The opponents advance a tradition of Ameerul Momineen, Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.), consuming alcohol (Allah forbid) in a bid to show that he (a.s.) was just like the other companions and sins and errors were common for him (a.s.), as they were for the other companions.
Without delving into the innumerable reports on Ali’s (a.s.) excellence in the Holy Quran and reliable Sunnah documented by all Muslims, we analyse the controversial report and related points in detail to settle the debate against the opponents on the impossibility of alcohol even being served in Ali’s (a.s.) presence, leave alone consumption of alcohol.
The controversial report(s) of Ali (a.s.) consuming alcohol is not reliable due to many reasons:
- A bundle of contradictions
The many versions of the report have many contradictions and raise more questions than answers:
- Who prepared the food for the gathering of companions of which Ali (a.s.) was supposedly a participant? Was it Abdul Rahman Ibn Auf? Or was it Ameerul Momineen (a.s.)? Or was it a man from the Ansar?
- Who was the person who led the prayers? Was it Abdul Rahman Ibn Auf? Or was it Ameerul Momineen (a.s.)? Or was it a man who has not been named?
- Did the reciter recite Surah Kaaferoon till the end in the prayer or left it incomplete? Of the following erroneous statements that have been reported, which one did he actually recite in prayer:
ليس لي دين، وليس لكم دين,
قل يا أيها الكافرون: أعبد ما تعبدون؟,
قل يا أيها الكافرون لا أعبد ما تعبدون، ونحن نعبد ما تعبدون؟,
ونحن عابدون ما عبدتم؟,
قل يا أيها الكافرون أعبد ما تعبدون، وأنتم عابدون ما أعبد، وأنا عابد ما عبدتم، لكم دينكم ولي دين
Or did he say something in delirium in the prayers which Abdul Rahman Ibn Auf did not understand?
- Were only three persons present in the gathering, Abdul Rahman Ibn Auf, Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) and a man from the Ansar? Or was it five people – Abu Bakr, Umar, Abdul Rahman Ibn Auf, Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) and Saad?
- Was it that there was only one person who consumed wine and then went to pray or was it two persons who consumed wine and they went on to pray in drunken stupor?
- Talkhis al-Mustadrak (Zahabi) v 4 p 142
- Tafseer Jame al-Bayan (Tabari) v 5 p 61
With so many versions of this report which one is correct? Like they say, liars have poor memory!
- Alcohol was already prohibited and Ali (a.s.) could not have consumed it
The opponents to defend their own personalities say that alcohol was not prohibited at that stage, so it was not a sin to consume wine.
However, it is evident from reports that wine was prohibited in Mecca before the hijrah (migration), and there are many proofs for it such as the report of Maaz Ibn Jabal, Umm Salma (r.a.), Abu Darda, and others. While this incident is in Medina so how could Ali (a.s.) consume alcohol while it was already prohibited from before in Mecca?
- Al-Durr al-Manthoor v 2 p 326
- Behar al-Anwar v 2 p 127
Al Halabi al-Shafei says: Surely wine was prohibited three times and Ahmed has narrated this from Abu Huraira also.
- Seerah al-Halabiyya v 2 p 261
- Fath al-Qadeer v 2 p 75
All these three occasions were well before this incident of companions assembling for food and drink. Meaning alcohol was already prohibited so at least Ali (a.s.) must be counted out, even though given his upbringing and his creed, it was unthinkable he would even think of alcohol let alone consume it.
- ‘O you who believe! Do not go near prayer when you are intoxicated…’ is from Surah Nisa, a Meccan Surah
Any student of Quran knows that the wine prohibition in Surah Nisa (4): 43 O you who believe! Do not go near prayer when you are intoxicated… was revealed in Mecca. But the fake report claims that this verse was revealed in Medina during the incident of companions consuming alcohol and offering prayers.
If the intention is that wine was first prohibited in Mecca at the beginning of the prophethood, then the report is not correct and if the intention is that it was prohibited in Surah Baqarah and then Surah Nisa which were revealed in the first year of Hijrah, then we say:
Surely Nuhas says Surah Nisa is a Meccan Surah. Alqamah says whenever Allah says ‘Ya Ayyohan Naas’ (first verse of Surah Nisa) it is Meccan Surah. Even if the descent of this verse is taken to be the first year of hijrah, still the prohibition of wine had taken place before this incident as this incident occurred in Medina in the 3rd, 4th or 6th Hijri as the reports indicate. Again, since wine was already prohibited from before, it was not possible for Ali (a.s.) to consume it.
