A glass of wine? A few beers? A shot of tequila? Scotch? On the rocks? With a twist? Man the choices are endless, and they sound so appealing, don’t they? (Oh don’t give me that look! Of course they do!)
If alcohol didn’t make people feel SO GOOD, why on earth would they start drinking? Seeking pleasure is a human instinct, and once you try the euphoric effect of alcohol, I guess it’s just hard to stop.
Now since I don’t even know what alcohol tastes like, I’ve never actually experienced that ‘euphoria’, which makes my personal reflections and opinions invalid in this case. So in the spirit of being objective, I think it’s time to put on the ‘neutral white hat’. Let’s take the emotions, opinions and arguments out of the equation and just rely on facts!
Ready? Here we go…
Why Do People Start Drinking?
According to an extensive study done at the ‘Health Study Center’ in West Virginia University, here are the top 3 reasons why people start consuming alcohol.
- Curiosity (Phase One)
Yes, it’s that little ‘Hmmmm’ voice inside of you that woke up when I said ‘Alcohol makes people feel SO GOOD’. Most alcohol consumers start out as ‘experimenters’ to see what all the fuss is about. Some Muslims believe they need to try it first before banishing the ‘forbidden juice’. Many think it just makes more sense to be your own judge.
- The Effect (Phase Two)
This is where it gets a bit tricky, because it depends on expectations and belief systems. Some Muslims who know drinking is ‘haram’ but try a sip anyway, will probably hate the whole experience, because deep down they have a strong belief system and they’re too scared of Allah to even let themselves enjoy it. Others will try it, struggle with their guilt, but will keep drinking because the feeling is too good to resist and finally some Muslims, because they expected such a great experience from drinking and don’t have a very strong belief system, will trick their brains into believing drinking alcohol is so much fun and hey, how can something that makes you feel so good, be bad?
- The Pressure (Phase Three)
And now the pull comes in, depending on those you hang out with. If your friends and loved ones don’t do it, then avoiding the ‘drink’ is very easy because it’s not even on the table. But if you’re around the wrong crowd most of the times, then yes chances are, the pull will drag you towards it, and the guilt will eventually work it’s way out. Peer pressure is a powerful tool people. That’s why I’m seriously considering hiring a private investigator to spy on my kids’ friends!
What’s So Wrong With Alcohol Anyway?
From a fun-loving perspective, it sounds like everything in Islam is ‘haram’, right?
I mean, why does alcohol and many other sinful temptations exist in the first place? Why does Allah forbid us from having certain types of pleasures?
Wait, where’s that ‘white hat’? Let me make sure it’s on so we can objectively answer those questions…
- Because Of The Well-Known Secret
Even if you don’t get drunk or you’re an occasional drinker, there’s no such thing as ‘sensible drinking’ simply because no level of alcohol is risk-free. Let’s look at some of the very high prices people pay for the ‘effect’.
– According to the UK ‘Cancer Search Organization’, for every two units of alcohol (that’s a standard glass of wine) the risk of bowel cancer goes up by 8%. Studies prove alcohol consumption is linked to seven types of cancer, including mouth, throat, liver and breast cancer.
-Drinking is one of the main culprits for weight gain. (Who wants that?!)
-Alcohol damages the liver, raises blood pressure, and is the second highest cause for pancreatitis, which in time can become life-threatening.
-You know that hangover when you can’t remember what happened last night? Yeah, this also creates permanent memory loss in time, and can specifically cause Wernicke Korsakoff’s Syndrome- a dementia-like illness.
-Alcohol increases risk of stroke, infertility and damages the immune system. It also greatly affects men’s sexual performance (So if your husband drinks and isn’t being intimate while he’s sober, now you know why!)
- Because Allah Loves Us.
Besides the health risk, there are also mental and emotional damages too, but there’s no time to get into that because woo-hoo boy are they A LOT! The forbiddance of drinking alcohol came about gradually though because you know what else alcohol does?
