It's a puzzling question: If wine is deemed undesirable, why did Allah (or Muhammad, depending on one's perspective) promise rivers of wine in paradise, along with beautiful young boys to serve it (verse 56:16-19)?

Initially, Muhammad enticed people to follow him by offering various rewards in paradise, catering to their desires for beautiful houris, plentiful food, honey and milk springs, and other delights. Recognizing people's penchant for wine, he even guaranteed them rivers of it in paradise, exploiting their greed for pleasure to gain followers.

However, all these references to wine in paradise come from the Meccan period (like verse 83:25 and verse 56:16-19) or the early Medinan period (like verse 47:15).

After this initial period, incidents arose that caused Muhammad to develop a dislike for wine:

  • His first aversion to wine occurred after an incident in the 2nd Hijri year, following the Battle of Badr, when Hamza insulted him while drunk (Sahih Bukhari, 3091 and vers 2:129)
  • . Subsequently, Muhammad's aversion increased after a companion forgot the Quran during prayers due to intoxication, an event that took place in the 4th Hijri year (Verse 4:43).
  • Finally, a conflict among Muslims provided Muhammad with an opportunity to completely prohibit wine in the 6th Hijri year (verse 5:91).

Consequently, after the incident in the 2nd Hijri year where Hamza insulted Muhammad while drunk, Muhammad never again mentioned any more verse about wine in paradise.

Muhammad's companions were INSULTING him after drinking

Sahih Bukhari, 3091:

Narrated `Ali: I got a she-camel in my share of the war booty on the day (of the battle) of Badr, and the Prophet (ﷺ) had given me a she-camel from the Khumus. When I intended to marry Fatima, the daughter of Allah's Apostle, I had an appointment with a goldsmith from the tribe of Bani Qainuqa' to go with me to bring Idhkhir (i.e. grass of pleasant smell) and sell it to the goldsmiths and spend its price on my wedding party. I was collecting for my she-camels equipment of saddles, sacks and ropes while my two shecamels were kneeling down beside the room of an Ansari man. I returned after collecting whatever I collected, to see the humps of my two she-camels cut off and their flanks cut open and some portion of their livers was taken out. When I saw that state of my two she-camels, I could not help weeping. I asked, "Who has done this?" The people replied, "Hamza bin `Abdul Muttalib who is staying with some Ansari drunks in this house." I went away till I reached the Prophet (ﷺ) and Zaid bin Haritha was with him. The Prophet (ﷺ) noticed on my face the effect of what I had suffered, so the Prophet (ﷺ) asked. "What is wrong with you." I replied, "O Allah's Messenger (ﷺ)! I have never seen such a day as today. Hamza attacked my two she-camels, cut off their humps, and ripped open their flanks, and he is sitting there in a house in the company of some drunks." The Prophet (ﷺ) then asked for his covering sheet, put it on, and set out walking followed by me and Zaid bin Haritha till he came to the house where Hamza was. He asked permission to enter, and they allowed him, and they were drunk. Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) started rebuking Hamza for what he had done, but Hamza was drunk and his eyes were red. Hamza looked at Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) and then he raised his eyes, looking at his knees, then he raised up his eyes looking at his umbilicus, and again he raised up his eyes look in at his face. Hamza then said, "Aren't you but the slaves of my father?" Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) realized that he was drunk, so Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) retreated, and we went out with him.

Now the issues for Muhammad were:

  • Muhammad frequently praised himself in the Quran and Ahadith, elevating his status to a very high level (as if Allah had created the entire universe for him). He demanded that his companions show him great respect. However, after consuming alcohol, some of his companions engaged in terrible behaviour. One of them, his own uncle Hamza, completely failed to show any respect to Muhammad as a prophet and even began to insult him. It was difficult for Muhammad to accept such an insult. Muhammad's past was not particularly glorious. He was poor and married an older, wealthy woman named Khadija, who provided for him financially. As a result, he was vulnerable to criticism regarding his financial situation.
  • Furthermore, many of his companions also questioned his prophethood, and people would sometimes speak truthfully after drinking alcohol. This posed a direct threat to his claim of being a prophet.
  • Furthermore, Muhammad's reputation in Medina was that of a peacemaker who resolved all disputes. However, when Hamza was intoxicated, Muhammad became utterly powerless against him and was unable to settle the disagreement. This incident damaged his reputation.

