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Two Social Evils

 by Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph. D. 
Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
7102 W. Shefford Lane
Louisville, KY 40242-6462, U.S.A.



The Muslims in America constitute about 6 million out of a total population of  nearly 300 million. That is about 2 per cent. The Muslims are a tiny  Island in the Ocean of  America where the majority have non-Islamic values.

The  world is plagued by all sorts of problems:  social unrest, political instabilities, mass poverty and destitution, prostitution, homosexuality, sexual assaults on children, homicides, killings, drug addiction, alcoholism, domestic violence, family break-ups, juvenile delinquency, gun violence in schools and in the public, suicides and the so-called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Aids).


This article will analyze the two evils of society, namely slavery and alcoholism and compares its solution by Western methodology and Islamic solution



As early as 1849, Abraham Lincoln believed that slaves should be emancipated, advocating a program in which they would be freed gradually. To gain support, he proposed that slave owners be compensated for giving up their "property." Support was not forthcoming because for Southern States slavery was an economic issue and for Northern States where lived the abolitionists, slavery was a moral issue. Slavery became the cause of American Civil War. 3 million Americans fought the war  on American Soil and 600,000 were killed. Poor Farmers in the  Northern States never saw a slave and poor farmers in Southern States could not afford  to own a slave.

In September of 1862, after the Union's victory at Antietam, Lincoln issued a preliminary decree stating that, unless the rebellious states returned to the Union by January 1, 1863  freedom would be granted to slaves within those states. The decree also left room for a plan of compensated emancipation. No Confederate states took the offer, and on January 1, 1863 Lincoln presented the Emancipation Proclamation. The proclamation declared, "all persons held as slaves within any States, or designated part of the State, the people whereof shall be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free."

The Emancipation Proclamation did not free all slaves in the United States. Rather, it declared free, only those slaves living in states not under Union control. William Seward, Lincoln's secretary of state, commented, "We show our sympathy with slavery by emancipating slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set them free." Lincoln was fully aware of the irony, but he did not want to antagonize(upset) the slave states loyal to the Union by setting their slaves free.

The proclamation allowed black soldiers to fight for the Union -- soldiers that were desperately needed. It also tied the issue of slavery directly to the war. What the  Muslims would have done during the Civil War. Slavery is a moral issue for the Muslims, hence they would have fought to preserve the
Union and supported president Ibrahim Lincoln.



During the time of the Prophet of Islam there were so many evils in the social life of Arabia. The Prophet wanted to reform all those evils according to the Islamic scheme but

the method he opted was not a revolutionary one. Rather, it was what may be called, an evolutionary method.          


An example of this evolutionary method can be seen in the case of slavery. At that time slavery was widespread everywhere in the world including Arabia. It even enjoyed the status of a highly established institution but the Prophet avoided a path that would seek to abolish slavery right in the beginning stage of his movement for reform. Instead, he adopted a gradual process of trying to remove the evils by way of education, teaching and explaining by peaceful means. God revealed verses in the Qur'an that  enjoined the Prophet to persuade people to be kind to their slaves. These verses sought to change the very view of slaves in the eyes of slaveholders. The Qur'an referred to slaves not as slaves but as human beings no different from their "masters," equal to all other men and deserving of respect, dignity and treatment that is but the right of all human beings.


In those days slaves were a common commodity traded in the marketplace. So had slavery been immediately abolished, it was bound to create innumerable problems. It would have been as if a war were being waged with such chaos as would be the result of abolishing the ownership of all homes at a time when everyone owned their own house.


So Islam launched a two-fold movement. On one front, it continuously discouraged the making of new slaves. On the other front it also continuously ingrained into the mindset of society that freeing a slave was an incomparable virtue, even to the extent that one was encouraged to purchase new slaves solely for the purpose of freeing them. So the Prophet and his companions began to purchase slaves from their masters and set them free. This example clearly illustrates the Islamic method for removing social evils. This was the very method that was adopted by the Prophet to remove all the prevalent social

evils in Arabian society.



O you who believe! wine and gambling, stone altars and

divining arrows are filth from the handiwork of evil. Avoid

them completely so that hopefully you will be successful.

Devil wants to stir up enmity and hatred between you by

means of wine and gambling and to debar you from

remembrance of Allah and prayer. Will you not then give up? (al-Qur'an 5:90-91)


Consider Alcoholism.

 In the USA alone, the economic costs of Alcoholism and drug abuse are reported to be at a quarter trillion dollars per year. The social and moral costs are additional. But the solution evades world's most technologically advanced and organized society.

18th Amendment

Consumption of alcohol was discouraged by law in many of the states over the first century of the United States under the Constitution. By 1855, 13 of the 31 states had temperance laws, or alcohol prohibition  laws. The Civil War distracted the public from the temperance movement, but the proliferation of saloons after the Civil War, and the trappings of the saloons (like gambling, prostitution, and public drunkenness) lead to the so-called "Women's War" in 1873. Over time, the movement became more organized and the Anti-Saloon League was established in 1893. The ASL's goal was national prohibition, and it set up an office in Washington to that end - it even established its own publishing house in Westerville, Ohio.

