(14) Islam’s command: Keep away from intoxicants

Islam’s command:  Keep away from intoxicants

By:  Shaik Kadir

“If you drink, don’t drive.” Singaporeans are familiar with this slogan which was initiated in 2008 by the Singapore Traffic Police in its annual anti-drink campaign because obviously accidents and death tolls arising from this offence was becoming a grave concern. Similar messages also come from the Singapore Police Force and the Singapore Road Safety Council.

Drink driving is a serious offence as it endangers the driver himself, the vehicle’s passengers, as well as others on the road. Drivers who have consumed alcohol are needlessly and recklessly putting lives at risk. As such, there are severe penalties for drink driving.

Alcohol is dangerous. Every country has seen its toll in the form of family feud, road accidents, traffic- and air-rages, and public fights and disturbance, resulting in their arrests, not to mention the shame it brings to themselves and their families, relatives and friends. Reputation is at stake.

In Sydney, a series of drunken assaults prompted calls to eradicate its drinking culture. An article, “Sydney cracks down on booze” (The Sunday Times, 29 December 2013), mentions that “Australia has one of the world’s highest rates of binge drinking and beer consumption among the young.” Dr Alex Wodak, from the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, said that alcohol is “too cheap and it’s too available” and called for “the politicians to do something to protect the community.”

Bupa, an international health-care group, states that alcohol is an agent that poses long-term health risks, such as cancer and those who drink and smoke have higher risk of cancer, coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke, liver diseases, mental health among other ailments.

So, the best advice would be: “Don’t drink at all”. Thanks to Islam, which gave this advice more that 1,400 years ago, Muslims by and large have refrained from alcohol consumption.

In Islam, alcohol is haram (prohibited). In the Quran, alcohol is mentioned as an intoxicant and intoxicant refers to any agent that can make a person addicted to it in the long run.

Gambling is also haram in Islam.

And because both intoxicants and gambling can lead to social problems, both are mentioned together in the same verse in the Quran as being haram. Both are closely associated; both share similar characteristics and consequences. Gambling is also addictive and gives rise to problems similar to those of intoxicants.

God says: “O you who believe! Intoxicants and gambling are an abomination of Satan’s handiwork: Avoid such abomination that you may prosper. Satan’s plan is to excite enmity and hatred between you with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of God and from solat (prayers).” (Quran, 5:90–91)

The Quran uses the phrase “abomination of Satan’s handiwork” to refer to their possible dire consequences such as divorces, broken homes, fights and loss of dignity. Intoxicants and gambling can affect not only the abuser himself, but also his family members, social relationship and the society at large. Many marriages have broken down; many matured, even educated, people have ruined their lives. Many families have been shamed because of their spouses or children’s indulgence in alcohol, drugs and gambling.

Over the last 50 years numerous experts have commented on the ills of alcohol. For instance, Dr Tan Chue Tin, consultant psychiatrist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, has this to say: “Alcohol does two things to a person. It dissolves moral constraints and social inhibitions. Second, it diminishes judgement.” (The New Paper, 9 April 2006)

Social drinking, that is, taking small amounts of alcoholic beverages, is also haram. This is because it is easy to get indulged in it at social gatherings; and easy to turn to it to drown worries. All hard drinkers, problem drinkers and alcoholics indeed started out innocently with small amounts as social drinkers. As a warning to this, the Prophet said: “What intoxicates when taken in big quantity is also haram to consume in small amounts.”

In a Forum letter, “Combat alcohol addiction…” (The Straits Times, 24 December, 2013), Liew Kai Khlun, makes a number of suggestions to combat the problem of drinking because he says: “Singaporeans in the heartland have been suffering in silence from the disturbances caused by uncontrolled and irresponsible drinking.”

Pointing to his HDB estate as an example, he says: “Residents are subjected to anti-social behavior ranging from noise and fights among drinkers to people urinating in public and domestic abuse. We need…a more holistic framework in dealing with alcoholism in Singapore.”

The term “intoxicants” as mentioned in the Quran refers to any agent that causes the mind to befog and lose the ability to reason. Thus, “intoxicants” not only refers to alcoholic drinks but also drugs, cocaine, marijuana and cannabis. They are all haram in Islam.

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