Examining Muslim Arguments against The Bible
in light of Islams Gradual Prohibition of Wine Consumption
Muslims never grow weary of criticizing those passages of the Holy Bible that speak of prophets, men, or even women that either got drunk or consumed intoxicants. For instance, Muslims pick on the stories of Noah getting drunk, or Lots daughters getting their father intoxicated so they could sleep with him, as a means of attacking the inspiration and purity of the Holy Bible.
They forget that the Holy Bible is an inspired record which accurately reports events as they happened and doesnt simply try to cover up the mistakes and sins of people. The recording of these stories no more proves that the Holy Bible condones such acts than the reporting of rape or murder on the news or newspapers implies that the anchorpersons or writers condone such acts simply because they make mention of such atrocities.
This issue has already been thoroughly addressed in these articles (*, *), and we suggest that our readers consult them for more details.
What we would like to do here is to show how inconsistent the Muslim criticism of the Holy Bible is by using this same argument against the Quran.
There are approximately four Quranic passages that speak of the issue of intoxicants and wine, one of which speaks quite positively of intoxicants. In fact, if a person were to stick solely with the Quran (and not consult any Muslim commentary) then he/she would be greatly confused regarding whether Islam permits or prohibits intoxicants. For more details please read this article.
In this paper we will quote these passages and provide some Islamic commentary to explain their alleged background, i.e. the reasons why these verses were "sent down" to the Muslims. From there we will conclude with some remarks and analysis, helping to put this all into perspective.
The commentary that we will be using is the online English version of Tafsir Ibn Kathir which is based on the ten-volume translation done by a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur-Rahman Mubarakpuri. It is published by Darussalam Publishers & Distributors located in Riyadh, Houston, New York, and Lahore.
And We have not revealed to you the Book except that you may make clear to them that about which they differ, and (as) a guidance and a mercy for a people who believe. And Allah has sent down water from the cloud and therewith given life to the earth after its death; most surely there is a sign in this for a people who would listen. And most surely there is a lesson for you in the cattle; We give you to drink of what is in their bellies -- from betwixt the feces and the blood-- pure milk, easy and agreeable to swallow for those who drink. And of the fruits of the palms and the grapes -- you obtain from them intoxication (sakaran) and goodly provision; most surely there is a sign in this for a people who ponder. And your Lord revealed to the bee saying: Make hives in the mountains and in the trees and in what they build: Then eat of all the fruits and walk in the ways of your Lord submissively. There comes forth from within it a beverage of many colours, in which there is healing for men; most surely there is a sign in this for a people who reflect. S. 16:64-69 Shakir
(And from the fruits of date palms and grapes, you derive strong drink) This indicates that it was permissible to drink it before it was forbidden. It also indicates that strong drink (i.e., intoxicating drink) derived from dates is the same as strong drink derived from grapes. Also forbidden are strong drinks derived from wheat, barley, corn and honey, as is explained in detail in the Sunnah
(strong drink and a goodly provision.) Ibn `Abbas said: "Strong drink is the product of these two fruits that is forbidden, and the good provision is what is permitted of them." According to another report: "Strong drink is its unlawful, and the goodly provision is its lawful," referring to the fruits when they are dried, like dates and raisins, or products derived from them such as molasses, vinegar and wine (of grapes, dates) which are permissible to drink before they become strong (becomes alcoholic), as was stated in the Sunnah. (Source)
They ask thee concerning wine (al-khamri) and gambling. Say: "In them is great sin, AND SOME PROFIT, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit." They ask thee how much they are to spend; Say: "What is beyond your needs." Thus doth Allah Make clear to you His Signs: In order that ye may consider. S. 2:219 A. Yusuf Ali
The Gradual Prohibition of Khamr (Alcoholic Drink)
Imam Ahmad recorded that Abu Maysarah said that `Umar once said, "O Allah! Give us a clear ruling regarding Al-Khamr!" Allah sent down the Ayah of Surat Al-Baqarah
(They ask you (O Muhammad) concerning alcoholic drink and gambling. Say: "In them is a great sin...)
