Wine Drinking in Islam
14 Apr, 2005
Wine and liquor (including beer, whisky, brandy, Martini, vermouth, gin, vodka, Champagne , Port, Sherry...) are great taboos in Islam. It is a great sin even to hold a bottle of one of these dreadful stuffs, not to talk of dropping a single drop of these haram liquids into one's ( I mean, a Muslim's) throat. Ask any Muslim and he will surely attest to what I have diligently written just now. There are severe prescribed (read Islamic) punishments for the production, distribution, sale, trading and consumption of these egregious products. Would you care to know that this is truly a sheer hypocrisy in Islam? When one carefully reads the Qur'an one cannot but be utterly shocked at the unbridled flow of supreme wine and dazzling sex-damsels reserved for the best of the adherents of the faith, while totally forbidding this 'heavenly' liquids in this world. Believe it or not in Islamic Paradise it is only non-stop fountain of wine and unlimited supply of women (read sex) for the pious believers (male, of course). If these earthly drinks (wine) are so notorious then why Allah has to reserve their exclusive pleasures for the after world? Why one (a Muslim) must die first to enjoy these subsequent supreme delights? --one may legitimately ask.
Did Qur'an really forbid the consumption of wine? Let us open the infallible Qur'an, the uncontaminated words of Allah, and carefully read in chronological order the relevant verses (note: the numbers inside the brackets indicate the chronological order):
Wine and gambling -- some good but great sins... 2:219 (87)
YUSUFALI: They ask thee concerning wine and gambling. Say: "In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit." They ask thee how much they are to spend; Say: "What is beyond your needs." Thus doth Allah Make clear to you His Signs: In order that ye may consider-
This verse clearly exhorts the comparative merits and demerits of gambling and drinking wine. It, by no means, makes consumption of alcoholic drinks unlawful. This verse even states that one should carefully spend only his left-over money (after his living expenses) to engage in such treats (i.e., wine consumption, gambling), thus guiding the believers not to overspend in the consumption of liqueur and gaming.
Here is another verse on the consumption of wine (?):
Can't go to a mosque intoxicated or after having touched a woman... 4:43 (92)
YUSUFALI: O ye who believe! Approach not prayers with a mind befogged, until ye can understand all that ye say,- nor in a state of ceremonial impurity (Except when travelling on the road), until after washing your whole body. If ye are ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from offices of nature, or ye have been in contact with women, and ye find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands. For Allah doth blot out sins and forgive again and again.
Most erudite Islamic scholars associate this verse with the non-attendance in a mosque when intoxicated (or after having sex with a woman). It is of course true that there is no use to attend prayers when one is drunk. However, what these learned scholars forget to mention is that the word 'defogged' does not necessarily mean a state of drunkenness. This state could arise due to many reasons, such as: a family quarrel, a physical fight, an over dose of sleep, suffering from a severe headache, a mental disorder... ..and so on. Therefore, relating this verse only to intoxication is rather too simplistic, to say the least. In fact, in its literal meaning, this verse has nothing to do with wine drinking. It even does not mention the word wine or any intoxicant. Therefore, this verse cannot be used to prohibit the consumption of alcohol.
Let us read the next verse:
Intoxicants (wine and spirit) and gambling are Satan's handiwork, avoid them... 5:90 (112)
YUSUFALI: O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination,- of Satan's handwork: eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper.
This is the verse the zealot Islamists often use to justify the legal prohibition on all affairs dealing with alcoholic drinks. Read this verse once again. There is no way this verse makes alcoholic drinks illegal to consume, produce, distribute, sale or trade. Along with other acts like, gambling, divination... etc. this verse merely declares the danger of intoxicants. This is similar to the present-day government warning on the dangers of smoking tobacco products. Despite severe warning notices on every packet of cigarette sold, the habit of smoking continues. No country (except perhaps Bhutan ) has ever tried to ban or make smoking illegal and a punishable offence - at least not yet, so far. The same argument can be easily extended for the consumption of wine during Muhammad's time. You see, Allah (i.e., Muhammad) was quite a smart person not to force an immediate ban on the consumption of wine, because He knew this would bring immediate retaliation from His adherents who were so used to daily drinking of wine. So, Allah merely advised His followers to eschew this bad habit without He taking a clear stand on the outright banning of drinking wine. While His injunction on the eating of pork and pork products was absolutely unmistakeable, He was quite hesitant in taking such a decisive step on wine drinking. If Allah chose He could have easily promulgated an outright ban on wine. But He did not. Allah (i.e., Muhammad) simply took the step akin to the steps taken by many of today's governments regarding smoking.
