By Sikandar Azam

Hooch tragedy in Bihar has made headlines once again. Saran district is the worst hit; other districts like Siwan and Begusarai are also affected. As many as 70 casualties from Saran district alone has been reported while deaths from spurious liquor in Siwan and Begusarai are also being reported. Many are still hospitalised. The actual casualty might go well over 100. Some police officers have been suspended on the charges of dereliction of duty; more policemen are likely to face action if their role in letting the liquor trade go on despite alcohol ban in the state is proved. Blame game on the part of political parties are also going on. Who are responsible for the loss of life of these persons is not being discussed as no one is ready to take the responsibility and face accountability.

In another development, while hearing a PIL filed by Tarsem Jodhan and Hargopal Singh who complained that a booming business of spurious liquor was going unchecked in the state of Punjab leading to the loss of lives of innocent people, a bench of justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar of the Supreme Court said, “We should not dig the well when the fire is there,” asking the state to take preventive measures by cracking down on the manufacture of liquor without waiting for a tragedy to strike. In the given circumstances, every state government should take effective measures to prevent manufacture, sale and transportation of liquor.

Such hooch tragedies happen only because people are generally indifferent to the divine guidance and take steps to satisfy their unbridled wishes. Alcohol or wine is the killer; there is no question of its being legal or illegal, for what is fatal cannot and shouldn’t be accorded legal status. Islam prohibits the production, sale and consumption of alcohol in toto; there should not be any ifs or buts in implementing this divine injunction.

The Qur’ān discusses alcoholic or any intoxicating products using the word khamr. According to a hadith in Bukhari and Muslim, khamr is what covers “intellect”. Covering the intellect means entering the state of unconsciousness; when someone consumes alcohol, it dulls the parts of the brain, thus affecting the ability to make decisions and remain conscious. It is prohibited even if it is not made of chemicals.

Allah the Almighty prohibited alcohol in three steps which made it easier for those addicted to alcohol to stop it gradually. At first, an answered prohibition against queries of the Prophet’s Companions was revealed. Then, a general warning was given to forbid Muslims from attending prayers while in a drunken state. And finally, a revelation (the Qur’ān, 2:219) made it specifically clear that alcohol has some benefits but its negative effects outweigh the good.

Moreover, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ further clarified this to his companions to avoid any intoxicating substance that could be harmful at societal or individual level. We hope sanity would prevail on the concerned authorities and taking cue from the Islamic history, they will take effective, deterrent measures to ensure that such tragedies do occur in future.

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