Wine: Allah’s Provision or Shaitan’s Abomination?
Muslim: You cannot point out a single contradiction in the Qur’an.
Response: Muhammad held contradictory views regarding the benefit of wine and other alcoholic drinks.
In the early days of his mission, Muhammad claimed the strong drink made from dates or grapes was a sign of Allah’s goodly provision to humanity. He said it was an evident proof and a visible sign of Allah’s goodness to a person who had spiritual wisdom, that is, a believer knows Allah’s goodness when they consider the blessings of wine. Initially, Muslims were permitted to drink the fermented beverages of dates or grapes. This can be seen from the following verse from the Qur’an.
And from the fruits of date-palms and grapes, you derive strong drink (this was before the order of the prohibition of the alcoholic drinks) and a goodly provision. Verily, therein is indeed a sign for people who have wisdom. An-Nahl 16:67 1
The words within the parentheses were here added by the translators of the Qur’an. The translator warns the reader that this verse is not to be obeyed, because it has been replaced (i.e., abrogated) by another verse in the Qur’an. When there is a contradiction in the Qur’an, the theory of abrogation 2 (naskh) is invoked, and the last verse on the topic takes precedence over prior verses. Apparently, Allah and Muhammad flip-flopped quickly on the advisability of wine.
Afterwards, Muhammad said that alcoholic drink had both good and bad features. In the first verse, there is nothing negative written about wine. However, Muhammad gradually was changing his mind about wine, so here he said that wine had some benefits as well as some negative features. He seemed undecided on the issue. He told them not to spend more money than they should on wine and gambling.
They ask you (O Muhammad SAW) concerning alcoholic drink and gambling. Say: “In them is a great sin, and (some) benefit for men, but the sin of them is greater than their benefit.” And they ask you what they ought to spend. Say: “That which is beyond your needs.” Thus Allâh makes clear to you His Laws in order that you may give Thought.” al-Baqarah 2:219. 3
As time went on, he grew weary of his followers coming to prayer in a drunken state. It is not too hard to imagine the frustration that Muhammad must have experienced when he tried to lead his followers in prayer while his faithful companions (Sahabah) were too inebriated to follow his guidance. While praying, they were babbling words, not knowing what they were saying in their drunkenness. To solve the problem, Muhammad claimed that his earlier revelations in the unchanging Qur’an needed to be changed and that Allah had given him a new revelation, commanding his disciples to come to prayers sober enough to know what they were saying. Muhammad must have wondered why Allah had said wine was a ‘goodly provision’ and ‘a sign for people who have wisdom’, as he listened to his drunken babblers praying without any wisdom in the mosque (masjid).
O you who believe! Approach not AsSalât (the prayer) when you are in a drunken state until you know (the meaning) of what you utter, nor when you are in a state of Janâba, (i.e. in a state of sexual impurity and have not yet taken a bath) except when travelling on the road (without enough water, or just passing through a mosque), till you wash your whole body. And if you are ill, or on a journey, or one of you comes after answering the call of nature, or you have been in contact with women (by sexual relations) and you find no water, perform Tayammum with clean earth and rub therewith your faces and hands (Tayammum). Truly, Allâh is Ever OftPardoning, OftForgiving. An-Nisa 4:43.
The last words of Muhammad on the topic banned all alcoholic drinks because they are an abomination of Satan. These verses prohibited completely the drinking of any alcoholic beverages. Muhammad was upset with the sight of Muslims being drunken gamblers who were hating and fighting each other. In addition, drunkenness was keeping them from attending prayers. Previously, Muhammad said they may come to prayers only when they were sober. So, if they weren’t sober, they had a divine reason to skip the regular prayers. With the prohibition of all alcohol, Muhammad took this excuse away.
O you who believe! Intoxicants (all kinds of alcoholic drinks), gambling, AlAnsâb, and AlAzlâm (arrows for seeking luck or decision) are an abomination of Shaitân’s (Satan) handiwork. So avoid (strictly all) that (abomination) in order that you may be successful. Shaitân (Satan) wants only to excite enmity and hatred between you with intoxicants (alcoholic drinks) and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allâh and from As-Salât (the prayer). So, will you not then abstain? Al-Ma’idah 5:90-91
In conclusion, at first the Qur’an claims that alcoholic drinks are a goodly provision and a sign of Allah’s beneficence to all humankind. However, in the end, the Qur’an claims that alcoholic drinks are an abomination of Satan. So, there is a clear contradiction between the claim that alcoholic drinks are a sign of Allah’s bountifulness; and, when he later claimed, alcoholic drinks are an abomination of Shaitan.
Yet, Muhammad promised his faithful followers that they will enjoy rivers of pure sealed wine in Paradise. These rivers of wine were, and they still are, a powerful motivation to murder in the Cause of Allah (i.e., Jihad). This suggests too that, in the beginning of Muhammad’s military career in Medina, he may have found that, when his soldiers were under the influence of alcohol, they were more ruthless soldiers who were more willing to slaughter their innocent victims than when they were sober.
Verily, Al-Abrâr (the pious who fear Allâh and avoid evil) will be in delight (Paradise). On thrones, looking (at all things). You will recognise in their faces the brightness of delight. They will be given to drink pure sealed wine. The last thereof (that wine) will be the smell of musk, and for this let (all) those strive who want to strive (i.e. hasten earnestly to the obedience of Allâh). It (that wine) will be mixed with Tasnîm. A spring whereof drink those nearest to Allâh. Al-Mutaffifîn 83:22-28.
It is commonly known that alcohol reduces a person’s moral conscience and inhibition to do evil deeds. So, it is quite possible that in his early militant days Muhammad found that wine diminished the ability of his soldiers to take moral responsibility for their evil deeds. Perhaps, alcohol numbed their natural human feelings towards their innocent victims who pleaded for mercy from their swords. These cries for mercy fell heedlessly upon the dulled conscience of Muhammad’s soldiers who had been taught that the bloody sword serves in Allah’s Cause.
However, later, when Muhammad’s power was established, and he had the responsibility of governing the nascent Muslim nation and of guiding its religious ritual, it was disadvantageous to have Muslims in a drunken state (see An-Nisa 4:43). So, in the end, Muhammad banned all alcohol, claiming it was an abomination of Shaitan. However, he was not brave enough to ban wine for all time. He promised Muslims that paradise flowed with rivers of wonderful sweet-smelling wine and those who strived in Allah’s cause will enjoy its refreshing delights in the future.
In conclusion, the Qur’an states that wine is a sign of blessing from Allah and then states that it is an abomination of Shaitan. This is a contradiction for rational thinkers. However, Muslims apply doctrine of abrogation to gloss over the internal inconsistencies of the Qur’an. If Allah were the Unchanging One, then why did Allah have to abrogate portions of His own Qur’an so frequently?
Last edited 07/21/2002