January 28, 2006

See What the Booze Can Do

One aspect of Islam that I think is misunderstood is the reason why certain activities (e.g., pre-marital and homosexual sex), foods (e.g., pork) and beverages (e.g., alcohol) are prohibited. All of these things are listed as haram (forbidden) in the Qur'an. I think that the one common denominator for all of these various prohibitions is that Allah (swt), through the Qur'an, encourages us to lead healthy lives and to minimize the chances of us coming down with various diseases and ailments, let alone losing our lives too early. In this post, I'm going to refer to why alcohol is haram.

The Qur'an says:

"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." They ask thee how much they are to spend; Say: "What is beyond your needs." Thus doth Allah Make clear to you His Signs: In order that ye may consider-" (2:219)


"O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination,- of Satan's handwork: eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper. Satan's plan is (but) to excite enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer: will ye not then abstain?" (5:90-1)

We all know of incidents where the consumption of alcohol has caused harm to peoples' lives, whether to those who drink the alcohol themselves or to others whom they affect in one way or another. (I myself survived an accident after being hit by a drunk driver.) However, if you don't believe that drinking alcohol is bad enough, consider the following article, from the Herald Sun (Australia). This woman, Nicky Taylor, in conducting an experiment for BBC3, had literally lost her looks in one month's time.

You wanna drink? Go ahead and become a fat cow.

Nicky Taylor, BeforeNICKY Taylor, 39, is stumbling around a nightclub dance floor in the early hours of the morning, clutching a bottle of Smirnoff Ice.

In five hours, she has drunk equal to four bottles of wine in a potentially fatal mix of cocktails, spirits and beers.

She is drunk. She has vomited once, but Nicky carries on, determined to keep up with her female companions.

This ugly scene is not a typical night for Nicky. In an experiment for a British TV documentary, the single mother spent a month matching the bingers drink-for-drink to see what it did to her body and mind.

Over 30 days, going out five nights a week, Nicky consumed a staggering 516 units of alcohol -- 17.2 units a day. Guidelines say women should drink no more than two or three units a day, and a maximum of 14 a week.

One unit is 8g of alcohol, or a small glass (125ml) of wine, half a pint (284ml) of beer or a pub measure of spirits. But stronger beers may contain 2.5 alcohol units per half pint.

Nicky hopes her experiment will open people's eyes to the gravity of binge-drinking in the same way Morgan Spurlock's film Super Size Me (in which the American filmmaker ate McDonald's for 30 days) did to the dangers of junk food.

"What I discovered shocked me to the core," says Nicky, who was monitored by medical experts during the experiment.

She was chosen because her bosses wanted a responsible woman in her 30s. She went into it with gusto, but emerged depressed and exhausted. Her home and professional lives were suffering and she developed an increased risk of liver problems and alcoholism.

Her body fat increased from 37.4 per cent to 38.9 per cent, she put on more than 3kg, and her skin became so damaged she had the complexion of a 50-year-old.

Over time, with the dehydrating effects of alcohol no longer taking their toll, her skin will return to normal. But doctors said that in another five months she might have seen signs of cirrhosis.

"I lost my jaw line and I developed chipmunk cheeks," she said.

"I was drinking the equivalent of about 2000 calories a night and developed a big tyre of fat around my stomach. I also became really depressed."

Nicky describes meeting a generation of women for whom casual sex and alcohol-induced fighting is the norm.

"On average, to match the girls I was drinking with, who were in their 20s and 30s and worked in jobs ranging from city professions to nursing, I had to drink upwards of 30 units of alcohol a night. I never went out without having a big bowl of pasta to line my stomach," Nicky says.

"They all drink on empty stomachs so that the alcohol is absorbed more rapidly.

"On my first night out with student nurses Ceri, 30, and Lorna, 21, I drank in one night twice what the (British) Government recommends for a week.

Nicky Taylor, After"I ended up collapsing on the pavement and passing out in the back of a taxi. I never went anywhere without my film crew. But I dread to think what could have happened had I not had anyone looking after me."

The next day, with the hangover from hell, she went to a club with the same group of girls.

"I was so drunk I fell asleep in the club, but the girls kept waking me up to give me more. I ended up drinking 11 double vodkas," she says.

After another binge, her film crew "took great pleasure in reminding me of embarrassing things I'd done, such as dancing on a podium in a gay bar and dancing provocatively with an empty beer bottle."

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