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The Punishment for Drinking Liquor

By: Shaheed Ayatullah Abdul Husain Dastghaib Shirazi
If a sane adult person, knowing that liquor is Harām, consumes even a drop of it of his own accord and later confesses to it or is seen in the act of drinking by two just witnesses who testify, the Judge is obliged to award punishment to him.
However punishment cannot be awarded under the following conditions: If the individual who drinks it is a child, or an insane person, or one who is unaware of its prohibition, or one drinks it by mistake being under the impression that it is not liquor and realizes the truth afterwards, or one who drinks it under coercion and force, or one who is compelled to drink due to extreme thirst there being no other way of quenching it.
The Islamic penalty for drinking is eighty lashes. Eighty lashes are given when the person drinks it for the first time. If he repeats the act after receiving 80 lashes he is lashed 160 times. If he repeats the sin again and confesses, or two just witnesses testify before a Qazi (religious Judge) the punishment is tripled; i.e. 240 lashes. The fourth instance of the crime entails capital punishment. Some Mujtahids are of the opinion that capital punishment should be given when the sin is repeated the third time.
If a person confesses and repents before the testimony of two just witnesses, he is condoned. However after the testimony he cannot escape punishment. The drunkard cannot be punished while still intoxicated. He is punished only when he gets sober. If it is a man he is stripped above the waist and lashed from the shoulders and below. It is not allowed to hit the face or the private parts of the accused. If the accused is a woman she is lashed with her clothes on. If her dress is loose, it is made to stick to the body by tying it up. She is lashed in a sitting position.
If a person drinks wine at a sacred place, for example the Holy Kāba or in a sacred period, like the month of Ramadhan, he is lashed and also given a preventive punishment that is, he is beaten so much that he may not dare to repeat the crime.
Ibn Abil al-Hadid records the following incident in Sharh al-Nahjul Balagha%%%0: “Najashi was a famous poet of Kufa. He was originally from Yemen. He was among the army of Amir ul-Mu’minīn (a.s.) at the Battle of Siffin. It was the first day of Ramadhan when his friend, Abu Sammak instigated him to drink wine at the tavern. Under its intoxication he created such a bedlam that his neighbour was compelled to complain to Amir ul-Mu’minīn ‘Ali (a.s.). Hazrat summoned both of them. Abu Sammak fled but Najashi was arrested and brought by the people. By the order of the Imam (a.s.) he was detained for the night. The next day, before the congregation of Muslims he was stripped to the waist and lashed eighty times for drinking wine. After this he was given twenty more lashes. Najashi said, “Eighty lashes were for drinking wine, but why twenty more?” Imam (a.s.) replied,
“This is because you dared to drink during the month of Ramadhan and did not respect its sanctity.” (Furu al-Kāfi, Chapter on Penal Code)
The relatives of Najashi were present in large numbers in the camp of ‘Ali (a.s.). They were perturbed at the extra punishment. One of them, Tarikh Ibn Abdullah said: “We Yemenis are among your loyal friends and Shias. We expected you to consider us differently from your enemies. Najashi is our respected kinsman. By lashing him publicly you have degraded us in the eyes of our friends and enemies. We have began to doubt if the path that we tread leads to Heaven.” Amir ul-Mu’minīn (a.s.) said, “Strict adherence to justice and commands of Allah hurts the sinners. What have I done? Najashi dared to disobey the Divine command. I have only punished him according to the laws. Allah says:
‘... And let not hatred of a people invite you not to act equitably; act equitably, that is nearer to piety, be careful of (your duty to) Allah...’” (Surah al-Mā’ida 5: 8)
Ibn Abil al-Hadid writes, “Najashi and Tarikh were unable to assert their opinion. They left Kufa and went to Syria to join the group of Muawiya.” Their meeting with Muawiya is not described here. Its details can be studied in Ibn Abil al-Hadid’s Sharh al-Nahjul Balagha, Vol. I part iv page no. 366.

