Al-Baqarah · Juz 2 · Qur'an Tafseer

The Prohibition of Alcohol and Gambling

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In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
alcohol and gambling
Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayah 219 (Part 1)

This ayah was in response to another important question asked by the Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum. From their questions, we learn that the stronger one becomes in God-consciousness [Taqwa] the more he is concerned about his emaan.

Here, the question is about wine and gambling which has been answered by Allah Almighty by pointing out that the use and practice of these two things breeds major sins. Although people may also get some benefits from them, the sin they release is far too grave than the benefit they give. Therefore, they are worth abandoning.

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The word khamr [الْخَمْر] is from the root kha-meem-ra and it means cover, conceal or veil. The word maysir [مَيْسِر] is from the root ya-seen-ra and it means become gentle, easy or submissive. It is so easy to draw secrets from an intoxicated person or make him do something that he would have not done in consciousness.

Drinking was a common practice in the days of jahiliyyah [pre-Islamic era]. Without having any knowledge of their inherent evils, the common people were infatuated with these addictions. However, there were still some people that were on the Fitrah [natural discourse] and stayed away from these evils.

One day ‘Umar al-Khattab, Mu’adh ibn Jabl and some other companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum approached the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and spoke to him about wine and gambling. They said that these two addictions not only spoil man’s reason but also cause financial loss and sought his advice in this connection. It was in answer to their question that this ayah was revealed.

[Alcohol’s Effects on Human Body]

This is the first ayah in which the Muslims have been stopped from wine and gambling. This teaches an important tip for counseling others. When doing da’wah we should gradually melt others’ hearts and refrain from being too rigid.

The word ithm or sin includes everything that may become a preliminary to sin. For instance, wine dulls senses and weakens the power of reason, something basic to human excellence. Human reason acts as a brake against human indulgence in evil deeds. Once reason is blocked out, the door is opened for all sorts of evil deeds.

It will be noted that drinking has not been clearly identified as something unlawful in this ayah, but its evils have been pointed out that may lead man into many sinful activities. It takes the form of a good counsel urging man to abandon it. That is why, soon after the revelation of this ayah, some Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum took this so seriously that they stopped drinking then and there while others thought since the ayah does not declare wine as haram they could continue drinking.

Consequently, so they did, until came a day when ‘Abdur Rahman ibn ‘Awf radhiAllahu ‘anhu invited some of his friends from among the Companions to his home. When dinner was over, everybody started drinking wine as usual. In the meantime, the Maghrib Salah time came. Everybody got up and selected one of them to lead the prayers. The Imam began his recitation from the Qur’an, but drunk as he was, he recited the Surah all wrong. Thereupon, the second step against drinking was taken and the following ayah was revealed:

“O you who have believed, do not approach prayer while you are intoxicated…” [an-Nisa 4: 43]

[Tafseer Surah An-Nisa Ayah 43]

Here, drinking was declared to be absolutely unlawful at the time of the prayer. Some of the Companions completely stopped drinking deducing that something which stops one from prayer cannot hold any good at all. But still the issue of alcohol was not clear. Later a third ayah was revealed on the subject that completely prohibited alcohol consumption and gambling.

“O you who have believed, indeed, intoxicants, gambling, (sacrificing on) stone alters (to other than Allah), and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful.” [al-Ma’idah 5: 90]

[Tafseer Surah Al-Ma’idah Ayah 90]

Imam Ahmad recorded that Abu Maysarah said that ‘Umar radhiAllahu ‘anhu once said, “O Allah! Give us a clear ruling regarding Al-Khamr!” Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala sent down this ayah of Surah Al-Baqarah (2: 219).

‘Umar was then summoned and the ayah was recited to him. Yet, he still said, “O Allah! Give us a clear ruling regarding Al-Khamr.” Then, the ayah in Surah An-Nisa’ was revealed (4: 43).

Then, when the prayer was called for, a person used to herald on behalf of Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, “No drunk person should attend the prayer.” ‘Umar was summoned again and the ayah was recited to him. Yet, he still said, “O Allah! Give us a clear ruling regarding Al-Khamr.” Then, the ayah that is in Surah Al-Ma’idah (5: 90) was revealed, ‘Umar was again summoned and the ayah was recited to him. When he reached:

فَهَلْ أَنْتُمْ مُّنتَهُونَ

“So, will you not then abstain?” (5:91) he said, “We did abstain, we did abstain.”

[Tafseer Surah Al-Ma’idah Ayah 91]

About alcohol, ‘Umar radhiAllahu ‘anhu said, “It includes all what intoxicates the mind.”

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “In them is great sin, and (yet, some) benefit for people.” As for the harm that the Khamr and gambling cause, it effects the religion. As for their benefit, it is material, including benefit for the body, digesting the food, getting rid of the excrements, sharpening the mind, bringing about a joyous sensation and financially benefiting from their sale. Also, (their benefit includes) earnings through gambling that one uses to spend on his family and on himself. Yet, these benefits are outweighed by the clear harm that they cause which affects the mind and the religion. This is why Allah said, “…but their sin is greater than their benefit.”

Social Ill-Effects of Gambling

Gambling turns a pauper into a millionaire overnight. It is the death of human morality where one person is sucked dry of his wealth and another man becomes rich. Man, who should be an agent of good stoops to the level of a beast, deprived of any sympathy. He sees his life in the death of another and his delight in another’s distress.

[Eat Not One Another’s Property Unjustly]

It is contrary to trade where two parties transact on mutually agreed term resulting in profits for both of them. In trade, the wealth keeps circulating whereas in gambling the wealth is confined in one hand only.

Gambling is an addiction where one gives up a normal, decent livelihood to try his luck in making more money in one night. Since nothing is guaranteed, the man, in hopes of making a quick profit, loses much. He loses his sleep, peace, his wealth and eventually loved ones. It is easy money – a concept shunned in Islam.

One should be careful about their earning and not fall for marketing gimmicks. Gambling does not only take place at a casino rather it goes by many names such as lottery, and many banking and corporate schemes. Instead of falling for these one should use his physical and mental capabilities to increase his earnings.

[The Powerball Lottery, Good Intentions and Pure Earnings]

These become-rich-quick schemes cause mutual disputes, hatred and animosity among families and friends and result in the demise of a civilized society. How many people have been murdered because of their wealth? How many people go to sleep hungry because a large portion of wealth is concentrated in a few hands only while others do not have even enough to buy a piece of bread?

Wine and gambling are such devastating addictions that one not only loses his peace, health and loved ones but also becomes negligent of his prayers and remembrance of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala protect us from falling in these sins and allow us to use our money in the right endeavors, aameen.

رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيم
“Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed You are the Hearing, the Knowing.” [Al-Baqarah 2: 127]
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