So, why there is a total ban on alcoholic drinks in Islam? The answer lies in hadis. You see, all ahadith were compiled long after Muhammad's death - at least 200 years later. In fact, very soon you will learn that many of those devout Islamic Caliphs were habitual drinkers of wine before the dubious (and often questionable) ahadith were used as legal codes to run the lives of Muslims.
There is very little doubt that all these so-called Sahih ahadith do proclaim a total ban on wine and any other alcoholic drink. Such haram drinks cannot even be used in a medicine.
As told before, in the holy Qur'an, wine (or any alcoholic drink) is largely treated as harmful, although there might be minor benefits in it. Certainly, the Qur'an did not proclaim a total ban on the consumption of wine, if we understood the meaning of verse 5:90. It simply exhorted the believers to avoid this harmful drink.
This means: if we are to believe the hadis, then Qur'an is wrong or, alternatively, if we take the Qur'an as the infallible words of Allah then all those ahadith dealing in alcoholic drinks are absolutely fabricated, if not outright lies.
Did the companions of the apostle of Allah drink wine? What a outrageous question is this! - you may say. Here is the answer - though most Muslims will simply deny the truth.
You see, most of Muhammad's companions (except, perhaps Umar and Abu Bakr) were habitual drinkers. Don't you believe this? Here is a hadis from Sahih Bukhari that tells us Hamzah, the 'Lion of Islam' was a real drunkard and womanizer of the first order. In fact, while he (Hamzah) was drunk Muhammad was so scared of him that he (Muhammad) dared not approach him. The arrant, violent and unruly behavior of Hamzah, while drunken was one of the prime reasons to motivate Muhammad to proclaim the avoidance of wine. Let us read this hadis from Sahih Bukhari
Hamzah, in drunken state killed the she-camel of Ali... 4.53.324
I got a she-camel in my share of the war booty on the day (of the battle) of Badr, and the Prophet had given me a she-camel from the Khumus. When I intended to marry Fatima, the daughter of Allah's Apostle, I had an appointment with a goldsmith from the tribe of Bani Qainuqa' to go with me to bring Idhkhir (i.e. grass of pleasant smell) and sell it to the goldsmiths and spend its price on my wedding party. I was collecting for my she-camels equipment of saddles, sacks and ropes while my two she-camels were kneeling down beside the room of an Ansari man. I returned after collecting whatever I collected, to see the humps of my two she-camels cut off and their flanks cut open and some portion of their livers was taken out. When I saw that state of my two she-camels, I could not help weeping. I asked, "Who has done this?" The people replied, "Hamza bin Abdul Muttalib who is staying with some Ansari drunks in this house." I went away till I reached the Prophet and Zaid bin Haritha was with him. The Prophet noticed on my face the effect of what I had suffered, so the Prophet asked. "What is wrong with you." I replied, "O Allah's Apostle! I have never seen such a day as today. Hamza attacked my two she-camels, cut off their humps, and ripped open their flanks, and he is sitting there in a house in the company of some drunks." The Prophet then asked for his covering sheet, put it on, and set out walking followed by me and Zaid bin Haritha till he came to the house where Hamza was. He asked permission to enter, and they allowed him, and they were drunk. Allah's Apostle started rebuking Hamza for what he had done, but Hamza was drunk and his eyes were red. Hamza looked at Allah's Apostle and then he raised his eyes, looking at his knees, then he raised up his eyes looking at his umbilicus, and again he raised up his eyes look in at his face. Hamza then said, "Aren't you but the slaves of my father?" Allah's Apostle realized that he was drunk, so Allah's Apostle retreated, and we went out with him.
Even Muhammad's lifelong companion/servant, Anas b. Malik was a butler or a bar tender - serving wine to his customers. His main business was probably running a pub.
Read this hadis from Sahih Muslim.
Anas b. Malik was serving wine to a group of ansars when the announcement on the ban on alcoholic drink was pronounced... Sahih Muslim: 23.4884, 4886
Anas b. Malik reported: I was standing amongst the uncles of my tribe serving them Fadikh while I was the youngest of them, when a person came and said: Verily the use of liqour has been prohibited. They said: Anas, spill it away. So I spilt it. He (one of the narrators. Sulaiman Taimi) said that he asked Anas what that was (the Fadikh). He said: It had been prepared from unripe and ripe dates. Abu Bakr b. Anas said: It was their liquor in those days. Sulaiman said: A person narrated it to me from Anas b. Malik that he had said so.
