Drinking Liquor is a Great Sin
By: Ayatullah Abdul Husayn Dastaghaib Shirazi
The Greater Sins is drinking liquor. Its seriousness is proved from the traditions that have been related from Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.), Imam Riďa (a.s.) and Imam Muhammad al Taqi (a.s.).
The Holy Qur’an also states in unequivocal words that it is a Greater Sin.
“They ask you about intoxicants and the games of chance. Says: in both of them there is a great sin and means of profit for men, and their sin is greater than their profit.” (Surah al-Baqarah 2:219)
It is explained in ‘Tafsir al-Mizan’ that ‘žanb’ and ‘Ithm’ are synonyms that denote a condition wherein the person involved is deprived of reason. He has no inclination for deeds of virtue nor can he maintain an amiable disposition. ‘Ithm’ is a type of sin, the evil effects of which become apparent in the person and he is absolutely doomed. The evils of drinking are known to all. The health of the alcoholic is affected in various ways. His digestion deteriorates. His intestines do not function well. His liver, lungs and all the five senses, are likewise affected. Ancient and modern doctors have penned quite a few books on this topic. They have revealed astonishing statistics to show the far greater susceptibility of alcoholics to diseases as compared to others. The various ailments which are caused by alcoholism are also enumerated. They have termed wine as deadly poison.
The different kind of diseases that inflict the body of a liquor-drinkers are described in brief:
Effect of Liquor on the Brain
Liquor affects the central nervous system. It may cause a brain hemorrhage leading to paralysis or prolonged coma and eventual death.
Effect of Liquor on the Limbs
Ailments of the limbs are also caused by alcohol. The limbs become weak and the person loses control upon them. The body becomes absolutely broken-down. The five senses become despaired. Sleeplessness increases and even when the person gets to sleep he is haunted by nightmares.
Effect of Alcohol on the Stomach
Liquor affects the tongue and the taste buds which lose their ability to discern flavours. Secretion of saliva is impaired. Liquor ruins the digestive system. The stomach cannot produce the digestive juices or maintain the required acidity for digestion. There is frequent vomiting and nausea. Along with phelgm, there is blood discharge in the vomit. Numerous other diseases of the stomach are also caused by alcoholism. The belly begins to protrude. The intestines swell and are ulcerated. The large intestines malfunction, causing alternate constipation and loose motions.
Effect of Alcohol on the Liver
Wine and alcohol cause swelling and weakening of liver and slow down its function. The swelling increases and this gives rise to acute pain of the liver. The part of the liver that is nearer to the stomach is first affected. The kidneys become yellow and the effect becomes apparent in the eyes of that person.
Effect of Alcohol on the Blood Circulation
Alcohol does not have any benefit for the human body. It is for this reason that none of its constituent parts could be absorbed into the human body. As soon as it reaches the stomach, alcohol enters the blood stream, and as it enters the blood, it goes on destroying the white blood corpuscles. Due to this, blood pressure decreases. It may also cause fainting.
Effect of Alcohol on the Respiratory Organs
The worst effects of alcohol are to be seen in the respiratory system. As it enters the lungs through the blood stream, it causes breathlessness. The tissues are inflamed and functioning of the lungs becomes sluggish. Calcium is continually depleted from the body. The damaged lungs are now highly susceptible to tuberculosis that is the most prevalent disease among the poorer class of people.
Effect of Alcohol on Kidneys
Statistics show that ninety percent of the ailments of the kidneys are due to alcoholism. Alcohol is expelled through urine and causes numerous diseases involving the entire urinary system. It may also cause loss of bladder control.
Effect of Alcohol on the Heart
Since alcohol circulates through the blood stream it has a detrimental effect on the heart as well. Gradually, layers of fat get deposited on the heart and it increases in size and weight. The heartbeats of an alcoholic are faint or irregular.
Effect of Alcohol on Mental Faculties
The most destructive effect that alcohol can produce is on the overall psychology of the alcoholic. According to statistics available from mental hospitals the majority of the patients are those who have been long-time alcoholics.
The book ‘Balahaī al-Ijtemai’ has quoted the magazine ‘Health’ which says: According to medical research there are 2,00,000 lunatics in France who have become mad due to alcoholism. Also 80% of all mental patients have been drunkards. Further 40% of all the ailments that afflict the people are due to alcohol. According to British scientists, 90% of the lunatics are so, due to the effect of alcohol.
Effect of Alcohol on the Offsprings
The book also mentions that wine affects the sperm cells. A West German doctor has conducted research that indicates that the effect of alcohol lasts for at least Three future generations of the alcoholic; even though these future generations may abstain from intoxicants.
Excessive drinking causes sterility
According to an American doctor Dr. Nelson, if a teetotaler can father eleven healthy children the alcoholic is at the most capable of having Three normal children. Moreover these children may be plagued with fainting, migraine, hot temper, lunacy, mental disability or anemia. Such children are the victims of various mental and physical problems.
The effects of liquor are also mirrored in the character of the drunkard. The alcoholic is usually a person of low character and has a foul tongue. Being in a state of intoxication most of the time, his behaviour is not normal or rational. Not being in control of his senses due to the influence of intoxicants, he has no hesitation in committing evil acts like murder, plunder, adultery, sodomy, exposing other peoples secrets etc. In fact he will unhesitatingly break every law, be it of land or religion.
