Alcoholic beverages are drinks with ethanol (C2H5OH) in their contents. The percentage of alcohol content in drinks is measured by their proof. They are used for recreational purposes to induce a drunken state, which is marked by reduced mental clarity and motor function of the human body. Alcohol is considered haram according to Islam because of its nature to cause drunkenness, which is dangerous for those around and for the person themselves.
Alcoholic beverages are considered haram in Islam, which has marked a number of debatable issues in modern times. Alcohol contains ethanol (C2H5OH), which is responsible for intoxication. However, the inclusion of alcohol as a medicine, recreational drinking, its usage in industries and such issues have made it imperative to address this issue.
The Gradual Classification as Haram
Islam did not outright label alcoholic beverages as haram, as the change was brought over a course of time. This can be found in various verses of the Holy Quran, such as 4:43, which forbids Muslims from praying in a state of intoxication. “O you who have believed, do not approach prayer while you are intoxicated…” (Surah An-Nisa, 4:43).
Unfortunately, people tend to confuse this with a general interpretation that alcohol is haram circumstantially. This is definitely not the case, as this verse came before others (which will also be discussed) that classified it as completely haram. The different tones in verses are actually proof that Muslims were steadily but surely trained to abstain from alcohol completely.
Alcoholic Beverages as Haram
Holy Quran labels alcoholic beverages as haram in the following verses: “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” (5:90-91).
From this verse, we can clearly see that alcohol is labeled as being equal to the work of the devil. There is an absoluteness to this statement without exception. The Holy Quran labels intoxication to be the work of the devil. Moreover, it refers to different kinds of intoxications, even moral ones.
The same has been mentioned by the Holy Prophet (SAW) in the following hadith:
“O you who believe! Intoxicants, and gambling, and Al‑Ansaab, and Al‑Azlaam are an abomination of Shaytaan’s handiwork. So avoid (strictly all) that (abomination) in order that you may be successful” (al-Maa’idah 5:90).
The hadith also labels intoxicating materials and gambling as haram. It encourages Muslims to abstain from them and promises them that it is the right path towards success. Intoxicants dull the senses and stop a human from making proper decisions. Consequently, a person is unable to remain focused, judge right wrong and make smart, logical decisions.
The Holy Prophet (SAW) said: “Every intoxicant is Khamr, and every intoxicant is Haram (prohibited)” (Sahih Al-Bukhari and Muslim). This hadith clearly shows that all intoxicants, including other drugs, are haram for Muslims.
Punishment for Drinking
Islam has levied punishment in the Hereafter for those who indulge in drinking alcohol. There is a Sahih hadith from Bukhari and Muslim which states: “Whoever drinks wine in this world and does not repent from that, he will be deprived of it in the Hereafter” (Al-Bukhaari (5147) and Muslim (3736)). Alcohol is a dangerous intoxicant that numbs the senses, reduces mental clarity and places a person in an unstable emotional state. They are prone to violence and actions which they later regret when the drunken stupor has worn off. As such, both the drinker and provider of alcohol is destined to be damned if they do not seek forgiveness.
Alcohol As Medicine
There are minute traces of alcohol found in foods, such as bread, which are produced during the fermentation process. They are too small to cause any effects on the human body, hence it can be dismissed. The logical justification is that alcohol has been considered haram owing to its harmful qualities. These manifest when consumed in sufficient amounts to cause intoxication. As such, many Islamic jurists have issued official decrees which label it to be allowed its usage as medicine and in such cases.
This raises the question if alcohol can also be considered permissible if drunk in moderate quantities. The answer is no, as alcohol is addictive in nature and the addictiveness cannot be controlled. Sooner or later, a person is bound to pass that boundary and commit actions which they will regret later. Moreover, its addiction leaves a craving for more every time, which makes moderate drinking impossible.
This logic can be clearly seen in the following verse of the Holy Quran:
“He has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah . But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit], there is no sin upon him. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful” (The Holy Quran, Surah Al-Nahl, Chapter 16, Verse 115).
The verse clearly dictates Muslims to refrain from alcohol but reminds them that Allah is forgiving and merciful. If circumstances force it, then a Muslim may choose alcohol for medicinal purposes. It must be mentioned again that its usage has been declared as safe by numerous Islamic jurists, though some still oppose it. Nevertheless, the path to forgiveness is always open for those who have strayed and they can always seek redemption from Allah to start anew.