`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, this Ayah that is in Surat An-Nisa' was revealed
(O you who believe! Approach not As-Salah (the prayer) when you are in a drunken state.) (4:43)
Then, when the prayer was called for, a person used to herald on behalf of Allah's Messenger, "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 Surat Al-Ma'idah was revealed, `Umar was again summoned and the Ayah was recited to him. When he reached
(So, will you not then abstain) (5:91) he said, "We did abstain, we did abstain." This is also the narration that Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi and An-Nasai collected in their books. `Ali bin Al-Madini and At-Tirmidhi said that the chain of narrators for this Hadith is sound and authentic. We will mention this Hadith again along with what Imam Ahmad collected by Abu Hurayrah Allah's saying in Surat Al-Ma'idah
(Intoxicants and gambling, and Al-Ansab, and Al-Azlam are an abomination of Satan's handiwork. So avoid (strictly all) that (abomination) in order that you may be successful.) (5:90) Allah said
(They ask you (O Muhammad ) concerning alcoholic drinks and gambling.)
As for Al-Khamr, `Umar bin Khattab, the Leader of the faithful, used to say, "It includes all what intoxicates the mind." We will also mention this statement in the explanation of Surat Al-Ma'idah, along with the topic of gambling.
(Say: In them is a great sin, and (some) benefits for men.)
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 the sin of them is greater than their benefit.)
This Ayah was the beginning of the process of prohibiting Khamr, not explicitly, but it only implied this meaning. So when this Ayah was recited to `Umar, he still said, "O Allah! Give us a clear ruling regarding Al-Khamr." Soon after, Allah sent down a clear prohibition of Khamr in Surat Al-Ma'idah
(O you who believe! Intoxicants (all kinds of alcoholic drinks), and gambling, and Al-Ansab, and Al-Azlam are an abomination of Shaytan's handiwork. So avoid (strictly all) that (abomination) in order that you may be successful. Shaytan wants only to excite enmity and hatred between you with intoxicants (alcoholic drinks) and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah and from As-Salah (the prayer). So, will you not then abstain) (5:90, 91)
We will mention this subject, by the will of Allah, when we explain Surat Al-Ma'idah. Ibn `Umar, Ash-Sha`bi, Mujahid, Qatadah, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas and `Abdur-Rahman bin Aslam stated that the first Ayah revealed about Khamr was
(They ask you about Khamr and gambling. Say: "In them there is great sin.") (2:219)
Then, the Ayah in Surat An-Nisa' was revealed (on this subject) and then the Ayah in Surat Al-Ma'idah which prohibited Khamr. (Source)
O you who believe! do not go near prayer when you are Intoxicated (sukara) UNTIL YOU KNOW (WELL) WHAT YOU SAY, nor when you are under an obligation to perform a bath -- unless (you are) travelling on the road-- until you have washed yourselves; and if you are sick, or on a journey, or one of you come from the privy or you have touched the women, and you cannot find water, betake yourselves to pure earth, then wipe your faces and your hands; surely Allah is Pardoning, Forgiving. S. 4:43 Shakir
Causes of Its Revelation
Ibn Abi Hatim has recorded some reports about the incident of its revelation: Sa`d said, "Four Ayat were revealed concerning me. A man from the Ansar once made some food and invited some Muhajirin and Ansar men to it, and we ate and drank until we became intoxicated. We then boasted about our status. Then a man held a camel's bone and injured Sa`d's nose, which was scarred ever since. This occurred before Al-Khamr was prohibited, and Allah later revealed
(O you who believe! Approach not As-Salat (the prayer) when you are in a drunken state). Muslim recorded this Hadith, and the collectors of the Sunan recorded it, with the exception of Ibn Majah.
