The sincere individual would, no doubt, affirm that Alcohol has been a source of harm. It, unfortunately, continues to cost countless human lives and causes misery to millions throughout the world.
Alcohol is the root cause of several problems facing society. In the USA alone, the economic costs of Alcoholism and drug abuse are reported to be at a quarter trillion dollars per year. The social and moral costs are additional.
The diseases that result from alcohol weaken society as a whole. The productivity of the drunkard is decreased because of his drunkenness, which affects others. The economy is affected as a result of the money spent on treating him, which also affects others. Moreover there are crimes which result from this addiction. In a World Health Organization report on violent crimes in 30 countries, including the US and the UK, it says that 86% of murders and 50% of rapes are carried out under the influence of alcohol. There are many similar, well-known statistics on such topics in various countries around the world.
At one stage, the United States congress in 1917 passed the 18th Amendment prohibiting alcohol. This was after a century of grass roots efforts, which included thousands of societies for prohibition and abstinence pledges in churches. They also allocated $5 million for enforcement to turn USA into a liquor-free society. A few years later the estimate was $300 million and growing. Thirteen years later Prohibition was repealed. The ‘road test’ had failed miserably.
In stark contrast, the teachings of the Prophet (peace be upon him); the religion of Islam, banned alcohol 14 centuries ago among people whose love for alcohol was second to none. The Prophet (peace be upon him), via his teachings was able to find a solution to the problems of alcohol. In three simple steps, spanning only a few years, alcohol was banished altogether from the Muslim world. Today, despite small areas of infraction, a map of the dry world coincides with the map of the Muslim world. According to a hasan hadeeth quoted by al-Albaani in al-Silsilah al-Saheehah (1854), the Prophet (peace be upon him) declared alcohol to be Ummul-Khabaith (the mother of evils). This notion is expanded upon and explained in another prophetic hadith, wherein the Prophet (peace be upon him) says:
“Alcohol is the mother of all evils, the greatest of major sins. Whoever drinks it may end up committing incest with his mother, his maternal aunt and his paternal aunt.” (This hadeeth is hasan on the basis of corroborating evidence as stated by al-Albaani in al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, 1853.)
According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica the majority of cases in sexual assault against relatives such as sisters, mothers and daughters occur under the influence of alcohol.
The goals of the divine revelation which was given to Prophet (peace be upon him) is to increase that which is good and beneficial for man and to ward off and reduce those things which are harmful for him. Alcohol, no doubt, falls under the second category mentioned thus it is considered unlawful. In the interpretation of the meaning of the Quran, Allah says:
“They ask you (O Muhammad) concerning alcoholic drink and gambling. Say: In them is a great sin, and (some) benefits for men, but the sin of them is greater than their benefit” [al-Baqarah 2:219]
Among the harmful effects of alcohol is that which was mentioned by Allah:
“O you who believe! Intoxicants (all kinds of alcoholic drinks), and gambling, and Al Ansaab (stone altars for sacrifices to idols, jinn, etc), and Al Azlaam (arrows for seeking luck or decision) are an abomination of Satan’s (Satan’s) handiwork. So avoid (strictly all) that (abomination) in order that you may be successful.
Satan wants only to excite enmity and hatred between you with intoxicants (alcoholic drinks) and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah and from As Salaah (the prayer). So, will you not then abstain?” [al-Maa’idah 5:90-91]
In the above mentioned verses Allah has emphatically forbidden alcohol, the prohibition is emphasised when one considers that is mentioned in conjunction with Al Ansaab (stone altars for sacrifices to idols, jinn, etc), and Al Azlaam (arrows for seeking luck or decision) which were symbols of shirk that were widespread in the Arabian peninsula before Islam. Some other points to note are that:
• He describes it as being Satan’s handiwork which is immorality and evil.
• Allah commands us to avoid all forms of intoxication and describes such avoidance as being the means that leads to success.
• He describes its spiritual harm as hindering man from carrying out the obligations and duties enjoined by him.
Many may argue in favour of alcohol by calling themselves ‘social drinkers’. They may claim that they only have one or two pegs, that they have self-control and do not get intoxicated. Investigations reveal that every alcoholic started as a social drinker. Not a single alcoholic or drunkard initially starts drinking with the intention of becoming an alcoholic or a drunkard. No social drinker can say that I have been having alcohol for several years and that I have so much self-control that I have never been intoxicated even a single time.
Suppose a ‘social drinker’ loses his self-control just once, if he were to do so he may commit rape, incest or any other form sexual intercourse which would be regretted the following day. Even if the act is later regretted, a normal human being is likely to carry the guilt and bear the aftermath throughout his life. Both the perpetrator and the victim are irreparably and irreversibly damaged.
