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New Year Without Alcoholism

New Year Without Alcoholism

“{They ask you concerning alcohol and gambling. Say: ‘In them is a great sin, and some benefits for men, but the sin is far greater than the benefit.’}” (Surat Al-Baqarah 2:219).

It has always seemed ironic to me that the new year marks an increase in drinking as well as a mass rush to write down a list of “New Year’s Resolutions”.

As Muslims, of course, we can see the irony in this. One shouldn’t be drinking to begin with, let alone in excess, at a mixed party.

It is a bit ridiculous to then go home and make a list about how one can be a better person the next year. However, this irony is a reality for many people – even Muslims.

It is certain that many of the celebrations in the new year involved the consumption of alcohol. It is also just as certain that many people drinking at those celebrations were Muslims.

As Muslims, we must try to avoid alcohol and encourage other Muslims to do the same. We must also be able to help our fellow Muslims who do drink by recognizing the symptoms of alcoholism, knowing the harms of alcohol (even one drink can harm you). We must also advise and help or fellow Muslims without imposing blame or ridicule.

The word “alcohol” is derived from the Arabic word al-kohl, which means fermented grains, fruits, or sugars that form an intoxicating beverage when fermented.

Khamr or, khamrah, is the word used in the Qur’an to denote a fermented beverage that intoxicates a person when he/she drinks it.

In the Islamic World

Although alcohol is forbidden in Islam, it is widely available for example in Casablanca and other Moroccan cities (Lawless), as well as other Muslim cities around the world.

In fact, Muslims aren’t immune to alcoholism at all. Morocco and Turkey both produce brands of beer and at least half a dozen different wines, and import just about every kind of alcohol that exists.

The Register of Addition Specialists and Castle Worldwide list addiction and alcohol abuse centers for Muslims even in Saudi Arabia – a country where alcohol is illegal.

Dr. O.P Kapoor states that symptoms of alcoholism in Yemeni and Gulf men are often not diagnosed since alcoholism isn’t as widespread and familiar to the medical profession there.

However, he says that many of his Muslim patients consume beer and wine, contributing to their gastric health problems (Kapoor).

A non-alcoholic beer was banned for a short time in Kuwait when it was found that it contained high levels of alcohol (AFP).

Furthermore, even “true” non-alcoholic beer, which is popular with Muslims in the Gulf, as well as other Muslim and European States, DOES contain alcohol in small amounts and has been condemned by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) because it provides not only alcohol, but also “triggers” the senses of smell and taste that can encourage alcoholism.

In studies, both small levels of alcohol and the anticipation of alcohol in non-alcoholic beer raised levels of a brain chemical called dopamine, which plays a role in feelings of elation and pleasure (Buddy).

However, despite the spread of alcoholism in the Muslim world, little is being done to educate Muslims about the health risks of intoxicants.

Many Islamic websites simply emphasize the “wrongness” of alcoholism and its detrimental effect on the values of society.

Other websites speak mostly of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and alcohol related liver problems. Many Muslims, then reason that “it’s not really so bad to drink” as long as they are not otherwise sinning, aren’t pregnant – and if they have a strong liver.

Real Poison

What a lot of Muslims don’t know, however, is that as far as the body is concerned, alcohol is a poison.

Consumption of alcohol isn’t only an issue that concerns morality, pregnancy or liver health. Alcohol can also damage the brain, pancreas, duodenum and central nervous system and causes metabolic damage.

In fact, alcohol causes metabolic damage to every cell in the body in such a slow and insidious way that it may take years for one to actually notice the damage. This can give the illusion that one is “doing OK” with their alcohol or that the one drink didn’t affect them at all.

On the contrary – the liver, which is the only organ that actually processes the alcohol, can actually be up to 3/4 damaged before the person becomes aware of the damage…by then the liver usually shuts down completely.

Furthermore, when alcohol is broken down in the liver it inhibits the organ’s production of digestive enzymes and impairs the body’s ability to absorb fats, proteins and the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) – as well as the B-complex vitamins.

This happens every time a person drinks. Because of the work the liver must do to process the alcohol, toxic amounts of fat get stuck in the liver. This can cause obesity and trouble with weight loss, even in people who consume moderate amounts of alcohol.

Another common effect of alcohol on the body is that of damage to the peripheral nervous system, such as the feet and hands. One may experience shaking or loss of sensation in either. The pancreas also can become inflamed and thus can lead to diabetes.

Men who drink alcohol also experience a great decrease in their production of testosterone, a male hormone that is basically responsible for making them “male”. Alcohol is also one of the most common causes of reduced sexual performance, impotence and infertility.

A common “old wives tale” recommends that a woman tired of her marriage bed needs only to allow her husband a sip of beer to quell his passions.

People consuming large amounts of alcohol may also eventually become deficient in zinc, which can cause one to lose their sense of taste or smell and thus some of their enjoyment of food.

This also impairs their ability to heal wounds – so alcoholics who get injured or have surgical scars may never heal properly.

Combining alcohol with over the counter drugs like Panadol, Tylenol and others has often proved deadly to some people as well. If a person is allergic to suphites (sulpha drugs, sulphites, etc…) then alcohol is even more deadly, as it is manufactured with sulphites.

Recognizing Problem

To detect if you or a loved one has a problem with alcoholism, you should learn to recognize symptoms commonly related to a drinking problem.

Symptoms directly related to excessive drinking include: dizziness, delayed reflexes, slowed mental function, memory loss, poor judgment, emotional outbursts, aggressive behavior, lack of coordination, shaking of the hands, nervous system disorders and anxiety.

Symptoms of withdrawal (when trying to quit) are: cravings, nausea, vomiting, gastrointestinal upset, abdominal cramps, anorexia, fatigue, headache, anxiety, irritability, chills, depression, insomnia, tremors, weakness and hallucinations.

Many Muslims are afraid to seek help for alcoholism because of the fear of what people will say or think of them. However, we must remember that no one is immune to immorality.

Allah condemns even those who sell or support alcohol. Most people support alcohol sellers when they eat at restaurants that serve alcohol, buy products from those who sell alcohol and even when they fly on an airplane.

“The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Allah has cursed wine, its drinker, its server, its seller, its buyer, its presser, the one for whom it is pressed, the one who conveys it, and the one to whom it is conveyed,” (Buhkari: Book 26, Number 3666).

The only way we can combat alcoholism in our community is to first observe it, accept that there is a problem, and lovingly assist those Muslims who are having trouble.

This article was first published in 2001 and is currently republished for its relevance.


About Dr. Karima Burns

Dr. Karima Burns has been counseling as a Home-path for over 9 years. From the U.S. she is a doctor in Naturopathy, a Master Herbalist, and teaches with inspiration from the Waldorf school. She uses art, health and education to heal others.

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