Tuesday 22nd Jan 2019
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Alcohol Man-Made Law or Law of Allah

Cover Story

, by SYED ABUL ALA MAUDOODI

In the beginning of December 1933 the Prohibition Law in America got abrogated and the people of the new world once again stepped into the “wet” area after 14 years of “dryness”. Roosevelt’s accession to power in the Republic of America was the first declaration of the victory of alcohol over dryness. Earlier in April 1933 a law was passed which permitted 2-3 per cent of alcohol in wine. However, then no sooner a few months had passed than the 18th amendment to the Constitution of America itself, according to which sale and purchase, import and export as well as production and manufacture of wine were completely banned within the limits of the United States of America, was abrogated.

This was the biggest experiment in reforming moral and social values by means of laws, the like of which is not found in the world history. Before the 18th amendment, Anti Saloon League, with the help of newspapers, magazines, public addresses, photographs, magic, seminars and various other methods, tried for years to inculcate the drawbacks and ills of alcohol in the minds of the people of America and spent a plenty of money on this mission. It is estimated that since the beginning of the movement till 1925, 6 crore dollars was spent on printing literatures and the number of pages of these literatures are around 90 crores.

Besides, the American people had to bear the burden of around 45 crore pounds with regards to the implementation of prohibition laws and according to the Department of Justice of the United States of America, a total of 200 people lost their lives and 5,34,335 got imprisoned while criticising this law. Fines worth 1,60,00000 pounds were imposed and assets worth 40,40,00000 pounds were seized.

Such destruction of lives and properties was only borne so that the ‘most cultured’ nation of the 20th century, whose advancements have reached the pinnacle, could be warned against innumerable spiritual, physical and economic ills of alcohol, the mother of evils. However, the struggle which continued for several years, and in which the government was also involved, knelt down before the ‘firm determination of drinking’ of the people of America and ‘the big reformist jihad in the world history’ at last proved futile.

The failure of banning alcohol and the abrogation of the Prohibition Law was not because the ills of alcohol, to eradicate which propaganda and force of law were exploited, were transformed into something beneficial, or some new academic discovery proved the views held earlier wrong, rather the reality being acknowledged on the bases of many comprehensive experiments is that prostitution, fornication, homosexuality, theft, drinking, murder and other such crimes had close relations with this mother  of evils and it played a pivotal role in the destruction of morals, health, society and economy of the western nations. However, the thing which forced the American government to backtrack and abrogate the amendment is that the majority of Americans was not ready to give up drinking and the same public, which 14 years ago demanded prohibition, now started demanding its abrogation vociferously.

As far as we know, not even a sot ever contested the ills of alcohol nor did any anti-prohibition person presented any list of benefits of alcohol that might prove weightier than its ills. At the time when the American Congress decided to come up with the 18 amendment they scrutinised all the ills of alcohol and hence the 18th amendment came into existence. Forty-six states voted in favour of the amendment and the House of Representative and the Senate adopted the Prohibition Act. All this was done with the consent of the people. As long as the Prohibition Act was in place only on paper, the nation kept on supporting it.

However, when it came to the actual implementation, the Americans changed their colours completely. The very first night they spent under the Prohibition Act made the most cultured, educated, justice-loving, and advanced nation go mad. And they started doing such preposterous acts that made one believe they would literally bang their heads as is the case with imaginary lovers mentioned by the poets of the east.

After the closure of licensed pubs and liquor shops, lakhs of secret places (SPEK EA SISS AND BLIND PIGS) where one could get alcohol sprang up all across the nation and people came up with various ways to circumvent the ban and befool the law so that they could drink, buy and sell alcohol. Informing one’s relatives or friends about the secret places where one could get alcohol was considered some special act of kindness. Earlier the government could monitor the licensed liquor shops and could know about the types of alcohol and those who frequent the places, but the secret pubs which emerged later could not be monitored. Their numbers were many folds higher than the licensed liquor shops that were there before the prohibition and the secret pubs sold all kinds of alcohol, some of which were extremely harmful as regards to the health of the person. These secret pubs were frequented by young boys and girls and their numbers began to increase which led to rising anxiety level among the intelligentsia of America.

