When a person eats or drinks alcohol or something unlawful, does s/he really lose his/her religion (belief) for 40 days?

Details of the Question
One of my muslim friend was an alcoholic and fortunately he reformed completely and waited 40 days to perform Salah and other deeds for validity. Is there any logic in his postponement?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

One cannot perform the prayers while drunken. But there is no verse in the Qur'an which states that the person who drinks alcohol cannot perform prayers for forty days. However, in some hadiths (sayings of the Prophet) there are expressions which say that the believers who drink alcohol or perpetrate other sins will have less reward for worships such as obligatory prayers. Our Prophet encouraged people to be more alert by making such warnings so that they avoid grave sins like alcohol. (Tirmidhi, Ashriba, 1; Ibn Maja, Ashriba, 9; Nasai, Ashriba, 45,49)

Ibadah (worship) has certain aspects:

 

-  The slave (of Allah; human) becomes qualified for Paradise through worship. In other words, out of copper, s/he becomes silver and gold.

- S/he fulfills his/her obligations toward Allah.

- Goodness brings about goodness and a circle of goodness forms, which encourages the love in humans for worship and obedience; and that goes on like that.

 

While there are narrations which state that the reward of the worships, who drink alcohol and commit sins, will be reduced; there is no clear reliable source (from the Qur'an or the Sunnah of the Prophet) which states that s/he must compensate for the prayers that s/he performed while drunken; there is not any verse or a verse which was invalidated by another verse, or a weak narration corroborating that.

 

- Just as one improves one's health by doing exercise, so too one acquires love for worship through prayers. However, when s/he performs prayer, a person who drank alcohol is not equal to the person who doesn't ever drink alcohol; the former lacks in pleasure s/he takes from his/her prayer. Therefore, there is no religious basis for saying “the person who drank alcohol cannot perform the obligatory prayers for forty days.”, yet we should also not forget the effect of drinking alcohol mentioned above.

 

A similitude for that: A person lays a foundation for a building, puts up a wall; but if he doesn't build the roof, then the house is unfinished. Similarly, if somebody who drinks alcohol or who earns his/her livelihood through unlawful means, gets ablution and performs the obligatory prayers, then s/he fulfills his/her duty and acquires the reward attached to it, but the roof of the building is still missing. When it is built, too, then Allah's favor will be reflected on him/her.

 

Besides, it is not appropriate not to perform the obligatory prayers for 40 days because s/he drank alcohol or committed another sin. At most, the reward of the prayers who drinks alcohol will be reduced. On the other hand, the person who drinks alcohol or who commits another sin doesn't become an unbeliever; s/he becomes sinful. Actually, the Muslim who performs his/her five daily prayers will not commit such grave sins as alcohol.

 

Performing prayers while still drunken, though, is haram (forbidden). Only after the state of intoxication ends, should s/he perform his/her prayers.

 

How was alcohol prohibited?

 

When Islam came, of course it would be hard to uproot the habits of the people in the Arabic Peninsula all of a sudden, which became rooted in their lives for many years. It is even more difficult to quit such substances as alcoholic drinks, which virtually enslave people to themselves the more they use it. But the light brought by Islam eradicated alcoholic drinks from that community, just like all other bad habits.

 

Another name of Allah is “Hakim” (The Wise). That is, He performs every deed and creates everything in accordance with wisdom and benefit. Similarly, a human being's growing to be an adult, a seed's becoming a tree, an egg's cracking open and flying as a bird, all happen in a certain process. That principle of Allah, which is prevalent in the universe, is also valid for some of the religious decrees. Likewise, our Lord, as a requisite of His name Hakim, willed to forbid the habit of drinking alcohol from that community step by step. On the other hand, if alcohol had been made unlawful all of a sudden, the people of that time, who were addicted to alcohol, might have shown hesitations to embrace Islam. They might not have wanted to quit their habit. For this reason, the verses in the Qur'an about alcohol were revealed step by step according to the following order:

 

1. “And there are (among the produce that God brings forth as nourishment for you on the revived earth) the fruits of the date-palm, and grapes: you derive from them intoxicants and good, wholesome nourishment. Surely in this there is a sign for people who reason and understand.” (The Qur'an, An-Nahl Surah, 16:67) In that verse, it is implied that alcohol is not good nourishment. Some Companions of the Prophet quitted alcohol as it was understood with the revelation of that verse that alcohol is not religiously approved. Indeed, with the revelation of that verse, it was understood that alcohol would be made unlawful in future.

 

2. “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 Surah, 2:219)

 

3. “O you who believe! Do not come forward to (stand in) the Prayer while you are in (any sort of) a state of drunkenness until you know what you are saying...” (The Qur'an, An-Nisa, 4:43) This verse forbade performing the prayers while drunken. In that case, a Companion who performed the five daily prayers without skipping could not drink alcohol between two prayers during daytime. Otherwise, if s/he had drunken alcohol between two prayers during daytime, s/he would not be able to perform the prayer as the effects of drunkenness, which alcoholic drinks produced, would not be over yet. S/he might be able to drink alcohol after the Night Prayer. Under those circumstances, a great many Companions quitted alcohol altogether, too. For the bodies that were addicted to alcohol was now gradually getting away from it.

 

4. “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 Qur'an, Al-Ma'idah Surah, 5:90)

 

5. “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. So, then, will you abstain?” (The Qur'an, Al-Ma'idah Surah, 5:91)

 With that last verse, alcoholic drinks are categorically and definitely forbidden.

 

Anas, one of the Companions, may Allah be pleased with him, narrates: We were drinking alcohol. I was serving. One man came and said: “Alcoholic drinks are forbidden.” The friends there commanded quickly: “Trash the drinks and clean these cups!” Nobody put a drop of alcohol in their mouths after that news.

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