Is it permissible to drink intoxicant beverages other than wine in amounts that will not make a person drunk?

The Details of the Question

- Based on the view of Abu Hanifa and some Companions, there are some people who say that it is permissible to drink intoxicating alcoholic beverages other than wine (such as raki and beer) in amounts that will not make you drunk.
- What is the truth about it?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

In our religion, all intoxicating drinks are haram whether a small amount or a large amount. The religion of Islam has forbidden all intoxicating drinks and prohibited drinking them. A Muslim must keep away from alcohol and narcotics. The following is stated in the Quran:

“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. Satan’s plan is (but) to excite enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer: will ye not then abstain?” (al-Maida, 5/90-91)

The verses above express the wisdom behind the prohibition of alcoholic drinks.

Drinking/buying all intoxicants are prohibited by hadiths too. As a matter of fact, Prophet (pbuh) states the following:

“Every intoxicating drink is haram.” (Bukhari, Wudu, 71; Adab, 80; Muslim, Ashriba, 7);

“If a great amount of something is intoxicating, a small amount of it is haram too.” (Abu Dawud, Ashriba, 5: Tirmidhi, Ashriba, 3)

As it can be understood from the verses and hadiths above, it is haram to drink alcohol, whether a little or a lot. A person who commits a haram deed becomes a sinner. A person who has sinned must abandon the evil he has done and repent. Allah may forgive the sins of those who repent.

Today, the medical world agrees unanimously on the harm that alcohol does to human health. Statistics and the prohibition of alcohol, which some states attempt from time to time, are the clearest evidence of its economic, social and moral damages.

We deem it appropriate to present some principles and explanations that will help us to understand the issue within the framework of the basic principles of Islam:

1. The fatwas given by some mujtahids such as Abu Hanifa do not mean that some of the alcoholic beverages are halal. The fatwas of those scholars are either misunderstood or are for non-alcoholic drinks. To interpret those fatwas as alcoholic drinks being halal is against the opinion of the majority of the scholars, the spirit of Islam and religious evidences. If a great amount of something is intoxicating, a small amount of it is haram too; it cannot be drunk. Those who say they can be drunk are wrong.

2. All intoxicating drinks are haram. However, there is a difference between wine, which the Quran calls hamr, and other drinks. Wine itself is considered najis (dirty). If wine is spilled on clothes or anywhere, it will contaminate them; they have to be washed. However, drinks other than wine are also haram to drink but they are not najis like wine. For example, it is haram to drink eau de cologne but it is permissible to use it for cleaning.

3. Alcoholic beverages such as beer and raki are haram according to Imam Abu Hanifa too. What he says is not haram is the must made from foods such as barley, wheat and honey. That is, it is not intoxicating. However, since the intoxication of beer and raki is known for sure, it is definitely haram according to Abu Hanifa.

It is not permissible to call a beverage that is haram to drink halal by giving it names such as beer or raki. As a matter of fact, the Prophet (pbuh) stated that his ummah would drink alcohol under other names and warned us against it.

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) states the following:

“People among my nation will drink wine, calling it by another name, and musical instruments will be played for them and singing girls (will sing for them). Allah will cause the earth to swallow them up, and will turn them into monkeys and pigs.” (Nasai, Ashriba 41; Ibn Majah, Fitan, 22)

The Prophet (pbuh) states the following in another hadith:

“From among my followers, there will be some people who will consider illegal sexual intercourse, wearing silk, having alcoholic drinks and using musical instruments as lawful. And there will be some people who will stay near the side of a mountain and in the evening their shepherd will come to them with their sheep and ask them for something, but they will say to him, ‘Return to us tomorrow.’ Allah will destroy them during the night and will let the mountain fall on them, and He will transform the rest of them into monkeys and pigs and they will remain so up to the Day of Resurrection.” (Bukhari, Ashriba, 6; Abu Dawud, Libas, 6)

The hadiths above give a clear decree about those who accept the things that Allah has forbidden as halal by sticking to names and shapes and not considering their nature and purposes. In addition, those hadiths criticize the people who resort to tricks such as committing fornication under the name of marriage, drinking under the name of nabidh, etc. and wearing silk under the name of adornment. If changing names and forms caused the rules and facts to be changed, religion would be corrupted, Sharia would be amended, and Islam would collapse. The hadith is evidence that changing the names of haram things cannot change their decrees because decrees depend on the meaning and purpose of the deeds, not the outward appearance. Those hadiths indicate that the people who cheat in order to make halal what Allah has made haram by changing their names will be subjected to severe torment, that decrees are related to causes, that the cause of alcohol is drunkenness and that even if the name of something is different, it is regarded as an intoxicant and as haram if it is intoxicating. (Ibn Hajar, Fathul-Bari, Beirut, 2000, X, 56)

4. According to Islamic belief / Ahl as-Sunnah creed, no one is innocent/infallible except prophets. The greatest Companions and the greatest mujtahids can make mistakes in their ijtihads. The rule “There are two rewards for the mujtahid who makes a judgment correctly and one reward for the mujtahid who makes a mistake” in Islam indicates that mujtahids can make mistakes.

Regarding an issue in which there are different ijtihads, the view of the majority of the scholars is taken as basis, and fatwa is given accordingly.

The street on which the ummah should walk is the street of the majority, which is the great street of Islam.

