Islam’s ban on alcohol and how it’s applied

Qatar alcohol ban, Islam, beer, budweiser, packs

World Cup fans in Qatar are bummed about the alcohol ban. We explore why alcohol and Islam don’t mix.

Those attending the World Cup 2022 in Qatar may be culture-shocked into learning that alcohol is banned in Muslim countries. Of course some exceptions do exist for foreigners and for Muslims who can find their own speak-easies. 

Why don’t Muslims drink alcohol is an old question we’ve had on Green Prophet over the years. And we are happy to sum up why alcohol is taboo. Cannabis (even just in your blood) and extra-marital relations are also forbidden or taboo, as is gay sex in some Muslim countries. Breaking the law in Qatar, Kuwait (remember the gaydar test?), Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates can land you in jail indefinitely so don’t mess with the authorities if you are flying in for the World Cup. And when you are there you definitely don’t want to say negative things about the state. 

The political system of Qatar is a semi-constitutional monarchy with the as head of state and chief executive, and the prime minister as the head of government.

So what’s the story with alcohol and Qatar?

Just two days before the World Cup opener, the international host nation Qatar banned the sale of beer at stadiums in a very sudden decision.

Qatar is saying that they are happy to have fans come in from around the world, but they are asying, “respect our traditions”. Alcohol consumption in any amount, say some imams, is not allowed in Islam. While others say you are allowed to drink but not get drunk. Do note that some Muslims may consider anything with alcohol in it haram, or forbidden and that may include medicine, mouth wash or candies with brandy.

What does the Quran say about alcohol?

Drinking alcohol is considered haram by the Muslim holy book, the Quran, which states that alcohol is the “the work of Satan” and believers best avoid it. Sayings of the Prophet Muhammad back up these texts.

When Muslims consider their lifestyle and way to conduct themselves in the world, many choose to eat no foods or medicine with alcohol. Observant Muslims may choose to not work in a restaurant, stadium or mini-market selling alcohol. They may not use perfumes with alcohol or completely refrain from events like weddings and birthdays or work events where alcohol is being used.

There are about one billion Muslim-born people in the world and not all follow the edicts given to them. The level they can veer from traditions depends on their choices and countries where they live. According to a survey done by the Pew Research Group published in 2013, and which included 38,000 responses from 37 countries, one in 10 Muslims said they thought alcohol is morally okay. The countries that held strongest beliefs that alcohol is wrong included Thailand, Ghana, Malaysia, the Palestinian territories, Indonesia, Niger and Pakistan.

How alcohol is applied in Muslim countries

 

My friends from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates say they know where to buy alcohol if they need it. Regulations vary but if you are in Saudi Arabia, be warned as they outlaw it. You can be flogged and go to prison for drinking in the kingdom. This view might change as Saudi Arabia opens new hotels for westerners. 

Dubai is more relaxed about alcohol but cannabis not so much. You can find bars and nightclubs in Dubai and the emirate has found itself enjoying tax revenues from alcohol sales. Jordan which also has a significant Christian native population, allows alcohol, and same with nearby Israel. 

Alcohol is easy to come by in Egypt by about 80% of the people there think it’s morally wrong. 

Drinking alcohol in Qatar

Qatar is more like Saudi Arabia when it comes to alcohol. They follow an ultra-conservative form of Islam called Wahhabism which strictly limits buying, selling and consuming alcohol. Bad news for revelling soccer fans from Europe.

You can find alcohol in Qatar in bars and hotels and while concessions were made for it to be served at the World Cup, at stadiums and at fan zones in the evenings, the Qatar rulers showed an about face: it was announced that only non-alcoholic beer would be available at the stadiums, except for in the luxury hospitality areas where champagne, wine, whiskey and other alcohol is served. Consider that vast majority of ticket holders don’t have access to those areas.

Brazil banned it at their hosting season of the World Cup but not on religious grounds. They were worried fans would become too violent. With long lines and expensive price-tags, and violent after-effects, maybe we should celebrate less alcohol at sporting events. Just leave the vape pipes at home and save them for sporting events in Canada.

Want to know more about alcohol and Islam? Our guide on Muslims and alcohol is a very deep primer. Read it before you head to Qatar or invite your Muslim friends over for lunch.

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