The maximum number of deaths in the world related to any one particular cause is due to the consumption of alcohol. Millions of people die every year only because of intake of alcohol. Below is a very basic list of few of the alcohol related illnesses:
1. Cirrhosis of Liver is the most well known alcohol associated disease.
2. Cancer of Oesophagus, Cancer of Head and Neck, Cancer of Liver (Hepatoma), Cancer of Bowel, etc.
3. Oesophagitis, Gastritis, Pancreatitis and Hepatitis are linked with alcohol consumption.
4. Cardiomyopathy, Hypertension, Coronary Artherosclerosis, Angina and Heart Attacks are linked with heavy alcohol intakes.
5. Strokes, Apoplexy, Fits and different types of Paralysis are linked with alcohol intake.
6. Peripheral Neuropathy, Cortical Atrophy, Cerebellar Atrophy are well-known syndromes caused by alcohol consumption.
7. Wernicke – Korsakoff syndrome with amnesia of recent events, confabulations and retainment of memory to old events with different types of paralysis are mainly due to thiamine deficiency due to excessive alcohol intake.
8. Beriberi and other deficiencies are not uncommon among alcoholics. Even Pellagra occurs in alcoholics.
9. Delerium Tremens is a serious complication that may occur during recurrent infection of alcoholics or post operatively. It also occurs during abstention as a sign of withdrawal effect. It is quite serious and may cause death even if treated in well equipped centres.
10. Numerous Endocrine Disorders have been associated with alcoholism ranging from Myxodema to Hyperthyroidism and Florid Cushing Syndrome.
11. Hematological ill effects are long and variable. Folic acid deficiency, however, is the most common manifestation of alcoholic abuse resulting in Macrocytic Anemia. Zeive’s syndrome is a triad of Hemolytic Anemia, Jaundice and Hyperlipaedemia that follows alcoholic binges.
12. Thrombocytopenia and other platelet abnormalities are not rare in alcoholics.
13. Recurrent infection is very common among chronic alcoholics. The resistance to disease and the immunological defense system are compromised by alcohol intake.
14. Chest infections are notorious in alcoholics. Pneumonia, Lung Abcess, Emphysema and Pulmonary Tuberculosis are all common in alcoholics.
15. During acute alcoholic intoxication, the drunk person usually vomits, the cough reflexes which are protective are paralysed. The vomitus thus easily pass to the lung causing Pneumonia or Lung Abscess. Occasionally it may even cause suffocation and death.
16. The ill effects of alcohol consumption on women deserves special mention. Females are more vulnerable to alcohol-related Cirrhosis than men. During pregnancy alcohol consumption has a severe detrimental effect on the foetus. Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is being recognised more and more in the medical profession.
17. Skin diseases are also related to alcohol indulgence.
18. Eczema, Alopecia, Nail Dystrophy, Paronychia (infection around the nails) and Angular Stomatitis (inflammation of the angle of the mouth) are common diseases among alcoholics.
With regard to those who say that drinking a little alcohol is good for the heart we may respond to such claims with the following:
1 – Modern research has proven that what is said about the benefits of alcohol for the heart and that it dilates the arteries, is a serious mistake. Alcohol does not dilate the arteries that bring nutrition to the heart, as was thought in the past, rather it dilates the veins that lie beneath the skin, whilst at the same time constricting the arteries, because of the accumulation of fats and cholesterol in them. This contributes to blood clots in the heart and angina, especially when it is accompanied by smoking, which contributes to congestion and narrowing of the arteries.
Alcohol also affects the muscle of the heart itself, when it becomes poisoned and dysfunctional, especially after drinking beer that contains cobalt, as when the heart becomes inflamed as a result of exhaustion when burning alcohol.
2 – These supposed benefits to the heart may be attained by means of things other than alcohol, the sinfulness and harmful effects of which outweigh any good it may do or benefits it may bring.
3 – It has also been said that the benefits that alcohol is said to bring to the heart come from the fruits and other substances from which alcohol is made, such as grapes, apples, etc. Based on this, these benefits may be obtained from these foods in the forms in which Allah has permitted them, without making alcohol from them.
4 – We should weigh up those benefits to the heart – if they are true – against the destructive effects that alcohol has on health, which you can find out about by consulting any medical reference work that speaks of addiction to alcohol and its destructive effects on man.
Some people in the past, like some of their counterparts nowadays, believed that wine had some health benefits, even using it as a remedy. The Prophet (peace be upon him) however clarified the reality of the situation stating in a hadeeth narrated by Muslim:
“It is not a remedy, rather it is a disease.”
According to the eastern proverb, “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.” In the first cup he may have found some ‘benefit’ without getting drunk and some relaxation and pleasure without losing his mind. After further drinking the situation changes, when the body gets used to alcohol, it needs to increase the dosage time after time. In order to maintain the relaxation and pleasure that it found in the first cup a person would start to drink more regularly, and his desire for alcohol would grow stronger. The only guarantee against addiction is not to drink alcohol at all. Hence we can see the wisdom of Islam in forbidding a little or a lot of alcohol, because a little is the first step towards a lot, and a little added to a little becomes a lot.