This article appears in the Encyclopedia of Islam (Leyden) of which Prof. A.J. Wensinck is co-editor. It is reprinted on request in reply to many inquiries on the subject, and by special permission.

The word for wine, Khamr, although very common in early Arabic poetry, is probably a loanword from Aramaic. The Hebrew yain has in Arabic (wain) the meaning of black grapes.

Arabia and the Syrian desert are, in contradiction to Palestine and Mesopotamia, not a soil fit for the vine; there are, however, exceptions, among which may be mentioned al-Ta'if, Shibam, and other parts of Yaman. Wine, probably of an inferior quality, is also mentioned in Medina. Usually, however, it seems to have been imported from Syria and Irak; in early Arabic poetry the wine trade is chiefly connected with Jews and Christians who pitched their tents among the Bedouins and provided it with a sign denoting its character. In it little orgies were held, in the company of female singers, who often also belonged to the establishment. The wine was kept in jars or skins, provided with a mouthpiece which was closed by means of a string.

In the days of Mohammed the people of Mecca and Medina used to indulge in drinking wine as often as an occasion offered itself, so that drunkenness often became a cause of scandal, and of indulgence in a second vice, gambling, which together with wine, incurred Mohammed's condemnation. Tradition has not refrained from describing how Hamza b. Abd al-Muttalib, Mohammed's uncle, in a fit of drunkenness mutilated Ali's camels (Bukhari, Sharb, bab 13; Khums, bab 13; Khums, bab i; Muslim, Ashriba; Trad. 1, 2; Maghazi, bab 12; Abu Da'ud, Kharadj, bab 15). And the commentaries on the Koran relate how Mohammed's companions held drinking parties which caused them to commit faults in ritual prayer (see al-Tabari, Tafsir ad Sura xiv. 44; Muslim, Fada'il al Sahaba, trad. 44; cf. 45; Ahmad b. Hanbal, i. 185 sq.).

The prohibition of wine was not in Mohammed's programme from the beginning. In Sura xvi. 69 we even find it praised as one of the signs of Allah's grace unto mankind: "And of the fruit of palm-trees, and of grapes, ye obtain an inebriating liquor, and also good nourishment". But the consequences of drunkenness manifesting themselves in the way just mentioned are said to have moved Mohammed to change his attitude. The first revelation giving vent to these feelings was Sura ii. 216: "They will ask thee concerning wine and gambling (maisir). Answer, in both there is great sin and also some things of use unto men: but their sinfulness is greater than their use." This revelation, however, was not considered as a prohibition. As people did not change their customs and the order of prayer happened to be disturbed in consequence thereof, a new revelation was issued, viz Sura iv 46 "O true believers! come not to prayers when ye are drunk, until ye understand what ye say," etc. But neither was this revelation considered as a general prohibition of wine, until Sura v. 92 made an end to drinking "O true believers! surely wine and maisir and stone pillars and divining arrows, are an abomination, of the work of Satan, therefore avoid them, that ye may prosper."

The prohibition of the Koran has been taken over by the doctors of the law; all madhhab's, and also the Shi'a, call wine haram and the wine-trade is forbidden. For an exposition of the Shafi'i view, see al-Nawawi, Minhadj, ed. v. d. Berg, III. 241; for that of the Hanafis, Fatawa 'Alamgiri, vi. (Calcutta 1835), 604 sqq.; for that of the Malikis, Zurkani in his commentary on the Muwatta' (Cairo 1280), iv. 26; for that of the Shi'a, Shara'i' al-Islam (Calcutta 1839), p. 404. Theology reckons the drinking of wine among the grave sins (kaba'ir).

