04 Jun Why Drinking is Haram
Why Drinking is Haram
I grew up with a Muslim BFF who always said that drinking wasn’t allowed for Muslims but when I went to uni I noticed that some of my new Muslim friends didn’t think it was a big deal and would show up at the pub and drink with us. Is drinking just a matter of culture? Bc my BFF is Indian and my new Muslim friends are mostly from Egypt/Lebanon.
The short answer to your question is that your Muslim BFF is right, drinking is not permitted in Islam.
Why Muslims drink is a pretty long and complex answer, but I’m not sure if I want to say that it is “culturally related.” I’ll tell you why, very few Muslims cultures have a specifically ambivalent view towards alcohol.
I don’t think the fact that your BFF is Indian and that your new Muslim friends are Egyptian/Lebanese is really the “deciding variable” towards their relative ambivalence towards the consumption of alcohol. I think it’s just the case of who you are going to hang out with, and that how a particular Muslim views alcohol comes down to a myriad of factors.
It’s not just whether their family drinks (many times their families don’t), or where they come from, but I think it ultimately comes down to the way they understand themselves and the relative harm of alcohol upon themselves.
I have yet to read or hear a solid argument against alcohol from any Muslim scholar that people generally go to, whether it’s Hamza Yusuf or Yasir Qadhi, they always give terrible advice for those who need it, and then link the use of alcohol to extraneous issues, that usually scares the crap out of Muslim parents, and totally goes over the heads of Muslim youth.
If you grow up in a Muslim country, everyone knows alcohol is bad. Now, how the country you live in, handles alcohol, I think that really alters how someone sees alcohol. The relative accessibility of alcohol changes the perception (of the individual) to alcohol, thus, Egypt and Lebanon are flooded with Arabs from the Gulf in the summer, precisely because in the Gulf alcohol is banned (in various degrees) while in Egypt and Lebanon, alcohol can be purchased.
It would be easy to ban alcohol, on a legal basis, but, the reality is that the effect upon society is tremendous. Thus, to ban the sale of alcohol is not necessarily the best way to deal with it, and many times, it can create much larger problems for a given society. A pertinent example is the rise of organized crime as a result of the ban of alcohol in the United States.
However, that is an issue for another article (about how Shariah handles alcohol) and I’d like to readjust back to your question and why alcohol is wrong and Islam’s stance towards it and how Muslims today deal with it, on an individual basis.
I had said earlier that I have yet to read a Muslim scholar with a good answer for the issue of alcohol. There is one exception, but, I’m not sure if people consider him to be a “scholar,” regardless, for Muslims, whether in the West or not, there is one man who has given me the best arguments: Malcolm X.
Malcolm understood alcohol in a nuanced way, as The Qur’an does. When you go to your local Imam, or whatever, they simply tell you that alcohol is wrong and that is the end of it. The Qur’an does not deal with alcohol this way. Rather, The Qur’an frames alcohol like so:
“They will ask thee about intoxicants and games of chances. Say: ‘In both there is great evil as well as some benefit for man; but the evil which they cause is greater than the benefit which they bring.’” [2:219]
There are other places in which The Qur’an addresses alcohol, but this is the most significant, in my opinion. So people have said, “drinking a glass (of wine) a day is good for you,” or that “alcohol makes me feel more at ease, it’s a ‘social lubricant,’” or cite various studies showing some beneficial link of drinking.
That’s fan-freaking-tastic. The reality is that none of those reasons are good enough for anyone to drink alcohol. Why? Because, for whatever benefits you can list for alcohol, the amount of suffering that alcohol has caused is tremendous and clearly outweighs whatever benefit could possibly come from alcohol. This is true on either the individual or societal levels.
How many families have to be killed in drunk driving accidents? How many fights have to started over nothing, getting people killed or injured? How many children have to watch their parent descend into self-destruction over alcohol? How many unnecessary arguments and friendships have to be broken because the people were drunk? How many girls must be taken advantage of when drunk?
Many people will say, and in my mind these people sound like the “girls” from S*** Indians Girls Say, that “well, I can handle my alcohol… like, I’m totally fine, and what’s wrong with like…a glass of wine over dinner? Like, I’m not hurting anyone, I love the taste, it’s just nice.”