Ibn Abi Hatim narrated that `Ali bin Abi Talib said, "Abdur-Rahman bin `Awf made some food to which he invited us and served some alcohol to drink. When we became intoxicated, and the time for prayer came, they asked someone to lead us in prayer. He recited `Say, "O disbelievers! I do not worship that which you worship, but we worship that which you worship [refer to the correct wording of the Surah: 109]." Allah then revealed
(O you who believe! Do not approach Salah when you are in a drunken state until you know what you are saying). " This is the narration collected by Ibn Abi Hatim and At-Tirmidhi, who said "Hasan [Gharib] Sahih." Allah's statement
(until you know what you are saying) is the best description for when one is intoxicated, that is, when he does not know the meaning of what he is saying. When a person is drunk, he makes obvious mistakes in the recitation and will not be able to be humble during the prayer. Imam Ahmad recorded that Anas said that the Messenger of Allah said
(If one feels sleepy while he is praying, let him sleep for a while so that he knows the meaning of what he is saying.) This was also recorded by Al-Bukhari and An-Nasa'i. In some of the narrations of this Hadith, the Messenger said
( For he might want to ask for forgiveness, but instead curses himself!) (Source)
O ye who believe! Intoxicants (al-khamru) and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are AN ABOMINATION,- OF SATANS HANDWORK: eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper. Satan's plan is (but) to excite enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants (al-khamri) and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer: will ye not then abstain? S. 5:90-91 A. Yusuf Ali
Drinking Khamr (Intoxicants) and Maysir (Gambling)
Allah forbids His believing servants from consuming Khamr and Maysir which is gambling. Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that `Ali bin Abi Talib, the Leader of the Faithful, said that chess is a type of gambling. Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that `Ata', Mujahid and Tawus, or, two of them, said that every type of gambling, including children's playing with (a certain type of) nuts, is Maysir. Ibn `Umar said that Al-Maysir means gambling, and this is the same statement that Ad-Dahhak reported from Ibn `Abbas, who added, "They used to gamble during the time of Jahiliyyah, until Islam came. Allah then forbade them from this evil behavior." (Source)
Hadiths that Prohibit Khamr (Intoxicants)
Imam Ahmad recorded that Abu Hurayrah said, "There were three stages to prohibiting Khamr (intoxicants). When the Messenger of Allah migrated to Al-Madinah, the people were consuming alcohol and gambling, so they asked the Messenger of Allah about these things, Allah revealed
(They ask you about alcoholic drink and gambling. Say: "In them is a great sin, and (some) benefit for men.")[2:219], until the end of the Ayah. The people said, `They (intoxicants and gambling) were not prohibited for us. Allah only said
(In them is a great sin, and (some) benefit for men.)' So they went on drinking Khamr until one day, one of the emigrants lead his companions in the Maghrib prayer and mixed up the Ayat in his recitation. Thereafter, Allah sent down a tougher statement
(O you who believe! Approach not the Salah (the prayer) when you are in a drunken state until you know (the meaning of) what you utter.)[4:43] Then, the people would drink before the time of the prayer so that they would attend the prayer while sober. A firmer Ayah was later revealed
(O you who believe! Khamr, Maysir, Ansab, and Azlam are an abomination of Shaytan's handiwork. So avoid that in order that you may be successful.)[5:90-91] So they said, `We abstained, O Lord!' Later, some people said, `O Allah's Messenger! Some people died in the cause of Allah, while some others died in their beds, but they used to drink alcohol and indulge in gambling, which Allah has made a Rijs of the work of Shaytan.' So Allah sent down
(Those who believe and do righteous good deeds, there is no sin on them for what they ate ) [5:93], until the end of the Ayah. The Prophet said
(Had they been made impermissible for them, they would have abandoned them as you have abandoned them.) Ahmad recorded this Hadith. Imam Ahmad recorded that `Umar bin Al-Khattab said, "O Allah! Explain the verdict about Khamr to us clearly." The Ayah in Surat Al-Baqarah was revealed,