The cost of alcohol rose many folds and alcohol business became a very profitable profession and thousands and lakhs of people started doing this business. Besides the secret bars and pubs, bootleggers made their entry, who were nothing but mobile pubs. These bootleggers used to approach schools, offices, hotels, places of adventures and even homes and started making new customers. It is estimated that during the period of prohibition the number of drunkards rose to ten times as compared to the period when there was no ban at all. This profession spread its wings and reached rural areas as well. Distillation units for alcohol sprang up in villages. Before the ban, the total numbers of distillation units were around 400, however after the ban, within the span of just seven years, 7, 942 distillation units were seized, 93,831 furnaces (Bhattha) were sealed, yet there was no decrease in the alcohol business. One of the ex-commissioners from the prohibition department said, “We have only seized a tenth of the actual furnaces (Bhatthas) and manufacturing units.” Similarly, there was a steep rise in the quantity of alcohol. According to a survey, Americans used to drink 20 crore gallons per year during the time of prohibition, which is significantly higher than the consumption before the period of prohibition.

When the consumption rose to such whopping levels, the quality level also decreased which was very harmful as per the health of the people. One of the doctors said, “It should not be called alcohol, rather it is better to call it poison. The moment it gets down the throat, its ill effects begin to appear in the stomach and mind and nerves remain affected with it for two consecutive days. Under its influence a person could not do anything good and it leads the person to commit chaotic activities and crimes.”

Such kinds of alcohol devastated the physical health of Americans. For example, according to the figures of New York city, in the year 1918, before the prohibition, the number of people who fell ill because of the ill effects of alcohol were 3,841 and those who died were 252. In the year 1926 the number of people who fell ill rose to eleven thousand and those died rose to seven thousand five hundred. Besides, those who died under the influence of alcohol and those who were imprisoned could not be imagined.

Similarly, crimes, especially those related to children and youth, increased at an unusual pace. American judges said, “We do not find in our whole history that such a huge number of children got arrested under the influence of alcohol.” When crimes by youth increased then an investigation was done which came to the conclusion that since 1920 drinking habit and quarrelsome attitude among the youth was increasing every passing year. The situation was such that in some cities it increased to two hundred per cent within the span of eight years. In 1933, Col. Moos, the then Director of American National Crime Council, in a statement said that right now every third person in America is a criminal and there has been 350 per cent increase in crime in our nation.

The following, in a nutshell, is the consequence of the Prohibition Act in America within 14 years.

Respect for the law vanished from the hearts and the disease to flout the law became prevalent in every strata of the society.

The real purpose of the Prohibition Act remained far from being served and in contrary to it alcohol became more prevalent and consumed during the prohibition days rather than when it was legal.

The Prohibition Act resulted in massive losses to the government and the secret selling of alcohol led to huge losses to the citizens and the nation’s economy went downwards.

Skyrocketing diseases, devastation of public health, increase in the number of deaths, moral corruption, rise of ignoble and evil traits among the youth belonging to all the strata of society and unusual increase in crimes were the moral and cultural fruits of this law.

Such consequences were found in the nation which was the brightest of all among all the cultured nations in the 20th century, whose citizens were highly educated and minds illuminated with wisdom and knowledge and who had the capability to figure out what is beneficial to them and what is not. Such results came out when millions of dollars were spent and billions of magazines were published warning people about the ill effects of alcohol.

Such consequences came out even when the majority of Americans had accepted the banning of alcohol and the Prohibition Act came into existence after their consent.

Again these were the consequences when the grand nation of the 20th century tried tooth and nail, with its best administration, to ban alcohol, whether drinking or selling.

Until the ills of alcohol began to manifest themselves, the government and the masses were both in favour of banning it; hence there was a ban on it. However, when it became evident that the nation is not ready to give up alcohol and the forceful ban would have far more serious results, then the same government and the masses decided to revoke the ban.