That was the start of Muhammad's dislike towards drinking, while it was a cause of his personal insult and mockery. Thus, when companions came to Muhammad and asked him about wine, then Muhammad claimed the revelation of the following verse:

Quran 2:129:

They ask thee concerning wine and gambling. Say: "In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit.

Muhammad's companions also forgot the Quran during prayers due to intoxication

In Islam, the daily five congregational prayers can create difficulties. A person who observes these prayers is occupied throughout the day and cannot fully engage in leisure activities like sexual intimacy or physical sports.

Another issue arose with alcohol consumption. The Prophet's companions were enjoying wine, but when it was time for the evening congregational prayer, the designated leader, who was intoxicated, became confused and recited the Quran incorrectly.

Muhammad subsequently claimed the revelation of verse 4:43, commanding believers not to perform prayers while under the influence of alcohol until they regain their senses and comprehension.

Quran 4:43:

O People who Believe! Do not approach the prayer when you are intoxicated until you have the sense to understand what you say.

This incident happened in the 4th Hijri year. 

Companions stopped praying, citing drunkenness as an excuse

In verse 4:43, Muhammad instructed his companions not to pray while intoxicated. However, this became an excuse for them to skip prayers regularly (as seen later in verse 5:91). This development posed a significant threat to Muhammad, as it undermined his authority and the legitimacy of his newly established religion. Determined to exert total control over his followers, Muhammad began hinting at banning alcohol altogether.

Sahih Muslim, 1578:

Abu Sa'id al-Khudri  reported: I heard Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) addressing in Medina. He said: O people, Allah is giving an indication (of the prohibition) of wine. and He is probably soon going to give an order about it. So he who has anything of it with him should sell that, and derive benefit out of it.

There is no Allah present in the heavens who could have given those indications. It was Muhammad himself who was giving those hints in the name of Allah. Can you imagine such an Allah in the heavens, who reveals his eternal message to mankind by first giving Muhammad “hints,” allowing Muslims to make some sinful wealth first by selling wine?

A fight among Muslims finally gave Muhammad a chance to ban alcohol completely

Al-Bukhari, Al-Adab al-Mufrad 24:

Narrated Sa'd bin Abi Waqqas: Four verses of the Book of Allah, Most High, were revealed about me....The fourth was when I had been drinking wine with some of the Ansar. A man from among them hit my nose with the jawbone of a camel. I went to the Prophet and the Mighty and Sublime revealed the prohibition of wine. [Qur'an 5:90-91]

Classed sahih by al-Albani

Muhammad used this incident, and claimed a revelation of a new verse:

Quran 5:91:

The devil only seeks to instil hatred and enmity between you with wine and gambling, and to prevent you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer; will ye not then abstain?

Thus, verse 5:91 is again proof that 5 times congregational prayers were too much for companions. They were skipping prayers to enjoy wine and gambling. Muhammad was not ready to lose his grip on his companions due to this. 

The fighting among companions had also taken place earlier in the case of Ali and Hamza, but Muhammad didn't prohibit alcohol on that basis. But it was the newly occurred issue of companions not praying due to alcohol, which was making Muhammad most uncomfortable, and it was the major reason why Muhammad had to ban alcohol completely. 

Can you imagine such an entity to be an Allah, who has predestined everything and wavered for an initial few years on what His Law on alcohol would be? But after Muhammad heard about the drunken fight, Allah decided on a complete prohibition immediately.

This verse 5:9 came about in the 6th Hijri year. 

Chess is also declared Haram while 5 times daily congregation prayers leave no time for Chess 

People often wonder why Chess is Haram in Islam. And the answer is, for the same reason i.e. Chess is very often going to make people forget about the 5 daily prayers. 

And why it will cause people to forget the remembrance of Allah? The answer is that 5 times daily congregational prayers consume a lot of time and energy, and they disturb human life a lot. 

