The Book of Love, Wine and Islam

Peter B. GiblettStarred Page By Peter B. Giblett, 25th Dec 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Daily Life

There is much said about the value of alcoholic beverages, from Cliff Richard giving people joyful imagery with "mistletoe and wine" that is all about family joy at Christmas, yet there is so much to wine and its influence on society, and this article is only scratching the surface of many more issues.

A Philosophy and Peeling the Onion

We hear much about philosophies for different peoples around the world, and in truth there are so many stories about how things should be done, the good, the bad, and quite frankly the ugly but mostly they are simply stories and it is necessary to read behind the public veneer, perhaps peeling off the layers of the onion to get to some of the fundamental understandings, and of course there will be many different views because each of us has different personal experiences which help us understand life, the universe and everything.

Each of us has the path we travel during the course of our lives is important for every person that is alive, we may not realise the importance of understanding of the basics of life, but if we allow them to then it is possible to shape your life and direction. Personally, my philosophy, my path is taking a lifetime to build and understand, and mine will differ from yours because of the different experiences that we have. Our path builds and develops our personal philosophies during the course of our lifetime and how we listen to others (from the past, present, and future) is important in developing your own personal philosophy, this represents an examination of one particular path.

Blessing the Marriage

I include here an element by a great thinker from the past, in poetic form, and it is included because it is a little controversial, especially since the author is a well regarded Islamic thinker from the first part of the thirteenth century:

    This marriage be wine with halvah,
    honey dissolving in milk.

    This marriage be the leaves and fruit
    of a date tree. This marriage

    be women laughing together for days
    on end. This marriage a sign

    for us to study. This marriage
    beauty. This marriage, a moon

    in a light blue sky. This marriage
    this silence, fully mixed with spirit

The words here are by Sufi poet Rumi, a poem called "Blessing the Marriage" from "The Book of Love" as translated by Coleman Barks.

Here there are a multitude of thoughts which I wish to examine in relation to this poem. Initially I hear some people asking why include such a light poem in what otherwise seems a serious discussion, well the first line itself gives serious concern for some.

Wine with Halvah

Before we discuss wine, let us turn our attention to halvah, this is in certain parts of the world called a sweet meat, although many in the west may not be aware of the importance of halvah, it is a sweet that is served at Middle-Eastern and Asian weddings and in truth there are many, many recipes for this delicacy, but if you are not familiar with the taste of halvah then you should simply think of the most delicious home-made sweet dish you can think of and if we are honest then it is likely that you will already associate that with weddings and the good feelings that they bring.

Honey dissolving in milk is certainly something we can understand, try it you will find it delicious and we know women laugh together for days, we men have to be patient with their needs and of course it is a weddings it is where women excel, and the moon in a light blue sky is certainly been the subject of many poets and songwriters over the years.

Wine is also and important part of weddings in the western world, but the subject of alcoholic beverages brings up many emotions and there are many that say alcohol is a blight on society, and that wine is in part the source of evil. In some respects they are right, but Rumi, would not have made this connection in his poem in anything but a deliberate way and with good reason, and in truth this is not the only place where Rumi references this beverage, which many regard as a juice of the devil, yet he is not the only Islamic thinker or writer to reference wine in a positive manner, yet few in the modern world would do so.

Both Greek and Hebrew words for wine can mean either fermented grape juice or intoxicating wine and this may be a subtle, but crucial, difference in looking at the use of the word wine in this context, therefore the Islamic writers may be thinking the former rather than the later as we know many of these scholars would have been familiar with these classic languages and been aware of this.

The Evil of Alcohol

It is certainly true that alcohol is used to excess and it has been used that way across history and I am not simply talking about the occasional drunken Christmas party here it is the real abuse that is of greatest concern.

It has been suggested that in The Bible verses showing God approves of wine are speaking about unfermented grape juice and it has been suggested that verses that expose the evils of wine are speaking about intoxicating wine, and that drinking leads to immorality, sinning, addiction, adultery, violence, poverty, and potentially death, and it is accepted that Jesus preached about the evils of alcohol on many occasions, yet it seems on the surface that the bible is inconsistent on the issue of wine, where the Quran is not and speaks against it on all occasions. Yet it is not wine that is evil, it is the people who abuse it, in the modern world drinking has long been linked with wife beating, criminal activity, and violent crime

Health professionals would probably agree with these diagnoses and it has been suggested that the harm alcohol misuse causes can certainly run into the billions, a figure that would certainly assist any government budget, yet banning alcohol is not the answer, because a ban also ignores the potential benefits that alcohol can bring, including some medicinal uses.