The ASL polled candidates on their stand on the temperance question, endorsing candidates with a pro-temperance stance. In the election of 1915, ASL-sponsored candidates swept the elections for Congress, and on December 18, 1917, Congress passed the 18th Amendment. It quickly was adopted by the states, being ratified in just over a year, on January 16, 1919.This was after a century of grass roots efforts, which included thousands of societies for prohibition and abstinence pledges in churches. They also allocated $5 million for enforcement to turn USA into a liquor-free society. A few years later the estimate was $300 million and growing.

21st Amendment

The Prohibition era did have a certain sense of lawlessness; the very fact that consumption was not eliminated is testimony to that; and the fact that organized crime manufactured and distributed the bulk of the illicit alcohol of the 1920's and early 1930's is evidence that gangsters were aided by Prohibition. Enforcement was spotty, with stills (distilleries) and speakeasies(illicit drinking places)  popping up in every population center. Over-zealous police and federal agents violated civil rights when searching for and destroying the paraphernalia of alcohol. While most Americans respected the law, were in favor of the law, the shine of "dry" began to wear off, especially as the Great Depression set in.(1929). Prohibition was widely evaded with 'bootlegging' falling under criminal control. This led to gang warfare particularly in Chicago. President Franklin Roosevelt urged the nation to practice moderation.

A movement began to form to repeal the 18th Amendment. Prohibition of alcohol was seen as an affront to personal liberty, pushed on the nation by religious moralists. Alcohol was also seen as a source of revenue for the local and national governments. The Congress passed the amendment on February 20, 1933. The ratification process was complete on December 5, 1933. The 21st Amendment repealed the 18th, the first time an amendment had been repealed by another. In 1933  America  toasted farewell to 14 dry years.  Hence fourteen  years later Prohibition was repealed. The "Noble Experiment" had failed miserably.

In contrast, Islam banned alcohol 14 centuries ago among people whose love for alcohol was second to none. In three simple steps, spanning only a few years, alcohol was banished from the Muslim world. Today, despite small areas of infraction, a map of the dry world coincides with the map of the Muslim world. Islam has declared alcohol to be Ummul-Khabaith (the root of all evil) and no power on earth can change that designation.

We recently saw a small example of the same miracle with respect to drugs. One command by the Taliban Ameer achieved what hundreds of experts and millions of dollars could not. In the areas under Taliban rule  the cultivation of opium has stopped.


Prophet adopted this evolutionary or gradual method.   According to al-Bukhâri, Áisha (RA), the wife of the Prophet  says that in the early days of Islam only such verses were revealed that sought to change a person's heart and mind, not verses that laid down divine law. Only when the Qur'an had successfully inculcated in the believers an innate acceptance of the evil nature of alcohol and adultery were the two explicitly prohibited.

Describing this Qur'anic prohibition, Áisha (RA) says, " had such a ban been revealed right in the very beginning, the people would have immediately cried out, "Never shall we leave alcohol nor shall we ever leave adultery."


Gradual change is but the Natural way of change. Islam was able to establish an evil-free society for the first time in history only because it employed this natural method of gradual change. We cannot find an example of such comprehensive success in transforming society on the part of any reform movement in the history of social reform.       


In other words, the Islamic scheme for social reform can be called a results-oriented method as opposed to a dogmatic method. Islam seeks to bring about change in a manner that takes into consideration the possible consequences of any action instead of simply imposing its laws without any regard to the results.


Study of the Prophet's life reveals the distinction that he made between his ideas and how he put them into practice. Although he was the greatest of idealists and loved perfection, when dealing with people he kept reality firmly in sight and remained ever practical. The Prophet's life is laden with examples such as those leading unto the prohibition of alcohol and adultery.


The Prophet's effort was always such that the  people accepted the mores of Islam by their own choice, rather than be forced to accept it,  at the command of some political power. One of  the aspects behind the wisdom of the Prophet's method is that when people relinquish a certain social evil of their own accord then there is no negative psychology that results. If a certain standard is imposed upon society, however, the social evil in question may seem to have been  removed but some other problem is sure to take its place. 


Judging by the standard of results achieved, reform by persuasion is true reform while reform by force is simply an upheaval(turmoil, confusion)  rather than real change. 


Alcohol in Soft Drinks

It is well known that some soft drinks, such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, contain among their ingredients a tiny amount of alcohol, which is used to dissolve some constituents of the drinks such as color, flavor, etc. Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola, for example, contain different types of flavors, considered to be secrets of the trade, these flavors dissolve in alcohol, which is no more than two to three parts in one thousand (0.3-0.2 %) in these drinks

Such soft drinks are considered to be permissible halal from the Islamic point of view, according to the rules for eating and drinking in the Islamic legal law.

