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Breaking Bottles – Story of Umar with Alcohol

There’s a very interesting hadith from Umar ibn al-Khattab. Before Islam, Umar was a drinker, actually many of the companions were drinkers.

When Umar came back to Allah, he sincerely wanted to make sure that he was leaving behind anything that would be objectionable and anything that he had to do away with for the sake of Allah and his messenger (peace be upon him).

Umar used to sincerely ask Allah to clarify certain matters for him. And many of us know about the relationship between Umar’s dua and certain verses about alcohol, but let’s look at this narration in particular which is narrated in Sunan Tirmidhi:

Umar’s Dua

Umar used to say:

Oh Allah, make this matter of alcohol intoxicants as clear as it can be for us.

When he made that dua the first time, Allah revealed verse 2:219:

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They ask you about wine and gambling. Say, “In them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people. But their sin is greater than their benefit.

At this point, when that verse was revealed, Umar started to make the same dua to Allah:

O Allah, give us clarity on this issue.

Meaning, I really want to know if this is haram for all the time or at certain times.

So then Allah sent down the verse 4:43

O you who have believed, do not approach prayer while you are intoxicated until you know what you are saying.

Because what ended up happening is that a group of companions were praying and the companion that was leading the salah was drunk it was maghrib prayer, so he started mixing up a bunch of verses, and jumping from chapter to chapter.

So Allah prohibited a person to come to prayer while they were drunk.

At this point now, the companions would drink either way before prayer so that they were intoxicated when they came, or they start drinking after Isha prayer.

So Umar once again made dua:

O Allah, make this matter of alcohol clear for us.

So Allah revealed the verse 5:91:

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?

Umar said:

“We’re done. I’m not going to make this dua out anymore!”

Now, to add on to this story, some of the companions then they came to the Prophet Muhammad:

“What happened to the righteous companions that died and used to drink?”

Allah revealed the next verse 5: 93:

There is not upon those who believe and do righteousness [any] blame concerning what they have eaten [in the past].

So they’re forgiven.

Umar’s Sincerity

Now, what I really want to point out here which is really significant is that Umar was looking for truth, he wasn’t looking for a loophole, he wasn’t looking for convenience. Because his love for Allah and the Prophet Muhammad was greater than his love for alcohol, was greater than his love for that drug.

And the proof of that as well is what’s narrated in Al-Bukhari and Muslim that Umar actually stood up and said:

O people the prohibition of intoxicants is clear. Whether it comes from grapes, dates, honey, wheat, or barley… all what intoxicates the mind, so will you stop and avoid it?

We should have that same level of sincerity that Umar had, which is to want to know the truth so we can follow it not to want to find a loophole so that we can continue to obey our desires.

About Omar Suleiman
Imam Omar Suleiman is the President of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research and a professor of Islamic Studies at Southern Methodist University. He’s also the resident scholar of the Valley Ranch Islamic Center and Co-Chair of Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square, a multi-faith alliance for peace and justice.