(They ask you about alcoholic drink and gambling. Say: "In them is a great sin.")[2:219] `Umar was summoned and this Ayah was recited to him, but he still said, "O Allah! Make the verdict of Khamr clear to us." Then the Ayah in Surat An-Nisa' was revealed
(O you who believe! Do not approach the Salah when you are in a drunken state.) [4:43] Thereafter, the Prophet had someone herald when it was time to pray, "Those in a drunken state are not to approach the prayer." `Umar was again summoned and the Ayah was recited to him, but he still said, "O Allah! Make the verdict concerning Khamr clear to us." Then, the Ayah in Surat Al-Ma'idah [5:91] was revealed, and `Umar was summoned and it was recited to him. When he reached the part of the Ayah that reads
(So, will you not then abstain) [5:91], `Umar said, "We abstained, we abstained." Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi, and An-Nasa'i recorded this Hadith. `Ali bin Al-Madini and At-Tirmidhi graded it Sahih. It is recorded in the Two Sahihs, that `Umar bin Al-Khattab said in a speech; while standing on the Minbar of the Messenger of Allah (in the Prophet's Masjid in Al-Madinah) "O people! The prohibition of Khamr was revealed; and Khamr was extracted from five things: From grapes, dates, honey, wheat and barley. Khamr is what intoxicates the mind." Al-Bukhari recorded that Ibn `Umar said, "The prohibition of Khamr was revealed when there were five kinds of intoxicants in Al-Madinah, besides what was produced from grapes." (Source)
Imam Ahmad recorded that Anas said, "I once was giving an alcoholic beverage to Abu `Ubaydah bin Al-Jarrah, `Ubayy bin Ka`b, Suhayl bin Bayda' and several of their friends meeting at Abu Talhah's house. When they were almost intoxicated, some Muslims came and said, `Did you not know that Khamr has been prohibited.' They said, `We'll wait and ask.' They then said, `O Anas! Spill the remaining alcohol out of your container.' By Allah! They never drank it again, and their Khamr at that time was made from unripe and normal dates." This is also recorded in the Two Sahihs. In another narration by Anas, "I was the butler of the people in the house of Abu Talhah when Khamr was prohibited, and in those days alcohol was made from unripe and normal dates. A caller then heralded, and Abu Talhah ordered me to see what it was about. So I found that a person was announcing that alcoholic drinks had been prohibited. Abu Talhah ordered me to go out and spill the wine. I went out and spilled it, and it flowed in the streets of Al-Madinah. Some people said, `Some people were killed and wine was still in their stomachs.' Later on, Allah's revelation came
(Those who believe and do righteous good deeds, there is no sin on them for what they ate ) [5:93]." Ibn Jarir recorded that Anas bin Malik said, "I was serving Abu Talhah, Abu `Ubaydah bin Al-Jarrah, Abu Dujanah, Mu`adh bin Jabal and Suhayl bin Bayda', until they became intoxicated from an alcoholic drink made of mixed unripe and normal dates. Then I heard someone herald, `Khamr has been made illegal.' So no one went in or out until we spilled the alcohol and broke its barrels. Some of us then performed ablution and others took a shower, and we wore some perfume. We then went out to the Masjid while the Messenger of Allah was reciting
(O you who believe! Khamr, Maysir, Ansab, and Azlam are only an abomination of Shaytan's handiwork. So avoid that...) [5:90], until
(So, will you not then abstain) [5:91]. A man asked, `O Allah's Messenger! What about those who died drinking it.' Allah sent down the verse
(Those who believe and do righteous good deeds, there is no sin on them for what they ate.) [5:93]." (Source)
Al-Hafiz Abu Bakr Al-Bayhaqi recorded that Sa`d said, "There were four Ayat revealed about Khamr..." He then said, "A man from Al-Ansar made some food and invited us. We drank Khamr before it was prohibited and became intoxicated, and thus started to boast about our status. The Ansar said that they were better, while Quraysh (the Muhajirin) said that they were better. So a man from the Ansar took a bone and struck Sa`d's nose with it and made a flesh wound on it. Ever since that happened, Sa`d's nose had a scar from that wound. The Ayah
