"In both there is great evil, though some use for people, but their evil is greater than their usefulness." (the Qur’an, al-Baqarah, 2:219) What might there be use in intoxicating drinks and games of chance?

Details of the Question
They ask you about intoxicating drinks and games of chance. Say: "In both there is great evil, though some use for people, but their evil is greater than their usefulness." (the Qur’an, al-Baqarah, 2:219) What might there be use in intoxicating drinks and games of chance?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

There have been four verses revealed about inebriating drinks. In two of these verses, games of chance have been mentioned as well, along with intoxicating drinks. In the first verse, which was revealed in Mecca period, the fact that people used dates and grape juice to make intoxicant drinks and desserts is pointed out and people are suggested to be grateful to Allah, Who created and gave them both dates and grapes. (the Qur’an, an-Nahl, 16:67)

Four years after the migration to Medina, intoxicant drinks were forbidden to be used in this purpose. This prohibition was not introduced at once; firstly, it was forbidden to “stand in the Prayer in a state of drunkenness” (the Qur’an, an-Nisa, 4:43); after that, the following was stated, “in intoxicating drinks and games of chance, there is great evil, though some use for people, but their evil is greater than their usefulness” (the Qur’an, al-Baqarah, 2:219), and thus, people were made ready for the absolute prohibition, and eventually, intoxicant drinks and games of chance were absolutely made forbidden for the Muslims with the statement “O you who believe! Intoxicants, games of chance, sacrifices to (anything serving the function of) idols (and at places consecrated for offerings to any other than God), and (the pagan practice of) divination by arrows (and similar practices) are a loathsome evil of Satan's doing; so turn wholly away from it, so that you may prosper (in both worlds)”. 

The Arabs of Jahiliyya were excessively fond of intoxicant drinks and games of chance. They had become a part of their lives and indispensable components of their games and leisure. Focusing on the inebriating and intoxicating side of drinks and on games of chance offering fun, excitement, treatment for friends and relatives and help for the needy, Arabs considered them useful ignoring their possible harms. The Qur’an points out that the harms of intoxicant drinks and games of chance are more than their usefulness and for this reason, some people decided to quit these things – before the absolute prohibition. And, the fact “Satan only seeks to provoke enmity and hatred among you by means of intoxicants and games of chance, and to bar you from the remembrance of God and from Prayer”(the Qur’an, al-Ma’idah, 5:91) has been stated in the absolute prohibition.  (Diyanet Tefsiri, Kur’an Yolu, I:234)

The statement that intoxicant drinks and games of chance have some use for people can also be interpreted as “and according to people, intoxicant drinks and games of chance have some use for people”. So, according to this interpretation, people might come to such an assumption that judging by the inebriating side of intoxicant drinks and games of chance offering entertainment and excitement and earning money by opening gambling places and pubs, they might deem it as useful. In other words, they may claim intoxicant drinks and games of chance have some uses by showing some excuses. This is just an idea they put forth as an excuse to legalize their consumption of such drinks and playing such games. They do this because they believe they find some uses in them. In contrast to what they say, Allah makes the following comparison: “ But their evil is greater than their usefulness”.

In that case, their uses are not real and strong ones. The pleasure they offer turn out to be blinding the mind. They can give courage. That temporary courage can be the cause of a catastrophe. That temporary power of temperament damages health; one cannot make use of what they have gained; one profit costs a hundred harms.  Those who become addicted to them cannot easily get rid of them. In brief, although their pleasure and joy is personal and temporary, their damage, bad consequences they bring out are both personal and social, both physical and moral. They are like contagious illnesses. Those who do not suffer the consequence in the beginning is surely to suffer in the end. It is not a logical thing to fall into an absolute and general damage just for a piece of imaginary profit. Elimination of damage comes before providing the usefulness.

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