Why drinking is forbidden in Islam

Alcohol and Drugs in IslamStrictly forbidden, but!

Anyone who has ever walked through a bazaar in Yemen will be the first to notice filled cheeks. Almost all traders, exclusively men, sit in their shops and have plump cheeks, as if they had recently had a molar pulled out. But the reason for the thick cheek is actually a drug, the so-called Kat. It would not be an exaggeration to say: Yemen is downright obsessed with the young leaves of the Katstrauch. Many men, women and even children do not spend a day without getting in the mood with the intoxicant.

A cruel war has been raging in the same Yemen since 2015. It is also a battle between two Islamic denominations, Sunnis and Shiites. The population suffers from poverty and hunger. There is hardly anything to eat, and yet one thing is by no means left out: the national drug Kat. How does this fit together with the teachings of Islam, to which most people in Yemen profess? A question for Mathias Rohe, lawyer and Islamic scholar at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg:

"So there is a basic skepticism in Islamic teaching about drugs of all kinds, although it is unclear what actually falls under the drug term."


The Koran hardly goes into detail. That is why there are often serious differences in the interpretations. While the drug Kat is approved by the religious authorities in Yemen, for example, it is considered "haram", i.e. forbidden, in most other Islamic-dominated countries. Mathias Rohe knows that the consumption of light drugs such as Kat or harder drugs is even punished in a draconian way in individual Islamic countries.

"Traditionally, lashes are given there. In many other countries, corporal punishment has meanwhile been turned away and just imposed fines or prison sentences, or much more."

In Germany, the kat plant is hardly known even among Muslims, but cannabis is discussed here. Some parties and politicians are calling for the hemp plant to be released. Serap Guler, State Secretary for Integration in North Rhine-Westphalia and a devout Muslim woman, is not one of them.

"I am also not in favor of cannabis legalization, for example, which is often a gateway drug for me. Because from a religious point of view I find it appropriate and correct that these drugs are incompatible with the practice of belief."

It is unclear what is forbidden and what is not

Due to the unclear wording in the Koran, there has been a discussion for centuries about what exactly should be classified as drugs. This not only applies to Kat and cannabis, but also to coffee, for example.

"There were also different opinions about it, although the few Ottoman sultans who tried to drive the Turks out of drinking coffee failed quite a bit with this endeavor."

In fact, in the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, coffee consumption was banned for a short time - by the Sultan's Grand Mufti. However, the ban could not be maintained for long. The case with alcohol is clearer than with coffee, says Mathias Rohe:

"There are still the clearest statements on the subject of alcohol. Although the term alcohol as such does not appear in the Koran, but the term Khamr, for example, where it is unclear what exactly is meant by intoxicating drinks."

The vast majority of Muslims understand this to mean all alcoholic beverages. Although the Koran also offers other interpretations:

"It is noteworthy that the Koran initially also makes positive statements about alcohol. That there is something useful and harmful in it. Incidentally, that means you can already consume it. Only at the end does this revelation come: Sura 5, Verse 90. "

"O you who believe, intoxicating drink, gambling, sacrificial stones and arrows are just an abomination of the work of Satan. Avoid him so that you may fare well!"

"Alcohol plays an important role in all crime statistics"

In the early days of Islam, alcohol consumption was not forbidden. The ban was introduced gradually because the Arabs liked to drink alcohol at the time. Today there is a unanimous opinion about the meaning of this prohibition in theological commentaries, explains the Islam expert Mathias Rohe.

"Well, people should just stay clear-headed, and alcohol robs people of their minds. By the way, this is a point of view that the German penal code shares to a certain extent. Someone who is drunk is considered temporarily insane. And that can at some public festivals, how should I put it, one observes empirically. "

Observations that Enes Curuk also made. The young Islamic theologian works in prisons as a Muslim pastor. Based on his experience there, he can understand a ban on alcohol in Islam.

"Unfortunately I have to go to court very hard with alcohol, since alcohol consumption plays an important role in all crime statistics. I believe that alcohol consumption poses a potential risk to health, life, social and general life of people. "

"Many find personal compromises"

Nevertheless, glasses are still popular in Islamic countries. Some alcoholic specialties even originated in Islamic countries - such as the Turkish raki. Serap Guler does not allow himself to be deprived of the occasional alcohol consumption, and has a glass of wine from time to time.

"I know a lot of Muslims - I am one of them - who do without pork, but still drink alcohol. I think that sometimes also means creating your own rules: What do I follow, what I don't, what can be justified. For many it is still strictly adhered to, but many have also found compromises for themselves. Or find compromises to do without one and not the other. "

Mathias Rohe knows that this is a common way of dealing with religious do's and don'ts.

"And you also have to realize that it applies to Muslims as well as to other people. They adhere to such regulations with varying degrees of consistency. So when you are in Turkey, for example, you will not infrequently get a glass of raki to drink - and many Turks like that. "