Now let us take a look at the nation which 1350 years [now over 1400 years] ago was counted among the darkest nations in those dark ages. People uneducated, knowledge and wisdom vanished, culture and civilization traceless, ratio of literate persons was one in every ten thousand and they too were such as even today’s dunces would have more knowledge than them, administrative institutions were absent, political system was formed a few years before and hence was in its initial stages and people were lovers of alcohol so much so that they had 250 names for alcohol in their language. Such kind of richness is hard to find in any other language of the world and besides, it proves their unusual likeness and love for alcohol. Their poetry further indicates their love for alcohol and how they considered it something indispensable for living.

It is in these circumstances that the issue of alcohol came up and the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) was asked what the decree of Shari’ah regarding it was. The Messenger of Allah replied that Allah says,

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.

(Surah Baqarah - 219)

This was not the hukm, instead it presented the reality of alcohol that it has both good and evil, but evil surpasses the good present in it. This reality made many people quit drinking, yet many others continued to savour it as usual.

Then another question was asked concerning alcohol as many people used to offer prayers under the influence of alcohol and used to commit mistakes while uttering the verses of the Holy Qur’ān. On this the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) informed that Allah says,

O you who believe! Do not go near prayer when you are intoxicated until you know (well) what you say. 

(Surah Nisa - 43)

Upon hearing this, people designated timings for drinking and began savouring alcohol in between Fajr and Zuhr or after Isha so that Salat timings do not clash with them being in inebriated state and they would not have to miss the Salat because of that.

But the last ruling over alcohol was yet to come. People used to do create ruckus and chaos when in inebriated state so much so that often the situation used to come close to killing and murder. Hence it was wished that there should come a categorical hukm regarding alcohol. It was upon this it was revealed,

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?

(Surah Maida - 90)

No sooner this ruling had come than those who used to die for alcohol distanced themselves from it. The moment it was heard that alcohol had been declared haram people smashed the vessels containing it and alcohol started to flow profusely in the streets of Medina. Around 10-11 people were savouring alcohol at a place when they heard the voice of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) announcing the prohibition of alcohol; they immediately refrained and smashed the vessel. Another person was about the drink as the cup was on his lips but the moment he heard the prohibition he refrained and after it not a single drop went down the throat. Later who ever drank was kicked, punched and was beaten with sticks and shoes. Later punishment for 40 lashes was ordained which after a while was increased to 80 lashes. The result was that the alcohol got completely wiped out from Arabia and later wherever Islam went, it transformed the people and made them teetotaller. The effect is such as even today when the influence of Islam has got weakened a lot, yet there are millions of people who abstain from alcohol without any implementation of prohibition laws or criminal code. If we do a survey to know who from among the peoples in the world indulge in drinking then this community would emerge as those most abstaining from alcohol the world over. Then those among the Muslims who do drink take it as a sin. They regret it which often leads them to quit it on their own.

In the empire of knowledge and wisdom the final decision is based on experiences and observations; these observations can never be proved otherwise. Now you have two experiences before you; one is that of America and the other is that of Islam. The stark differences between the two are evident and it is now the responsibility of the reader to derive lessons from it.

In America people campaigned for years, propagating the ills of alcohol and millions of rupees were spent on literatures and advertisements. Various methods like medical proofs, facts and figures, reason and logic, physical, moral and financial loss caused by it and many other ways were used to prove the ills of alcohol from which no one could deny. Photographs and paintings were also used to project visually the ills of alcohol so that people could imagine the consequences of it and refrain from it. Then Congress, the largest party that represents the people in America, joined hands with the people and passed the Prohibition Act. Then the government (which then was one of the superpowers of the world) invested all its efforts in curbing the buying, selling, distillation, production, etc., of alcohol. But the people (who then were the first among the knowledgeable elite of that time) did not budge and within the short span on 14 years the government was left with no choice but to make haram halal once again.

On the other hand, no propaganda about alcohol was done in Islam. Not a single penny was spent on literatures and advertisements. No Anti Saloon League came into existence. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) just said that Allah has prohibited alcohol for you and the moment this statement came out from the lips of the Messenger, the whole community (the community which was far ahead of America in terms of its love for alcohol and way behind as far as intelligence, knowledge and wisdom is concerned) started refraining from alcohol. And they refrained from it in such a way that as long as they were in the fold of Islam it was impossible for them to return to the previous drinking mode. Their desisting did not hinge on the might of the king, any accountability or any administrative system; rather they desisted even when there was no force or watcher over them. Then again the complete ban on alcohol is not something which could be changed to halal. Even if all the Muslims of the world vote in favour of alcohol then also its decree cannot be changed.