- Al-Jame le Ahkam al-Quran Qurtubbi v 8 p 11
- Intoxication in this verse refers to sleep
As per the narrations of the Imams of the Ahle Bait (a.s.) and from Zuhhaak, the intoxication referred to in this verse is the intoxication of sleep. In the exegesis (tafseer) of this verse (O you who believe! Do not go near prayer when you are intoxicated…) Imam Sadiq (a.s.) says – It means intoxication of sleepiness. Surely a believer does not consume alcohol.
- Tafseer al-Ayyashi v 1 p 242
- Ahle Tasannun seniors defend Ali (a.s.)
Qattan has reported in his Tafseer from Hasan al-Basri that he said:
Surely Ali (a.s.) did not want to drink wine with them in the house of Abu Talha. Rather he went away from their midst, being angry at what they were doing.
Hasan al-Basri records: I swear by Allah, besides Whom there is no God, Ali (a.s.) did not drink it even before its prohibition, never ever.
- Tafseer al-Burhan v 1 p 500 from Ibn Shahr Ashob from Tafseer of Qattan
Indeed, such behaviour is in accordance with the towering ethical values of Ali (a.s.) since he (a.s.) was raised in the lap of messengership and was attached to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) just like a shadow is attached to the body. Allegations of consuming alcohol against Ali (a.s.) are in fact allegations against the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) himself given that they were but two rays of the same light.
- Conspiracy of the Khwarij to malign Ali (a.s.)
Hakim says that it is the Khwarij who have associated this intoxication and recitation only to Ali (a.s.) and not to others, while Allah has exonerated Ali (a.s.) from it. Then he reported the incident and in the report of Hakim, there is no mention of Ali (a.s.) drinking wine and it also mentions that there was someone other than Ali (a.s.) who led the prayers. According to the report of Jassaas narrated from Ali (a.s.), a man from Ansar called a group of people and then they drank wine and Abdul Rahman Ibn Auf stepped forward to lead the Maghreb prayers and he recited Surah Kaferoon and he got mixed up and then Allah revealed the verse of Surah Nisa (4): 43 – O you who believe! Do not go near prayer when you are intoxicated…
- Mustadrak al-Hakim v 2 p 307
- Ali (a.s.) – an adherent of Deen-e-Hanif and a paragon of infallibility
A researcher or student of history is bound to study reports like this one in relation to other reports. And when he does that in context of Ali (a.s.), he finds that there are no reports of him (a.s.) ever engaging in prohibited acts (horomaat) or even remotely ambiguous acts (shobohaat) before or after the call of prophethood, seeing as he was born on Deen-e-Hanif wherein idolatry, alcohol, adultery etc are strictly prohibited. Based on this, any researcher is bound to treat this report as too absured to merit attention which bears no consequence on Ali’s (a.s.) reputation as a paragon of religion, faith and certainty. If one were to dig deeper and study the narrators of these malicious reports, we see that it came from a place of hostility and hatred for Ali (a.s.).
Another accusation and its rebuttal
In another report we find the name of Usman Ibn Mazoon (r.a.) as the one who consumed wine and performed prayers until this verse was revealed.
Allamah Amini (r.a.) has rejected this report:
This is a lie against the great companion and towering figure of history and traditions that he was from those who had prohibited drinking of wine upon themselves even during the days of ignorance. He said: I will not drink wine, for it causes my intelligence to leave me, and makes those who are inferior to me to laugh at me, and it takes me to the level that I perform fornication with my precious one (daughter).
- Al-Ghadeer v 6 p 254
- Al-Durr al-Manthoor v 2 p 315, 317, 318
We add here that Usman Ibn Mazoon (r.a.) had died long before this incident as is well known.
Clearly, the report(s) alleging that Ali (a.s.) an infallible personality who sold his self to trade Allah’s Pleasure, consumed wine, are mischievous to say the least. To begin with, there are numerous versions of the reports with inherent contradictions. Add to it the fact that Muslim companions and researchers like Hasan al-Basri and Hakim respectively have cleared Ali’s (a.s.) name of the heinous allegation. All this shows that the haste some opponents have shown in making groundless allegations against Ali (a.s.) has only exposed them and the personalities they are trying to shield in this incident.