Quran 16:67 permits wine (Arabic: khamr)
I understand that wine and alcohol are forbidden in Islam. But can anybody explain comments in the Quran which seem to permit wine? Shouldn’t alcohol in Islam be permitted?
Here are a few translations of Quran 16:67:
- And of the fruits of the palms and the grapes– you obtain from them intoxication and goodly provision; most surely there is a sign in this for a people who ponder. (Shakir)
- And from the fruits of the palm trees and grapevines you take intoxicant and good provision. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who reason. (Sahih International)
- And from the fruits of date-palms and grapes, you derive strong drink (this was before the order of the prohibition of the alcoholic drinks) and a goodly provision. Verily, therein is indeed a sign for people who have wisdom. (Muhsin Khan)
- And of the products of the palms and the vineyards you take to yourselves there from an intoxicant and a fair provision. Surely in that is indeed a sign for a people who consider. (Dr. Ghali)
This verse about the wine that comes from dates and grapes is in the context of other good things that Allah gives:
- rain from the sky (Quran 16:65)
- drink from livestock (Quran 16:66)
- bees and honey from the honeycomb (Quran 16:68)
It seems from the above that alcohol in Islam should be permitted.
The Quran says wine has some benefit
However, another passage in the Quran speaks less highly of wine.
Here are several translations of Quran 2:219:
They ask you about wine and gambling. Say, “In them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people. But their sin is greater than their benefit.” And they ask you what they should spend. Say, “The excess [beyond needs].” Thus Allah makes clear to you the verses [of revelation] that you might give thought. (Sahih International)
They ask you (O Muhammad SAW) concerning alcoholic drink and gambling. Say: “In them is a great sin, and (some) benefit for men, but the sin of them is greater than their benefit.” And they ask you what they ought to spend. Say: “That which is beyond your needs.” Thus Allah makes clear to you His Laws in order that you may give thought.” (Muhsin Khan)
They question thee about strong drink and games of chance. Say: In both is great sin, and (some) utility for men; but the sin of them is greater than their usefulness. And they ask thee what they ought to spend. Say: that which is superfluous. Thus Allah maketh plain to you (His) revelations, that haply ye may reflect. (Pickthall)
They ask thee concerning wine and gambling. Say: “In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit.” They ask thee how much they are to spend; Say: “What is beyond your needs.” Thus doth Allah Make clear to you His Signs: In order that ye may consider- (Yusuf Ali)
They ask you about intoxicants and games of chance. Say: In both of them there is a great sin and means of profit for men, and their sin is greater than their profit. And they ask you as to what they should spend. Say: What you can spare. Thus does Allah make clear to you the communications, that you may ponder (Shakir)
They ask you concerning wine and games of chance. Say, “In (both) is great vice, and profits for mankind; and the vice in them is greater than the profit.” And they ask you (concerning) what (things) they should expend. Say, “Liberality.” (Or: clemency) Thus, Allah makes evident the signs to you, that possibly you would meditate (Dr. Ghali)
The Quran identifies wine and alcohol with the defilements of Satan
Quran 5:90-91 identifies alcohol with a defilement of Satan on the same level as idolatry and divination,
- 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? (Sahih International)
- O you who believe! Intoxicants (all kinds of alcoholic drinks), gambling, Al-Ansab, and Al-Azlam (arrows for seeking luck or decision) are an abomination of Shaitan’s (Satan) handiwork. So avoid (strictly all) that (abomination) in order that you may be successful. Shaitan (Satan) wants only to excite enmity and hatred between you with intoxicants (alcoholic drinks) and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah and from As-Salat (the prayer). So, will you not then abstain? (Muhsin Khan)
- O ye who believe! Strong drink and games of chance and idols and divining arrows are only an infamy of Satan’s handiwork. Leave it aside in order that ye may succeed. Satan seeketh only to cast among you enmity and hatred by means of strong drink and games of chance, and to turn you from remembrance of Allah and from (His) worship. Will ye then have done? (Pickthall)
- O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination,- of Satan’s handwork: eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper. 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? (Yusuf Ali)
- O you who believe! intoxicants and games of chance and (sacrificing to) stones set up and (dividing by) arrows are only an uncleanness, the Shaitan’s work; shun it therefore that you may be successful. The Shaitan only desires to cause enmity and hatred to spring in your midst by means of intoxicants and games of chance, and to keep you off from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. Will you then desist? (Shakir)
- O you who have believed, surely wine and games of chance, and altars (for idols) and divining (i.e., divination by arrows or in any other way) are only an abomination of Ash-Shaytan’s (The all-vicious, the Devil) doing, so avoid it, that possibly you would prosper. Surely Ash- Shaytan’s (The all-vicious, the Devil) would only (like) to excite enmity and abhorrence among you by means of wine and games of chance, (Literally: in wine and games of chance) and to bar you from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer. Will you then be refraining? (Dr. Ghali)
Quran 5:90-91 is confusing because a few years earlier Muhammad spoke about wine alongside other good things Allah gives to mankind: water, milk, and honey. Several years later it sounds like Muhammad changed his mind identifying alcohol with the devil and no longer Allah’s good gift to mankind.1
Why was wine permitted to the Jews (Deuteronomy 14:26; Psalm 104:14-15)? Why did Jesus change water into wine (John 2:1-11)? Why did the Quran permit wine and change a few years later?
- “Hadith has many utterances regarding this theme. Wine, is the key of all evil (Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, v. 238; Ibn Madja, Ashriba, bab i). Who drinks wine in this world without repenting it, shall not drink it in the other world (Bukhari, Ashriba, bab i; Muslim, Ashriba, trad. 73, 76-78, etc.). Cursed is he who drinks, buys, sells wine or causes others to drink it (Abu Da’ud, Ashriba, bab 2; Ibn Madja, Ashriba, bab 6; Ahmad b. Hanbal, i. 316; ii. 25, 69, 71, 97, 128, etc.). Who drinks a draught of wine on purpose shall have to drink pus on doomsday (Tayalisi, No. 1134). Prayer of him who drinks wine is not accepted by Allah (Nasa’i, Ashriba, bab. 43; Darimi, Ashriba, bab 3), and faith is incompatible with drinking it (Bukhari, Ashriba, bab i; Nasa’i, Ashriba bab 42, 44). It is even inadvisable to use it as medicine (Muslim, Ashriba, trad. 12; Ahmad b. Hanbal iv. 311, 317 bis etc.); and it is prohibited to use wine for manufacturing vinegar (Tirmidhi, Buyu’, bab. 59; Ahmad b. Hanbal iii. 119, 260 bis). But times will be even worse and there will be people who declare wine allowed (Bukhari, Ashriba, bab 1; Nasa’i, Ashriba, bab. 41, etc.) and so it will be drunk by the generation of the last days (Bukhari, Ashriba, bab i, Ahmad b. Hanbal, iii 176, 202, 213 sq)” (“Khamr” in Encyclopaedia of Islam) [↩]