Hadith has many utterances regarding this theme. Wine, is the key of all evil (Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, v. 238; Ibn Madja, Ashriba, bab i). Who drinks wine in this world without repenting it, shall not drink it in the other world (Bukhari, Ashriba, bab i; Muslim, Ashriba, trad. 73, 76-78, etc.). Cursed is he who drinks, buys, sells wine or causes others to drink it (Abu Da'ud, Ashriba, bab 2; Ibn Madja, Ashriba, bab 6; Ahmad b. Hanbal, i. 316; ii. 25, 69, 71, 97, 128, etc.). Who drinks a draught of wine on purpose shall have to drink pus on doomsday (Tayalisi, No. 1134). Prayer of him who drinks wine is not accepted by Allah (Nasa'i, Ashriba, bab. 43; Darimi, Ashriba, bab 3), and faith is incompatible with drinking it (Bukhari, Ashriba, bab i; Nasa'i, Ashriba bab 42, 44). It is even inadvisable to use it as medicine (Muslim, Ashriba, trad. 12; Ahmad b. Hanbal iv. 311, 317 bis etc.); and it is prohibited to use wine for manufacturing vinegar (Tirmidhi, Buyu', bab. 59; Ahmad b. Hanbal iii. 119, 260 bis). But times will be even worse and there will be people who declare wine allowed (Bukhari, Ashriba, bab 1; Nasa'i, Ashriba, bab. 41, etc.) and so it will be drunk by the generation of the last days (Bukhari, Ashriba, bab i, Ahmad b. Hanbal, iii 176, 202, 213 sq).

The prohibition of wine, although unanimously accepted, gave rise to dissensions between the juridical schools, dissensions which are reflected in hadith, in a historical disguise. The discussions start from the question: what is wine? It is said that, when the use of wine was peremptorily prohibited, the people of Medina poured out in the streets all that they possessed of the appreciated liquor (Ahmad b. Hanbal, ii. 132 sq.; iii. 26, 189 sq., 217, 200 bis; iv. 335 sq.). Ibn Umar declares, on the contrary, that at the time of the prohibition, there was no wine in Medina at all (Bukhari, Ashriba, bab 2). Anas b. Malik (ib.) says there was scarcely any wine from grapes in Medina, when the prohibition was revealed; people used wine from busr and tamr (two kinds of dates). In another tradition (ib., bab 3) wine from fadikh and zahw (two other kinds of dates) is mentioned. 'Umar is represented delivering a khutba which was meant to settle the question; according to his son 'Abd Allah he said: Wine has been prohibited by the Koran; it comes from five kinds of fruits, from grapes, from dates, from honey, from wheat and from barley, wine is what obscures the intellect (wa 'l-khamr ma khamara al'aql; Bukhari, Ashriba, bab 2). The question remained, whether beverages prepared from grapes in a different way were prohibited. There was e.g. a kind of syrup. "When Umar visited Syria, the population complained of its unhealthy and heavy climate and added: This drink alone will heal us. Then Umar allowed them to drink honey. Then they said Honey cannot heal us. Thereupon one of the natives of Syria said to him, May we not prepare something of this drink for you? It has no inebriating power. He said: Well. Then they cooked it till two thirds were evaporated and one third of it remained. They brought it to Umar, who put his finger into it and licked it. Then he said: This is tila' like camels' tila' (viz the pitch with which they smeared their skins). Then he allowed them to drink it" (Malik, Ashriba, bab 14.) According to the first chapter of the same kitab, however, 'Umar punishes a man who had become drunk on tila'. Juice from grapes, prepared by pressing them only, is considered as wine. Tarik b. Suwaid al-Hadrami said to the Prophet: We have in our country grapes which we press. May we drink the juice? He said: No. This negative answer is given three times, and when Tarik asks whether the juice may be given the sick to drink, Mohammed answers: It is no medicine, it is sickness (Ahmad b. Hanbal bab, V. 292 sq.). And not only those who drink and sell, wine are cursed by Mohammed, but also those who press grapes and have them pressed in order to drink the juice (Ibn Madja, Ashriba, bab 6).

Another question of importance arose, in connection with spirits: Had they to be considered as wine or not? All the madhaab's, except the Hanafis, have answered the question in the affirmative sense. They have consequently extended the prohibition of wine, in accordance with the intention underlying it. Tradition, which is the best source for the history of the origin of several institutions, shows that the question belongs to the much debated ones. The standard hadith, which is found very frequently in the classical collections, runs as follows (I pick out Muslim's version Iman, trad. 26, because it contains important details) "Some men of Abd al Kais went to the Apostle of Allah and said to him: O Prophet of Allah, we are a tribe belonging to Rabi'a, between us and yourself dwell the infidels of Mudar, so that we can only reach you in the sacred month. Tell us therefore to tell our what we have to tell our tribes-people which will open Paradise for us if we cling to it. The Apostle of Allah answered: I order four things and I forbid four things without associating anything with Him. Perform salat, deliver zakat, fast the month of Ramadan and deliver the fifth part of booty And I forbid four things: dubba, hantam, muzaffat, and naqir. They asked: O Apostle of Allah, how do you know what the naqir is?