The concept behind these rule is that if a small amount of a prohibited substance X is mixed with a dominant permissible substance Y till substance X loses all its attributes such as taste, color, and smell, substance x loses the qualifications of being impure and prohibited by having being dissolved in substance Y.

This conclusion is supported by a ruling by Ibn Taymmiah in his Fatawa (21/502), and by the recommendations of the ninth Medical Fiqh Seminar of the Islamic Medical Science Organization, which met in Aldar Albayda’ in Morocco in June 1997.

Natural and artificial flavors containing alcohol.

In the food industry, alcohol is the second common solvent after water. Some of the flavors like vanilla can not be made without alcohol. One can not imagine foods and drinks like, ice cream, cakes and cookies, soft drinks, etc. without the use of alcohol. IFANCA (The Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America) considers alcohol as an unavoidable impurity in the food systems. Muslim countries, which import food products, accept foods containing small quantities of alcohol.

We have established two levels of control points for alcohol in foods and ingredients:

Less than 0.1 per cent in the food items.

Less than 0.5 per cent in food ingredients.

At the above levels, one can not detect the presence of alcohol by taste, smell or sight.

These guidelines are for the food industry to make halal certified products, however, where should one draw the line, is up to the individual Muslim consumer based on the available knowledge and his or her own commitment.


 Islam is the Solution

Then there are armies of "experts" who have been convincing everyone that the real problem of the exploited countries is that they are too "traditional" and their salvation lies in aping the progressive ways of the West. This is the essence of the modernization theory that seeks to move societies from the "traditional" to the "modern."

Today there are generations of educated(in secular or western education)  Muslims who have been convinced that progress means modernization, and modernization means westernization. For every problem they turn to the "First World" for answers, guidance, and assistance. They see their own societies as decadent and attribute this decadence to their adherence to traditions and religion. Most of the rulers in the Muslim world today, unfortunately, come from this group. At the same time they claim to be Muslims and servants of Islam.

May be we can invite them to shed this hypocrisy and take an objective look at their ideal (western) societies. They may find out that contrary to their thinking, whatever good is there in any society, it comes from Islam. Whatever evils are there come from hypocrisy and defiance of Islam.

It is generally observed that in Muslim societies today people are neither punctual nor value time much. Their leisurely ways are in direct contrast to the world where the creed is that time is money. Islam does not promote this materialistic notion of the value of time, which results in nobody having time for others. But it does teach the value of every moment of our life as providing the opportunity for earning the rewards in the hereafter. It does require us to be punctual and not to waste time. And it delivers.

In the vast Muslim world there is one activity that is extraordinary in its punctuality and discipline. In the big cities, as well as in the remotest rural areas, the azan is called five times a day and the people gather for the congregational prayers at the proper times without fail. Neither excessive cold in the winter nights nor excruciating heat during sizzling summer days keeps them from their sacred duty. This enterprise has not been financed by governments or big businesses. When most people are in their warm beds in their unheated homes, there is a muezzin in every neighborhood who never fails to wake up and remind everyone, "Prayer is better than sleep." "As-Salatu Khairun Min-an-Naum"

Here is a glimpse of the power of Islam. Can we imagine the situation when not just the muezzin and a small congregation, but the entire population becomes responsive to its duty? Can we imagine when their sense of responsibility goes beyond the prayers and covers all aspects of their life?

Equally fascinating is the unparalleled power of Islam in shunning social evils that are consuming the world. Despite their myriad problems, the Muslim lands even today shine as islands of virtue in a deep dark ocean of vice.

Where else but in a Muslim country (Saudi Arabia) one can find jewelry stores without armed guards, closed doors, and elaborate security systems? One of the major crimes against humanity and morality committed by the "First World" has been the exploitation of women in the form of prostitution. Whether it is legal or illegal, whether there are marked red light areas or not, it flourishes everywhere in the "First World" and  has its way. In addition, every area visited by their armies has left behind these centers of filth. Again, the notable exception is the Muslim world.

This world was a dark place, having forgotten or distorted previous prophets' teachings, before Prophet Muhammad brought the light. He brought back the message of Tauheed, universal brotherhood, compassion, mercy, equality, justice, God consciousness, and morality. As Muslims turned away from Islam, the darkness started to increase again, dividing it into first, second, and third worlds. There is lot of arrogance and ignorance in these ranks. But, Islam again illuminates the way. The solution is there, if only we look in the right direction. Islam is the solution.   


(1) The Life of Muhammad by Abdul Hameed Siddiqui

(2) Wahiduddin Khan at online:

(3) Khalid Baig  Islam is the Solution, Impact International,

The Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America(IFANCA), 5901 N. Cicero Ste. 309, Chicago, IL 60646.TEL: (773) 283-3708.FAX: (773) 283-3973


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