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Selma Cook
The consumption of alcohol and other intoxicants is absolutely prohibited in Islam. Consider the following hadeeth:

Wa'il al-Hadrami reported that Tariq b. Suwaid al-Ju'fi asked Allah's Apostle (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) about liquor. He forbade (its use) and expressed hatred that it should be prepared. He (Tariq) said, "I prepare it as a medicine," whereupon he (the Prophet) said, "It is no medicine, but an ailment." (Sahih Muslim)

In light of such a strong condemnation of alcohol, many Muslims may be curious about the large number of non-Muslim scientists and physicians who have claimed that drinking 1-2 glasses of wine per day may actually be of significant benefit to one's health, providing protection against heart disease and other ailments. These findings are supposedly based upon reputable studies carried out by reputable researchers, and the press has bombarded us with them.

As Muslims, however, we should know that an incomplete picture is being presented to the public regarding this issue. Islam is unique from other religions in that its teachings have never been found to contradict any scientific finding unless that finding is eventually proven wrong. The teachings of Islam are timeless and will always hold true while science may change from day to day according to new theories and new ways of thinking. With regards to the wine issue, we cannot ignore the fact that there is a lot of money to be made by encouraging people to drink it regularly. Besides the sale, taxation and regulation of alcohol (a billion dollar industry), huge amounts of money are also being made by the doctors and social organizations who treat the vicitms of alcohol abuse while the government is also profitting nicely from federally mandated drug and alcohol testing programs. Generally speaking, the public does not care much about these conflicts of interest: it has, after all, been granted "permission" to indulge in one of its favorite vices.

The fact is that alcohol remains a danger to both the individual and to the society as a whole. Alcohol is still responsible for countless deaths each year in the form of drunk driving accidents, murders committed while under the influence and health conditions such as cirrhosis, kidney disease and heart failure. It is impossible to estimate how many families have been destroyed by the violence which often accompanies alcohol abuse, how many babies in utero have suffered the negative effects of mothers who drink during pregnancy, or how many young lives and intelligent minds have been wasted by dependence upon intoxicants.

Though initial studies conducted by non-Muslims appeared to indicate that moderate drinking could provide protection against certain diseases, later studies concluded that the alcohol component of wine plays no part whatsoever in the seemingly miraculous effects of the beverage. In fact, further trials have demonstrated that plain grape juice is just as effective in boosting the body's immunities to the same diseases. What's more, it is now understood that almost all red-pigmented fruits such as red and purple grapes, strawberries and raspberries share common properties which serve to improve the health of individuals who consume such fruits on a regular basis. (And Allah knows best.)

In spite of these exciting findings, we are still being told that moderate drinking is beneficial to our health while the studies about red-pigmented fruit have been swept under the carpet by both the media and the health-care establishment. The few doctors who have bravely refused to recommend alcohol as a treatment for illness have been largely belittled and accused of withholding valuable "life-saving" information from their patients.

Thanks be to Allah, it is unlikely that Muslims (most of whom very clearly understand the Islamic ban on alcohol consumption) have been adversely affected by the misinformation surrounding this subject; however, we should not lose the opportunity to learn a valuable lesson from the situation. No matter what science seems to tell us about a particular issue, we must always take care to reject any finding which goes against Islamic teachings and principles. Islam is the standard by which we judge science, not the other way around.