If you are wondering whether alcohol is specifically prohibited in the Quran, well … the answer is technically NO!. But before you jump up and head down to the nearest pub, let me finish explaining. The Quran actually prohibits intoxicants, which is a broader term and covers a wider range of substances. Coming under the label of intoxicants are both alcohol and drugs, and the Quran makes it clear to us that any form of intoxicating substance is prohibited.
Suprisiingly the word alcohol actually has an arabic root. It stems from the word al-kohl, which is an intoxicating beverage made from fermented grains, fruits or sugars. The Quran uses the words khamr or khamrah to denote fermented beverages, and these have often been translated as wine although they do in fact refer to all types of intoxicants.
The prohibition of alcohol in the Quran was not revealed in one single verse, but rather through three verses over time, which allowed the muslims to wean themselves off alcohol. It has been hypothesised that an immediate ban on alcohol would have been less successful than the staggered approach chosen by Allah, and while on the surface this hypothesis makes sense, the truth of this statement is something only Allah knows.
The three verses concerning alcohol in the Quran were revealed in the following chronological order:
Step 1 – Acknowledgement of both the good and bad side of alcohol, and confirmation that the bad side is worse
They question thee about strong drink and games of chance. Say: In both is great sin, and (some) utility for men; but the sin of them is greater than their usefulness… (Quran 2:219)
Step 2 – Praying while intoxicated is prohibited
O ye who believe! Draw not near unto prayer when ye are drunken, till ye know that which ye utter … (Quran 4:43)
Step 3 – Complete prohibition by asking muslims to abstain from consumption
O ye who believe! Strong drink and games of chance and idols and divining arrows are only an infamy of Satan’s handiwork. Leave it aside in order that ye may succeed. Satan seeketh only to cast among you enmity and hatred by means of strong drink and games of chance, and to turn you from remembrance of Allah and from (His) worship. Will ye then have done? (Quran 5:90-91)
HADITHS ADD FURTHER WEIGHT
The prohibition is even more firm according to a number of hadiths, such as:
Muslim, Book 22, Hadith 4962, Narrated by Jabir ibn Abdullah
A person came from Jayshan, a town of Yemen, and he asked Allah’s Apostle (peace_be_upon_him) about the wine which was drunk in their land and which was prepared from millet and was called Mizr.
Allah’s Messenger (peace_be_upon_him) asked whether that was intoxicating. He said: Yes. Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (peace_be_upon_him) said: Every intoxicant is forbidden. Verily Allah, the Exalted and Majestic, made a covenant to those who drank intoxicants to make them drink Tinat al-Khabal, They said: Allah’s Messenger, what is Tinat al-Khabal? He said: It is the sweat of the denizens of Hell or the discharge of the denizens of Hell.
Abu Dawood, Book 26, Hadith 3672, Narrated by Abdullah Ibn Abbas
The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) said: Every intoxicant is khamr (wine) and every intoxicant is forbidden. If anyone drinks wine, Allah will not accept prayer from him for forty days, but if he repents, Allah will accept his repentance. If he repeats it a fourth time, it is binding on Allah that He will give him tinat al-khabal to drink.
He was asked: What is tinat al-khabal, Apostle of Allah? He replied: Discharge of wounds, flowing from the inhabitants of Hell. If anyone serves it to a minor who does not distinguish between the lawful and the unlawful, it is binding on Allah that He will give him to drink the discharge of wounds, flowing from the inhabitants of Hell.
Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 81, Hadith 768, Narrated by Abu Salama
Abu Huraira said, “A man who drank wine was brought to the Prophet. The Prophet said, ‘Beat him!” Abu Huraira added, “So some of us beat him with our hands, and some with their shoes, and some with their garments (by twisting it) like a lash, and then when we finished, someone said to him, ‘May Allah disgrace you!’ On that the Prophet said, ‘Do not say so, for you are helping Satan to overpower him.’ “
Muslim, Book 22, Hadith 4963, Narrated by Abdullah ibn Umar
Allah’s Messenger (peace_be_upon_him) said: Every intoxicant is Khamr and every intoxicant is forbidden. He who drinks wine in this world and dies while he is addicted to it, not having repented, will not be given a drink in the Hereafter.
The evidence for the prohibition of alcohol in Islam is absolutely overwhelming. Unlike other matters where there are disputes amongst scholars, the issue of alcohol has a 100% concensus amongst muslim scholars, leaving no room for any doubt.
Most muslims residing in western countries will eventually encounter a muslim who claims that alcohol is not prohibited. One of the more popular excuses is to bring out an English translation of the Quran that only refers to wine, however as we pointed out before this excuse is invalid since the originally arabic words in the Quran refers to all types of alcohol and intoxicants.
Please be in no doubt that a muslim should never consume alcohol, and if you encounter an muslim who consumes alcohol, either through ignorance or deliberate deception of the Quranic verses, make an effort to inform them of Allah’s decree and make dua for them to return to the straight path. Further assistance can be sought from the International Drug and Alcohol Rehab Center, or through a local treatment program.