Alcohol prohibition

It has been claimed by many writers that "Khamr" (intoxicants like alcohol, drugs .. etc) has not been completely prohibited in the Quran, but only discouraged. Others, mainly the followers of hadith, have claimed that alcohol has been prohibited in stages!
This article aims at presenting the Quranic evidence that God prohibited the use of intoxicants for getting intoxicated and that this prohibition is immediate rather than being given in stages.

The prohibition

The prohibition of intoxicants in the Quran is given through what is called syllogism. Syllogism is a form of reasoning where we have two given propositions, called the premises; together they lead to a valid conclusion.


1- All men are mortal (premise)
2- Caesar is a man (premise)
3- Caesar is mortal (conclusion)

With regards to the prohibition of intoxicants in the Quran we read the following two premises:

Say, "My Lord has only prohibited immoralities, what is apparent of them and what is concealed, and the sins." 7:33 (premise)

They ask you about intoxicants and gambling, say, "In them are gross sins and benefits for the people, and their sinfulness is greater than their benefits." 2:219 (premise)

3- Conclusion: Intoxicants, when used in any way which induces sin, as in getting drunk or taking drugs to get high, is prohibited by God since all sins are prohibited by God (7:33).

In contrast, when intoxicants are used in any of the ways which provide benefits to mankind, without leading to sin, they are not prohibited. Examples of this type of use are the intoxicants used in medicine, sterilising, surgery, anaesthetics, etc. The words in 2:219 which say that in intoxicants are "some benefits for the people" allow the use of intoxicants in such types of beneficial uses.

The sinful ways of using intoxicants are further given light in the Quran in 5:90 which tells us that intoxicants and gambling are works of the devil. Also in 5:91 where we are told that the devil entices people to use intoxicants and gambling to spread animosity and hatred between people and to distract people from commemorating God.

It is such uses of intoxicants which contain "ithm" (sin) that are prohibited. If intoxicants are used in surgery or medicine it is clearly not spreading animosity or hatred among people, it would in fact be helping people, and thus would not be prohibited.

Commentary on 4:43

O you who believe, do not approach the Salat while you are intoxicated until you know what you are saying. 4:43

Some interpreters have referred to the words in 4:43 to claim that drinking alcohol is not prohibited by God. They explain that the words in 4:43 only forbid us from drinking alcohol at the time of the Salat, which means that outside the times of the Salat, drinking alcohol is allowed. It can be shown that this is a totally inaccurate interpretation of 4:43.

The words in 4:43
that say, "do not observe the Salat while intoxicated" do not mean that using intoxicants is allowed by God outside the times for Salat. These words simply tell us that intoxication deprives the believer from observing the Salat.

In all the Quran, intoxication is the only case that deprives the believer from observing the Salat. If a person commits theft, or commits adultery, or even commits murder, he/she should still observe his/her Salat. This is because worshipping God is a duty on all believers, whether they commit sins or not.

The case is different when a person is intoxicated. The reason for that is given in
4:43 by means of the words, "until you know what you are saying."
Under the effect of intoxication, a person does not know what he/she is saying, so it would be meaningless to worship God in that state. This does not mean in any way that using intoxicants is allowed by God outside of the time for Salat!


To confirm the correct meaning of
4:43, let us consider the following example:
One of the laws enforced in all countries of the world state that,
If a person has been convicted of paedophilia, he is not allowed to adopt any children.

Let us call having a conviction of paedophilia (A)
Let us call adopting a child (B)
The law states that if a person has (A) he cannot have (B)
It is quite clear that this law does not imply in any way that if a person is not applying to adopt a child, he is allowed to engage in paedophilia!

Let us apply the same to 4:43:
Let us call being intoxicated (A)
Let us call observing the Salat (B)
The law of 4:43 states that if a person does (A) he cannot do (B).
This does not mean in any way that getting intoxicated (A) is allowed by God!
It only means that (A) deprives a person of (B). This is not any different from the example of the person who has a criminal record for paedophilia (A) and is thus deprived of the right to adopt children (B).

Neither paedophilia
is allowed by law, nor are intoxicants allowed by God.
The question of whether paedophila is allowed by law or not is decided by different laws and not the law in our example above.
Similarly, the question of whether intoxicants are allowed or forbidden by God is a matter decided by other Quranic verses, and not 4:43.
The verses presented above, namely 7:33 and 2:219, confirm that intoxicants are prohibited by God.

