We read the missionary claim regarding this supposed “contradiction” as follows:
- Is wine good or bad? Is us forbidden on earth something that is truly good? Or is in Paradise not only allowed but provided in overflowing measures (rivers of…) something that is so bad that it is even called “Satan’s handiwork”?
We believe that there can be no substitute for the ignorance exhibited, and that these concocted “problems” of the Christian missionaries is due to their sheer inability of understanding how tafsir is performed. In response to this alleged “contradiction” in the aforementioned verses, we would like to cite Harun Yahya’s “How Do The Unwise Interpret The Qur’an?” in order for the issue to be duly addressed:
Wine-drinking in Heaven
One of the topics unwise people portray as a contradiction is how wine is served in Heaven when it is forbidden in this world. The verse that they use to make their claim reads:
“An image of the Garden which is promised to those who have fear for God: in it there are rivers of water which will never spoil and rivers of milk whose taste will never change and rivers of wine, delightful to all who drink it, and rivers of honey of undiluted purity; in it they will have fruit of every kind and forgiveness from their Lord. Is that like those who will be in the Fire timelessly, for ever, with boiling water to drink which lacerates their bowels?” (Surah Muhammad: 15)
As previously explained, this type of error of perception occurs when one is prejudiced, deliberately perverse, unable to reason, and has not grasped the Qur’an as a whole. Now, let us examine why such a thoughtless claim is illogical and baseless from several angles:
First of all, we are able to see that there is a difference between the drink served in Heaven and the one of this world from the following verse:
“With goblets, (shining) beakers, and cups (filled) out of clear-flowing fountains: No after-ache will they receive therefrom, nor will they suffer intoxication.” (Surat al-Waqi’ah: 18-19)
As can be seen, the drinks served in Heaven do not have any of the negative effects and attributes that alcoholic drinks in this world do. As mentioned in the verse, they do not cause headaches or confuse the mind. This means that even though they give pleasure, they do not in any way cause drunkenness or illness. So there is not the least inconsistency in such a drink being offered in Heaven.
Alcoholic drinks in this world, on the other hand, have always been portrayed in the Qur’an together with their many damaging and harmful attributes. Some of the verses that describe the destructive and negative nature of alcoholic drinks in this world are:
“You who have faith! Wine and gambling, stone altars and divining arrows are filth from the handiwork of Satan. Avoid them completely so that hopefully you will be successful. Satan wants to stir up enmity and hatred between you by means of wine and gambling, and to debar you from remembrance of God and from prayer. Will you not then give them up?” (Surat al-Ma’idah: 90-91)
“They will ask you about wine and gambling. Say, ‘There is great sin in both of them and also certain benefits for mankind. But the sin in them is greater than the benefit.'” (Surat al-Baqarah: 219)
Obviously, it cannot be expected that characteristics of drinks that are forbidden in this world could exist in Heavenly ones. As God describes the Heavenly drinks, He emphasizes once more that they do not contain the harmful attributes of those in this world:
“…a cup from a flowing spring passing round among them, as white as driven snow, delicious to those who drink, which has no headache in it and does not leave them stupefied.” (Surat as-Saffat: 45-47)
The logic of anyone who sees this topic as a contradiction when God has made it all so clear must be seriously doubted. It is one of the Qur’an’s miracles that when a person approaches it with ignorance and ulterior motives, he will be incapable of understanding even the most obvious of topics. God describes the case of such a person in one of His verses:
“No self can have faith except with God’s permission. He places a blight on those who do not use their intellect.” (Surah Yunus: 100)
Secondly, in the Arabic text of the Qur’an the word khamr which stands for the word wine and all alcoholic drinks as we know them, is only mentioned in the above verse number 15 from Surah Muhammad as a drink served in Heaven. In all the other verses of the Qur’an, the word “sharab” is used for heavenly drinks, and means any type of drink in Arabic. In some English translations, the word sharab is translated as wine, whereas in Arabic it originates from the word “sherebe” and can be used to mean any non-alcoholic drink as well. One of the Qur’anic verses in which this word is mentioned where it means any drink is:
“Where they will recline, calling for plentiful fruit and drink (sharab)…” (Surah Sad: 51)
“They will wear green garments of fine silk and rich brocade. They will be adorned with silver bracelets. And their Lord will give them to drink of a pure draught (sharab) to drink.” (Surat al-Insan: 21)
Exegesis of Qur’an 56:19 according to the Muslim Commentators
The following are a collection of citations from the early Muslim commentators on the aforementioned verse to supplement Harun Yahya’s explanation. If this proves anything, it shows that missionaries never bother conferring Muslim sources whenever a “contradiction” appears to them.
“la yusadda’un ‘anha wa la yunzifun” — Their heads do not suffer from aches and their minds are not lost; they are even stable in association with extreme enjoyment and pleasant taste. Ad-Dahak related on authority of Ibn Abbas that he said: Wine (khamr) has four characters: intoxication, headache, vomiting and (voiding) urine; Allah (glory be to Him) has mentioned the wine of Paradise and exalted it above these characters. Mujahid, ‘Ikrima, Sa’eed Ibn Jubair, ‘Atiyyah, Qatada and As-Sadi said about “la yusadda’un ‘anha” there is no headache in it. They said about “wa la yunzifun” it means it does not cause loss of mind to them.1
“la yusadda’un ‘anha” – Their heads do not suffer from aches due to drinking it meaning that it is a pleasure without harm on the contrary of the earthly drink. “wa la yunzifun” – It has been discussed in (Surat) As-Safat and it means that they do not get intoxicated till they lose their minds.2
“la yusadda’un ‘anha” – Because of it. The reality of this expression is that it does not cause headache to them or that they are not separated from it. “wa la yunzifun” – They do not get intoxicated. Man has nazaf i.e., his mind is lost due to intoxication.3
As-Suyuti and Al-Mahalli
It means that it does not cause headache or loss of mind to them on the contrary of the earthly wine (khamr).4
Az-Zamakhshari, Al-Baidawi and Ash-Shawkani gave similar statements in their respective tafsir of the Qur’an.5
We have quoted Harun Yahya’s explanation of this so-called “contradiction” and supplemented it with additional citations from the Muslim commentators. Their methodology is consistent with the traditional method of Qur’anic exegesis, i.e., al-Qur’an yufassiru ba’duhu ba’dan (different parts of the Qur’an explain each other). What is given in a general way in one place is discussed in detail in some other place in the Qur’an. What is dealt with briefly at one place is expanded in some other place.
And only God knows best!
- Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Vol. 7, p. 330 [⤺]
- Tafsir-ul-Qurtubi, Vol. 17, p. 170 [⤺]
- Tafsir-un-Nasafi, Vol. 2, p. 636 [⤺]
- As-Suyuti and Al-Mahalli, Tafsir-ul-Galalin, p. 516 [⤺]
- See Az-Zamakhshari, Tafsir-ul-Kashaf, Vol. 4, p. 331; Tafsir-ul-Baidawi, Vol. 5, p. 247 and Ash-Shawkani, Fath-ul-Qadir, Vol. 5, p. 199 [⤺]