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Prohibition of Alcohol in Islam

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The following excerpt is taken from “The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam” by Yusuf Al Qaradawi pg. 67-73:


The Arabic word khamr signifies any alcoholic drink which causes
intoxication. We would be stating the obvious if we were to discuss the
harmful effects of drinking on the individual’s mind, his health, his religion,
and his work: or if we discussed the disasters which he brings upon his
family by neglecting their needs and by not fulfilling his obligations, as the
head of the family, toward his wife and children; or if we elaborated on the
spiritual, material and moral evils which proliferate in societies and nations
due to the widespread consumption of alcohol.

A researcher in this area has rightly stated,

“Mankind has not suffered any greater calamity than that brought about
by the use of alcohol. If statistics were collected worldwide of all the
patients in hospitals who, due to alcohol, are suffering from mental
disorders, delirium tremens, nervous breakdowns, and ailments of the
digestive tract, to which are added the statistics of suicides, homicides,
bankruptcies, sales of wealth, and broken homes related to the consumption
of alcohol, the number of such cases would be so staggering that, in
comparison to it, all exhortation and preaching against drinking would seem
too little.”

The Arabs during the period of Jahiliyyah were very fond of wine and
drinking parties. This love of wine is reflected in their language, which has
nearly one hundred names for it, and in their poetry, which celebrates the
praises of wine, goblets, drinking parties, and so on.

To eradicate this pervasive evil from society, Allah (Glory be to Him)
adopted a wise course of education and training, prohibiting it in measured
stages. First, He made it clear to them that the harm of khamr is greater than
its benefit; next, He told them not to come to Prayer while intoxicated; and
finally, He revealed the verse in Surat al-Ma’idah which prohibited it totally
and decisively: _
®O you who believe! Truly, intoxicants and gambling and idol
worshipping and divination by arrows are an abomination of Satan’s
doing: avoid it in order that you may be successful. Assuredly Satan
desires to sow enmity and hatred among you with intoxicants and
gambling. and to hinder you from the remembrance of Allah and from
Salah. Will you not then desist?

(Al-Ma’idah: 90-91)

In these two verses, Allah strictly prohibited khamr and gambling,
linking them to idols and seeking omens by means of divining arrows, and
declared them to be rijs (abominable or filthy), a term which the Qur’an
reserves for extremely indecent and evil things. He ascribes them to the
work of Satan, which indeed consists only of obscenity and evil. and
commands the believers to abstain from them as the only way to attain
success. Ailah (Glorified be He) then mentions the harmful effects of wine
and gambling on society, namely, the breaking of relationships and ensuing
enmity and hatred. in addition to the harm they do to man’s soul by causing
him to neglect the religious obligations of remembering Allah and of
performing Prayer. The verses end with a very stern admonition to abstain:
Will vou not then desist?’s And when the Prophet (pbuh) had finished
reciting these two verses for the first time, the listeners answered with the
fervent cry, “We have desisted, O Lord! We have desisted!”

Tie response of the Muslims to these verses was remarkable indeed. At
the time some people were drinking, with half-filled cups in their hands. As
soon as they heard someone announcing, “Wine has indeed been
probibited.” they poured the remaining drinks upon the ground.

Many present-day governments throughout the world are convinced of
the harmful effects of aleohol on individuals, families, and society. Some
governments, such as that of the United States, have even tried to abolish
wlcobal by passing. and attempting to enforce, laws prohibiting the drinking of
alcohol. It is only Islam which has succeeded in combating and eradicating it.

The churchmen hold different opinions concerning the position of
alcohol in Christranity. Some argue that the Biblical text permits drinking in
small quantities, since it is good for the digestion.’ But if this should be true, even though a little wine may be beneficial to the digestion, this little
must be prohibited, as a small amount leads to large amounts and one glass
to other glasses, until one becomes addicted to it. For this reason Islam’s
stand in prohibiting alcohol and in blocking all avenues which lead to
drinking it is very clear and unequivocal.

All That Intoxicates Is Haram

The first declaration made by the Prophet (pbuh) concerning this matter
was that not only is wine prohibited but that the definition of khamr extends
to any substance which intoxicates, in whatever form or under whatever
name it may appear. Thus, for example, beer and similar drinks are haram.

The Prophet (pbuh) was once asked about certain drinks made from
honey, corn, or barley by the process of fermenting them until they became
alcoholic. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh), as he was blessed with the best
of speech, replied succinctly,

“Every intoxicant is khamr, and every khamr is haram. (1)

And “Umar declared from the pulpit of the Prophet, “Khamr is that
which befogs the mind.”

Whatever Intoxicates in Large Amounts Is Haram in any

Islam takes an uncompromising stand in prohibiting intoxicants,
regardless of whether the amount is little or much. If an individual is
permitted to take but a single step along this road, other steps follow; he
starts walking and then running, and does not stop at any stage.

That is why the Prophet (pbuh) said,

“Of that which intoxicates in a large amount, a small amount ts haram. (3)

and again,

“If a bucketful intoxicates, a sip of it is haram. ma)

The Prophet (pbuh) did not stop at prohibiting the drinking of khamr,

whether much or little, but he also forbade any trading in it, even with

non-Muslims. It is not permissible for a Muslim to import or export

alcoholic beverages, or to own or work in a place which sells them. In

connection with khamr, the Prophet (pbuh) cursed ten categories of people


“Truly, Allah has cursed khamr and has cursed the one who produces it,
the one for whom it is produced, the one who drinks it, the one who
serves it, the one who carries it, the one for whom it is carried, the one
who sells it, the one who earns from the sale of it, the one who buys it,
and the one for whom it is bought.”