(Intoxicants, gambling,) until
(So, will you not then abstain) was later revealed." Muslim recorded this Hadith. (Source)
Ash-Shafi`i narrated that Malik narrated that Nafi` said that Ibn `Umar said that the Messenger of Allah said
(Whoever drinks Khamr in the life of this world and does not repent from it, will be deprived of it in the Hereafter.) Al-Bukhari and Muslim recorded this Hadith. Muslim recorded that Ibn `Umar said that the Messenger of Allah said
(Every intoxicant is Khamr, and every intoxicant is unlawful. Whoever drinks Khamr and dies while addicted to it, without repenting from drinking it, will not drink it in the Hereafter.) `Abdur-Rahman bin Al-Harith bin Hisham said that he heard `Uthman bin `Affan saying, "Avoid Khamr, for it is the mother of all sins. There was a man before your time who used to worship Allah secluded from the people. Later, an evil woman loved him and sent her female servant to him saying that they wanted him to witness something. So he went with the servant. Whenever they went through the door, she locked it behind them, until he reached a beautiful woman with a young servant boy and some alcohol. She said to him, `By Allah! I did not invite you to be a witness for anything, but called you to have sex with me, kill this boy or drink this alcohol.' So she gave him some alcohol, and he kept asking for more until he [became intoxicated and] had sex with her and killed the boy. Therefore, avoid Khamr, because it is never combined with faith, but one of them is bound to expel the other (from the heart)." This was recorded by Al-Bayhaqi. This statement has an authentic chain of narration. Abu Bakr bin Abi Ad-Dunya recorded this statement in his book on the prohibition of intoxicants, but he related it from the Prophet. Relating it from `Uthman is more authentic, and Allah knows best. Ahmad bin Hanbal recorded that Ibn `Abbas said, "When Khamr was prohibited, some people said, `O Allah's Messenger! What about our brethren who died while still drinking Khamr' Allah sent down the Ayah
(Those who believe and do righteous good deeds, there is no sin on them for what they ate,) until the end of the Ayah. When the Qiblah (direction of the prayer) was changed (from Jerusalem to Makkah), some people asked, `O Allah's Messenger! What about our brethren who died while still praying toward Jerusalem' Allah sent down
(And Allah would never make your faith to be lost.)" [2:143] `Abdullah bin Mas`ud said that the Prophet said when the Ayah
(Those who believe and do righteous good deeds, there is no sin on them for what they ate, if they have Taqwa, and believe...) was revealed,
(I was told, that you are among them.) This is the narration that Muslim, At-Tirmidhi and An-Nasa'i collected. (Source)
With the foregoing in mind we highlight some of the key essential points of comparison between the Holy Bible and the Quran:
Another example of a Muslim humiliating himself as a result of being drunk was Hamza, Muhammad's uncle and foster-brother from wet-nursing:
I got a she-camel in my share of the war booty on the day (of the battle) of Badr, and the Prophet had given me a she-camel from the Khumus. When I intended to marry Fatima, the daughter of Allah's Apostle, I had an appointment with a goldsmith from the tribe of Bani Qainuqa' to go with me to bring Idhkhir (i.e. grass of pleasant smell) and sell it to the goldsmiths and spend its price on my wedding party. I was collecting for my she-camels equipment of saddles, sacks and ropes while my two she-camels were kneeling down beside the room of an Ansari man. I returned after collecting whatever I collected, to see the humps of my two she-camels cut off and their flanks cut open and some portion of their livers was taken out. When I saw that state of my two she-camels, I could not help weeping. I asked, "Who has done this?" The people replied, "Hamza bin Abdul Muttalib who is staying with some Ansari drunks in this house." I went away till I reached the Prophet and Zaid bin Haritha was with him. The Prophet noticed on my face the effect of what I had suffered, so the Prophet asked. "What is wrong with you?" I replied, "O Allah's Apostle! I have never seen such a day as today. Hamza attacked my