Anas b. Malik reported I was serving wine to Abu Talha, and Abu Dujana. and Mu'adh b. Jabal admidst a group of Ansar when a visitor came to us and said There is a fresh news; the (verses) concerning the prohibition of liquor have been revealed. So we spilt it on that day; and it was a mixture of dry dates and fresh dates. Anas b. Malik said: While Khamr was declared unlawful, the common liquor of theirs was then a mixture of dry dates and fresh dates.
Hadis number 4886 clearly mentions the names of some of Muhammad's dearest minions who were habitual drinkers of wine. Therefore, how was it possible for Muhammad to raise the ire of his most trusted companions by taking away their regular pleasure? - one may surely wonder.
Even the ordinary Jihadists were drinkers of wine. Some of them drank alcoholic drink during the battle of Uhud!
Some Jihadists drank alcohol on the day of Uhud... Sahih Bukhari: 4.52.70
Narrated Jabir bin Abdullah:
"Some people drank alcohol in the morning of the day (of the battle) of Uhud and were martyred (on the same day)." Sufyan was asked, "(Were they martyred) in the last part of the day?)" He replied, "Such information does not occur in the narration."
How about Muhammad? Did he ever drink wine? Unbelievable though it may seem, Muhammad did actually consume wine! Here is the proof.
While elaborating on the wine drinking habits of some of the Caliphs of Islam, Phillip K. Hitti, the eminent historian of the Arabs writes, "Khamr, made of dates was the favourite. Ibn Khaldun argues that such personages as al-Rashid and al-Ma'mun used only nabidh, prepared by soaking grapes, raisins or dates in water and allowing the juice to ferment slightly. Such drink was judged legal under certain conditions by at least one school of Moslem jurisprudence, the Hanafite. Muhammad himself drank it, especially before it was three days old." (History of the Arabs; Philip K. Hitti, ch. xxvi, p.337)
In case you thought that P.K. Hitti was an infidel author, so his words cannot be trusted, here is a foot note that he cites to back up his claims.
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
In the same book, on p.227, Phillip K. Hitti lists the name of habitual drinkers among the Ummayad Caliphs; such as:
- 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.
Professor Phillip K. Hitti authenticates his claims by foot-noting impeccable Islamic historians, such as: Aghani, Iqd, Masudi and Al-Nawaji.
Clearly, all those Caliphs (the protectors of Islam) knew Muhammad's Islam exceedingly well, because they ruled immediately after Muhammad's death. If wine was haramzed by Muhammad they would have definitely refrained from consuming such haramized stuff; since none of them was reported to have consumed a single piece of pork and/or any other haram food.
The total ban on the consumption of wine was truly enforced by the Abbasids, whose founder Abu al-Abbas, having the sobriquet al-Saffat (the blood shedder) was an absolutely cruel, deranged, despotic warlord who was bent to proclaim his brand of extreme chastisement (read Islam) through mindless torture and barbarism. It was during the Abbasid period that the first comprehensive compilation of hadis (Bukhari) was completed. This was around 830-840 - almost 200 years after Muhammad's death.
The question is: who knew Muhammad's Islam better - the Ummayad's, who were in charge of Islam soon after his death, or the Abbasid's whose brand of Islam was instituted after a long elapse of almost 200 years?
Even the Abbasid Caliph al-Mamun was a regular drinker of wine. (Hitti, p.306)
Here are a few ahadith on the 'haramisation' of alcoholic drink (I have cited only the main message, for details refer to the hadis number quoted):
All intoxicant drinks including wines are haram... 1.4.243
The selling of alcoholic drinks were made unlawful in the year of the conquest of Mecca ... Sahih Bukhari: 5.59.590
Usury and trade in alcoholic drink were banned at the same time... 6.60.64, 65, 66
Drinking and selling of wine is forbidden... : 10.3835, 3836, 3838, 3839
Every drink that causes intoxication is forbidden... 23.4956, 4957
Wine cannot be used as a medicine; it is an ailment... 23.4892
Wine is not a medicine but a disease... : 28.3864
The making and selling of wine is haram... Malik's Muwatta: 42.5.12
Wine is a work of Satan... Malik's Muwatta: 42.5.15
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.
Abul Kasem is an Bengali ex-Muslim and academic. He has contributed in Leaving Islam - Apostates Speak Out and Beyond Jihad - Critical Voices from Inside and Why We Left Islam.. He has also written extensively on Islam in various websites and is the author of five e-Books: A Complete Guide to Allah, Root of Terrorism ala Islamic Style, Sex and Sexuality in Islam, Who Authored the Quran? and Women in Islam. Mr. Kasem leaves in Sydney, Australia. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.