Misinterpretation of 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.

The word
"ijtanibuhu" means: stay away from, or avoid. Some interpreters, due to their incorrect understanding of 5:90, claimed that alcoholic drinks are not prohibited, only discouraged, since God said, "stay away".
However, a closer study of 5:90 confirms that the word "ijtanibuhu" does not refer to the four items mentioned (intoxicants, gambling, alters and arrows of chance). If the reference was to these four items (plural), the word used would have been 'ijtanibuhum' (avoid them). The word "ijtanibuhu" refers to the singular and it means: avoid him. This word refers to the singular noun which comes immediately before the word "ijtanibuhu"; which is the devil. God is saying that these four acts are the work of the devil and thus: you shall stay away from the devil.

Further confirmation is given in the words that immediately follow which continue to speak of the devil:

The devil only wants to provoke animosity and hatred between you through intoxicants and gambling, and to repel you from the remembrance of God and from the Salat. So will you thus refrain? 5:91

To conclude, the claim that alcoholic drinks are not strictly prohibited but only discouraged is a false claim. For the Quranic confirmation that the consumption of all intoxicants is prohibited by God, please see: Prohibition of alcohol