Whence translated the Arabic word ‘ khamer’ , means juice of grapes that has become intoxicant. It is because the other meaning is ‘to hide’ and since intoxication suppresses the senses and ability to control the important faculties at times, it is defined as alcohol and proscribed. And in fact the Qur’an clearly decrees this in Chapter 5:90
” O you who believe, intoxicants and game of chance are the shaitan’s work: therefore, keep away from these”. And the revelations end the sentence (the ayah) with ” that you may be successful”
As Allah is directing us to keep away, it is in itself a prohibition.
One has to be conscious the reasoning given in the earlier Chapter:219, where it declares that :
” (O Mohammad), they ask you about intoxication and games of chance , Say, in both of them there is a great sin and means of profit for men, and their sin is greater than their profit…..”
In Chapter 22:2 (last part) it is manifestly disclosed to the effect that
” intoxicated shall be chastised by Allah severely” ,
and earlier in 4:43 Muslims were warned not to perform any prayers
“if intoxicated and unless one know what he is reciting”
Sagacity , foresight and reason for precaution demand that we define “intoxication”. Webster’s dictionary says, it is ‘to excite the spirits to a kind of delirium (delirium is a temporary state of excitement)’.
Alcohol is also not allowed in other religions for various other logical reasons. Socially those who indulge in drinking heavily are not rated high in the society. And a blue helmeted policeman would always be endeavouring to bring senses to someone meandering the road whilst under the influence of over the limit tipple.
Coming back to Islamic rules brewing, distilling, stocking , selling and drinking any substance that is intoxicating or impairing the senses is forbidden and proscribed. In fact inebriation and insobriety is thought to be negation of the article of faith.
Having elucidated about alcohol, we should look at the definition of fermentation, that is “chemical breakdown of a substance by bacteria, yeast or other microorganisms in which sugars are converted to ethyl alcohol”. Ethyl alcohol is most important industrial organic chemical. It can also be found in acetic acid, butanol, dyes, drugs, solvents, detergents, lubricants cosmetics and pesticides have it’s uses as well. Fermentation is nature of yoghurt as well.
However, since Islam prohibits alcohol in the form it is now procured, marketed and consumed , there is NO reason why Muslim restaurants that cater for total Halal cuisine with a prominent signage on the door should be licensed for it or as an excuse serve it on the basis of corkage. After all a vegetarian outlet is not expected to be purveyor of meat and poultry! Our Mufties , Imams and Ulamas should do their utmost to discourage owners of such establishments and prevent them from proceeding to Hajj and betterstill not accept any donations for mosques and good causes from those whose pretext it is that they are only serving the indigenous clientele.
It would be interesting to note here that there are many different types of chemically produced ‘alcohols’. Examining malt vinegar (which is permissible and halal ) we will find that it has a residue of nearly 0.03 or 0.04% of alcohol. Likewise various fermented Halal items produce alcohol, but these are within limits of not being classified as intoxicants . It is also worth expanding that modern way of procuring and extracting of fruit juice is by making alcohol a carrier in the process. Any sparse residue of alcohol that is left in the concentrate does become minuscule as, say , 1 gallon of concentrate of strawberry would be used in 10 thousand litre of ice cream for flavouring. Yoghurt, vinegar and fruit juices procured with chemical processing are, alhamdulillah Halal and permissible for Muslim usage. Allah only knows best.