The Islamic code of life requires that a person should use whatever power of reasoning Allah (S.w.T.) has granted him to conduct himself with deliberation and discretion. In fact Islam expects every individual to try and improve his reasoning power by increasing his knowledge with study and by associating with those more knowledgeable than himself. Even good actions, without thought and intent are of no avail.
Islam therefore prohibits all such actions that affect the reasoning capacity of man. The acts that top this list are alcoholism, gambling, deceit and lying. All of which deprive man of his capacity to reason. Carnal desires and falsehood are two things that are instrumental in the demotion of man from the high position of humanity to the lowliness of the beasts. Such a person is not capable of carrying any important responsibility. It is very difficult for an alcoholic to excel in any field. Even if he resolves to do something, his resolution is soon defeated. The more difficult, the more important a task is, the more difficult it would be for an alcoholic to accomplish it. Even if the wisdom behind every Islamic act had been unknown, it would have sufficed to accept it, as the same is advocated by intellect.
The Holy Qur’an has termed as ‘Athām’ (sins) such acts as murder, slander, and withholding testimony before a qualified Judge. Murder has not been termed as ‘Ithm al-kabir’ (the greatest sin) whereas sins like alcoholism and gambling have been specified as the ‘Ithm al-kabir’ (the greatest sin). The quote (“and in alcohol and gambling there is even some profit for men”) imply the profit which arises from the manufacture and sale of alcohol etc. But this profit is not even a pittance when compared to the losses that accrue with the consumption of alcohol. The loss of character, the loss of mental & physical health and over and above all this, the loss of Allah (S.w.T.)’s Mercy and blessing in the hereafter.
The Qur’an says in Surah al-Mā’ida: “O you who believe ! Surely intoxicants and games of chance and (sacrificing to) stones set up and (divining by) arrows are only an uncleanness, the Shaitan’s works, shun it therefore that you may be successful.” (Surah al-Mā’ida 5:90)
The prohibition regarding wine is of special significance in those two ayats for the following reasons:
1) The word ‘innama’ in the first ayat denotes emphasis.
2) Drinking of liquor is mentioned along with idolatry. Therefore drinking liquor is as serious a sin as idolatry.
3) Drinking of liquor has been classified as a satanic act along with gambling.
4) The verse emphatically orders one to avoid alcohol.
5) Avoidance of alcohol has been clearly shown to be a way of salvation.
6) The consequences of drinking liquor have also been listed namely; enmity, hatred and loss of belief in Allah (S.w.T.).
7) Then it is asked whether you would now avoid this evil or not.
8) After the prohibition, Allah (S.w.T.) orders to obey Him and obey the Holy Prophet (S). To beware of disobeying Allah (S.w.T.) and to know that the duty of the Holy Prophet (S) is to convey the message and complete the proof.
Tafsir al-Mizan quotes the dictionary meaning of wine as any liquid intoxicant. In the beginning the Arabs used to prepare it from grapes, barley and dates. But gradually new types of wines began to be produced. Nowadays there are many chemically manufactured alcoholic drinks. All these can produce varying degrees of intoxication. But however slight the intoxication a drink may produce, it is considered Harām. The word ‘rijs’ (indecency) implies everything that is evil.
The Qur’anic verses equate liquor with indecency. Human nature of its own accord is not inclined towards liquor. It is the insinuation of Shaitan that persuades man to consume such filth. Shaitan creates the illusion in the human mind that by consuming liquor one can obtain bliss and a feeling of exhilaration. The Qur’anic verses declare that it is the Shaitan’s plan to entice people towards wine, gambling and idol-worship so he can create enmity, hatred and avarice amongst them and succeed in diverting their thoughts away from Allah (S.w.T.) and their duty towards the Almighty. Due to loss of reason and self control they stoop to the lowest depths of inhuman behaviour.
Under the influence of an intoxicant every thing vile and vicious appeals to their fancy. They get pleasure in destroying other people’s wealth, honour and dignity ignoring all norms of civil behaviour. They may even speak insolently about their own religion and beliefs. They sink to the lowest depths of degradation when their own sisters and daughters appear to them as objects of gratification. When intoxicated a person will easily divulge the most confidential information in his possession.
The 33rd ayat of Surah al-Ar’āf is as follows: “Say, my Lord has only prohibited indecencies, those of them that are apparent as well as those that are concealed, and sin and rebellion without justice and that you associate with Allah that for which He has not sent down any authority, and that you say against Allah what do you not know.”
‘Fawahish’ (indecencies) is the plural of ‘fahsha’ (indecency). In Arabic it implies an extremely evil act. The other sins that are described by this word in Qur’an are adultery, sodomy and falsely associating someone with adultery and sodomy. ‘Ithm’ implies ‘sin’, and the Holy Qur’an clearly indicates that drinking and gambling are ‘Ithm’.
