What are alcoholic drinks? How does Islam view the drinks that intoxicate?

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What are alcoholic drinks? How does Islam view the drinks that intoxicate?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Alcoholic drinks are drinks that remove the ability of thinking healthily and reasoning and causing the state called drunkenness.

The Quran prohibits alcoholic drinks and states that they are haram: " O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination― of Satan's handiwork." (al-Maida, 5/90). Most of the scholars say that what is meant by the word "hamr" (intoxicants) in the verse includes all of the drinks that remove the mind. Hanafis explain hamr as follows: Only drinks that are made of grapes and become strong by foaming are called hamr. The other alcoholic drinks that intoxicate people are not regarded as hamr. They are regarded haram through analogical deduction (qiyas) compared to harm because they intoxicate people. Most of the fiqh scholars say that all of the alcoholic drinks that make people drunk are haram whether only a little amount or a lot of them are drunk and they are included in the content of the word hamr. (Sahih Muslim, Translation and explanation, A. Davudoğlu, IX, 247, ff.)

Along with Islam, drinking alcohol is haram in the previous heavenly religions, too: The following sentences in the Old Testament, the holy book of Jews, are remarkable: "And the Lord said to Aaron: Take no wine, or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the Tent of meeting, that it may not be the cause of death to you; this is an order for ever through all your generations. And make a division between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean." (Old Testament, Leviticus, Chapter, 10, A. 8, 9-11)

The following is stated in the New Testament: "And when they were taking food, Jesus took bread and, after blessing it, he gave the broken bread to the disciples and said, Take it; this is my body. And he took a cup and, having given praise, he gave it to them, saying; Take of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the testament, which is given for men for the forgiveness of sins. But I say to you that from now I will not take of this fruit of the vine, till that day when I take it new with you in my Father's kingdom." (New Testament, Matthew, Chapter 26, 26-29, John 30: et al)

It is known that Turks used to be Shamanists before Islam. It is known that various drinks like kumis were drunk during their feasts and consecration ceremonies in that religion. (Mehmet Aydın-Osman Cilacı, Dinler Tarihi, Konya 1980, p. 97 ff.)

Before Islam and in the first period of Islam, Jahiliyya Arabs drank alcohol and regarded it as part of daily life. Islam gave great importance to the protection of five things:  They are mind, health, property, honor and religion. A person who drinks alcohol cannot protect these five things. An organization established in America searched who prohibited drinking alcohol first in the world. When they found out that the first prohibition was applied by Hz. Muhammad, they built a monument in New York called "Muhammad Fountain" in New York to commemorate him. (Yeşilay Dergisi, iss. 441, August 1970)

The prohibition of alcohol was introduced gradually in the Quran.

In the first verse regarding alcohol that was sent down in Makkah, no prohibition is mentioned.

"And from the fruit of the date-palm and the vine, ye get out wholesome drink, and food: behold in this also is a Sign for those who are wise." (an-Nahl, 16/67)

After that, Hz. Umar went to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) once and said to him, "O Messenger of Allah! You know that wine destroys property and removes the mind. Ask Allah to explain the decree about wine. Then Hz. Prophet prayed as follows: "O Allah! Inform us about your decree regarding wine." Thereupon, the following verse was sent down:

"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.'" (al-Baqara, 2/219). When this verse was sent down, some Companions gave up drinking alcohol saying, "it is a major sin" but others continued drinking saying, "it is useful for man."

Once, Abdurrahman b. Awf gave a feast and some of the Companions were at this feast. Some of them drank alcohol. When it was time for the evening prayer, one of them led the prayer but recited the chapter of "al-Kafirun" wrongly. Thereupon, Hz. Umar prayed as follows: "O Lord! Expand your decree about alcohol!" Then, the following verse was sent down: " O ye who believe! Approach not prayers with a mind befogged, until ye can understand all that ye say." (an-Nisa, 4/43). Thus, drinking alcohol was prohibited during the times of prayer. Those who drank alcohol started to drink after the night prayer and performed the morning prayer after they became sober.

Once Utba b. Malik (r.a) gave a wedding feast. Sa`d b. Abi Waqqas was also there. They ate camel, drank alcohol and started to boast about their nobility. Sa`d recited a poet that praised his tribe and satirized the Ansar. One of the Ansar got angry and injured Sa'd with a bone of the camel. Sa`d complained to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) about him. Thereupon, the verses that introduced the prohibition of alcohol definitely:  

" O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination― of Satan's handiwork: 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)

Various hadiths of Hz. Prophet show the essentials of this application regarding the issue:

"Everything that intoxicates is wine and everything that intoxicates is haram. If a person drinks wine in the world and dies before he repents, he cannot drink kawthar in the hereafter." (Muslim, Ashriba, 73)

"If something intoxicates in large quantity, its small quantity is also haram." (al-Asqalani, Bulughu`l Maram, Translated by A. Davudoğlu, lV, 61, ff)

When Hz. Prophet was asked about the decree on wine, he said, "Doubtlessly, wine is not a remedy; on the contrary, it is trouble." (al-Asqalani, ibid, IV, 61)

"Some people from my ummah will drink alcoholic drinks by giving them different names." (al-Asqalani, ibid, IV, 61)

There is consensus of the ummah that alcohol is prohibited.

Islamic scholars agree on the issue unanimously. However, there is a disagreement on some kinds of drinks among mujtahids. In order to eliminate those doubts, Hz. Umar made a concise definition acting upon the word of the Messenger of Allah on the pulpit: "Everything that blocks the mind is alcohol." Accordingly, everything that makes man lose his mind and that makes him unable to differentiate between what is good and what is bad and between what is useful and what is harmful is regarded as alcohol. It does not matter whether it is liquid or solid. Opium, heroin and other similar drugs are regarded as the same because the functions of the mind change in those people who use them; they start to see distant things as near and near things as distant; they move away from normal things and they start to imagine possible and impossible things, living in a dream world. Some drugs stupefy the body, numb the nerves, cause mental depressions, weaken the willpower and make the individual a useless person for the community. The religion of Islam orders useful things for the individual and the society and prohibits what is harmful. When the prohibitions of Islam are examined by medicine, it will be seen that they are for the benefit of the society. As a matter of fact, prohibitions like alcohol and pork were examined by science and medicine, and their material and spiritual harms were explained by the experts. (see Yusuf al-Qardawi, al-Halal wa`l-Haram fi`l-Islam, Translated by Mustafa Varlı, Ankara 1970, p. 50-53, 75-88).

Islam prohibits drinking alcohol and its trade among Muslims as well. Hz. Prophet damned ten people regarding alcohol: The one who squeezes grapes,  the one for whom grapes are squeezed, the one who drinks alcohol, who carries it, the one for whom it is carried, the one who makes others drink it, who sells it, who spends the money earned from it, the one who buys it and the one for whom it is bought..." (Tirmidhi, Buyu`, 59; Ibn Majah, Ashriba, 6).

After the verse in the chapter al-Maida that expressed the definite prohibition of alcoholic drinks, the Messenger of Allah stated the following about the application: “Allah has definitely prohibited alcoholic drinks. A person who hears this verse and who has alcoholic drinks must not drink or sell them..." (Muslim, Musakat, 67; see Bukhari, Maghazi, 51; Buyu, 105, 112; Muslim, Buyu, 93; Far', 8; Ibn Majah, Tijarat, 11; Ahmad b. Hanbal, II, 213, 362, 512, III, 217, 324, 326, 340; Ibn Kathir, Mukhtasar Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Beirut (n.d), I, 544-547).

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