In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Intoxicants are strictly prohibited

There has been some debate that alcohol, if consumed ‘responsibly’ and in limited amounts is not an intoxicant and therefore acceptable to consume while remaining inside the limits that God has decreed in His Quran. Furthermore, it has been argued that strong language has not been used in reference to intoxicants and therefore allows for one to interpret the relevant verses in favour of a ‘controlled’ consumption as lawful. As this brief but conclusive analysis shall, God willing clearly show, these standpoints are far from correct.

The Arabic word used for intoxicant is ‘Khamr’ from the root word ‘Khamara’ which means ‘to cover’. Therefore anything that ‘covers’ the mind is prohibited. This includes such intoxicants like marijuana, heroin, cocaine, Hashish and alcohol, or anything that affects the mind.

Let us begin by confirming that God does in fact, consider alcohol an intoxicant. "And from the fruits of date palms and grapes you produce intoxicants..." 16:67

It may be helpful at the outset to examine the uses in the Quran of the word 'abomination' (and its derivatives), and other words mentioned in conjunction with it. This should highlight clearly what nuance God wishes to convey in all verses that contain these words intended to specify the limits.

[4:22] Do not marry the women who were previously married to your fathers —existing marriages are exempted and shall not be broken— for it is a gross offence, and an abominable act."

[5:3] ...Also prohibited is dividing the meat through a game of chance; this is an abomination..."

[6:121] Do not eat from that upon which the name of God has not been mentioned, for it is an abomination..."

[7:80-81] Lot said to his people, 'You commit such an abomination; no one in the world has done it before! ... you practice sex with the men, instead of the women. Indeed you are a transgressing people."

[22:30] ...You shall avoid the abomination of idol worship, and avoid bearing false witness."

[49:12] O you who believe, you shall avoid any suspicion, for even a little bit of suspicion is sinful... ...this is as abominable as eating the flesh of your dead brother.

[2:219] They ask you about intoxicants and gambling: say, 'In them there is a gross sin, and some benefits for the people. But their sinfulness far outweighs their benefit.'

[5:90] O you who believe, intoxicants, and gambling, and the altars of idols, and the games of chance are abominations of the devil; you shall avoid them, that you may succeed.

In all of the verses mentioned, it is clear that the words 'sin', 'gross sin', 'gross offence', 'do not', 'transgressing', 'avoid' and 'abomination' are all prohibiting a particular thing —material or otherwise.

Some have pointed out that 2:219 does not completely outlaw alcohol on the basis that the words “In them there is a gross sin” does not convey that intoxicants “are” a gross sin. They also argue that because we are told of their “benefit,” intoxicants - specifically alcohol - may be used for this purpose. On the contrary the verse does say that intoxicants themselves are sinful, and the claim for use of their benefits is nullified simultaneously: “But their sinfulness far outweighs their benefit.” The benefit the Quran mentions refers to medicine, and a simple example might be that of a cough syrup that contains alcohol. The use of such could be within the confines of the Quran for one suffering from a cough or similar ailment.

While this verse (2:219) alone is clear, the matter is more than settled in 5:90. However the supporters of the frail claim we have dismissed thus far already, have tried to extend their argument in 5:90 by asserting that the words “you shall avoid” do not convey a strong sense of prohibition. They also assert that because the words “do not [consume]” or “[are] prohibited” are not present in either 2:219 or 5:90, a direct ban on consumption has not been issued.

With reference to all the verses already cited above (excluding 2:219 & 5:90); If something is described directly as “prohibited” and as an “abomination” in one verse, then we must assume that something else that is described only as an “abomination” elsewhere is also prohibited. Yet, we do not even need to assume! Please read on;

At first glance the words “do not” might seem to convey a stronger sense of prohibition and directness than “avoid”. One might reason then, that if God wanted to strongly prohibit alcohol consumption He would have used the words “do not”.

However, upon closer assessment one will see that “avoid” is actually the stronger commandment. Here's a brief analogy to highlight why.

Let us take a fictitious commandment concerning fire, prohibiting our engagement with it; "Do not touch fire."

This implies that if we come into proximity with fire, we are not to touch it. But, if the commandment read: "You shall avoid fire."

This would imply that not only are we not to touch it, but we are not even to go anywhere near it.

Now, let's look directly at the Quran for evidence that this analogy is correct;

Idolatry is the only unforgivable sin (conditionally!). We must assume then, that this is the worst offence. We would therefore expect that God would tell us very clearly that we are not to do it. God chose in His Quran to say "you shall avoid [idolatry]". That is, not only are we not to do it, we should not go anywhere near the idea of committing idol worship;

[22:30] ...You shall avoid the abomination of idol worship...

Finally, the last piece of irrefutable evidence supporting the notion that alcohol (even a little bit) is an abomination and therefore prohibited is that God chose to mention the only unforgivable sin right along with it in the same verse!

[5:90] O you who believe, intoxicants, and gambling, and the altars of idols, and the games of chance are abominations of the devil; you shall avoid them, that you may succeed."

God has mercifully provided us with a myriad variety of delectable drinks; water, milk, fruit and vegetable juices, nectars and natural teas. Our minds and bodies have no need of alcohol and the dangers inherent in its consumption. Is alcohol consumption —in any amount— condoned in Islam? The answer is certainly and irrevocably, “No”, and the believers will cheerfully accept this without question (2:285, 5:7, 21:23).