yet, since i moved to the west and especially here in britain, friday night has taken on a different flavour. i am shaken out of my sleep late on a friday night normally around 1 am by the noise coming from the street.
walking under the influence
friday night has also become very remarkable because hospitals expect a huge number of people injured or wounded because of alcohol related incidents. this is to say nothing of the accidents and fights in buses. for example, the casualties of accidents involving illegal alcohol levels in 2005 are 15,400.
there is no doubt that alcoholism is a dangerous and very serious problem. despite the amount of legislation taken against it, it remains unsolved and is massively affecting the whole society.
in many other countries, it is strictly prohibited to drive while under the influence of alcohol and a person who is caught driving while drunk is penalized. yet, with all these attempts, the percentage of people who consume alcohol are alarmingly high and the dangers remain the same.
this poses an interesting question: what was the secret that changed the wine-loving arabs at the time of the prophet to create an alcohol-free society?
between work and play
an issue that is often overlooked when discussing alcoholism is the reasons that lead to drinking. why do people drink? although it is quite unrealistic to answer such a question in one article, we can count the purely material life which people in europe suffer from among other reasons.
daily stress and worries are generally not offset by an alternative sanctuary of peace that can calm the heart and fill it with tranquillity.
people needs enjoyment, no doubt. however, some people have only one way to relax: going to the pub and drinking to forget life and its troubles.
generally, muslims do not have this compartmental way of thinking because a believer enjoys every day and is able to achieve satisfaction and a sense of purpose with every action he or she takes.
enjoying oneself does not mean wasting time or draining mental abilities. rather, it means that if you are sitting at home with your family, you do it for the intention of spending some quality time with them. also if you go to the café to hang out with your friends, you can think of it as a way of relaxation. in this way, everything, even having fun, has a purpose in islam.
power of faith vs. power of law
whether we like it or not, based on our faith, we decide many things in our lives. even those who say they have no faith do have a set of principles that govern their lives.
islam realized the importance of this power and the vital role it plays in shaping the choices a human being makes, and therefore utilized the faith of its followers when it wanted to prohibit alcohol.
this address was obvious in the way almighty allah spoke to muslims all the time using the phrase: "o you who believe". the message was: "o you who have faith and will never let the power of desire defeat the power of that faith".
building a community through faith
the message was direct and effective, because prophet muhammad had already managed to instil faith in the heart of his followers.
for 13 long years in makkah, the prophet's main target was to build a spiritual structure and strengthen the power of faith in the muslim heart so that muslims would become self-vigilant and hold themselves responsible for their actions before allah before thinking of society's rules.
this secured validity and applicability for islamic teachings in the private sphere before they were applied in public.
i believe that the power of faith is much needed in the context of alcoholism. if people can be evasive when it comes to the application of the law, they cannot be evasive when it comes to an internal faith. in the case of law and society's rules, if you are not "caught in the act", you are innocent, but in the case of faith, your own internal conscience and belief is constantly with you.
the nature of gradualism
many times we fail to achieve our goals because we prefer quick fixes, rather than the slower but much steadier paths.
if in a society where almost everyone loves alcohol and treats it as part and parcel of their day-to-day life, a law was issued to adamantly ban the consumption of alcohol, the compliance with such a law will inevitably be very low if not null.
the ultimate failure of the prohibition in the united states, canada, sweden, and finland in the early twentieth century is one of the best examples of this.
because human beings need gradualism, islam taught that the best of actions are those that may be small but are continuous. for the same reason, the prophet recommended gradualism in everything, and said that people have to execute this strategy in all aspects of their lives.
whenever he talked to people about islam, the first issue he would address is the core of the islamic faith: belief in the one true god.
this gradualism was also applied in the case of alcohol. alcohol represented a major source of money for arabs in those days. the alcohol industry was vital; perhaps even more vital than in western society today.
later on, limited prohibition of alcohol was issued when believers were not allowed to perform their prayers while drunk. by then, the emerging muslim community was ready to receive the final instruction prohibiting alcohol consumption.
the final instruction was strong and decisive, and the response was unequivocal due to the fact that people were already prepared for it.
learning from history
the countries where alcohol represents a real problem and challenge cannot deal with the problem only by some strict laws passed overnight or some leaflets distributed at medical centres. overcoming the problem of alcohol requires more than this. it requires a strategy that was carried out 1400 years ago and proved to be successful.