Before Islam, the Arabian community used to drink alcohol aggressively. They were true addicts to it. To them, it was like tea; that’s how often they drank it. And it was from Allah’s (the Creator of Heaven and Earth) wisdom to deal with such an issue gradually. Otherwise, they would have abandoned the whole religion.
Why can’t you drink alcohol in Islam?
But let’s first learn the harms of alcohol to understand why it was forbidden:
1. Alcohol and prayer do not mix
Prayer (salat) is a fundamental part of the Muslim lifestyle.
It is an obligatory call to God five times a day. A ritual called “wudhu” (woo-dhoo) is also necessary before the prayer which involves a water-saving ablution to spiritually connect to God.
2. It’s addictive
Even when the early Muslims recognized alcohol for its medicinal uses, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) linked the drink to a “disease”, saying there is no cure in things that God has forbidden. Like the first puff of a cigarette, it is up to individual will-power to continue or stop smoking.
3. Liquor clouds the intellect
Khamr (wine) also describes how alcohol consumption makes it difficult to differentiate between right and wrong. A Muslim’s faith is founded on intellect, rational thought and good judgement. Anything that could
jeopardize this behavior is forbidden, and another reason why Muslims don’t drink.
4. It gives the wrong message to children
Bars and environments where alcohol is served could lead to drinking and in the presence of children, it could teach them to explore drinking. Mature Muslim adults are role models and carry a message that one doesn’t have to drink to have a good time, to work or to socialize. And since alcohol affects the concentration and actions of people, crimes may be done in the presence of children, which leads to even more corruption in the community. And instead of helping them to live in a better world, we push them even harder to be a worse version of ourselves.
5- Alcohol makes one forget
Any intoxicating substance, whether it’s wine, beer, gin, whiskey or drugs, affects a person’s faculties and behavior. The result is the same, and the Qur’an outlines that it is the intoxication -which makes one forgetful of God and prayer- that is harmful.
6. Alcohol can lead to criminality
Although a controversial statement, in Islam, alcohol is viewed as the “Mother of all evils” (hadith), because of its close relation to creating or making criminal behavior easier to commit. That isn’t an omission of the medicinal uses of alcohol, but to say that prevention is better than cure. Thus, the Qur’an explains,
“Say, “In them (wine and gambling) is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people. But their sin is greater than their benefit.” (Quran 2/219).
Stages of prohibition of alcohol in Islam
Now let’s get to know how it was gradually prohibited:
1st stage – It is permissible
“They ask you about wine and gambling. Say: ‘In them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people.'” (Quran 2/219)
Then people said, “(intoxicants and gambling) were not prohibited for us. Allah only said, ‘In them is a great sin, and (yet, some) benefit for people.'” So they kept drinking Khamr until one day, one of the Muslims led his companions in the Maghrib prayer (the Sunset Prayer) and mixed up the Ayat (verses of the Qur’an) in his recitation. Thereafter, Allah sent down a stronger statement.
2nd stage – Not Before Prayer
“O you who have believed, do not approach prayer while you are intoxicated until you know what you are saying” (Quran 4/43)
Then, people would drink before the time of the prayer so that they would attend the prayer while sober. A firmer Ayah (verse of the Qur’an) was later revealed.
3rd stage – It would be better to go away from them
“O you who have believed, indeed, intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone alters [to other than Allah], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful.” (Quran 5/90-91)
So they said, “We abstained, O Lord!” Later, some people said, “O Allah’s Messenger! Some people died in the cause of Allah, while some others died in their beds, but they used to drink alcohol and indulge in gambling, which Allah has made a Rijs (defilement) of the work of Shaytan (Satan).” So Allah sent down,
“There is not upon those who believe and do righteousness [any] blame concerning what they have eaten [in the past]” (Quran 5/93)
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said,
“Had they been made impermissible for them, they would have abandoned them as you have abandoned them.”
Umar (one of the Prophet’s companions) was summoned and the first Ayah was recited to him, but he still said, “O Allah! Make the verdict of Khamr clear to us.” Then the Ayah in Surat An-Nisa’ was revealed.
“O you who have believed, do not approach prayer while you are intoxicated until you know what you are saying” ( Quran 4/43)
Then, the Prophet had someone herald when it was time to pray, “Those in a drunken state are not to approach the prayer.” Umar was again summoned and the Ayah was recited to him, but he still said, “O Allah! Make the verdict concerning Khamr clear to us.”
4th stage – It is haram and one of the great sins
Then, the Ayah in Surat Al-Ma’idah (5:91) was revealed, and Umar was summoned and it was recited to him. When he reached the part of the Ayah that reads,
“So, will you not then abstain” ( Quran 5/91)
Umar said, “We abstained, we abstained.” Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi, and An-Nasa’i recorded this Hadith. `Ali bin Al-Madini and At-Tirmidhi graded it Sahih.
Why was it gradually prohibited?
Well, with all of these harms, sometimes people don’t know enough to look at the harms. They look at what they were accustomed to. And people of Arabia, at that time, were accustomed to drinking a lot.
And if they were told point-blank, “stop doing this”, they were not going to stop immediately. So, they were given gradual stages of weaning them off it.
It is from the absolute wisdom to show great consideration to the human part in people, and to make it extremely easy for them to leave what they are attached to the most. And since Allah the Almighty is the One who created humans and He knows exactly how they feel, think, and interact, He descended a law which best suits their human nature in the way that makes it most easy for them to follow.