He said: Well, It is a palm-trunk which you hollow out; then you pour small dates into it and upon them water. When the process of fermentation is finished, you drink with the effect that a man hits his cousin with the sword. Now among these men there was someone who had received a blow of the sword in this way. He says: I had concealed out of shame before the Apostle of Allah. Then I said: but from what vessels should we drink then, O Apostle of Allah? He answered: From leather skins, the mouthpieces of which are smeared with pitch. They answered: O Prophet of Allah, our country teems with mice so that no single skin can be kept whole. Then the Prophet of Allah answered: Even though the mice should eat them, even though the mice should eat them." This tradition did not meet with general approval. It is said that the Ansar or other people complained of their difficulty in finding the skins necessary for preserving drinks without their becoming fermented. There-upon the Prophet is said to have withdrawn his prohibition, wholly or partly (Bukhari, Ashriba, bab 8; Muslim, Ashriba, trad. 63-66 etc.). In some versions of this tradition there occurs the restriction, that all fermented inebriating drinks remain prohibited. Innumerable are the traditions which only contain the rule: All drinks which may cause drunkenness are prohibited in any quantity (kull muskir haram kathiruhu wa-qaliluhu) and this rule has passed into many books of fiqh (Bukhari, Maghazi, bab 60; Muslim, Ashriba, trad. 67-75; Ahmad b. Hanbal, i. 145; ii. 16 bis.; iii. 38; iv. 87; v. 25 sq. vi 36 etc) Of special traditions prohibiting fermented drinks may be mentioned the following. It is forbidden or disapproved of to sell raisins if they are to be used for preparing nabidh (Nasa'i, Ashriba, bab 51, 52). It is prohibited to mix together different kinds of fruits so that the mixture should become intoxicating. This tradition occurs frequently; see e.g. Bukhari, Ashriba, bab ii; Muslim, Ashriba, trad. 16-29; Nasa'I Ashriba, b. 4-17; Ibn Sa'd, viii. 360; Ahmad b. Hanbal, I. 276; ii. 46; vi. 242, 292. But each of these kinds may be used separately for preparing a non-fermented drink (Muslim, Ashriba, trad. 81-83; Nasa'i, Ashriba, bab 14-18 etc.).

It can easily be seen that the difficulty in this matter was caused by two circumstances. People were accustomed to prepare from all kinds of dates, from raisins and other fruits, drinks which only became inebriating if they were preserved for a long time and probably also if they were prepared after special methods. Where was the line of demarcation between the allowed and the prohibited kind? Several collections of traditions went so far as to mention nabidh among the drinks prepared by Mohammed's wives and drunk by him (Muslim, Ashriba, trad. 79-89; Ahmad, 1. 232 sq., 240, 287, 320 sq., 336, 355, 369, 372; ii. 35 iii. 304, 307, 313 sq., 326, 379, 384 etc.). Abu Da'ud (Ashriba, bab 10) and Ibn Madja (Ashriba, bab 12) have preserved a tradition on this subject which is instructive. I translate Ibn Madja's version: Says A'isha: "We used to prepare nabidh for the Apostle of Allah in a skin; we took a handful of dates or a handful of raisins, cast it into the skin and poured water upon it. The nabidh we prepared in this way in the morning was drunk by him in the evening; and when we prepared it in the evening he drank: it the next morn-jug." In another tradition of the same bab Ibn Abbas says that the Prophet used to drink this nabidh even on the third day; but what was left then was poured out.

All this could, however, not persuade the majority of the faqih's to declare nabidh allowed; three of the madhab's as well as the Shi'a prohibit the use of nabidh. The Hanafi school, on the other hand, allows it, when used with moderation, for medicinal purposes, etc.

