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What is the gradual prohibition of Khamr (alchoholic drink)?
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Islamic researcher, graduated from Al-Azhar University, Islamic Studies in English.
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In a Nutshell:
There are three stages for prohibiting khamr: drinking khamr as a lawful drink, abandon it before prayer and the final stage was the total prohibition in the third year of Hijrah.
Historical Background

In general, khamr was prohibited after the battle of Uḥud according to the historians. (Ibn Hishām, al-Sīra al-Nabawīya 2:190–191; Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāya wa-al-Nihāya, 3:127–128)

Ibn Taymiyah reported the agreement on this issue:

فإن الخمر حرّمت سنة ثلاث بعد أُحُد، باتفاق الناس

"Khamr was prohibited in the third year after Uhud by the agreement of people (scholars)." (Ibn Taymiyah, Majmu al-Fatawa, Vol. 8, p. 55)

However, they differed about the exact time of the battle, and most of them said it was in the third year after the Hijra. By examining the historical development of the issue of khamr in Islam, there are three stages can be traced to the successive prohibition of khamr in Islam. Imam al-Razi mentioned in his tafsir these stages as follow.

Stages of Prohibition

The first stage begins with the first verse was revealed in Mecca discussing the issue of khamr:

وَمِن ثَمَرَاتِ النَّخِيلِ وَالْأَعْنَابِ تَتَّخِذُونَ مِنْهُ سَكَرًا وَرِزْقًا حَسَنًا (النحل 67)

And (We grant you nourishment) from the fruit of date-palms and vines: from it you derive intoxicants as well as wholesome sustenance (al-Naḥl:67)

During this stage, people used to drink khamr and it was lawful.

The second stage began when ʻAbd al-Raḥmān ibn ʻAwf (ra) made food and invited some of the companions, including ʻAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib (ra). He served them wine, so they drank and got intoxicated, and when the time of Maghrib (sunset) prayer came, the imām (prayer leader) read Qur'anic verses wrongly. He mistakenly dropped the negative "- لا lā" so that the meanings of the verses became the opposite of the original. Instead of reciting:

لَا أَعْبُدُ مَا تَعْبُدُونَ

"We (Muslims) don't worship what you worship (the idols)," (Al-Kafrun:2)

the imam recited, "We worship what you worship."

Thus, the following verse was revealed:

يَـأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ لاَ تَقْرَبُواْ الصَّلَوةَ وَأَنتُمْ سُكَـرَى (النساء 43)

O you who have believed, do not approach prayer while you are intoxicated. (Nisa':43)

Later, the final prohibition comes when Uthman ibn Affan invited a group of Ansars, and after drinking, they had an argument which leads to a physical quarrel. Thus, Umar, he said, "O Allah! Give us a clear ruling regarding khamr.'' Soon after, Allah sent the verse :

يَـأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ إِنَّمَا الْخَمْرُ وَالْمَيْسِرُ وَالاٌّنصَابُ وَالاٌّزْلاَمُ رِجْسٌ مِّنْ عَمَلِ الشَّيْطَـنِ فَاجْتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ - إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ الشَّيْطَـنُ أَن يُوقِعَ بَيْنَكُمُ الْعَدَاوَةَ وَالْبَغْضَآءَ فِى الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ وَيَصُدَّكُمْ عَن ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَعَنِ الصَّلَوةِ فَهَلْ أَنْتُمْ مُّنتَهُونَ (المائدة 90-91)
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. (Qur'an 5:90)

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? (Ma'idah: 90-91) (Razi, al-Tafsir al-Kabir, vol. 6, p. 43)


There are four stages for prohibiting the khamr: drinking khamr as a lawful drink, abandon it before prayer and the final stage was the total prohibition in the third year of Hijrah.


Razi, al-Tafsir al-Kabir
Ibn Hishām, al-Sīra al-Nabawīya
Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāya wa-al-Nihāya
Ibn Taymiyah, Majmu al-Fatawa


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