There is a tradition narrated by ‘Ali ibn Yaqtīn in the book al-Kāfi, wherein the Abbasid despot Mahdi asked Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) regarding wine, “Is wine Harām according to the Qur’an?” (Because) people know that it is prohibited but not aware that it is Harām.” Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) replied: “Wine is Harām according to the Divine book.”
“At what place in the Qur’an is wine shown to be Harām?”
Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) said, “In the following statement of Allah (S.w.T.), ‘Say, my Lord has only prohibited indecencies, those of them that are apparent as well as those that are concealed.’” (Surah al-Ar’āf 7:33)
Imam (a.s.) further said, “As far as the apparent indecencies are concerned, they imply open adultery and ensigns that were hung outside the houses of prostitutes in the days of ignorance. ‘The concealed sin’ implies the sin of marrying the step mother after the death of the father as the people of the days of ignorance used to do. Allah has also ordered this act to be Harām. As far as sin is concerned, it is but “wine drinking”. At another point, Allah says, “They ask you about intoxicants and games of chance. Say: in both of them there is a great sin and means of profit for men, and their sin is greater than their profits.” (Surah al-Baqarah 2:219)
In the above tradition Imam (a.s.) first quotes the ayat where ‘sin’ is labelled as Harām. Then he mentions that verse where wine is ordained to be a ‘sin’. Hence when it is shown that ‘sin’ is Harām and wine is sin, then wine (and all alcoholic drinks) must necessarily be Harām.
Alcoholism According to the Traditions of Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.)
Traditions that denounce alcohol are numerous. Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) says: “On the day of Qiyāma the drunkard would come with a black face, a protruding tongue and the saliva dripping upon his chest.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
In another narration Imam (a.s.) informed: “He will scream, ‘Thirst! Thirst!’ And Allah would have the right to make him drink from the well that contains the pollutants of the adulterers.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
In a tradition from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), he says: “One who is careless of Salāt will be deprived of my intercession, and will not be able to reach me at the pool of Kawthar. And by Allah, my intercession will also not reach the one who consumes intoxicants, and he would not be able to reach me at the pool of Kawthar.”
One more tradition says, that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) cursed ten types of people in connection with wine:
1) One who plants a sapling with the intention of producing wine.
2) One who cultivates this sapling so that wine may be manufactured.
3) One who crushes the grapes.
4) One who drinks wine.
5) One who serves the wine.
6) One who transports wine.
7) One who takes delivery from the supplier.
8) One who sells wine.
9) One who buys it.
10) One who uses the income that is earned by (making or selling) wine.
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) said: “One who is addicted to wine (liquor) will meet the Lord (on the appointed day) like an idol worshipper.”
Another tradition says that, “On the day of meeting of the Lord, the drunkard will be counted among the disbelievers.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia, chapter of prohibited drinks )
Liquor is the root of all evils
Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) has said, “Disobedience to the order of Allah is mostly due to alcoholism. The alcoholic abandons Salāt. He even commits incest under the influence of alcohol. He loses his senses.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia: chapter of prohibited drinks)
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says, “Certainly even if a person swallows only a mouthful of wine, at that very moment, the angels, the Prophets and the righteous believers send their curses upon him.”
“And when he drinks enough to make him intoxicated, the spirit of belief leaves his body, it is replaced by the dirty, accursed, devilish spirit. When the person neglects prayers, he spreads corruption in society.”
It is related from Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.): “One who drinks wine considering it Halāl will remain forever in Hell. One who drinks wine, knowing it is Harām will still taste the punishment of Hell.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
Imam ‘Ali ar-Riďa (a.s.) has informed, “Allah knows better that every Prophet who has been sent by Him did not have his religion completed till wine was prohibited. Wine has always been Harām.” (Furu al-Kāfi)
In the present Old and New testaments, even after so many interpolations and alterations, there is considerable criticism of alcoholism.
“Don’t associate with people who drink too much wine...” (Proverbs 23:30)
Also: “Show me someone who drinks too much, who has to try out some new drink, and I will show you someone miserable and sorry for himself, always causing trouble and always complaining. His eyes are bloodshot, and he has bruises that could have been avoided.”
“Don’t let wine tempt you, even though it is rich red, though it sparkles in the cup, and it goes down smoothly. The next morning you will feel as if you had been bitten by a poisonous snake. Weird sights will appear before your eyes and you will not be able to think or speak clearly.” (Proverbs 23: 29-33)
The punishment for drinking wine is mentioned in the following words: “Inform the elders of the town, this son of ours is a rebel and a sinner. He does not obey us, he is a glutton and drinks too much wine? Then all the people of the town will stone him till he dies.” (Proverb: 21)
Also we find: “Do not get drunk with wine, which will only ruin you...” (Ephesians 5:18)
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says, “Alcoholism is the mother of all sins. Liquor invites the drunkard to all sorts of indecencies. It destroys his intellect. So much so that under its influence he even fails to recognize his Lord. Whatever sin he encounters, he commits it. The alcoholics do not refrain from any such acts, which are against morality.”
Thus drinking liquor is Harām not merely in the light of the Qur’an and traditions, but it is a Greater Sin. One of the necessities of religion is to consider liquor Harām and if a Muslim considers it to be Halāl he becomes a Kafir.