Ask Ali: Why alcohol is forbidden in Islam and the challenges of making pottery in the UAE

Intoxicants are forbidden in the Quran and they are mentioned in many different verses in separate areas of the holy book.

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Dear Ali: Can you please explain why alcohol is forbidden in Islam? MS, Abu Dhabi

Dear MS: A short answer would be simply because Allah said so, and Muslims would follow Allah’s word like any other followers of God in other religions. But there are many reasons why it’s considered haram, as in Islam everything is explained and has a logical reason behind it.

What harms you is always forbidden in Islam or frowned upon, and in the case of alcohol, it is considered an “intoxicant”, derived from the Greek word “tox”, which means poison. And obviously poison is harmful!

Hence intoxicants are forbidden in the Quran, and they are mentioned in many different verses in separate areas of the holy book. Muslims are forbidden to attend prayers while intoxicated. Also it is mentioned that alcohol contains some good and some evil, but in this situation the evil is greater than the good. This was part of the process in turning people away from consuming alcohol. Finally, the Holy Quran clearly mentions that “intoxicants and games of chance” are “abominations of Satan’s handiwork”.

It is mentioned that the word for “intoxicated” is “sukara”, which means drunk or intoxicated. Another verse doesn’t mention the alcoholic drink but simply refers to intoxication. In the next verses cited, the word which is often translated as “wine” or “intoxicants” is “al khamr”, which is related to the verb “to ferment.” This word could be used to describe other intoxicants such as beer or wine.

Islamic scholars interpret these Quranic verses in total to forbid any intoxicating substance. People still need to understand that there might not be a ban in the Holy Quran on alcohol because it is an intoxicant, but the main reason for banning it is that it will make Muslims forget about their main Islamic duties and rituals such as praying and remembering God, which are important pillars of practising the religion of Islam.

At the time, Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, instructed his followers to avoid any intoxicating substances: “If it intoxicates in a large amount, it is forbidden even in a small amount.” For this reason, most Muslims avoid alcohol, even small amounts used in cooking. Arabic food and drinks are totally alcohol-free. Therefore, if you are a non-Muslim and invite your Muslim friends for lunch or dinner, it would be polite to respect their rules. If any alcohol has been used to cook or prepare the dishes, warn your guest as a sign of respect.

Dear Ali: I heard there were challenges to making pottery in the Emirates. How come? TF, Al Ain

Dear TF: It’s true. While pottery was very useful for storing food and water, it was difficult to make in the desert. Clay is an essential ingredient in pottery and is found in the earth around wet places. Our ancestors made as much pottery as they could, but were limited by the fact that there was very little clay around. They made pottery from what clay there was in the wadis, or the valleys around the oases.

Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow @AskAli on Twitter, and visit to ask him a question and to find his guidebooks to the UAE, priced at Dh50.

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