Consuming alcohol and gambling

Surah 5 (Al-Ma’idah/The Table Spread): 90

90. O you who believe! Intoxicants, gambling, idolatry and divination are abominations of Satan’s doing.

Avoid them, so that you may prosper.

91. Satan wants to provoke strife and hatred among you through intoxicants and gambling, and to prevent you from the remembrance of God, and from prayer. Will you not desist?


The Qur’an’s approach to alcohol appears to have become progressively censorious.


In {16.66-67}strong drink’ made ‘from the fruits of the date palm and the vine’ was proclaimed as a ‘goodly provision’ from God.


{4.43} warns against attending prayers whilst drunk.


In {2.219} drinking alcohol and gambling are treated as twinned activities, of which, on balance, the sin outweighs the benefit.

{2.219} They ask thee about ‘wine’ (‘khamr’: ‘strong drink’, per Pickthall; possibly originally just meaning ‘date wine’) and gambling.

Say: ‘In them there is great sin and (some) benefits for mankind, but their sin is greater than their benefit’.


Finally, in {5.90-91}, produced above, both the consumption of alcohol (‘khamr‘) and gambling – the two vices for a second time appearing in tandem, are condemned outright as ‘abominations of Satan’s doing‘.


Hadith record Muhammad ordering drunkards to be flogged .


Islam universally adopts the final version, {5.90-91} which is interpreted as an absolute prohibition on the consumption of alcohol, although this is not strictly necessary from the text which is clearly concerned with the consumption of alcohol in such a manner as may be associated with gambling and liable to lead to ‘strife and hatred’. Since neither Judaism nor Christianity disapprove of alcohol, it would appear from these four passages, when they are read as a sequence, that the final ascetic position was reached over a period of time in which the Qur’an was establishing greater independence from the Torah: one can all too easily imagine following riotous evenings amongst Muhammad’s believers.