Commentary on 5:90

O you who believe, intoxicants, gambling, altars and arrows of chance are afflictions that are the work of the devil, so 'ijtanibuhu' (stay away from him) so that you may succeed. 5:90

Some scholars have made reference to 5:90 which speaks about intoxicants, and claimed that the word
"ijtanibuhu", which is used in this verse, simply means to avoid or to stay away from intoxicants, and that this word does not imply an absolute prohibition of intoxicants.
However, an analysis of the words in 5:90 tells us that this is an inaccurate deduction.
First, the words that come before "ijtanibuhu" speak of 4 acts and not just intoxicants. The 4 acts are:
1- Intoxicants
2- Gambling
3- Altars
4- Arrows of chance.

Interestingly enough, those who make the case that intoxicants are merely discouraged but not prohibited totally, do not mention the other 3 acts mentioned in the same verse! They do not say that gambling, altars and arrows of chance are merely discouraged!

When we look at the word
"ijtanibuhu", we note that it is in the singular and that it follows the mention of the devil.

Being in the singular, this word cannot be referring to the 4 acts mentioned in the verse. It can only be referring to a singular word.
If the reference was to all 4 acts, the word to be used would have been 'ijtanibuhum' (stay away from them).

The noun that comes before the word "ijtanibuhu" (stay away from him) is the devil and is in the singular. It is therefore clear that when God says (stay away from him) that God is referring to the devil.

The correct meaning of 5:90 is therefore:
- Intoxicants, gambling, altars and arrows of chance are afflictions which are the work of the devil.
This is then followed by the command from God to:
- Stay away from him (the devil), in order to succeed.


We know that
alcohol drinking was prohibited in the previous Scriptures and not only with the advent of the Quran. In the Bible we read:
"Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler; and whoever is led astray by it is not wise"(Proverbs 20:1).
"Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like an adder"(Proverbs 23:30,31)


Related Subject:

The harm of alcohol on the human body

Alcohol and liver problems
Over the long term, even a drink or two a day can result in abnormal liver functions. Over the years this can result in permanent liver damage, and consequently total liver failure. Liver failure leads to death.
Unfortunately, stopping drinking cannot reverse the damage. Liver problems may show up a number of years after stopping drinking. Alcohol may cause Cirrhosis (liver failure), which may not show symptoms for years.

Alcohol boosts esophageal cancer risk
Drinking when combined with smoking can increase risks for esophageal cancer by more than 100-fold, an international team of researchers report. The team estimates that "up to 90% of esophageal cancers in men could be prevented if these habits could be abated," (Report in the August issue of the International Journal of Cancer).
Esophageal cancer remains one of the leading digestive-tract cancers, killing close to 9,000 Americans every year. Experts have long linked smoking and drinking with the development of this lethal cancer.

3- Alcohol and breast cancer

Studies indicate that women who drink even one or two drinks per day have an increased risk of breast cancer

4- Alcohol boosts toxic levels

Consistent high intake of alcohol causes toxicity to many of the organ systems, especially the liver and the pancreas

Drinking and heart problems
Those who drink have a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Moreover, excessive alcohol consumption can damage the muscle of the heart, impairing its ability to pump blood, leading to a chronic condition called 'alcoholic cardiomyopathy'. This in turn may cause chronic congestive heart failure.
Several medical studies in recent years have been given widespread publicity because they seemed to substantiate the idea that moderate consumption of alcohol reduced the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
However, antioxidants, the beneficial ingredient in alcohol, can be gotten without the risks of alcohol by eating deeply-coloured fruits and vegetables (red or purple grapes, tomatoes, etc.).
The polyphenols present in grapes are indeed protective against heart disease and many forms of cancer, yet it is not necessary to ferment the grapes to get this benefit.

Alcohol and weight gain
Alcohol is a major cause of obesity for several reasons. Carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram, fat has 9 calories per gram, and alcohol has 7. Thus drinking consumes significantly more calories than carbohydrate foods or non-alcoholic soft drinks. Drinking two drinks a day of beer or wine and just one or two of hard liquor will easily add 15 pounds within six months.
Moreover, our bodies absorb the alcohol quickly, it gets rapidly converted to sugar, and this causes the pancreas to secrete insulin. Insulin accelerates the conversion of calories into fat. Finally, alcohol slows down our metabolism, as a result we burn those calories more slowly.

