to make his special kind of Alcoholic drinks.

    There are many incidents, Such as Aisha pours Wine for the prophet of Allah in morning and at night (Muslim-Drinks-3745). Also Aisha brought Wine to the Prophet from inside the Mosque (Muslim-AlHayd-451).

    Muslim apologetics would argue that Nabeed isnt always referring to an intoxicated drink, However ,We have seen that in the first Hadith ,Muhammad asked that it to be intoxicated. The last hadith I posted, the exact word is ”Khamra” which means alcohol. Apologetics might say no it means a coverlet or veil, but the word they are reffering to is ”Khimar”, and the word used in the Hadith is ”Khamra”, Please ask any arab what does ”Khamra” mean, and you will see.

    Angels are Drunk also in Islam

    There is a story that Angels were asking a woman questions, and she wouldnt answer them unless they got Drunk and they drank and got Drunk, and became confused and killed a child. (Musnad Ahmad- Musnad almukathareen-5902)

    Even the angels of Allah get drunk, I mean who is Left?

    Companions of Muhamad drank Alcohol

    Hamzah drank alcohol and Muhammad was scared of him when Hamzah was drunk because he becomes Mad.Probably that is one of the reasons Muhammad discouraged drinking Alcohol. (Bukhari-V,4-B,53-324)

    Anas Bin Malek used to serve Alcoholic Drinks .(Muslim: 23.4884, 4886 )

    Mujahedeen drank Alcohol in the Battle fo Uhud. Sounds pretty interesting. (Bukhari-Volume 4, Book 52, Number 70)

    Caliphs who drank Alcohol

    We know that Al-Rashid and Al-Mamun drank alcohol and there are other Caliphs who are known for their addiction to alcohol, here are a list :

    Yazid I (680-683): he was Muawiyah’s son. He drank daily and won the title Yazid al-Khumur, the Yazid of wines.
    Abd al-Malik (685-705): he drank once a month; but drank so heavily that he had to use ant-vomiting medicine to pacify his drinking bout.
    Al-Walid I (705-715): he drank every other day.
    Hisham ((724-743): He drank every Friday after the divine service.
    Al-Walid II (743-744): Yazid II’s son. He would swim habitually in a pool of wine of which he would gulp enough to lower the surface appreciably. He also shot the Qur’an to pieces with his bow and arrow.

    Source: (History of the Arabs; Philip K. Hitti, ch. xxvi, p.337) (Foot note 5: Mishkah, vol. ii, pp.172-3; ibn Hanbal, Musnad ( Cairo , 1313), vol.i, pp. 240, 287, 320; Bukhari, vol. vi, p.232 )

    Conclusion

    We see that Alcohol was drank by the Prophet, and Encouraged to be made by the Quran. We see famous Companions drinking and serving Alcohol. We saw that Angels in Islam became drunk and that Mujahedeen were drinking alcohol in the Battle of Uhud. Yet We see no verse from the Quran banning the Alcohol Completely. We do find banning of Alcohols in Hadith, but Hadiths are not more reliable then Quran,they came way after the Quran, Muslims probably banned it by forging hadiths and attributing them to Muhammad since they saw what their Caliphs have done when they were drunk. However, We see that Muhammad did drink and the Quran no where bans Alcohol, on the contrary ,it calls it good and encourages us to make it. Alcohol may be condemned by Scholars of Islam today, Ofcourse they will reject the fact that their prophet drank alcohol because that will portray him as a drunkard. We dont see what Muslims have to say about Alcohol, We go to the core of Islam and that is the Quran and Muhammad. We thus see how Islam and Alcohol can live in Harmony. Peace Brethren.

    ————————————
    Appendix:

    We are more likely to take bad things about Muhammad then good things from Hadith. The Fact is that when Muslims have Hadiths about their prophet that may portray him in a bad way, we will agree that these ahadith are genuine because Muslims after all wont make up things that may portray their prophet in a bad way, Agree? However, When you find Hadiths that portray Muhammad in a good way and totally contradict the earliest biographies of Muhammad, then surely these are fabrications. If you find a Hadith that portrays Muhammad as a bad person, then it is Authentic since Muslims wont create something bad about their Prophet. If you find Hadiths that portray Muhammad as a good person (which totally contradicts the earliest sirahs), then surely they may have made it up just to make their prophet look better.

