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Interpretation of Sura Cow - Verse 219

219. " They ask you concerning wine and gambling. Say: 'There is a great sin in both of them, and (some) profits for people; but their sin is greater than their profit'. They ask you as to what they should spend. Say: 'Whatsoever can be spared'. Thus does Allah make the Signs clear to you, in order that you may ponder."


The statement in this verse is about two questions and their divine answers. The first question is about 'wine' and 'gambling', thus: "They ask you concerning wine and gambling. ..." The term 'Khamr' in Arabic lexicon means 'a cover' , hence the veil that women wear to cover their heads to observe ' Hijab ' , it is called ' khimar '. Since the alcoholic beverages often delude the ability of the distinction of the person who drinks and, in fact, it covers the wisdom, in Arabic language that kind of liquor is called 'khamr'.

The term 'Maysir' is derived from the Arabic word /yusr/ which means: 'ease, easiness, and facility', as if, in gambling, each of the two parties wants to take the wealth of the other easily.

In answer to the question of some believers about wine and gambling, the verse, addressing the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) , says: " ... Say: 'There is a great sin in both of them, and (some) profits for people; ..." This profit maybe refers to those interests that the producers of wine obtain through planting vineyards or preparing raisins for wine, or selling wine; or the money taken as taxes, charges, and custom-duties; or the profit some gain by establishing game-houses. But the sin and interior loss of these two is graver than their exterior profits.

Here are a few disadvantages resulting in drinking wine and gambling listed in some commentary books:

1. Shortening the lifetime

2. The negative effects on the procreation of babies specially if the intercourse of the couple happens when the person is intoxicated.

3. The spread of immorality and the increase in the number of crimes such as: theft, combat, murder, sexual offenses, and dangerous driving accidents.

One of the scholars expert in natural science has said: " If governments in the drunkard nations close half of the vintneries, we will be able to close half of the hospitals and psychiatric asylums."

Gambling is also known among the causes of: disturbance, neurasthenic diseases, apoplexies ? cerebral and hemacardiorrhagia, the increase of heartbeats, inappetence, paleness, and so on. Those who deal with the factors of crimes (in some societies) have formally issued that about thirty percent of the number of crimes are related to gambling.

By the way, gambling surely has a destructive function in the development of economics, because it wastes the mirth of the useful work. Gambling has been announced forbidden and illegal in some of non-Islamic countries during the recent years. In England, for instance, that law passed to be executed in 1853, in America in 1855 (where it is again now practiced in some states) , in Russia in 1854, and in Germany it passed in 1873.

The second question is regarding to the quality of /'afw/ 'charity', when the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) is asked about: " ...They ask you as to what they should spend. Say: ' Whatsoever can be spared.' Thus does Allah make the Signs clear to you, in order that you may ponder." In the Arabic dictionary, the term /'afw/ , in addition to the sense of 'pardon' and 'forgiveness', means: 'moderation, superfluous goods, and the best thing of the wealth'. Each of these meanings is fitting in the verse; and the purpose of the term /'afw/, here, may conclude all of these senses. That is, if you desire to spend, you should observe both moderation, and do not disburse all your property as charity so that thereafter you yourself become needy, and when you give something to someone, give that of your most beloved things; for the Qur'an says: " By no means shall you attain to righteousness until you spend (benevolently) out of what you love; ... " , (Sura 'Al-i-'Imran, No.3, verse 92) .


1- When dealing a thing, we must be just. The verse does not connive the profits of wine and gambling, but it propounds the subject so that it animates the power and faculty of contemplation and meditation in us.

2- Both wine and gambling are the means of destruction of body and soul. They are both causes of failure, so, they have come together in the Qur'an.

3- Protect both wisdom and peace. With the prohibition of wine, wisdom and contemplation has been protected; and by the prohibition of gambling, the safety of peace and spiritual and economical security have been guarded.

4- As the commentary books indicate, at the advent of Islam, the prohibition of wine had been introduced step by step until when it was fully performed throughout the Islamic society.

At the call of Islam, people habitually used to drink wine although it had been forbidden in the former religions. The Divine Messages gradually made them ready to accept its prohibition. In Sura An-Nahl, No.16, verse 67 the revelation says: "And of the fruits of the palms and the grapes ? you obtain from them intoxication and goodly provision; ...", which means you may obtain both spirituous liquor and good provision from grapes, i.e., spirituous liquor is not a good provision.

After that, concerning wine and gambling, the verse under discussion was sent down, saying that their harm, in comparison, is more than their profits:

" ... There is a great sin in both of them, and (some) profits for people; but their sin is greater ..." Then, in another occurrence, a different verse of the Holy Qur'an was revealed, (Sura An-Nisa', No.4, verse 43) , and commanded Muslim believers:

" ... do not go near prayer when you are intoxicated." And, finally, the prohibition of wine was completely made manifest and perpetual when the word of Allah announced in Sura Al-Ma'idah, No. 5, verse 90, thus:

"... intoxications and gambling ... are only an uncleanness, the Satan's work; ..." There are so many traditions and narrations from the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and also from the holy Imams (a.s.) condemning the use of wine and as to what a miserable fate awaites the individual on the Day of Judgement. The holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) , for example, is narrated to have said: " All intoxicants are prohibited; and, curse of Allah is on liquor, on him who manufactures it, on him who helps its manufactures, on its seller, its purchaser, its distributor, the user of its money, its loader, its bearer, and its consumer." 105


105. Al-Kafi, vol. 6, p. 398

Adapted from the book: "The Light of The Quran - Interpretation of Sura Al-Baqarah (The Cow)" by: "Sayyid Kamal Faghih Imani and A Group of Muslim Scholars"

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