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Prohibition of Alcoholic Drinks in Islam

By: Ayatullah Ja'far Subhani
Wine and the intoxicating drinks in general have been and are one of the greatest ruinous calamities for human society and it is sufficient to say in reproof of this deadly poison that it wages war against the greatest blessing of man which distinguishes him from other living beings viz. intellect and reason. The prosperity of man depends upon his wisdom and the difference between him and other living beings is because of his power of intellect, and alcohol is considered to be the greatest enemy of wisdom and intellect. It is on this account that all the divine Prophets have prohibited the use of alcoholic drinks. In fact they have been declared unlawful in all the revealed religions.
In the Arabian Peninsula drinking prevailed like a general calamity and a contagious disease, decisive campaign against which needed quite a long time, and the state of affairs prevailing in the society and the conditions of the Arabs in general did not also permit that the Prophet should declare it unlawful without taking preliminary steps. He was also obliged to prepare the temperament of the society for waging a decisive war against it.
Hence, the four verses which have been revealed to express aversion to wine are not alike. The Prophet commenced with advice till he was successful in declaring its use to be unlawful.
A careful study of these verses tells us about the method adopted by the Prophet regarding the propagation of the laws of Islam and it is appropriate that the proficient writers and orators should adopt this method of instruction and should campaign against social evils in the same manner.
The basic condition for campaigning against an evil practice at the first stage is to awaken the thinking of the society and to invite its attention to its disadvantages and harmful effects. Until there is spiritual preparedness and internal stimulation in a society and the people themselves are responsible it is not possible to undertake a campaign against an evil practice.
Hence, in the first instance the Holy Qur'an told the society, the part of whose life was drinking, that preparation of wine with dates and grapes was inconsistent with good nourishment and this way of speech was in fact a warning to awaken the thoughts of the people. It says: (We provide you) fruits of the date palm and vine from which you derive strong drink and wholesome food. (Surah al-Nahl, 16:67 )
The Holy Book announced for the first time that making wine with these things is not 'good nourishment'. 'Good nourishment' means that they should be eaten in their natural shape.
This verse gave a jolt to the thoughts of the people and made their temperaments ready so that the Prophet might make his tone more strong and declare through other verses that 'some material utility' derived from wine and games of chance is insignificant as compared with their evil effects. This fact has been mentioned in this verse: They question you about strong drink and game of chance. Say: In both is great sin, and (some material) utility for men; but the sin of them is greater than their usefulness. (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:219)
No doubt such comparison between profit and loss, which shows that something is more evil than good, is sufficient to make intelligent people express aversion to it. However, the people at large do not avoid an evil practice unless it is totally forbidden.
Notwithstanding the fact that the verse quoted above had already been revealed Abdur Rahman bin Awf arranged a feast and also served wine on the dining cloth. Those present began offering prayers after drinking wine. One of them read a verse incorrectly whereby its meaning was changed i.e. instead of saying '(O idolaters

I worship not that which you worship' he uttered a sentence with an opposite meaning by dropping the word 'la' (not) from it.
These incidents made the temperaments of the people ready that so far as the conditions permitted drinking of wine should be prohibited at least in certain special circumstances. In the light of these conditions it was declared openly that no Muslim was entitled to offer prayers while he was intoxicated and this Divine order was proclaimed in these words: Believers, do not pray when you are drunk, till you know what you say. (Surah al-Nisa, 4:46). [Refer to Sunan-i Abi Daud, vol. II, page 128].The effect of this verse was that a group of persons gave up drinking permanently, and their argument for doing so was that a thing which was harmful for prayers deserved to be entirely eliminated.
However, some others did not forsake this habit, so much so that a person from amongst Ansar arranged a feast and notwithstanding the fact that he was aware of the said verse he served wine as well on the dining cloth. The guests, after having drunk wine, began to dispute and hurt one another. Thereafter they complained to the Prophet. The Second Caliph, who used to drink wine till that time, being under the impression that the above-mentioned verses did not make drinking of wine totally forbidden, raised his hands in prayer and said: "O Allah! Reveal clear and convincing orders for us".
It is evident that such unpleasant occurrences had made the atmosphere ready for this that if the use of wine was totally banned, all the Muslims would have accepted this ban wholeheartedly. Hence, at the last stage, this verse was revealed: Wine, gambling, idols and Azlam (a sort of lottery) are filthy acts of Satan and all of you should refrain from them. As a result of this eloquent and emphatic order those persons who had been drinking wine till that time on the excuse that orders regarding giving it up were not final also refrained from it. On hearing this verse the Second Caliph said, "I renounce it from now onwards".[Mustadrak, vol. IV, page 143 and Ruhul Ma'ani, vol. Vll, page 15].

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