When the previous verse of Surat al-Ma’idah was revealed, the Prophet
(pbuh) announced,

“Truly, Allah has prohibited khamr. Therefore, whoever hears this verse
and possesses some of this (substance) should neither drink nor sell it.”

The narrator of this hadith said, “The people brought forth whatever they
possessed of it and poured it out in the streets of Madinah.”

Since the Islamic method is to block all avenues which lead to the
haram, it is also haram for a Muslim to sell grapes to a person whom he
knows will make khamr from them. A hadith stated,

“If someone stockpiles grapes during harvest time and holds them in
order to sell them to a Jew or Christian or anyone else (even if he be a
Muslim) who produces khamr, he will be leaping into the Fire with his
eyes open.”?)

Intoxicants Cannot Be Given as a Gift

Just as the sale of khamr or receiving its price is haram for the Muslim,
likewise giving it as a gift to anyone, such as a Christian or Jewish friend, is

Alcoholic beverages cannot be received or given by a Muslim as

gifts because a Muslim is pure and neither gives nor receives anything

except whal is pure.

It is reported that a man brought a cask of wine to the Prophet (pbuh) as
a gift. The Prophet (pbuh) informed him that Allah had prohibited it. “Shall
I not sell it?” asked the man. “The One Who has prohibited drinking it has also
prohibited selling it,” replied the Prophet (pbuh). “Shall I not give it to a Jew
as a gift?” asked the man. “The One Who has prohibited it has also prohibited
that it be given as a gift to the Jews,” said the Prophet. “Then what shall I do
with it?” asked the man. “Pour it on the ground,” replied the Prophet (pbuh).””

Avoiding Drinking Parties

In the same spirit, the Muslim is ordered to stay away from drinking
parties or gatherings where drinks are served. “Umar narrated that he heard
the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) saying,

“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day must not sit at table at
which khamr is consumed.”

While it it the duty of a Muslim to eradicate the evil he sees, if he is
unable to do so, he must stay away from it, leaving the place where people
are engaged in such things.

It is reported that the rightly guided Caliph, ‘Umar ibn “Abd al- Aziz,
used to flog not only those who drank intoxicants but those who sat with
them as well, even if they were not themselves drinking. When once he was
told of a group of people who were at a drinking party, he ordered that all of
them be flogged. He was told that a person who was fasting was among
them. “Begin with him,” he said. “Have you not heard Allah’s saying, @ And
He has revealed to you in the Book that when you hear the Message of Allah held
in defiance and ridicule, you are not to sit with them until they turn to some other
theme; for if you do so you will be like them…» (An-Nisa’: 140)?”

Khamr, Itself a Disease, Cannot Be a Medicine

From all the explicit texts of the Qur’an and hadiths quoted above, we
see that Islam is very firm in combating khamr, as well as in keeping the

  1. Narrated by Al-Hamidi in his Musnad.
  2. Narrated by Ahmad: At-Tirmidhi also narrated something similar to it. _
Muslim away from it by erecting barriers between him and it so that no
opening, either wide or narrow, is left for him either to consume khamr or to
touch it. The Muslim 1s not allowed to drink it in large or small amounts; he
is not allowed to handle it through selling or buying, manufacturing, or
giving it as a gift; he is not allowed to bring it to his home or shop; he is not
allowed to serve it at gatherings, for a joyous occasion or otherwise, or to
serve it to a non-Muslim guest; and he is not allowed to mix it with any food
or beverage.

A question raised by some people which still remains to be answered
concerns the use of khamr as a medicine. The Prophet (pbuh) answered this
question when a man told him that he used wine as a medicine. The Prophet
(pbuh) said,

“It is not a medicine but a disease.”

He also said,

“Allah has sent down diseases and medicines, and has made a medicine
for every disease. So take medicine but do not use anything haram as

With regard to intoxicants Ibn Mas‘ud said, “Allah has not made a cure
for you in what He has prohibited to you.”“) It is therefore not surprising
that Islam forbids the use of alcohol and other prohibited substances as
medicines. As explained by Ibn al-Qayyim, the prohibition of a thing
implies avoiding and staying away from it by every means, as taking it as a
medicine renders it desirable and requires keeping it on hand, and this is
against the Law-Giver’s purpose. [bn al-Qayyim, said, “If khamr were
permitted as medicine when people are already inclined toward it, it would
provide them with an excuse to drink it for pleasure and enjoyment,
especially since people have the impression that it is beneficial for their
health, alleviates their complaints, and cures their diseases.”

One may also mention that the attitude of the patient toward the
medicine he takes has a considerable effect in hastening or delaying the

“One condition for the efficacy of the medicine is that the patient
believes in its efficacy and that Allah has placed the blessing of cure in it.
Now the Muslim patient’s belief that a particular substance, such as alcohol,
is haram prevents him from believing that it can at the same tume be
beneficial or blessed. Thus he will not have any trust in it nor will he take it
approvingly. On the contrary! The stronger the Muslim’s faith, the greater
will be his aversion to it and the greater his mistrust of it. If he then
grudgingly takes what he hates and loathes, it will not be a cure for him but
a disease.“

Having said this, we must again mention the exempted case of necessity;
the Islamic Shariah has a different ruling for such a case. Supposing a
man’s life were in danger and no substitute for a medication containing
alcohol were available; a Muslim physician, who was an expert in his field
and at the same time zealous in safeguarding the commands of religion,
would then find no alternative except to prescribe a medication containing
alcohol. As its aim is always the welfare of human beings, the Shari-ah
permits the taking of such a medicine in such a case. However, one must be
aware that this concession is strictly limited to that quality which is deemed

Yet whosoever is constrained without being inequitable or
aggressive then indeed your Lord is Ever-Forgiving, Ever-Merciful. &
(Al-An’am: 145)

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