Alcohol and death on the roads
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol also impairs judgement, and reduces the body's reaction time. It is a fact that the large majority of traffic accidents are caused by excessive consumption of alcohol.

Alcohol and abnormal blood tests
Several blood tests may be abnormal in an alcoholic patient. Often, alcoholics are anaemic as a result of low intakes of folic acid. This type of anaemia shows up as large red blood cells, and is usually detected in lab work to determine blood counts.
Alcohol also affects the liver, and various blood tests to gauge liver function may be abnormal. Liver enzymes (AST and ALT) are increased in the blood in a certain proportion to one another in alcoholic liver disease. The typical suggestive ratio is a level of AST that is twice the level of ALT. Another enzyme, GGT, may be high in the blood of someone who has been drinking recently.
In alcoholic patients with severe liver disease, as well as in other patients with liver disease, blood clotting factor levels may be low and bilirubin levels may be high. Counts of platelets (also involved in blood clotting) can also be low in these patients.
Although the above tests are not diagnostic of alcoholism on their own, they are often used to confirm a suspicion of alcohol abuse or its consequences in certain patients who may not admit to alcohol abuse.

Alcohol and male impotence
Men with chronic high-level alcohol consumption typically experience a decrease in the number of sperm as well as a decrease in sexual drive. Researchers believe that the alcohol lowers the level of the male hormone testosterone, both by decreasing the production of the hormone and by increasing the speed at which the body metabolises it. This means that there is less testosterone available for normal sperm production and sexual function.

Alcohol and low motility
Alcohol may result in abnormal liver function and a rise in estrogen levels which may interfere with sperm development and hormone levels. Alcohol is also a toxin that can kill off the sperm-generating cells in the testicle. Consequently, there is indication that low motility may be linked to excessive alcohol intake.

Alcohol and pregnancy
Full-blown alcohol syndrome may be seen in women drinking three ounces of absolute alcohol daily (one ounce of absolute alcohol is equivalent to 2 beers, or 2 four-ounce glasses of wine or 2 mixed drinks made with one shot of hard liquor). Fetal alcohol syndrome involves poor growth both before and after birth. Other defects such as heart problems and brain abnormalities are also common. Lesser amounts of alcohol may be associated with more subtle abnormalities, and these may be seen with as little as 2 drinks per day (one ounce of absolute alcohol). More than one drink (more than two times a week) has also been associated with a higher incidence of miscarriage.

12- Father's alcohol intake and fetal health

Over the long term, even a drink or two a day can result in abnormal liver function in the man, which can adversely affect hormones and sperm production. Researches have shown that this may have an adverse relationship with regards to the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome or other birth defects.

13- Alcohol and post gallbladder removal

It is found that some patients do experience looser stools after their gallbladders are removed, possibly related to the constant flow of bile into the intestine. Because alcohol can also lead to diarrhoea, drinking may compound the problem of cholecystectomy-related diarrhoea in certain people.

14- Risk of psychiatric problems for kids with alcoholic parents

Children of alcoholic parents appear to be at increased risk of a variety of psychiatric disorders and behavioural problems, results of a number of studies suggest.
Such children were more likely than their peers to have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder and overanxious disorder. This is according to a report in the June issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

15- Alcohol and domestic violence

The women (and children) at greatest risk for domestic violence are those whose partner is a regular drugs or alcohol consumer. This is according to results of a study conducted in emergency rooms across the US.
The fact that alcoholism is the major cause of domestic violence is also confirmed in police reports across the country.

16- Alcohol and work productivity

Due to the effect of alcohol on the body as a whole, and in personal levels of mental concentration in particular, alcohol significantly reduces productivity of the drinker. An independent research indicated that alcohol-dependent workers more frequently cause alcohol-related work problems -- showing up late, leaving early, doing poor quality or inadequate work, and arguing with co-workers.

"Two specific kinds of drinking behaviour significantly contribute to the level of work-performance problems. These are drinking right before or during working hours (including drinking at lunch and at company functions), and heavy drinking the night before that causes hangovers during work the next day." the researchers, Dr. Thomas W. Mangione of JSI Research and Training Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues, explain.
In conducting the study, the researchers surveyed and interviewed more than 14,000 corporate executives, supervisors, and workers at seven Fortune 500 corporations.