I am in my senior year of college right now, and alhamdulillah, I got the opportunity to work as a freshman counselor on campus, which is sort of like a residential advisor but more concerned with all aspects of the lives of freshman students, including their mental health and social well-being. The most demanding part of the job is being physically tied to where the freshman live, as that ensures that I am there to watch over the students and make sure they are safe. Honestly, more than half the job is making sure these kids don’t drink themselves to death. Alcohol, that’s my number one enemy as freshman counselor.
This past weekend, a group of students competed to see how much they could drink of highly concentrated alcohol in the shortest amount of time. The result: three kids went to the hospital. I watched as these brilliant students, accepted to one of the greatest academic institutions in the world, lowered themselves to the lowest standards. They couldn’t walk on their own, they couldn’t sit upright on their own, putting themselves at risk of choking on their own vomit. And boy, was there a lot of vomit! They were utterly dysfunctional. I couldn’t understand why anyone would engage in such stupid behavior. How was it fun? They looked so miserable, and even more so, confused.
This sort of thing happens almost every weekend at almost every university in the nation – students literally losing their minds and voluntarily becoming helpless, incapacitated, lost creatures. I think about all the shows and movies that glorify such antics, and I think about the kids who grow up seeing their parents engage in such harmful behavior. And I don’t need to ponder that long before I am humbled by Allah’s infinite wisdom and compassion and I am overwhelmed by gratitude for His forbidding of any and all alcohol in Islam. The rules of the religion often don’t make sense until we really get the chance to experience the harsh reality for ourselves. Many have trouble trusting in God’s wisdom and thus, they approach the forbidden until they find themselves in regretful situations. And as the Allah repeatedly says in the Qur’an, over and over, “if only they knew.”
The sad thing is a large percentage of Muslims do drink – some publicly, but many in secret. Muslims drinking is as real as the ground beneath our feet, for the usual reasons – that it makes socializing more fun and fitting in even easier. It’s a simple way to having a good time, and really, what’s the harm anyway? Again, “if only they knew.” But the thing is people do know what’s good and bad for them, but they don’t want to accept that what is good for them isn’t necessarily all that “fun.”
But like I asked before, where is the “fun” coming from? The thrill seems to come from losing consciousness, the feeling of separating mind from body and letting the body run wild. And whatever one does in that drunken state, one is magically not responsible for, apparently. Perhaps we all wish for such a possibility, but Muslims know that in reality, we are responsible for every single thing we do, and that nothing escapes the accounting of Allah Almighty. Not having control of our mental faculties does excuse us from being accountable for our actions, but only if we were born that way, not if we temporarily and willingly disable ourselves through intoxication, giving ourselves a pathetic excuse to commit all sorts of heinous deeds. The Blessed Prophet Muhammad said, “Alcohol constitutes many sins” (Razin). A narration from Abdullah Ibn Umar states, “Alcohol is the mother of all obscenities and the gravest of sins. Whoever consumes alcohol abandons prayer and commits adultery with his mother and with his paternal and maternal aunts.” Indeed, any evil deed is possible when under the influence of alcohol, even something one could never imagine doing when sober. How many college students do you think wake up in the morning on the weekends, regretting their previous night? Laying in bed, drowning in self-hatred?
Learned individuals of this religion would ask why they would ever give up their consciousness, their rationality, through such means as alcohol when it is the greatest gift bestowed upon Man by Allah. It is this ability to reason that allows us to distinguish between right and wrong. It is what differentiates us from the beasts of the animal kingdom. It is so sad to see that people attempt to be happy and enjoy themselves by ridding themselves of their consciousness, so much so that they wish to be unable to remember what they did for an entire night. Maybe if people used their brains to act upon good instead of evil, they would cherish their minds more dearly.
When Allah brought down the command prohibiting alcohol to the Prophet Muhammad who then proclaimed it to the people, the righteous ones immediately tried throwing up so they wouldn’t have anything haram in their bodies for even a second. They didn’t doubt Allah’s decree, and they certainly didn’t try to question it. And unlike the many Muslims who decide to drink today, they didn’t actively rebel against the divine order. Let the people reflect upon this vile drink and recognize the havoc it wreaks on society. Let the Muslims realize that it’s not worth “fitting in” when disobeying Allah is necessary, and that some people just aren’t worth fitting in with. Perhaps Muslims can be the role models for humanity that they were meant to be and guide them to a more sober way of life. No one likes waking up with deep regret in the pit of their stomach in this life. Who would like to do so in the next life, when it will only be so much worse?