‘’I can’t go visit that family,’’ said Robert sadly. ‘’They often have bottles of wine sitting around. It’s just too tempting.’’
Robert wasn’t a Muslim; he was a recovering alcoholic for whom even the slightest relapse would send him reeling back into the torment that he had only by the grace of God escaped. His drinking binges had lost him his wife, his home, his job, and his chances of good relationships with his children.
Alcohol had incited him to get into a violent fight with another man, leaving that man permanently disabled and winning Robert a prison term. It’s no wonder he was so strict about avoiding any temptation to return to alcohol consumption.
Robert’s story is a common one. But is the drinking of alcoholic beverages really a sin? Many people indulge in wine in moderation as a way of further enjoying a meal or even for their health. Wine is simply the fermentation of grapes. Aren’t both grapes and fermentation a part of the wonderful creation of Allah (swt)?
The Quran doesn’t make the mistake of completely demonising alcohol as did American reformers during the years leading up to the Probition Era; rather it acknowledges that there is ‘’some benefit’’ in it but that the margin of error is greater than the benefit.
They ask you about wine and gambling. Say, ‘In them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people. But their sin is greater than their benefit . . .’ [Quran, 2 :219]
Does the Quran Forbid Alcohol Consumption?
Today few Muslims would claim that even moderate alcohol consumption is a normal part of Muslim life as it is for many Jews, Christians, and other religious groups. But surprisingly enough, the Quran does not explicitly forbid alcohol consumption, and we’re promised that in Paradise we will receive a delicious wine!
Is the description of Paradise, which the righteous are promised, wherein are rivers of water unaltered, rivers of milk the taste of which never changes, rivers of wine delicious to those who drink . . . [Quran, 47:15]
But this kind of wine can only exist in Paradise. Why? Because here on earth we live in corruption. Even we Muslims have far to go in being purified until we ”come forth as gold.” While we’re still in this weak, depraved state, a little thing like alcohol can quickly become a vicious tyrant, enacting all kinds of punishing measures:
- Alcohol can steal the money that we, our families, or the poor really need.
- Alcohol can rob us of our dignity and our good reputations.
- Alcohol can remove our inhibitions and incite us to commit other sins.
- Alcohol can destroy our health.
- Alcohol can destroy our family relationships.
- Alcohol can threaten our ability to work and earn a living.
- Alcohol can drive us to acts of violence and destruction.
- Alcohol can cause us to hurt our dear friends.
- Our alcohol consumption can bring reproach on our families, our communities, and even on our religion.
This picture has nothing in common with the consumption of the wine of Jannah!
They will exchange with one another a cup [of wine] wherein [results] no ill speech or commission of sin. [Quran, 52:23]
As time went on our prophet (saws) saw fit to forbid his followers to consume alcohol. But prohibition wasn’t forced on the Muslims all at once; rather the prophet (saws) began by pointing out the dangers, and bit by bit he arrived at the place where, three years after the Battle of Uhud, he could forbid it altogether.
While some saw— and still see— this as extreme, most Muslims recognised it as a measure that helped the ummah avoid a mountain of suffering. Alhamdulillah for that!
If Robert had been raised as a Muslim, he might have avoided the terrible pit that he’d fallen into and found a good life instead of the loneliness and poverty he now suffered. The messenger (peace be upon him) gave us wise counsel. Is not the God who sent him compassionate and merciful?
May your mind and heart be opened,
The Understand Quran Academy Team