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  2. O you who have believed! A Call from Almighty Allah to the Believers: Written by Ali Ben Nayif al-Shahoud
  3. The 38th Call: The Prohibition of Intoxicants, Gambling, Stone Alters and Divining Arrows

The 38th Call: The Prohibition of Intoxicants, Gambling, Stone Alters and Divining Arrows

Article translated to : العربية

Almighty Allah says (what can be translated as): “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. Satan only wants to cause between you animosity and hatred through intoxicants and gambling and to avert you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. So will you not desist? And obey Allah and obey the Messenger and beware. And if you turn away - then know that upon Our Messenger is only [the responsibility for] clear notification. There is not upon those who believe and do righteousness [any] blame concerning what they have eaten [in the past] if they [now] fear Allah and believe and do righteous deeds, and then fear Allah and believe, and then fear Allah and do good; and Allah loves the doers of good.” (Al-Ma’idah: 90-93)


Almighty Allah prohibits his believing servants from consumption of intoxicants (alcohol), gambling, sacrificing animals on stone alters (i.e. stones that used to surround al-Qaba’ah) to other than Allah. He also prohibits them from divining arrows (they are either three cups or arrows; they used to toss them to decide about a matter. On one of them it is written (do), the second (do not) and the third does not include any writing. If the arrow on which it is written (do) appears, the person will do the thing. If the arrow on which it is written (do not) appears, the person will not do the thing. If the arrow on which nothing is written appears, then they will repeat the process.


Almighty Allah says to his truthful believing servants that these vices such as consumption of intoxicants and gambling are evil from the work of Satan (i.e. defilement). So, avoid this defilement so that you succeed and win the satisfaction and reward of Allah.

Satan wants you to consume intoxicants and gamble so that you fight and oppose one another to hate each other and end your unity after Almighty Allah gathered your hearts with faith and combined you under the brotherhood of Islam. Satan wants to keep you busy with drunkenness and gambling to distract you from the remembrance of Allah because such remembrance is the reason for your success in this life and the afterlife. Satan wants to draw your attention away from prayers obligated by Allah on you to purify your souls and cleanse your hearts.


Intoxicants make the human lose his sanity and cautiousness that forbid him from doing ugly acts. They drive him to say outrageous and insulting things to people. If the human consume intoxicants, he would do what he would not do while he is sober. So, under the influence of intoxicants, he may abuse his friends and brothers and harm them which would lead to fighting and hatred.

Gambling causes hatred and conflicts between the players and the attendants. The gambler usually does not fulfill the rights of his parents, spouse and children. He fails them all to the point that almost all of them start to hate him.


Then, Almighty Allah commands the believers to completely stop committing these vices so that they do not give Satan the chance to fulfill his aim. Almighty Allah commands the believers to obey Him with regard to abstaining from intoxicants and gambling and all kinds of prohibitions. He directs them to follow the Messenger and apply the legislations of Allah which the Messenger conveyed to them. They have to obey the rulings of the Messenger and what He decides. Almighty Allah warns them against disobedience, opposition and stubbornness. Then, He says to them that if they give up faith and insist on disobedience, violation of the sanctities of Allah and transgression of his pure Sharia, then they are fully notified and they have no excuse. The Messenger fulfilled what the Lord commanded him to do, i.e. notification, warning and invitation. Then, they will return to Allah to hold them accountable for their deeds whether big or small.


When Almighty Allah sent down the prohibition of alcohol, some Muslims wondered about the state of those who drank alcohol before the prohibition. So, this verse was revealed: “There is not upon those who believe and do righteousness [any] blame concerning what they have eaten [in the past] if they [now] fear Allah and believe and do righteous deeds, and then fear Allah and believe, and then fear Allah and do good; and Allah loves the doers of good.” (Verse 93) Almighty Allah clarifies that there is no blame or guilt upon those who believe and do good deeds for what they have eaten or consumed alcohol in the past. They are not also blamed if they ate or drank something that was not prohibited then it became prohibited later if they fear Allah, believe in the rulings He sends down and perform the obligated acts of worship such as praying and fasting. Then, they avoided what Almighty Allah prohibited later when they became aware of such prohibition and also they believed in what was sent down regarding this prohibition or any other commands. Then, they remained in a state of watchfulness, fear of Allah and doing good deeds. They performed the religious duties the best way they can and they completed any failing or neglect in performing obligations by doing voluntarily acts of worship. Indeed, Allah loves those who do good deeds, so He does not keep in their hearts any negative effect from alcohol and gambling such as hatred and resentment.