Aloofness from the Drunkard
In order to discourage the evil habit of drinking, Allah (S.w.T.) and the Holy Prophet (S) has commanded that people should not associate with a drunkard and remain totally aloof from him. It is a method by which the drunkard will feel self-conscious about the lack of respect with which his community members view him. Being strictly excluded from company, he will not be able to influence tender or immature minds to develop this obnoxious habit. We can thus restrict the evils of alcoholism that destroy the foundation of individual and social life.

Do not Give your Daughter in Marriage to a Drunkard
Hazrat Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) quotes the Holy Prophet (S), “Allah has made me to pronounce wine as Harām, after this pronouncement if someone still drinks wine, he is not fit to have his proposal for marriage accepted, when he proposes. If he seeks recommendation, he should not be recommended. If he says something he must not be believed. His testimony must not be accepted. Nothing should be kept in his trust. Allah is not responsible for something kept with a drunkard, with the knowledge (of his vice). He will not receive any compensation. If the thing is lost, nothing could be taken in exchange and neither its cost.” (al-Kāfi)
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says: “One who marries his well-behaved daughter to a drunkard does Qat’a ar-Rahm.” (al-Kāfi)
Imam (a.s.) has also said, “One who marries his well-behaved daughter to a drunkard; it is as if he has given her to adultery.” (Mustadrak ul-Wasa’il)
Imam (a.s.) has also stated in a tradition, “If a drunkard falls ill do not go to visit him. If he dies, do not attend his funeral.”

Boycott of the Drunkard
By adopting this attitude we fulfill our duty of Nahy Anil Munkar. No one should trust or believe a drunkard, and no one should have any dealings with him whatsoever. As clearly ordered by our Holy Prophet (S) and our Imam (a.s.) no one should give his daughter in marriage to a drunkard. When the drunkard finds himself so totally cut off from the society in which he lives, he will be compelled to give up his sinful habit.

Jihad against Intoxicants
The book Burhan al-Qur’an writes against intoxicants: “The evil of intoxicants can be easily proved by the fact that in a country like France a woman legislator urged the parliament to abolish intoxicants completely. She was so disgusted by the ill-effects of alcohol that she protested against it vehemently. Obviously, until the powerful governments put an end to such evils they cannot be eradicated. Mere crusades of individuals, or social boycott will not have much effect.”
It is true that life can be very difficult for some individuals. They face hardships and frustrations till they are driven to despair. Even so, drinking liquor to forget their troubles is not a solution. The physical, economic and social repercussions of this evil will only magnify their problems and engulf them in a vicious circle from which it will be almost impossible to extricate themselves. It is an evil that must be fought by individuals, by society and by the governments. Individual effort and social boycott will certainly help to a great extent. But the authority that the government can exercise in enforcing strict measures will go a long way in eradicating this evil. The American government in the year 1930 had made a serious effort to discourage the use of intoxicants. The propaganda was carried out through newspapers, magazines, radio, television, films and all modes of communication. The total expenses incurred by the government were eight million dollars. Ten billion pages of books and magazines were printed. Within a span of 14 years 250 million dollars were spent. 300 people were hanged, 532000 people were sent to prison, penalties were collected from 1,60,00,000 people and property worth $ 41,50,00,000 was confiscated. All this did not yield the desired result and the number of alcoholics, in fact, increased. In 1933 all these restrictions were withdrawn and complete freedom was given to the public to consume liquor. (From Tankihat of Abul Ala Maududi)
This only goes to show that government restriction alone will not cure this malady. What is needed are the co-ordinated efforts of strict government rules and the boycott of the alcoholics by society.
When Islam prohibited liquor, it considered all these aspects. Islam first strived to remove the causes of alcoholism. After this, it promulgated that liquor is Harām. One of the causes that promotes this habit are the people who themselves give a free rein to this vice. They do not adopt strict methods of prevention. Our society does not view the drunkards unfavourably and does not boycott them so that they may be compelled to give up their habits. According to Islam, dangerous diseases and ailments that befall the soul must be eradicated by all means. The drunkards and alcoholics must also be boycotted economically. People should not transact any business with them and they must also be socially boycotted. Proposals for their marriage must be rejected and none should keep company with them. An ideological war must be carried out against them. They must also be a spiritually cured. Along with heavy penal punishment they must be informed of the ill effects of liquor and other intoxicants.

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