Alcoholism & Islam

by Amy Wilde
Muslim alcoholics may not seek treatment for fear of social, religious and even legal repercussions.

Muslim alcoholics may not seek treatment for fear of social, religious and even legal repercussions.

Prohibition of alcohol consumption is one of the central tenets of Islam. In Sharia law, the code by which observant Muslims live their lives, drinking alcohol is one of the the few practices that is haram: a very serious offense. Because of the absolute ban on alcohol in Islam, alcohol consumption in several Muslim countries and populations is low. However, even in countries with the strictest penalties for drinking, alcohol consumption, alcohol abuse and alcoholism still exist.

History of Islam and Alcohol

According to the history laid out in Islam's sacred texts, before the introduction of Islam Arabia was plagued with rampant alcohol abuse and a number of other social problems stemming from it. Muslims believe that Islam healed this society and created a moral, civilized population. For Muslims, there is a universal understanding that any consumption of alcohol could lead back to this state of moral disillusion, which is why the substance is so strongly forbidden.

Alcoholism in Muslim Countries

In countries where Islamic law is enforced by the state, alcohol is illegal, and those who consume it can face punishment. This makes identifying and treating alcoholism very difficult, because those suffering from the disease may be reluctant to come forward. In addition, when any drinking at all is perceived as a serious crime, even light to moderate drinking can be interpreted by local authorities or health professionals as alcoholism. Nevertheless, there are documents relating to alcoholism and treatment of alcoholism available in many Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Sudan.

Migrants from Muslim Countries

While some people migrating from Muslim countries follow Muslim customs and laws, the act of migration itself can contribute to alcoholism in some cases. The stress inherent in moving to a new culture and finding a place within it has resulted in alcohol abuse for some, according to a 2000 study.

Muslim Youth in Minority Muslim Cultures

There is a need for more study concerning alcohol consumption and abuse in Muslim minority cultures. Observant Muslims who continue to practice their religion within their own community report little to no alcohol consumption. For Muslim youth and those who have become assimilated into the majority culture, it tends to be higher. Muslim youth who have strong support and understanding from family and peers in both following their religious strictures and living in a larger non-Muslim culture report few problems with alcohol use or abuse. However, due to the stigma in Muslim communities associated with drinking, alcohol consumption and abuse in these communities may be underreported.

About the Author

Amy Wilde has worked as a grant developer, copy editor, writing tutor and writer. Based in Portland, Ore., she covers topics related to society, religion and culture. Wilde holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and classical civilization from the University of Toronto.

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