“Indeed, intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone alters [to other than Allah], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan.” (Verse 90)


These are, then, foul prac­tices and can­not be in­clud­ed among good and wholesome things which Allah has per­mit­ted. More­over, they have been de­vised by Sa­tan, man’s old en­emy. It is suf­fi­cient for a be­liev­er to know that some­thing is de­vised by Sa­tan to make it to­tal­ly re­pug­nant to him. At this point, the prohibition is is­sued, but is com­bined with the prospect of at­tain­ing suc­cess, which it­self has its pro­found ef­fect on the hu­man mind: “…so avoid it that you may be successful.” (Verse 90)


The Qur’anic vers­es go on to fur­ther ex­pose Sa­tan’s scheme be­hind the de­vis­ing of these defilements: “Satan only wants to cause between you animosity and hatred through intoxicants and gambling and to avert you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer.” (Verse 91)

Sa­tan’s aim and the pur­pose of his schem­ing are thus ex­posed be­fore ev­ery Muslim. Sa­tan seeks noth­ing ex­cept the stir­ring up of en­mi­ty and ha­tred among be­liev­ers so as to turn them away from their wor­ship: (…to avert you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer). What a wicked scheme!


Sa­tan’s aims can eas­ily be recog­nized in our prac­ti­cal life af­ter we have ac­cept­ed them as true, since Allah has stat­ed them so. It does not take any­one with an open mind long to recog­nize how Sa­tan ac­tu­al­ly stirs up en­mi­ty and ha­tred, utilizing for this pur­pose in­tox­icants and gam­bling. In­tox­icants weak­en one’s conscious­ness and self-​con­trol, height­en tem­pers and stir up whims and impulses. Gam­bling and all games of chance leave peo­ple with a sense of loss and grudges. It is nat­ural that a los­ing gam­bler nurs­es a strong grudge against the win­ner who takes away his mon­ey from un­der his nose and leaves him emp­ty hand­ed. It is on­ly nat­ural that such mat­ters stir up en­mi­ty and ha­tred, re­gard­less of the im­pres­sion of hap­pi­ness they ini­tial­ly give off.


The fact that in­tox­icants and gam­bling do turn peo­ple away from their remembrance of Allah and from prayer is too clear to re­quire elab­ora­tion. Drinking makes peo­ple for­get and gam­bling makes them obliv­ious to ev­ery­thing else. In­deed, games of chance keep gam­blers in a state of in­tox­ica­tion which is not dis­sim­ilar to that pro­duced by drink. The world of a gam­bler is akin to that of a drunk: ta­bles, glass­es and a strike of for­tune or mis­for­tune. As this clear reference to Sa­tan’s aim in de­vis­ing these defilements pro­duces its ef­fect and awak­ens the hearts of those who be­lieve, the ques­tion is then put which ad­mits on­ly the sort of an­swer Umar gave when he heard it for the first time: “So will you not desist?” His im­me­di­ate re­sponse was: “We do de­sist, my Lord! We do.”


The surah goes on to put the whole mat­ter in its prop­er per­spec­tive: “And obey Allah and obey the Messenger and beware. And if you turn away - then know that upon Our Messenger is only [the responsibility for] clear notification.” (Verse: 92)



This is the ba­sic rule to which all mat­ters are re­ferred: obe­di­ence to Allah and His Mes­sen­ger, i.e. sub­mis­sion which leaves no room ex­cept for ab­so­lute obe­di­ence and to­tal com­pli­ance. There is al­so an im­plic­it warn­ing in this state­ment: “And if you turn away - then know that upon Our Messenger is only [the responsibility for] clear notification.”


