Intoxicants and Recreation in Islamic Law
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Intoxicants (الخمر al‐khamr) such as alcohol, marijuana etc. and recreational games of chance, such as board games (including chess), card games and other forms of gambling are forbidden under Islamic law. Surprisingly, this was not always the case.
In the Beginning
Intoxicants (namely, alcohol) was permitted during the early phase of Islam. Some websites even claim that Muhammad drank intoxicating wine, though that claim is not supported by an accurate presentation of the hadith evidence.
In the Qur'an, wine is elevated and characterized as a blessing of God upon earth.
It is also described as being an aspect of heaven.
However, what we now know as the Qur'an was allegedly revealed over a period of twenty-three years. As it stands, the Qur'an is arranged roughly from the longest surah (chapter) to the shortest. But if we read it in a chronological order, we can see the gradual shift in attitude towards intoxicants and such.
Verses were 'revealed' as the situation in Muhammad's life demanded. Thus, older revelations were cancelled out and replaced by newer ones. This is known as Naskh (abrogation). His followers were attending prayer at the mosque while intoxicated, so the following verse was revealed warning against such behavior.
Later on we find a revelation which tells us that there is some good and some bad in intoxicants and games of chance.
The hadith record that Hamza bin Abdul Muttalib, in a drunken state, mutilated two camels belonging to Ali, chopping of their humps and taking out their livers.
When rebuked by Muhammad, Hamza insulted him to his face, saying "Aren't you but the slaves of my father?"
Alcohol and Games Banned
Taking the actions of Hamza into consideration, Muhammad banned the consumption of all intoxicants.
He even went so far as to refer to alcohol (something which is found in heaven) as an "abomination" and "Satan's handwork".
Games of chance were also banned.
And commenting on playing chess, he compared it with dying ones hand with the flesh and blood of swine.
After the revelation of verse 5:90, Muhammad ordered beatings for anyone who violated his rules regarding these substances.
He, and his successors, also ordered floggings.
Repeat offenders were ordered by him to be put to death.
AbuDawud said: And there is a similar tradition of Umar ibn AbuSalamah, from his father, on the authority of AbuHurayrah, from the Prophet (peace be upon him): If he drinks wine, flog him if he does it so again, a fourth time, kill him.
Later, Umar (the second Rightly Guided Caliph) clarified that al-khamr refers to all intoxicants.
Tafsir ibn Kathir
And he would order eighty stripes as the mildest form of punishment.
In The Modern World
In modern times, these laws still stand. There are out-right bans or severe restrictions put on the sale, purchase, and drinking of alcohol by adults in many Islamic majority countries, including: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Iran, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, the Maldives, Morocco, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates. Punishments vary according to country, but many are consistent with the Sunnah of Muhammad. They range from weeks to months of imprisonment, public flogging, and (in the case of Iran) the death penalty.
This prohibition, in many cases, does not exclude the non-Muslim. For example; in June 2009, Catholic chef Sapon D Costa was jailed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, for possession of alcohol.
Despite these harsh laws and the negative views held by Muslims against alcohol, statistics provided by research group Euromonitor International reported in 2011 that alcohol use in predominantly Muslim regions of the world increased by 25 percent in 5 years. Additionally, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported in the same year that Malaysia, a country with a Muslim majority, is the world's tenth largest consumer of alcohol.
- Alcohol - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Alcohol
- Muhammad, the Quran, and Prohibition - Islam’s punishments for drinking and gambling - Answering Islam
- On Khamr (And What Intoxicates) - Islamic site
- "....The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) replied: "Every intoxicant is khamr, and every khamr is haram."....“Khamr is what befogs the mind.” These are the words spoken by 'Umar ibn al-Khattab from the pulpit of the Prophet (PBUH),....Drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, opium, and the like are definitely included in the prohibited category of khamr. It is well known that the use of such drugs affects the sensory perceptions, making what is near seem distant and what is distant seem near; that their use produces illusions and hallucinations, so that the real seems to disappear and what is imaginary appears to be real; and that drug usage in general impairs the faculty of reasoning and decision-making...." - [Alcohol and Intoxicants in Islam] - Muslim Bridges
- "....the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Whoever plays games of dice has disobeyed Allah and His Messenger."...." - Al-Muwatta 52:6, See also Al-Muwatta 52:7
- "....Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) said: He who played chess is like one who dyed his hand with the flesh and blood of swine...." - Sahih Muslim 28:5612, See also Al-Muwatta 52:7
- Living Religions: An Encyclopaedia of the World's Faiths, Mary Pat Fisher, 1997, page 338, I.B. Tauris Publishers,
- Malaysian model seeks public flogging for drinking - The Associated Press, August 20, 2009
- Catholic chef has a “really rough time in Dhaka’s central jail” - Asia News, June 11, 2009
- Islam: Survey, Alcohol Use In Mideast-Africa +25% In 5 Years - ANSAmed, February 23, 2011
- Tanya Thomas - Despite Its Muslim Majority, WHO Names Malaysia as World's 10th Largest Alcohol Consumer - Medindia Health Network, May 24, 2011