Studies show it releases endorphin’s, which are the ‘feel good’ chemicals in the brain, and that’s why it makes sense for alcohol to be addictive. A sip turns into ‘I’m not dependent on alcohol to I just NEED a drink! NOWWWWW!’
And because Allah loves us and knows His creation well, He took it out of people’s system slowly through revelation in stages. That was 1400 years ago. Now this method is used in rehab!
- Because Hello! This Is The Real World.
Even with knowing the risks, and even with the addiction struggle, some people still find drinking enticing. This is where the discipline comes in.
“They ask you about drinking (Khamr) and gambling. Tell them ‘There is great sin in both, although they may have some benefit for men, but the sin is greater than the benefit” [Surah Al Baqarah, 219]
You’d think Allah would compare the benefit of alcohol with it’s harm, but no sire! He says even if it has good in it, its sin is greater!
Drinking is a major sin in Islam because it clouds your judgment and makes good people do horrible things! There’s a reason ten kinds of people are cursed with it, and prayer isn’t accepted for 40 days when someone drinks [Sunan Ibn Majah]. But if we don’t care about all the risks or aren’t convinced, how about abstaining for this reason…. Ummm because Allah said so!
Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم said, “Every intoxicant is Khamr and every intoxicant is forbidden” [Sahih Muslim], and he also said. “Khamr is the key of all evil” [Sunan Ibn Majah].
But Seriously, Why Do People Still Drink?
Muslims who drink are not morons. They surely understand the risks, know the Islamic laws and deep down feel guilty they’re doing ‘haram’. (I even know Muslims who went as far as believing drinking alcohol is permissible!) Most of them wouldn’t eat bacon or ham if their lives depended on it, but they still drink for other invisible reasons that the majority of us don’t get, and here they are…
Drum roll please….
- According to NIAAA statistics show people who start drinking share common personality characteristics like being depressed, self-destructive, disruptive, insecure, rebellious, hyperactive and/or withdrawn. They drink to self-medicate a deeply rooted personality trait, and because alcohol is both a depressant and a stimulant, it releases endorphins causing a temporary ‘ecstatic effect’. So they keep drinking because it’s easier to cover up the problem than deal with it.
- 90% have tried alcohol for the first time in a social gathering. Ever wonder why? Because they wanna fit in! They crumble under peer pressure. They don’t have the stamina or the confidence or the courage to say ‘NO’. They wanna look and feel cool, so they follow instead of lead. All humans are weak, and being desperate to fit in is just another form of human weakness.
- Some Muslims drink to escape. It’s as simple as that. They wanna escape their problems, their fears, their realities… the list goes on. But the most they wanna escape is themselves. Drinking alcohol makes a person more relaxed. It releases inhibitions. According to the ‘Journal of Experimental Social Psychology’, analysis revealed a strong connection between low-self esteem and drinking alcohol. These people are usually sad, lonely and feel like total losers without the booze. They don’t trust or like themselves sober, and without the back-up fake confidence they get from drinking, they feel small and incompetent. So they tell themselves it’s okay to drink. But ask those same Muslims, especially the men, if they’re okay with their moms or daughters drinking, their response will probably be a punch in your face!
If you know one of these people, I’m urging you to please don’t slam them down. Chances are they’re already broken to start with. Allah does not grant peace and happiness to those who disobey Him, but you know what? He grants forgiveness when they repent, lots and lots and lots of forgiveness. We all sin differently, and no one knows whom Allah will accept in the end. At least these Muslims acknowledge and admit they’re doing wrong, which many of us don’t have the courage to do when it comes to owning up to our sins. Some of my loved ones drink, and it makes me feel so helpless. It’s beyond painful seeing those you love so much hurt themselves and their families this way. There are no words to describe this heartache, but this helplessness is also humbling because it’s a constant reminder. Without Allah’s guidance we would all be ‘booze losers’ too. Because we are all flawed, we are all weak and we all struggling…
May Allah help us, our loved ones and this beloved Ummah to see the light. May we never feel this helpless or this weak when it comes to pleasing Him.
May He grant us the serenity to accept the things we can’t change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
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