He has cer­tain­ly con­veyed Allah’s mes­sage with ab­so­lute clar­ity. Any­one who disobeys bears full re­spon­si­bil­ity for his dis­obe­di­ence. This warn­ing, im­plic­it­ly as it is ex­pressed, is in­deed very strong. The be­liev­ers are made aware that should they slip in­to dis­obe­di­ence they on­ly harm them­selves. Allah’s Mes­sen­ger has fulfilled his trust and con­veyed his mes­sage. Hence, he is no longer re­spon­si­ble for them. Nor will he shield them from pun­ish­ment, since they have dis­obeyed him. Their faith is in the hands of Allah, who is able to pun­ish those who dis­obey.


The Qur’anic method opens up our hearts and pen­etrates our depths. The lack of conscious­ness, whichev­er in­tox­icant pro­duces it, is di­amet­ri­cal­ly op­posed to the state of alert­ness which Is­lam re­quires of ev­ery Mus­lim so that he con­scious­ly feels his link with Allah at ev­ery mo­ment, mak­ing sure that all his thoughts and ac­tions are of the sort that pleases Allah. By be­ing so alert and con­scious, the Mus­lim plays a pos­itive role in the prop­er de­vel­op­ment of life and in pro­tect­ing it against weak­ness and cor­rup­tion. He fur­ther pro­tects him­self, his prop­er­ty and hon­or and he helps to pro­tect the Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ty and its sys­tem and law against all types of ag­gres­sion. A Mus­lim is not aban­doned so that he cares on­ly for him­self or his en­joy­ments. On the con­trary, at ev­ery mo­ment he has du­ties to ful­fill which re­quire that he be al­ways alert. These in­clude du­ties to­wards his Lord, him­self, his fam­ily and the Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ty of which he is a mem­ber and to­wards hu­man­ity at large. Even when he en­joys the whole­some plea­sures Is­lam per­mits, he must re­tain his full con­scious­ness so that he is not en­slaved by any type of plea­sure or de­sire. He is in con­trol of all his de­sires and he ful­fils them as one who is to­tal­ly in con­trol. Drunk­en­ness is the op­po­site state.


More­over, seek­ing such un­con­scious­ness is sim­ply an at­tempt to es­cape from the re­al­ity of life at a par­tic­ular mo­ment in time and a pref­er­ence for the sort of visions which ac­com­pa­ny drunk­en­ness. Is­lam dis­ap­proves of all this be­cause it wants peo­ple to see the re­al­ities as they are, to look them in the face and to conduct their lives on the ba­sis of re­al­ity, not imag­ina­tion. It is through fac­ing real­ity that man proves his will-​pow­er. To es­cape to the realm of imag­ina­tion is to prove one’s weak­ness and lack of will. Is­lam wants its peo­ple to have a strong will, un­fet­tered by habit or ad­dic­tion. From the Is­lam­ic point of view, this is enough rea­son to for­bid in­tox­icants and all drugs. All these are defilements devised by Sa­tan and their ef­fect is on­ly the cor­rup­tion of hu­man life.


Schol­ars have dif­fer­ent views with re­gard to whether in­tox­icants are im­pure in them­selves like oth­er phys­ical im­pu­ri­ties, or whether the pro­hi­bi­tion ap­plies on­ly to drink­ing them. The ma­jor­ity of schol­ars are of the first view, while the sec­ond view is that of Rabi’ah, al-​Layth ibn Sa’d, al-​Muzni of the Sha­fi’i school and a number of lat­er schol­ars of Bagh­dad. Per­haps this ref­er­ence to schol­ar­ly views on this point is ad­equate for our pur­pos­es.