    So Hadiths that portray Muhammad as a Drunkard, then these are true, since Muslims wont Lie about their Prophet. However, When they say He banned Alcohol, then there are doubts that these Hadiths are Authentic because they might want to make their prophet look good, and hide the true face of Muhammad, and that is a Drunkard.

  11. Abu Faris
    Posted July 10, 2010 at 4:55 AM | Permalink

    So much for the ‘araki drunk from one end of the Arab world to the other, the buuz knocked back in vast quantities in Egypt and the Merrisa consumed all over Sudan.

    Naughty Arab Muslims drinking all that alcohol.

    Mine’s a treble!

    Cheers.

  12. Hassan
    Posted July 10, 2010 at 11:55 AM | Permalink

    Yes, naughty Muslim Arabs indeed. I’ve never quite seen the fasination with alcohol myself. For a number of reasons, but principally because it just tastes awful. I’m referring to bear here; perhaps wine tastes better, but the smell suggests otherwise. Being an avid drinker of virgin mojitos, I can understand the appeal of some cocktails.

    Anywho, I have no particular desire to intoxicate myself regulary, or even irregularly.

  13. Abu Faris
    Posted July 10, 2010 at 4:46 PM | Permalink

    Hassan

    That’s lovely, dear.

    However, it is still your round…

    Mine’s a treble!

    PS You are right, though – *bears* [sic] do smell funny.

  14. Abu Imran Al-Britani
    Posted July 10, 2010 at 6:31 PM | Permalink

    Bismillah ar-rahman ar-raheem

    Make mine a pear Bulmers with ice, cheers! Jazaak’llah

  15. Abdulqawiyy Al-Ansar
    Posted July 10, 2010 at 6:51 PM | Permalink

    This might be of interest:
    http://www.islam-watch.org/AbulKasem/WineDrinking.htm

    Conclusion:
    The Qur’an does not at all proscribe wine drinking. The ban on alcoholic drinks was certainly a later innovation by the Abbasids. They used questionable ahadith to institute such a ban. No one condones the harmful effects of excessive drinking; but it is simply too harsh the Islamic penalty (from 80 lashes to death for the repeat offenders) for occasional indulgence in a cup or two of red wine. As suggested by many cardiologists, this may even be beneficial for health, While the infidels enjoy wine and beat the Muslims hands down in maintaining good health and hygiene, the Muslims, on the other hand, mostly suffer from ill-health and poor hygiene. They must reflect on this reality and let those Muslims who like to drink in limited quantity do so without fear or prejudice. This is a basic right of a citizen which is often denied in Islamic Paradises. This forced inhibition on drink is totally unfair and tormenting. The Qur’an confirms that they have the right to consume alcohol – if they choose so.

    =====================================

  16. Posted July 13, 2010 at 12:37 PM | Permalink

    Allah has define limits for Muslims. He stop from drinking alcohol because of reasons. Each and everything in Islam is not just saying or boundaries with no reasons. They have solid reasons behind. Allah and his Prophet (PBUH) has stopped us from alcohol because a person senses gone while drinking water, then he can’t take a decision between good and bad.

  17. Joe in Australia
    Posted July 14, 2010 at 2:30 AM | Permalink

    “Sukaru” doesn’t come from “sugar”. It’s related to a lot of words like “shekhar”, “sikkaru”, “shekar” and so forth in other Semitic languages, and it just means an alcoholic drink – not always beer, but that’s probably the most likely one.

  18. Posted November 19, 2010 at 5:38 PM | Permalink

    We all know the effects of alcohol on human health. Continuous alcohol consumption
    may lead to obesity, liver cancer, and liver cirrhosis. These are the long term effects of alcohal. the short term effects can be drunk driving and to lose temper and many other. If we stop consuming alcohol, it benefits us in many different ways.

  19. Posted December 6, 2010 at 12:35 AM | Permalink

    Alcohal is not good for one’s health. Prolong consumption of alcohal may cause liver a nd heart disease

  20. deborah
    Posted January 23, 2012 at 9:41 PM | Permalink

    hello! well i think islam has the right idea !! look at the world, and the young people in the streets, that cant stand up, causing fights. domestic disturbance, drunk drivers that kill entire families, and they still get behind the wheel, gambling is another one,
    getting pissed is not a good idea!!!….

  21. Samirix
    Posted January 27, 2013 at 12:45 AM | Permalink

    Why is this article hijacked by piss head kaffirs and hypocrites.

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