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Allama Tabatabaei’s Note on Alcoholic Beverages

The only religion that has strongly banned alcoholism in the world is Islam, and it is thanks to this principle that the toxic effects of this poisonous drink are not manifest among the followers of Islam, said Allama Tabatabaei in his note to the congress on fighting alcoholic beverages at the request of the late Ayatollah Boroujerdi.

In the year 1960, a conference on fighting alcoholic beverages was held in Stockholm, Sweden, which was attended by representatives of religions and nations from around the world. Prior to the conference, Arche Tunk, the secretary general of the International Organization for the Fight against Alcohol Abuse, on his trip to Iran met with the deceased Grand Ayatollah Boroujerdi, the only Shiites’ religious reference, to discuss Ayatollah’s theory about this issue.

Ayatollah Boroujerdi called on Allama Tabatabai to write a note on this matter and have it submitted to the Congress after approval. Meanwhile, the following argument, which was composed by Allama Tabataba’i, was translated by Dr. Chehrasi and sent to Congress, which was then read out to the audience in one of the sessions and greatly received by the people.

It was officially proclaimed at the congress,“the only religion that explicitly prohibits and strongly fights alcohol abuse is the Islam, and it is by the virtue of this principle that the toxic effects of this poisonous drink are not evident among the followers of Islam.

The following is Allameh’s article, which was published in “Vazifeh” newspaper, issue 157, in Tehran:

  1. Islam, unlike other religions whose teachings are based on seclusion and withdrawal from the community, such as Christianity, Brahmani and Buddhism, or on promoting a certain race or tribe, such as Judaism, has founded its educational organization upon a social institute that is intended to ensure the prosperity of humanity and civilization, as an inseparable part of human life, by nurturing solidarity and consensus among people, and considered the establishment of an institution by a distinctively pure human being whose evolutionary path warrants that the happiness and prosperity of humanity is accomplished.

By virtue of this principle, Islam has chosen the instinctive human being (natural man) for the establishment of the desirable society. That is, the man born in the Creation System,who is endowed with the gift of wisdom and common sense, which distinguishes him from other types of animals, and cleanses him of superstitions and other idolatry and hereditary beliefs, and this is a fact that has been clearly stressed throughout the Book of Allah (Holy Quran).

Islam recognizes that the man conceivedin the Creation System and endowed with wisdom and judgment, would be able to realize with his God-given perception and instinct that he and every other creature in the course of life are in pursuit of prosperity. However, they can never act independently in their creation, survival, search of happiness and provision of needs, as they are reliant on on each other in one way or another.

And no other being or entity in the universes in possession of the power of self-creation or independence in its existence and survival, and the universe, which is composed of humans and other world phenomena, depends on a supernatural and transcendental being and it is run by an invincible and unseen Will in accordance with the laws of causality.

This understanding guides man towards the fact that they need to surrender themselves to the Almighty God (the source of knowledge and supernatural power) and proceed in the path and destination that is foretold in the system of their existence and entrusted by the reason.

The Qur’an states, “Religion is surrender to the God”, stipulating that religion is a series of teachings that are compatible with the special creation of man and ultimately meet his intrinsic demands with moderation: “religion rests upon the creation of the God, who has created people on its principles and there is no alteration in the creation of God.”

One who is familiar with this general and definitive decree of Islam, “Humans shall live in the society in a way that fits the creation of mankind” and reflects on this statement, will probably guess that Islam in the course of its teachings has reiterated the importance of sobriety and health of mind as a major obligation and even the slightest permission to waste it, even for a moment, has not been granted.

Islam has made the reason in charge of controlling the individual and social affairs of human beings, leaving no place for any interference of misleading emotions except in the areas prescribed by intellect. Hence, anything that impedes or interferes with the natural mechanism of this God-given endowment and thwarts the efforts of reason and intellect should be strongly prohibited. For instance, gambling, which is based on luck, deceitfulness, defamation,duplicity,fraud in business, among other things, take a toll on the social wisdom and meddle with intellect.

One of such prohibitions is concerned with the consumption of alcohol, which is strictly banned in Islam, so that drinking a drop of alcohol would be punished by eighty whiplashes.

Drinking alcoholic beverages, among all practices that distort reason and good judgment is the only action that is directly linked to intelligence and common sense, and is merely intended to suppressrational thinking and strengthen unbridled passions. As such,the deleterious effects and the heinous and abominable outcomes that continue to impose their ominous effects on the health, morality, religion and psyche of people and human societies can by no means be overlooked.