When these vers­es were re­vealed to to­tal­ly pro­hibit­ all in­tox­icants, and describe them as a defilement de­vised by Sa­tan, two groups of peo­ple raised a query in the same word­ing but for to­tal­ly dif­fer­ent rea­sons. A few of the Prophet’s Compan­ions who were very scrupu­lous said: “What about our Com­pan­ions who died when in­tox­icants were still law­ful to drink?” Some of them said: “What about those killed in the Bat­tle of Uhud, with in­tox­icants in their bel­lies?” i.e. before they were for­bid­den to drink. An­oth­er group who were keen to seize every chance to sow the seeds of doubt among the Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ty said similar things. Their aim was to try to weak­en the Mus­lims’ trust in the rea­son­ing be­hind Is­lam­ic leg­is­la­tion. They al­so want­ed to con­vey the feel­ing that those who died be­fore the pro­hi­bi­tion of in­tox­icants were to­tal­ly lost, since they died with this defilement in their bod­ies.


Hence, the pur­pose be­hind the fol­low­ing verse: “There is not upon those who believe and do righteousness [any] blame concerning what they have eaten [in the past] if they [now] fear Allah and believe and do righteous deeds, and then fear Allah and believe, and then fear Allah and do good; and Allah loves the doers of good.” (Verse 93) This verse states that what has not been for­bid­den is law­ful and that pro­hi­bi­tion be­gins with its state­ment, not at any mo­ment pri­or to this. There can be no ret­ro­spec­tive pro­hi­bi­tion and pun­ish­ment, whether in this life or in the life to come, can­not be in­flict­ed with­out a clear state­ment of rul­ing. Those who died be­fore the pro­hi­bi­tion of in­tox­icants had noth­ing to fear, be­cause they did not drink any for­bid­den thing and did not com­mit any act of dis­obe­di­ence. They feared Allah and did righ­teous deeds, know­ing that He was to­tal­ly aware of their in­ten­tions and ac­tions. Such a per­son nei­ther dis­obeyed nor drank something for­bid­den.


 When Allah for­bids some­thing, He knows why He for­bids it, whether He states that reason or not. Whether the pro­hi­bi­tion is based on the qual­ity of what is pro­hib­it­ed, or on some­thing that re­lates to the in­di­vid­ual par­tak­ing of it personally, or to the in­ter­ests of the whole com­mu­ni­ty, it is Allah who knows the whole truth. Obey­ing His or­ders is an un­de­ni­able du­ty of ev­ery Mus­lim. Any subse­quent con­tro­ver­sy ad­dress­es no re­al need. Re­al­ism is an es­sen­tial as­pect of the Di­vine method. No one can say: “If pro­hi­bi­tion is the re­sult of an in­her­ent qual­ity in the thing pro­hib­it­ed, how can it be per­mit­ted in the pe­ri­od lead­ing up to its pro­hi­bi­tion?” Allah must have had a good rea­son for leav­ing it per­mis­si­ble for a while. Af­ter all, this is al­ways de­ter­mined by Allah alone. This is, in­deed, an es­sen­tial qual­ity of God­head. Whether man con­sid­ers some­thing to be good or bad is not the de­ter­min­ing fac­tor be­cause man can con­sid­er some­thing to be the de­ter­min­ing rea­son for pro­hi­bi­tion when in ac­tu­al fact it is not. The ap­pro­pri­ate at­ti­tude is to ac­cept Allah’s leg­is­la­tion and to car­ry it out whether we know the rea­sons be­hind them or not. Allah knows ev­ery­thing and we know lit­tle.


 The im­ple­men­ta­tion of Allah’s law must be based in the first in­stance on submission to Him. This is, in­deed, the very mean­ing of Is­lam. When man has shown his obe­di­ence, he can use his mind to iden­ti­fy, as much as he is able to, Allah’s pur­pose be­hind His com­mand­ment or pro­hi­bi­tion, whether this pur­pose is stat­ed by Allah or not, un­der­stood by hu­man in­tel­lect or not. It must be remembered, how­ev­er, that Allah, not man, is the fi­nal ar­biter on whether something should be in­clud­ed in His law. When Allah has is­sued His de­cree, all argu­ments must stop. His de­cree must be im­ple­ment­ed. If a de­ci­sion is left to human in­tel­lect, peo­ple be­come the fi­nal ar­biter on Allah’s leg­is­la­tion. How then can this fit in with Allah’s po­si­tion as the ul­ti­mate au­thor­ity, or with man’s submis­sion to Him? 




Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet (Peace Be upon Him) said, "An adulterer, at the time he is committing illegal sexual intercourse is not a believer; and a person, at the time of drinking an alcoholic drink is not a believer; and a thief, at the time of stealing, is not a believer." Ibn Shihab said: Abdul Malik ibn Abi Bakr ibn Abdul Rahman ibn Al-Harith ibn Hisham told me that Abu Bakr used to narrate that narration to him on the authority of Abu Huraira. He used to add that Abu Bakr used to mention, besides the above cases, "And he who robs (takes illegally something by force) while the people are looking at him, is not a believer at the time he is robbing (taking)."

 Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet (PBUH) said, "The one who commits an illegal sexual intercourse is not a believer at the time of committing illegal sexual intercourse and a thief is not a believer at the time of committing theft and a drinker of alcoholic drink is not a believer at the time of drinking. Yet, (the gate of) repentance is open thereafter."


 Narrated Hisham from Ma’mar as below. Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet (Peace Be upon Him) said, "I met Moses on the night of my Ascension to heaven." The Prophet (PBUH) then described him saying, as I think, "He was a tall slim person with lank hair as if he belonged to the people of the tribe of Shanu's." The Prophet further said, "I met Jesus." The Prophet described him saying, "He was one of moderate height and was red-faced as if he had just come out of a bathroom. I saw Abraham whom I resembled more than any of his children did." The Prophet further said, "(That night) I was given two cups; one full of milk and the other full of wine. I was asked to take either of them which I liked, and I took the milk and drank it. On that it was said to me, 'You have taken the right path (religion). If you had taken the wine, your (Muslim) nation would have gone astray. "


 Abu Sa'id al-Khudri (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I heard Allah's Messenger (Peace Be upon Him) addressing in Medina. He said: O people, Allah is giving an indication (of the prohibition) of wine and He is probably soon going to give an order about it. So he who has anything of it with him should sell that, and derive benefit out of it. He (the narrator) said: We waited for some time that Allah's Messenger (PBUH) said: Verily Allah, the Exalted, has forbidden wine. So who hears this verse and he has anything of it with him, he should neither drink it nor sell it. He (the narrator) said: The people then brought whatever they had of it with them on the streets of Medina and spilt that.


Jabir ibn Abdullah (May Allah be pleased with both of them) reported Allah's Messenger (Peace Be upon Him) as saying in the Year of Victory while he was in Mecca: Verily Allah and His Messenger have forbidden the sale of wine, carcass, swine and idols, It was said: Allah's Messenger, you see that the fat of the carcass is used for coating the boats and varnishing the hides and people use it for lighting purposes, whereupon he said: No, it is forbidden. Then Allah's Messenger (Peace Be upon Him) said: May Allah the Exalted and Majestic destroy the Jews; when Allah forbade the use of fat of the carcass for them, they melted it, and then sold it and made use of the price (received from it).

Narrated Anas ibn Malik (May Allah be pleased with him): "The Messenger of Allah (Peace Be upon Him) cursed ten involved in wine: The one who presses it, the one who has it pressed, its drinker, its carrier, and the one it is carried to, its server, its seller, the consumption of its price, the one who purchases it and the one it was purchased for." [Abu 'Eisa said:] This Hadith is Gharib (a hadith conveyed by only one narrator) as a narration of Anas. Similar to this has been reported from Ibn Abbas, Ibn Mas'ud, and Ibn Umar, from the Prophet (PBUH).


 Anas b. Malik reported that Allah's Apostle (Peace Be upon Him) gave a beating with palm branches and shoes, and that Abu Bakr gave forty lashes. When Umar (became the Commander of the Faithful) and the people went near to pastures and towns, he said (to the Companions of the Prophet). What is your opinion about lashing for drinking? Thereupon Abdul Rahman ibn Auf said: My opinion is that you fix it as the mildest punishment. Then Umar inflicted eighty stripes as punishment.

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