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Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

Khamr is the drink prohibited in the Koran. The word khamr is derived from the verb khamara means it veiled or covered or concealed a thing, and wine is called khamr because it veils and shrouds the intellect of man. The word khamr occurs six times in the Koran, once in subjective case (5:90), twice in objective case (12:36, 41) and thrice in genitive case (2:219, 5:91, 47:15).

Khamr is differently explained as meaning what intoxicates, of the expressed juice of grapes, or the juice of grapes when it has effervesced and thrown up froth and become freed therefrom and still, or it has common application to intoxicating expressed juice of anything, or any intoxicating thing that clouds or obscures the intellect. The general application is the more correct, because khamr was forbidden when there was not in Medina any khamr of grapes, the beverage of its inhabitants being prepared only from dates. It was sometimes prepared also from grains. The wider sense of khamr, as prepared from other things besides grapes, is borne out by the Koran (16:67). According to a report, wine, when prohibited, was made of five things, grapes, dates, wheat, barley and honey (Bukhari, 74:4). Hence, khamr is intoxicating liquor prepared from anything.

Intoxicating liquors are first spoken of in deprecatory terms towards the close of the Meccan period: “And of the fruits of the palms and the grapes – you obtain from them intoxication and goodly provision” (16:67). Intoxication is here spoken of in contrast with goodly provision. The provision against their use, however, belongs to the Medina period: “They ask you about intoxicating liquors and games of chance. Say, in both of them is great sin and some advantages for men, and their sin is greater than their advantage” (2:219). This was the first state in the prohibition of wine, but it was more of a recommendatory nature as it only says that the disadvantages of the use of intoxicating liquors preponderate over their advantages. The next stage was that in which the Muslims were prohibited from coming to mosque while drunk: “O you who believe! Do not go near prayer when you are intoxicated (sukara) until you know what you say” (4:43). Finally, intoxicating liquors were definitely forbidden: “O you who believe! Intoxicants and games of chance and sacrificing to stones set up and the divining arrows are only an uncleanness, the devil’s work; shun it therefore that you may be successful” (5:90). These three stages of the prohibition are clearly mentioned in a hadith (Masnad, 2:351). On the last of these occasions, a proclamation was made by the order of the Prophet that wines was prohibited, and people who heard, emptied their stores of wine immediately (Bukhari, 74:2; 46:21), so that wine flowed in the streets of Medina (Masnad, 3:217).

As wine is prohibited on account of its intoxication, it is stated in a hadith that every intoxicant is prohibited (kullu muskir-in haram-un) (Bukhari, 64:61). The Prophet has named wine as “the fountainhead of evils” (ummul khaba’ith), “the origin of all sorts of atrocities” (ummul fawahish), “the most heinous of major sins” (akbarul kaba’ir), “the head of all errors and lapses” (ra’su kulli khatia) and “the key to all evils and mischiefs” (miftahu kulli sharr). The linguist al-Zajjaj (d. 311/923) in Lisan al-Arab defines khamr as that which covers the mind (ma satara ala l-aql). Bhang, charas, opium or heroin and all other intoxicating things are therefore also forbidden; only a drink that does not intoxicate is allowed. The Prophet was asked about bit - an intoxicating beverage made of honey. He replied, “Every drink that intoxicates is prohibited” (Ibid. 74:3). It is related that Abu Usaid once invited the Prophet to a wedding feast at which his wife, the bride herself, served food, and at this feast a beverage of dried dates, over which only one night had passed, was used and there was no objection (Ibid. 74:8), because it had not become intoxicant. Malik bin Anas was asked about fuqqa – a beverage made of barley or a kind of beer, and he said, “So long as it does not intoxicate there is no harm” (Ibid. 74:3). Nabidh, or fresh juice of grapes over which not more than a night or a day has passed, is also allowed. Thus a certain people is spoken of as having come to the Prophet and asked him what to do with their grapes, and he told them to dry them and then make use of their juice in the evening if they were wet in the morning, and in the morning if they were wet in the evening (Abu Daud, 25:10). And when a beverage becomes intoxicant, even a small quantity of it, that could not intoxicate, is not allowed: “That of which a large quantity intoxicants, even small quantity of it is prohibited (Ibid. 25:5). The question whether a very small quantity may be given as a medicine is quite different. It is true that there is a hadith according to which one, Tariq bin Suwaid, was ordered by the Prophet not to make wine, and when he said that he made it to be used as a medicine, the Prophet replied that it was not a medicine (dawa) but a disease (da) (al-Muslim, 36:3). But this prohibition was, in all likelihood, directed only against the making of wine, and as Nawawi explains, in a serious case, when life was in danger, wine could be used to save life, for even carrion and flesh of swine could be used in such a case. It may be added here that trading in wine was also prohibited by the Prophet (Bukhari, 34:24).

There are manifold reasons for prohibition of intoxicating liquor. Drinking is a serious crime. Drunkenness often leads to the loss of senses, which is responsible for commission of various anti-social crimes. It is extremely harmful as it kills man’s capacity to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil, virtue and vice. A drunkard in his intoxication performs such acts, which results in enmity and hatred, and disturbs peace and tranquility of family and society. It not only destroys man’s health but also his wealth, and kills his sense of dignity. Alcohol contains no minerals or proteins; 90% of it goes directly into the bloodstream. According to Prof. Harry Seffel, head of African Diseases at Wits University, Soth Africa: “Ninety percent of nutritional problems among urban blacks are related to alcoholism.” Dr. McCable told the Congress that she “was witnessing the white man’s alcoholic problem in the urban black patients.” She also said that people ran the risk of early death from gastric, liver or pancreatic failure or cancer if alcoholic intake was not stopped. To be intoxicated is to be poisoned. The word toxic is from the Latin root toxicus and Greek root toxikon, which means poison. The word In means into or within. Concatenated with Cant, which means tilt, slant or talk hypocritically, we get the word intoxicant, which means poisoned within, mentally titled and hypocritical. Dr. Charles Richet of Paris says, “Alcohol paralyzes the senses, makes one lurch and vomit, extinguishes the feeble glimmer of reason, which flickers in our poor minds. It soon overcomes the strongest man, and turns him into a raging beast, who with empurpled face and bloodshot eyes, bellows forth oaths and threats against his surroundings and insults imaginary enemies. Never any animal species, not among pigs, nor jackals, nor donkeys, is such ignominy to be found.”

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