This is the underlying issue, and why Malcolm X’s arguments are so strong. For Malcolm, drugs, alcohol, and gambling were not individual vices, but part of a larger “whole” of not sin, but of societal destruction. Alcohol was a critical part of the destruction of his community, and the way you destroy a community is to destroy the individual’s self worth, the individual’s personal strength, the individual’s connection to reality.
So why is that glass of wine wrong? No one just drinks a glass of wine, maybe you get to that point, but you still have a lot of bumpy roads before you get there. More importantly, and this is for Muslims around my age, but look at what Malcolm said, and look at what The Qur’an says, and relate that to yourself.
When your friends ask you to drink, why is that? It’s because they need someone to share in their stupidity, only losers drink alone, right? So, they are creating an activity in which “fun” is only achieved through this act, and through you artificially altering your state of mind, so that you can “be at ease.” You are destroying yourself, because you are making yourself dependent on a substance, in order to “have fun.” Sure, social situations can be scary, and it would be easy to use alcohol to side-step that, but you are making yourself weaker. What happens when you don’t have that drink? Freeze up? Go to the corner? Or, without drinking, you could learn to talk to people without it, take those risks, throw away the excuse that “you were drunk.” You’ll become a stronger, more confident person, I promise.
Look at not drinking as a source of pride, it’s what gives you that strength, and it makes those who do drink feel awkward. Good. Let them. You don’t need to appease them, they simply want to have someone to commiserate with, someone to share in their stupidity, their lack of substance. Why should you give them that?
When making this argument, some people have said that I cannot say that communal destruction described by Malcolm X is the same as the effect of young Muslims who drink. It’s a different kind of destruction.
Malcolm’s community was destroyed by vice. This wasn’t unique to his time, the British got the Chinese addicted to opium, it’s a tried-and-tested method. However, in the Muslim world, drugs and alcohol, while there, have not had the desired effect. Thus, those who wish Muslims harm, attack our foundational identities. When the Muslim starts drinking, they are hurting their community, because they are becoming Uncle Toms. Yes, I said Uncle Tom, and I’m not going to shy away from it.
These kids drink, and make this song and dance about it, to show how “progressive” they are. To show their non-Muslim friends how worthy they are of being “like them.” The joke is on them, because like Malcolm pointed out to the Uncle Toms of his day, the Muslim debases him/herself for no reason, to seek the acceptance of others, while giving, to maybe just a few people, another insult to Islam.
Why do they drink? Because they’re weak, and they don’t have the strength to say no. That’s not their fault, they are being tested, and we are all tested in the things that address our weaknesses, that’s why its so hard to resist. However, their attitude is crystallized by their lack of self-confidence, which emerges from a lack of understanding and belief not just in Islam, but in what would benefit them.
Those who have followed me, will know that I went through a tough time with my faith, and while I did not (alhamdulilah) succumb to drinking, I did, even at my lowest point, recognize the absolute harm in alcohol, whether God existed or not. It was also at this point that I realized why Muslims drink, and it’s because of this central lack of confidence in themselves, but that lack of confidence is centered upon a lack of knowledge in their faith and the utility of Islam to their personal growth.
Thus, just saying “alcohol is sinful” won’t help young Muslims keep away from alcohol, they want to know whyand why they should stay away. Our leaders today do not get that, they don’t address that issue, so that when someone asks our help about this issue, we don’t have a good answer, because we were never given one, and we were never introduced to the logic of The Qur’an. We are given the effect of The Qur’an, the ends of The Qur’an, which works for some of us, but that’s not The Qur’an’s beauty; it’s beauty is in its reason, its logic, and its benefit to the individual and society.
So then why does the Muslim kid drink until he blacks out, but God forbid there is some bacon on his burger, so he throws it away? Because there aren’t any bacon parties. There is no social pressure to play “bacon pong” and parties aren’t centered around eating Ham sandwiches. This is the answer to your question, that’s why they drink, because they want to “fit in.” If you can take away this social pressure, you would remove a massive amount of the use of alcohol, not just among Muslims, but among people.
Again, you can justify so many things on the individual basis, because you can create either hypotheticals, or brings up an anecdote about some person, which supposedly illustrates why X is okay, or Y is wrong. That’s not the best way to make choices, and that we continue to justify ourselves on the individual basis, without looking at the effect of our choices upon the rest of our society, points to a far deeper issue.
Thus, drinking is not a matter of culture, but a matter of self-worth.
Insha Allah, I hope I answered your question, and if you or anyone else has a question on this or any other topic, please do not hesitate to ask me.