“Here’s to alcohol. The rose coloured glasses of life.”
“Curry and a pint”… “Wine and dine” … “Beer after the game.”
How often have we heard the above phrases, or similar ones, during our lives? The answer: countless times.
The society we live in today holds alcohol as one of the great pleasures of life, and a crucial ingredient to having ‘a good time’. In Fitzgerald’s terms, it is a substance for life. Whether it is drunk to socialise, to settle ones nerves, or even to drown ones sorrows, alcohol is the first port of call for many in the world we live in today. For the one who drinks alcohol,
“the sensation is real and pure and akin to something spiritual: you seek; in the bottle, you find.”
It ‘fills that spiritual void’, breaks that barrier, and annihilates those positive inhibitions.
But, at what cost?
Individually, excessive alcohol consumption is associated with depression, aggression, stress, cancer, liver failure – and the list just goes on. A study by the Royal College of Physicians said drink-related health problems could account for up to 12% of total NHS spending on hospitals which amounts to about £3 billion. The contemporary situation gives truth to the ancient proverb, that “In the beginning a man takes a cup of wine… then the first cup takes a second, then the cup of wine takes the man.”
As a society, alcohol related vices are rife, and a huge burden. It has been estimated that in a community of 100,000 people each year, 1,000 people will be a victim of alcohol-related violent crime. Drink-driving, disorderly behaviour, alcohol related violence and even serious sex crimes are only some of those elements included in alcohol-related crime statistics. Although a quick drink may seem harmless to some, it is evidently a serious vice in society, highlighted by the fact that the current Coalition Government lists a reduction in alcohol-fuelled violent crime among its core priorities in its Alcohol Strategy.
When we, as Muslims, turn to the primary source of guidance for humanity, the book of Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā), we learn a very important characteristic of alcohol mentioned by our Creator. Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) teaches us that,
“in them (i.e. alcohol and gambling) is a great sin, and [some] benefits for men; but the sin of them is greater than their usefulness.”
Ibn Kathīr, the great Qur’anic commentator, says that
“as for their benefit, it is material, including benefit for the body, digesting the food, getting rid of the excrements, sharpening the mind, bringing about a joyous sensation and financially benefiting from their sale.”
These benefits are all restricted and confined to the world and life of today. Also, their ‘benefits’ include earnings through gambling that one uses to spend on his family and on himself. Yet, these benefits are outweighed by the clear harms that they cause which severely affect one’s mind and religion. There is no benefit of alcohol connected to the hereafter whatsoever. This is why Allāh said,
‘…the sin of them is greater than their benefit.’
The above verse was the beginning of the process of prohibiting alcohol. It was not explicit but it implied this meaning. As such, when this verse was recited to the great companion of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) ʿUmar (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu), he said, “O Allāh! Give us a clear ruling regarding Al-Khamr.”He wanted to know more about its harms. Hence soon after, Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) sent down the clear prohibition of alcohol in Sūrat Al-Māʿ’idah, telling us that,
“O you who believe! Intoxicants (all kinds of alcoholic drinks), gambling, Al‑Ansāb (stone altars for sacrifices to idols, jinn, etc), and Al‑Azlām (arrows for seeking luck or decision) are an abomination of Satan’s handiwork. So avoid [strictly all] that [abomination] in order that you may be successful.”
Why avoid them? Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) explains that “Satan wants only to excite enmity and hatred between you with intoxicants (alcoholic drinks) and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allāh and from As-Salāt (the prayer). So, will you not then abstain?”Being hindered from the remembrance of Allāh and from the prayer is the starting point of many spiritual diseases, and perhaps this is why the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said that “Alcohol is the mother of all evils!” Above all these harms however, is that the consumption of alcohol is a transgression of the laws of Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) and a great sin.
After such a firm and binding prohibition of alcohol, it then may be reasonable for one to ask why Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) describes wine as being one of the delights of the gardens of Paradise. After all, is alcohol not associated with all of the above?! A sincere reflection upon the words of Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) beautifully teaches us the world of difference between the two wines of different times.
The people of Jannah (Paradise) will be, as Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) tells us, provided with “various types and kinds of fruits and meat, whatever they wish for and desire. There they shall pass from hand to hand a cup (of wine)…”
Wine?! Yes, that’s right! But what sort of wine?
This wine, Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) tells us, will be ‘”free from any Laghw, and free from Taʿthīm.” Free from Laghw and Taʿthīm is explained to mean that when these fortunate inhabitants of Paradise drink this delight, they do not indulge in any idle, vain words or utter dirty, sinful speech or falsehood like the drunken people in this life do. They are spared from those redundant words that carry no benefit, and those alcohol-fuelled drunken tirades filled with expletives and characterised by their foolishness and evil. Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) has purified the wine of the Hereafter from causing headaches, hangovers, stomach aches and intoxication like the wine of this life. All the while these inhabitants are free from sin whilst they enjoy this delight, and are saved from the effects of those who indulged in the alcohol of the life of this world.
Not only is the wine superlatively flavoursome, and free from the many damaging side effects, but Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) has also made it beautiful in appearance, describing it as, “white, delicious to the drinkers.” Zayd b. Aslam, the Qur’anic commentator, said this refers to “White flowing wine,” meaning, as Ibn Kathīr explains, wine “with a bright, shining colour, unlike the wine of this earth with its ugly, repulsive colours of red, black, yellow and turbid shades, and other features which are repugnant to anyone of a sound nature.” Elsewhere in the Qur’ān, Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) tells us that
“Verily, the Abrār (righteous believers) shall drink of a cup mixed with Kafur.”
The properties of the Kafur (camphor) are well known; cooling, having a nice fragrance and, in addition to this, its taste will be delicious in Paradise. While “reclining therein on adorned couches”, these blessed dwellers of Jannah will drink from “vessels of silver and cups having been [created] clear [as glass], [these] clear glasses made of silver”, therefore having the “whiteness of silver in the transparency of glass… made of silver, but due to their fine thinness, what is inside of them will be visible from outside of them (as if they are glass). This is among the things of which there is nothing like in this world.”
How beautiful and eloquent is this description, given to us by Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) of the delights that await His believing slaves?! The message we are taught here is very simple; if we abstain here, we will consume there; if we refrain here, we will rejoice there.
The delights of Jannah narrated throughout the Qur’ān fill us with hope and a yearning to be blessed with such favours. Favours that are everlasting, and free from the temporary and deceptive nature of the delights of this life. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) indeed informed us of the real nature of these delights, when he tells us that Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) says,
“I have prepared for My pious servants that which no eye [has ever] seen, no ear has [ever] heard and no human heart has ever imagined.”
May Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) make us from His sincere believing slaves, and allow us to enter the highest levels of Jannah, and protect us from the hell fire. Āmīn.
Written by Tawheed Hameed and Ashraf Ar-Rabahi
 F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned
 Caroline Knapp, Drinking: A Love Story
 Secretary of State for the Home Department (March 2012), ‘The Government’s Alcohol Strategy’, HM Government, pp. 8–9
 Al-Qur’ān, 2:219
 Al-Qur’ān, 5:90
 Al-Qur’ān, 5:91
 al-Albaani in al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, 1853
 Al-Qur’ān, 52:22-23
 Al-Qur’ān, 37:46
 Al-Qur’ān, 76:5
 Al-Qur’ān, 76:13
 Al-Qur’ān, 76:16
 Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr
 Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2824 on the authority of Abū Hurairah (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu)