Islamic reform of alcoholism

Umari Stambuli
Holy Quráan Speaks
Their social life revolved around the drinking orgies. They believed that drinking would provide escape from deep- rooted personal insecurities and the instability of family life, just as is believed by many people today.

Pre-Islamic drinking habits

THE pre-Islamic Arabs consumed alcohol more than in any other society of their time. Their existence was literally centred on upholding their tribal honour.

Arabic poetry, replete with songs glorifying excessive drinking as an insignia of manhood, would enthral them in times of tribal wars and display manly romantic passions in times of peace.

Wine and all sorts of alcoholic beverages were prepared and used on any and every occasion and function. Countless names were coined to describe the various grades and shades of brews. They spent hours on end indulging in the consumption of these brews with the notion that “life” was really and truly meant for this only.

Their social life revolved around the drinking orgies. They believed that drinking would provide escape from deep-rooted personal insecurities and the instability of family life, just as is believed by many people today.

Effects on family structures

The unstable family structure during the pre-Islamic period was largely due to general low esteem for women. Women were not accorded any significance or importance in society and in fact were regarded as second class or low class members of community. Divorce was common; prostitution and promiscuity were rampant.

Modern psychologists and psychoanalysts consider alcohol dependence the result of insecurities of childhood deprivation, emotional traumas and broken families – traits that were as common in pre-Islamic families as they are now.

Needless to say that in modern times, besides the amount of time, the amount of money (hard-earned income) spent on drinking habits also creates a tremendous amount of strain within marriages. Basic needs and necessities of the spouse and children (dependants) are forsaken in order to sustain these ill-habits.

More often than not, the first point of call after receiving the weekly or monthly pay is the drinking hole and only if any amount remains thereafter, will it be used for food, utilities, clothing, fees, etcetera. In fact, it has become almost normal in the life of many a drinker to borrow money for both extra drinking and even attending to those very basic necessities. How then is one expected to succeed economically and how does one expect the dependants to have an improved lifestyle?

 Islamic reforms

Islam is unique in its successful eradication of alcoholism in a people in whom excessive drinking was an established tradition and a psychological necessity in 7th century pre-Islamic Arabia. This unequalled phenomenon has continued in Muslim masses and therefore, its discussion is very pertinent in relation to our modern-day alcohol-saturated world.

The lessons learnt for developing willpower with negligible relapses in the change wrought by Islam towards alcohol is highlighted through the summarised points below.

Well organised plan for gradual change

The Islamic prohibition on alcohol was a logical final step of a well- organised plan executed over a period of three years, communicated by the Holy Qur’aan and put into practice by the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him). Thus, the heavy and problem drinkers were gradually weaned off this habit.

We could assume this to have some resemblance to the present-day systematic desensitising hierarchy used in behavioural therapy.

 Whole hearted readiness of Believers

However, the most important factor was the Believers whole-hearted readiness to give up drinking when the Divine command came. Because of their firm belief in the Almighty and the great love and attachment to Him that they had developed by that time, this command was enough for them to stop drinking instantaneously, throw away any and all drinks.

And to break up or empty existing pots, skins full and other containers of fermented date, palm, honey and grape in every gathering and household until the streets of the City of Madeenah flowed like streams of alcohol as a testimony to the greatest anti-alcohol movement ever witnessed by humankind. It was an extraordinary exhibition of willpower installed by faith.

To be continued

 

For further information on Islam or a free copy of the Holy Qur’aan, please contact: Majlisul Ulama Zimbabwe, Council of Islamic Scholars Publications Department, P.O. Box W93, Waterfalls, Harare. Telephone: 04-614078 / 614004, Fax : 04-614003. E-mail: [email protected]

 

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  • Wayfarer

    But Islam doesn’t eradicate alcoholism, it eradicates alcohol, period! Such an approach takes away decision-making from the individual and assumes every individual is incapable of consuming alcoholic beverages responsibly. Islam would criminalise our African cultural consumption of alcohol with its ban, and I don’t see how such a paternalistic approach is liberating to any free thinking adult who has a right to decide over his mind and body. I know there is an aggressive campaign to spread Islam to predominantly non-Islamic societies like Zimbabwe, but already the fault lines become apparent as a result of Islam’s non-negotiable paternalistic attitude to certain cultural norms and sensibilities.