It would take us too far to give here a detailed survey of the opinions of the faqih's of the madhhab's it would be superfluous, to some extent at least, because the more important differences regard chiefly nabidh only. The following rapid survey is based on the Fatawa 'Alamgiri, vi. 604 sqq. (cf. Sha'rani's Mizan, Cairo 1279, p. 192 sq.).

Allowed according to the idjma is every non-fermented, sweet drink.

Prohibited (haram), according to the idjma, are wine and sakar of every kind. As to the wine there are six cases: to drink it in any quantity or to make use of it is haram; to deny this is kufr; to buy, sell, present it, etc., is haram; no responsibility (diman) rests on him who spoils or destroys wine (mutlifha); whether wine is a possession (mal) is an unsettled point; it is nadjis just as blood and urine; who drinks any quantity of it is liable to punishment.

Several kinds of products prepared by means of grapes (badhik, munassaf , etc. are prohibited according to the majority of the faqih's.

Allowed, according to the majority of the faqih's are tila' (vide supra) or muthallath and nabidh from dates with the restrictions mentioned above. So is juice from grapes when the process of cooking has made to evaporate two-thirds.

As to the punishment of him who drinks wine, Hadith tells us that Mohammed and Abu Bakr were wont to inflict forty blows by means of palm branches or sandals (Bukhari, Hudud, bab 2-4; Hudud, trad; 35-37). Under Umar's Caliphate, however, Khalil b. al-Walid reported to him that people were indulging in prohibited drinks. Thereupon 'Umar consulted the sahaba, advised him to fix the number of blows at eighty; a number suggested by the Koran, which prescribes that who accuse muhsanat of zina, without being able to prove their accusation by the aid of four witnesses, shall punished with eighty blows (Sura xxiv. 4).

Repeated drinking of wine, according to some traditions, was punished by death by Mohammed's order (Abu Da'ud, Hudud, bab 36; Ibn Madja, Hudud, bab 17; Ahmad b. Hanbal, ii. 136, 166, 191; IV. 93, etc.). It is, however, added in some traditions that capital punishment in such cases is not according to the sunna of the Prophet (Ahmad b. Hanbal, i. 125, I30 cf. Tayalisi, No. 183).

The different madhhab's have adopted 'Umar's view; drinking wine is punished with eighty blows; if the transgressor is a slave this number is however reduced to forty, because in the Koran the punishment of the handmaid's zina is fixed at half the amount of blows with which the free woman is punished (Sura iv. 30). The Shafi'ites however cling to the practice ascribed to Mohammed and Abu Bakr; with them the number of blows is consequently forty, resp. twenty (see Zurkani, iv. 42; Nawawi in Muslim, iv. 156).

The prohibition of wine and spirits (according to three of the four madhhab's) is one of the distinctive marks of the Moslem world; its consequences can hardly be overrated. This is not seriously affected by the fact that transgressors have been numerous, according to literary evidence. The praise of wine, not uncommon in pre-Islamic poetry, remained one of the favorite topics also of Moslem poets (cf. the wine-songs by Ibn al-Mu'tazz, Abu Nuwas etc.) and at the court of the Caliphs wine was drunk at revelling parties as if no prohibition existed at all (see e.g. The 1001 Nights, passim). Even the common people could not always and everywhere refrain from their national drink, date-wine of several kinds; the Caliph 'Umar b. Abd al-'Aziz deemed it necessary to promulgate a special edict in order to abolish this custom (see v. Kremer, Culturgeschichtliche Streifzüge, Leipzig 1873, p. 68 sq.).

Wine has a special place in the literary products of the mystics, where it is one of the symbols of ecstasy. In this point they only took over the language of their Christian and non-Christian predecessors. As early as Philo of Alexandria ecstasy is compared with intoxication (see especially his De Vita Contemplativa). Among the Ibahiya, language may have been a reflex of practice; but this cannot be said of Sufis in general, who, on the contrary, clung to the ascetic methods of the via purgativa. As to Hafiz wine and lovesongs, it is an unsettlied point whether they are merely metaphorical or not.

Leyden University.


The Muslim World, vol. 19: 1928, pp. 365-373.

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