What’s your poison? The 7 intoxicants of the soul


The physical intoxicant

Allah Almighty prohibited alcohol gradually over four stages. In Surat al Maidah, He said:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنَّمَا الْخَمْرُ وَالْمَيْسِرُ وَالْأَنصَابُ وَالْأَزْلَامُ رِجْسٌ مِّنْ عَمَلِ الشَّيْطَانِ فَاجْتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

O you who believe, surely intoxicants and gambling and idolatry and divination are filth made up by Satan, so avoid it, that you may be successful. (5:90)

Intoxicants break your connection with Allah

This was the last stage in the prohibition. After this revelation, the prohibition of alcohol and intoxicants was absolutely final.

Before this stage, Allah Almighty mentioned in Surat al Nisa:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَقْرَبُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَأَنتُمْ سُكَارَىٰ حَتَّىٰ تَعْلَمُوا مَا تَقُولُونَ

O you who believe! Do not approach the prayer while you are drunk, until you know what you say; (4:43)

In this verse, Allah Almighty prohibited praying in a drunken state because people would not be aware what they were saying in their salah. It also minimised the time that people could drink alcohol as they had to be sober for the salah, so they could not drink for several hours before any salah.

Being intoxicated causes your intellect to be diminished and is disrespectful to Allah

Salah is an intimate discourse Munajat with Allah Almighty. Imam al Qushayri (d.465H) in his Lataif al Isharat, his beautiful commentary on the Quran noted that as intoxication is a loss of control over the mind and body, it is disrespectful to be in such a state when one is worshipping Allah Almighty.

You cannot have a meaningful dialogue with Allah Almighty when you have no control over your aql  (intellect). This is why it is prohibited to pray while you are drunk and have no control over your faculties.

It is a very deep reflection.

Spiritual intoxicants or non obvious intoxicants

Imam al Qushayri went on to say that the Aya is hinting that anything that makes you lose control over your mind is prohibited.

Anything that affects the attendance (hudur) of your heart with Allah Almighty is considered  intoxication from a spiritual point of view and from the etiquette of worshipping Allah.

We should be aware that there are two types of intoxicant. The first is alcohol and other substances which fog and muddle the brain, and in addition, the second type is anything which distracts you, diverts you and competes for your attention. It means you are heedless. Lost your own world and you can only see the dunya, because you are utterly absorbed by it.

Drinking your own self

The most difficult and complicated intoxication is being intoxicated by your own self. You are so interested in your own self that it is as if you are drinking yourself. You are consumed by your own whims and desires.

It is easier to recognise the first kind as you are aware that you drank it. However, the intoxication of the self is not apparent to us. You need extra lenses to be conscious of it. You can’t see your own self. It is the hardest to spot. Yet it is as harmful as real alcohol and maybe more harmful, as it breaks your connection with Allah Almighty. We ask Allah to protect us from this kind of heedlessness.

Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said:

“Every intoxicant is prohibited.” (Muslim)

Therefore everything which makes you lost control of your mind is as haram as alcohol.

The 7 intoxicants

There are 7 types of intoxication. We need to watch out for are:

1-Alcohol (Sukru sharab) – can make you feel high.

2-Youth (Sukru al–shabab) – can make you reckless, wild and irresponsible.

3-Wealth (Sukru al-maal wal ana) – can lead to tyranny and miserliness.

4-Desire and ego (Sukru al-hawa wal ana )– can cause you go astray, off the right path.

5-Power (Sukru al-sultan)– can make you behave oppressively.

6-Heedless (Sukru al-ghaflah) – causes distraction and diversion.

7-Children (Sukru al-walad )– can make you distracted.

Intoxicants are addictive

Any intoxicant is addictive. Unless you are careful and cautious about your usage you can become addicted and then you will crave it more and lose control and balance in your life.

Blessings can be used positively and negatively

Wealth, youth, power and children are blessings and we should take care of these gifts from Allah, as they can be used positively.

Someone with youth, for instance, can achieve unparalleled good, but usually needs the deeper wisdom, experience and guidance of a mature person looking to over their shoulder to help them channel their energy properly and ensure they don’t make grave mistakes

We are pre-programed to have certain internal drives, such as desire and the love of children, without which the human race would die out, but unless these drives are kept in check then people will do anything and sacrifice their principles for the sake of their wealth, children, power or desire.

This is why in Surat al Kahf Allah Almighty said:

Wealth and children are but adornment of the worldly life. But enduring good deeds are better to your Lord for reward and better for one’s hope. (18:46)

Wealth and children can both divert you from your goal because the love for them is intense. They also preoccupy your time and this can lead to a negligence of other duties. The point at which the blessing takes over your life and energy and becomes its sole focus, is dangerous. As with any addiction it causes a loss of balance. For instance, people might be so consumed with looking after their children that they might neglect their own parents.

May Allah protect us from any sin, ghaflah and intoxication and may He enable us to rectify our mistakes and make our hearts soft and present.

We ask Allah to keep us on the straight path. Ameen.

Thought for the Week by Shaykh Haytham Tamim 27th November 2020

Related posts:

Alcohol in Islam

Gradualism in Islam

Why is alcohol prohibited in Islam?

Where does it say alcohol is prohibited in Islam?