two she-camels, cut off their humps, and ripped open their flanks, and he is sitting there in a house in the company of some drunks." The Prophet then asked for his covering sheet, put it on, and set out walking followed by me and Zaid bin Haritha till he came to the house where Hamza was. He asked permission to enter, and they allowed him, and they were drunk. Allah's Apostle started rebuking Hamza for what he had done, but Hamza was drunk and his eyes were red. Hamza looked at Allah's Apostle and then he raised his eyes, looking at his knees, then he raised up his eyes looking at his umbilicus, and again he raised up his eyes look in at his face. Hamza then said, "Aren't you but the slaves of my father?" Allah's Apostle realized that he was drunk, so Allah's Apostle retreated, and we went out with him. (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 53, Number 324)
I had a she-camel which I got in my share from the booty of the battle of Badr, and the Prophet had given me another she camel from the Khumus which Allah had bestowed on him that day. And when I intended to celebrate my marriage to Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet, I made an arrangement with a goldsmith from Bani Qainuqa 'that he should go with me to bring Idhkhir (i.e. a kind of grass used by gold-smiths) which I intended to sell to gold-smiths in order to spend its price on the marriage banquet. While I was collecting ropes and sacks of pack saddles for my two she-camels which were kneeling down beside an Ansari's dwelling and after collecting what I needed, I suddenly found that the humps of the two she-camels had been cut off and their flanks had been cut open and portions of their livers had been taken out. On seeing that, I could not help weeping. I asked, "Who has done that?" They (i.e. the people) said, "Hamza bin 'Abdul Muttalib has done it. He is present in this house with some Ansari drinkers, a girl singer, and his friends. The singer said in her song, 'O Hamza, get at the fat she-camels!' On hearing this, Hamza rushed to his sword and cut of the camels' humps and cut their flanks open and took out portions from their livers." Then I came to the Prophet, with whom Zaid bin Haritha was present. The Prophet noticed my state and asked, "What is the matter?" I said, "O Allah's Apostle, I have never experienced such a day as today! Hamza attacked my two she-camels, cut off their humps and cut their flanks open, and he is still present in a house along some drinkers." The Prophet asked for his cloak, put it on, and proceeded, followed by Zaid bin Haritha and myself, till he reached the house where Hamza was. He asked the permission to enter, and he was permitted. The Prophet started blaming Hamza for what he had done. Hamza was drunk and his eyes were red. He looked at the Prophet then raised his eyes to look at his knees and raised his eves more to look at his face and then said, "You are not but my father's slaves." When the Prophet understood that Hamza was drunk, he retreated, walking backwards went out and we left with him. (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 59, Number 340)
How much better would it have been for Allah to have completely prohibited intoxicants right from the get-go. Yet by failing to prevent Muslims from consuming intoxicants altogether, and only gradually prohibiting it, Allah allowed for Muslims such as Hamza to humiliate themselves in such shameful and embarrassing ways.
In light of the foregoing, when a Muslim tries to attack the Holy Bible for accurately and honestly recording the mistakes and sins of Gods prophets (and of mankind in general) they only show how truly inconsistent their approach to Gods true Word is. They wouldnt use the same kind of arguments and criticisms against the Quran, but choose to simply ignore the fact that their scripture and traditions also record the gross immorality and mistakes committed by their prophet and his companions. They conveniently forget that, according to Muslim tradition, intoxicants were at one time permitted and that it wasnt until Muslims started getting drunk and embarrassing themselves that intoxicants were then prohibited altogether. Such inconsistency is truly amazing to say the least.
Articles by Sam Shamoun
Answering Islam Home Page