If you look for the reasons behind such great variance, you would come to a few points which would be universal rules not just regarding alcohol, but regarding all other problems about morals and lawlessness.

The first point is that there is a difference in worldly laws and the laws of Islam as regards to organising the affairs of people. The worldly laws depend on the opinions of people hence there is no choice but to get back to people, masses or selective few, for any issue. And the state of human opinion and logic is such that it changes with the changing intelligence and knowledge, external factors and actions, human surroundings, etc., and hence is not constant. Because of this, the thoughts and emotions change. These changing thoughts eventually change the standards of right and wrong, haram and halal, good and bad, acceptable and unacceptable. And because of such changes the laws must also change and hence no constant and stable parameter for morals and culture could come. Man’s continuously changing perception rules over the laws and the continuously changing laws rule over human life. The likeness of this is the likeness of a rookie on the driving seat whose inexperienced hands steer the vehicle sometimes to this way and some other times to that way. The result would be that the vehicle would always remain unstable and erratic. It would never run, with stability, on any given path and when it would run helter-skelter then it would impact those who are driving it, sometimes it would run straight and some other times shaky. Sometimes it would fall into a pit, some other times it would bang on a wall or sometimes it would wobble.

Unlike man-made laws, in Islam all the laws or morals are given by Allah or by the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be to him). Human opinion has no place in Islamic laws and if there is any, then it is only limited to deriving laws for the new realities such as they are only according to the Shari’ah principles. The result of the law of God is that we always have a constant and stable parameter for morals and culture, which does not change with time. In our law yesterday’s haram could not become today’s halal and then again turned haram. Here whatever has been said as haram is haram and whatever is declared as halal will remain halal till the very end of this world. We have given the steering of our vehicle to the expert and we are satisfied that now it would run on the right path.

Allah keeps firm those who believe, with the firm word, in worldly life and in the Hereafter. And Allah sends astray the wrongdoers. And Allah does what He wills.

(Surah Ibrahim - 27)

There is another important point in this. The powers of the world always depend on the consent of the people before formulating any rule or regulation regarding any change in morals, society or culture. There every code of law hinges on the acceptance of people and any reformation law which comes without the will of the people has to be revoked anyhow. This is not just about America, but experiences in other parts of the world give testimony to it. This proves that worldly laws or man-made laws are completely incapable of reforming the society and its morals and it has to give in to the demands of those very people it wants to reform and then takes the decision whether to implement or abrogate the law.

Islam has solved this doubt in a different way and if you focus on it you will find that there is no other solution to this problem. Before delving into the matters of reforming society, morals and cultures it invites man to believe in God, His Messenger and His book. The very fact of believing hinges on his will as whether he believes in it or not. However once he believes, now there is no question of his willingness or unwillingness. Now whatever the Messenger brings from his God and whatever law His book advocates, it becomes mandatory upon him to accept. It is this principle of accepting the faith after which the rest of the Islamic laws automatically applies to the person and no question about his willingness or unwillingness arises. This is the reason why the task which could not be accomplished in America even after spending millions of dollars, printing innumerable literature and the concerted efforts made by the government, could happened with just one call given by the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be to him).

The third important lesson is that no matter how much knowledge or wisdom a nation or community possesses or no matter whatever high their technological advancements are, if they do not submit to the commandments of the Creator, they would never be able to get out of the clutches of their vain desires. The vain desires of the person will overwhelm him so much and he would get inclined towards whatever his nafs (desires) orders him for even if he sees the ills of that thing as bright as the sun or even if science (i.e. the god of intellectuals) stands as a witness against it or even if he is shown facts and figures (which according to people of wisdom cannot always be trivialised) or even if its ills are proved by experiences and observations, he will never give up what is pleasant to his nafs. This shows that developing morals and reforming man’s conscience so much so that it overcomes the person’s nafs is something that neither knowledge and wisdom nor intelligence could do. This can only be done through belief (Iman).

[Translation from Urdu by Kamran Shahid Ansari]

 



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