Each page of the history book is characterized by afflictions that thousands of alcoholics have endured,as manifested in form of dysfunction of esophagus, stomach, lungs, liver and nerve system, and a myriad of other illnesses.

Not one year has passed unless scores of people afflicted by alcohol-induce insanity end up in asylums.

Not one year has passed unless millions of people lose their moral inhibitions, or suffer from psychological deviations and mental problems.

Not one year has passed this poison provokes hundreds of millions of murders, suicides, crimes, thefts, betrayals, scandals, disclosure of secrets, scams, harassment and abuses (or countless occasions where descent people who are not bound to any rules and regulations, are held in captivity and imprisonment).

The pure intellects that are wasted in human societies due to the consumption hundreds of millions liters of alcoholic beverages portray a horrible and irreparable tragedy.Of course, a human society that is constantly losing all or a large part of its humanity (rational thinking) does not herald a promising future in terms of the prosperity of people.

The Holy Quran, while discussing the prohibition of drinking wine for the first time, mentions all personal and social vices under the term of “sins”; that is, a reprehensible act that leads to undesirable consequences and deprivations.

And for the last time, it stresses two kinds of corruption and demerits of this acts, that their infiltration into the humanity society will undercut the pillars of the human society, and topple the palace of public welfare.

In Sura Ma’idah, verse 91, it is said, “Satan’s plan is (but) to excite enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer: will ye not then abstain”

It is obvious that a major concern of Islamic teachings is the formation of a righteous community that is ruled by affinity and harmony, with all people assuming responsibility for implementing human laws that guarantee their happiness and welfare, while never oblivious to remembrance of God or exercise of their responsibility.

This is a brief depiction of the obligations of legislators in the Qur’an, and traditions quoted from the Prophet on this subject, which are beyond the scope of this note,giver details of all physical and spiritual harms of alcoholic consumption.

  1. The day Islam banned alcohol, the whole world, with the exception of a few Jews, was infected with this poison, and it had spread into all modern and conservative communities of that day,without any legal prohibition. The people of that era had been brought up by the seunhealthy beliefs and habits for generations and it had taken root in their life.

Of course, the eradication of such a habit for Islam was just as difficult as, if not more challenging than, eliminating dualistic cosmology.

And that is why Islam refused to adopt a drastic stance about prohibition of alcoholic beverages and it was gradually enacted a few years after its invitation (the span between the revelation of the Al-A’raf and the Al-Ma’idh verses). In the Sura Al-A’raf,it is indirectly referred to as “sins” and in Sura al-Baqarah, verse 219, there is more explicit prohibition of alcohol consumption.

And also in the early days of Quran Revelation to the Prophet, this issue was treated as a simple boycott,but eventually a severe sanction and Hadd (punishment with flogging) was imposed on it.

  1. At the outset, Islam faced challenges in implementing this sanction and discouraging people from consuming alcohol, but it managed to execute this decree successfully and the general acceptance of this rule was astounding.

The verse of Ma’idh, which is the last verse discussing the prohibition of alcohol, reveals that after many years of sanctions, people had not succeeded in abandoning this old habit, but as indicated by historical evidences, following a definitive boycott of alcohol, people put the idea of drinking out of their mind once and for all, shattering bottles and jars of wine in the streets, alleys and roads, and pouring its contents on the ground, to the extent that there is no historical record of executing Hadd during the time of the Prophet (between the time of imposing sanction and executing Hadd and the demise of the Prophet). It is despite the numerous accounts of executing Hadd for murders, fornication and the like).

In the thirteenth-fourteenth centuries from the dawn of Islam and Islamic invitation, in the Islamic society, hundreds of millions of Muslims have come and gone without teasing a drop of this toxic potion.

In the Islamic countries that are home to hundreds of millions of Muslims, except for mega cities that have tasted the flavor of civilization! And this poison has spilled over in their veins along with civilization! One can safely claim that millions of Muslims have not seen the color of wine throughout their life.

In Iran, with the exception of some large cities, you can find millions of men and women in the villages and tribes who have not tasted a drop of wine in their life. The idea of drinking wine has never come to their mind and they naturally loathe wine as much as they despise other sorts of filthy and wicked acts.

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