One has to concentrate a lot while playing chess. But 5 times daily congregation prayers in the mosque means, one is often not going to have enough time to concentrate on chess and people have to leave the game unfinished and to rush to the mosque for congregational prayers. 

But people often chose the opposite, i.e. they leave the congregation prayer and keep on playing chess. 

Chess is not directly declared Haram in the Quran or Hadith. But when Muslim scholars saw that people take more interest in chess as compared to congregational prayer in the mosque, they issued the fatwas that chess is Haram while it prevents people from the remembrance of Allah. 

 

Muslim claim: The failure of Western Societies to prohibit drinking, is proof that Islam is the only true religion

This Muslim claim is not true. There is a huge difference between Western countries and Islam:

  • Muhammad's wish to have total control over his followers played a major role in the complete banning of alcohol in Islam. 
  • But such a wish, to have full control over its citizens, is totally missing in Western societies. 

Indeed, drinking has a positive side as well.

There is a reason why, historically, every culture has allowed drinking. People want to socialize and have fun, they want to let loose, and they want something to take the edge off after a hard week. No one can deny this positive aspect of drinking.

Even Muhammad himself acknowledged this positive aspect of drinking in verse 2:129, where he said, "They ask thee concerning wine and gambling. Say: 'In them is a great sin, and some profit, for men.'"

Thus, alone on this basis, even Muhammad also didn't prohibit alcohol completely.

But it was later the additional issue of missing prayers by companions, which made Muhammad ban it completely. 

Since Western countries don't have to face any additional issue of compulsory prayers, they also don't have to ban drinking completely. 

Similarly, historically, all societies were aware of the negative effects of drinking too, and all of them declared that excessive drinking is bad. Nevertheless, all these societies made a compromise between the positive and negative effects of drinking.

Such compromises are also present in Islam itself. For instance, overeating and obesity cause more illnesses and deaths than drinking.

According to the National Institutes of Health, obesity and overweight together are the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States, close behind tobacco use (3). An estimated 300,000 deaths per year are due to the obesity epidemic (57).

Link

But Allah/Muhammad did not declare overeating/obesity to be a crime, nor did they impose any punishment for it. However, they did make a compromise regarding it, and at most, there are recommendations in Islam not to overeat. Nonetheless, similar recommendations exist in Western societies advising people not to overconsume alcohol.

Furthermore, Western societies have implemented stricter regulations. For instance, the legal drinking age in the US was raised to 21, and it is illegal to consume alcohol in public places or drive while intoxicated. These restrictions were put in place through secular thinking and without reliance on religious doctrine. Therefore, if we determine that drinking (or any other substance) has become problematic, we have the ability to implement further restrictions or ban it entirely, without requiring divine intervention.

Muhammad vs Guru Nanak

Guru Nanak was the founder of the Sikh religion, who also put a total ban on alcohol. 

Guru Nanak described his mystical encounter with God in one of his hymns: He was taken to the court of God and given a cup of divine nectar called Amrit to drink. This nectar bestowed the gift of God's name upon him, and he was charged by God with the preaching of the Divine name.

But:

  • Muslims deny that Guru Nanak had any connection to God, or that he was a prophet of God. 
  • Muslims claim that Guru Nanak was only a normal human, and he was telling a lie about his meeting with God. 
  • Yet, this same Guru Nanak also prohibited alcohol (link).
  • Muslims claim that Guru Nanak prohibited alcohol on his own, which does not make Sikhism a divine religion.

And we say exactly the same about Muhammad/Islam, as Muslims say about Guru Nanak/Sikhism. 

  • We don't consider Muhammad ever had any connection with any god.
  • And Muhammad prohibited alcohol on his own, which does not make Islam a divine religion. 

Thus, if Muslims claim that their religion is divine while it forbids alcohol, then there are many other religions which also forbid alcohol. Does that make all those religions divine too? 

  • The same is true about the Bahai (link) and Jains (link) too, who also forbid alcohol. 
  • The same is true with the Vedas of Hinduism (link).
  • The same is true with observant Buddhists (link).

Even the protestant church later adopted a full ban on alcohol (link).