Mohammed and the Mountain

It has been alleged that many thinkers such as Mohammed, or even Jesus or Moses before him were actually high on psychedelic or psychotropic drugs at the time when when they did their greatest thinking, although this is simply an allegation, it does have some relevance to some of the drugs used by some modern day artists and thinkers who have been known to use such drugs but few of these have reached the clarity of thought of many historic thinkers. It is known that Muhammed had his cave in the mountains where he was able to clear his mind and think through the challenges his people faced and understand solutions he felt appropriate for his people, Jesus and Moses would also have needed somewhere to think and contemplate and develop their actions. Some of the thinking of these people developed was in response to what they observed as the evils of their time and there is evidence that drunkenness was a problem in a barbarian Arab society in the seventh century.

As Islam has grown in influence and crossed the Mediterranean it entered lands where wine already represented a major economic influence and in parts of the Balkans where the Muslim faith has much influence it also is a region where wine and beer are traditional and do indeed coexist peacefully with the religion, Ramadan is a time where locals give up drinking wine and beer as a part of their daily fast, again I repeat the proposition that it is not wine that is evil, but how people use it and in the Balkans wine and Islam coexist.

It is also necessary to give up the idea that wine never passes the lips of Arabic faithful, I recall a conversation in a bar in Al Manamah with an Arab, my tipple was a simple beer and only a couple, yet he had worked through the wines and onto the hard liquor, he was after all over the border and living free will, and there is in part a lesson about restrictions on personal freedoms, take them away and people do find a way to kick back. Yet it is possible to obtain alcohol in Saudi Arabia, every town has its illegal bar well hidden from the law and of course the beverages consumed are far more potent than those legally obtained in other countries. It is often the very act of forbidding something that acts to make people want it all the more and that forbidden desire to become the focus of people's attention, this is demonstrated by Capone and his bootleg beer during the prohibition era as much as it is in the words of the rhyme by Rumi, alcohol can be cautioned against but is shouldn't be banned and ultimately wine brings a specific taste, which can be appreciated with halvah.

Other articles

any of the following articles, each published by Peter Giblett and may be of interest to you:

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Blessing The Marriage, Great Thinker, Islam, Islamic Society, Mohammed And The Mountain, Peeling The Onion, Rumi, The Evil Of Alcohol, The Path, Wine, Wine With Halvah

Meet the author

author avatar Peter B. Giblett
Author of "Is your Business Ready? For the Social Media Revolution"

Social media consultant, with C-Level background.

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author avatar M G Singh
28th Dec 2013 (#)

Peter, this is a wonderful post.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
28th Dec 2013 (#)

I don't drink. I don't condemn the activity and neither do I promote it. I like this article's frank discussion about the ways alcohol is used. It is very informative without promoting or condemning any activity -- except egregious excess, which I think all can agree is harmful -- no matter what substance is being used in excess.
Great job covering the facts, illustrating the ideas, and keeping the attention of those who would learn more.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
28th Dec 2013 (#)

I do have he occasional drink, but I have always been conscious about the challenges alcohol gives society and have always believed there are many things we can enjoy, but need to be careful about their use.

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author avatar Randhir Bechoo
28th Dec 2013 (#)

Thought provoking.Thanks for the share.

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
28th Dec 2013 (#)

I do like halvah but for sure it is not a taste for everyone.
I like a drink of red wine every now and then but not to get wasted drunk. Wine has some health benefits.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
28th Dec 2013 (#)

I agree that there can be health benefits if properly used and this is precisely what you will never discover if a ban were applied.

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author avatar Helen Thomas
30th Dec 2013 (#)

Thanks for a very interesting and thought provoking article ~ Peter. I do not drink and ~ 'generally speaking' ~ not withstanding the health benefits ~ I'm totally against it.

However ~ I do not condemn those who choose to drink. I have interviewed hundreds of people who have said they drink ~ seemingly quite heavily ~ to escape their pain. Obviously ~ a certain amount of compassion needs to be shown toward those individuals.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
31st Dec 2013 (#)

Nice post, Peter. I do not drink but that has acted as a stumbling block in my career as I am unable to socialize wholeheartedly with most others. I will never support a ban on alcohol but moderation like in all other habits - siva

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
31st Dec 2013 (#)

Siva, I have known others that do not drink ensure that they socialise appropriately on those occasions where it is deemed necessary to attend and do so without partaking in alcohol.

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author avatar Virendra Singh Bhanu
21st Mar 2014 (#)

Thanks for sharing, love them! I think you should add your favorite words to

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author avatar Virendra Singh Bhanu
21st Mar 2014 (#)

Thanks for sharing, love them! I think you should add your favorite words to

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