Q. I was listening to an Islamic lecture and I heard the Shaikh mentioned that according to Imaam Abu Hanifa, alcohol from grapes or dates extract is absolutely prohibited. However, drinks extracted from wheat, barley, sugar cane, etc. is permissible to the extent that they do not intoxicate. Please comment on this.
A. While dealing with the issue of ‘intoxicants’ and its law in Islam, Imam Abu Hanifa looked into the word which has been used in the Quran and the hadith, and explained his opinion based on these.
In the Holy Quran, the word which has been used while giving the prohibition of intoxicants is ‘Al Khamr’. The verse states, ‘O you who believe! Truly, intoxicants (Al Khamr) and gambling and divination by arrows are an abomination of Satan’s handiwork. Avoid it in order that you be successful’. (5:90)
Based on the fact that the word ‘Al Khamr” (which is normally translated as intoxicants) was used in the verse, Imam Abu Hanifa based his opinion on what constitutes khamr and what were those things which were referred to as khamr at the time of the Prophet(SAS). In this regard, he saw that the authentic compilers of Ahadith besides Imam Bukhari have narrated the tradition in which the Prophet (SAS) is reported to have said, ‘Khamr (intoxicant) is from these two trees, the date and the grape trees’.
According to Imam Abu Hanifa, this hadith was very clear in identifying what was khamr. In addition, this was also the understanding of the Arabs at the time of the Prophet (SAS).
It is for this reason, Imam Abu Hanifa, as well as his great student Qazi Abu Yusuf, clearly stated that all alcoholic beverages which are produced from grapes or dates would be totally Haram (unlawful). It does not matter whether it is a small amount or a large amount, whether one becomes intoxicated or not. In all cases, it is unlawful. They have further stated that these alcoholic beverages are unclean and anything mixed with it, will become unclean.
With respect to drinks extracted from wheat, barley, sugar cane etc. Imam Abu Hanifa and Qazi Abu Yusuf have treated these differently, since they were not used by the Arabs at the time of the Prophet (SAS) and hence, could not be ‘categorized’ under the word ‘Khamr’ as used in the Holy Quran and the Hadith. This however, does not mean that alcoholic beverages produced from these extracts and juices are not prohibited. They are indeed unlawful as that of khamr as the Prophet (SAS) has clearly stated, ‘Every thing that intoxicates is ‘Khamr’, and every ‘Khamr’ is haram (unlawful)’.(Recorded by Imam Bukhari and Muslim)
With respect to these alcoholic beverages (prepared from other than grapes and dates), the following are the rulings which Imam Abu Hanifa and Qazi Abu Yusuf have given:
1) Such alcoholic beverages should not be considered as ‘Khamr’ in being unclean.
2) Such alcoholic beverages would be considered as ‘Khamr’, when they intoxicate or befog the mind. In this case, these drinks will be totally haram (unlawful).
3) To consume such alcoholic beverage without becoming drunk will also be totally haram (unlawful).
4) To consume such alcoholic beverage, without becoming drunk, for health reasons will be allowed to the extent of necessity.
Imam Muhammad, another great student of Imam Abu Hanifa, has considered all types of alcoholic beverages to be unclean and has treated all on the same level. Whether a small or large amount, whether it intoxicates or not, all are totally unlawful. This opinion of Imam Muhammad has been accepted as the official and legal verdict (Fatawa) in the Mazhab of Imam Abu Hanifa.
And Allah knows best.
Mufti Waseem Khan