Islam: Muhammad’s prohibition

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Wine (in Arabic khamr) was not prohibited from the outset of the Prophet Muhammad’s preaching (between 610 and 632). Islam, both dogma and practice, emerged initially as the product of continuous revelation (the Qurʾān, often spelt Koran) during the Prophet’s lifetime and his responses to the vicissitudes of the early Islamic community (these are recorded in the hadīth literature and constitute the second most substantive source of Islamic law). There are four verses in the Qurʾān which refer to wine; the first is quite positive (Sūra 16, verse 69): ‘We give you the fruit of the palm and the vine from which you derive intoxicants and wholesome food.’ The following two verses are cautionary but are not considered by Muslim jurists to enjoin abstinence from alcohol (Sura 2, verse 216, and Sura 4, verse 46): ‘They will ask you concerning wine and gambling. Answer, in both there is great sin and also some things of use unto men, but their sinfulness is greater than their use.’ ‘Believers do not approach your prayers when you are drunk, but wait till you can grasp the meaning of your words; nor when you are polluted—unless you are travelling the road—until you have washed yourself.’