Those who leave the opinion of the majority aside and try to guide people with marginal fatwas, knowingly or unknowingly, lead them to the wrong path and drive them away from Allah’s consent.

As a matter of fact, according to what is reported from Abdullah b. Umar, the Prophet (pbuh) said,

“My ummah will never gather / unite in aberration / mistake. Do not leave the congregation because the hand of Allah is on the congregation.”

Haythami emphasizes that this hadith quoted by Tabarani is sound. (Majmauz-Zawaid, 5/218)

As it is seen, this hadith clearly orders people to follow the path of the majority. What is meant by the ummah and congregation in the hadith is the majority of scholars because those who are not scholars do not have the authority to say right or wrong about an issue. It is understood from it that it is against the order of this hadith to prefer an ijtihad to the ijtihad of the majority, whether it is from Abu Hanifa, Imam Nahai or Imam Shafii. Besides, the fatwas of those scholars do not show that alcohol is halal. There is something that arises from misunderstanding and misinterpretation of fatwas. We stated what the fatwa of Abu Hanifa meant.

Abdullah b. Umar narrates: The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

“Every intoxicant is Hamr (wine), and every intoxicant is haram.” (Muslim, Ashriba,73.74; Abu Davud, Ashriba, 5; Tirmidhi, Ashriba,1; Ibn Majah, Ashriba,9; Ahmad b. Hanbal, 2/16.29)

Another narration is as follows:

“Every intoxicant is hamr (wine), and every hamr/wine is haram.” (Muslim, Ashriba, 75)

This hadith is a mutawatir hadith narrated from twenty-six Companions. It is also the opinion of the majority of scholars (W. Zuhayli, Takhriju Ahadithi Tuhfatil-Fuqaha, 3/449). That is, the word Hamr is the name given to all kinds of intoxicants, not only the ones made from grapes.

According to what Bukhari narrates from Aisha, the Prophet (pbuh) said,

“Any intoxicating drink is haram.” (Bukhari, Wudu, 71; Ashriba, 4)

According to a narration from Jabir, the Prophet (pbuh) said: “If a great amount of something is intoxicating, a small amount of it is haram too.” (Abu Dawud, Ashriba,5; Tirmidhi, Ashriba,3; Nasai, Ashriba,35; Ibn Majah, Ashriba, 10; Darimi, Ashriba, 8; Ahmad b. Hanbal, 3/91). Ibn Hajar emphasizes that this hadith is sound. (see at-Talkhisul-Habir, 359-360)

The following narration regarding the issue is also very significant. The Prophet (pbuh) said: “If a faraq of something is intoxicating, a handful of it is haram too.” (Tirmidhi, Ashriba, 3; Abu Dawud, 5; Musnad, 6/71, 72, 13) “Faraq” is a unit that is approximately 43.5 kg.

As Ibn Mundhir states, if a great amount of something is intoxicating, a small amount of it is haram too, whether it is hamr / wine or not. (see Awnu’l-Mabud, 8/181-Shamila)

According to hadith scholars (Awnul-Mabud ibid), the soundest narration regarding the issue is Nasai’s following narration from Sad b. Abi Waqqas:

“The Messenger of Allah forbade a small amount of a substance whose great amount is intoxicating.” (Nasai, Ashriba, 35)

As it can be seen, the same truth is underlined in the soundest narration.

5. Every mujtahid takes a word in the hadith with the meaning used in his own time and according to the custom of his country. However, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) may have used it in a different sense. Nevertheless, the mujtahid thinks that it is the rule to accept the lexical meaning of the word and decides according to the opposite meaning.

As a matter of fact, when some scholars heard some narrations that gave permission to drink “nabidh”, they thought it was one of the intoxicating drinks in the sense they used it. However, the meaning of this word was explained in many hadiths: accordingly, nabidh means sherbet into which dates, raisins, etc. are put with the purpose of sweetening and is drunk before foam forms on it and before it becomes intoxicating.

Similarly, some of them accepted the word hamr as it is used in their own dialects and thought it meant “grape juice that has become intoxicating by foaming”. However, it is explained in many sound hadiths that hamr is a word that includes all intoxicating drinks. (Dört Risâle, Transl. Hayreddin Karaman, İz Yayıncılık, İstanbul, 2000)

6. Although there is a misunderstanding that some scholars such as Abu Hanifa do not seek the condition of being intoxicating for alcoholic drinks other than hamr / wine to be haram, those views are rejected by the majority of scholars.

On the other hand, there is a strong probability that these hadiths, which had not been compiled at that time, were not known by those scholars.

Imam Tahawi, the famous fiqh and hadith scholar of Hanafi madhhab state that the hadiths presented regarding the issue are sound but that they are interpreted differently. (Ibn Hajar, Fathul-Bari, the explanation of the hadith in question)

In addition, we should not forget the fact that there are narrations that the following statement was made by all four madhhab imams:

“If you see a hadith that contradicts what I have said, abandon my words and act based on the hadith.”

Since we have sound hadiths today, and the opinion of the majority of the scholars, including Imam Muhammad and the majority of Hanafi scholars, is very clear regarding the issue, a person who fears Allah will definitely not act contrarily to the view of the majority of scholars and those sound hadiths; he will not make suggestions to anyone contrary to it either.

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