Saturday, January 7, 2012

Perils of Alcoholism

In his Friday Sermon of December 30, 2011 Khalifatullah Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Sahib (atba) of Mauritius spoke about the inevitably disastrous consequences of liquor consumption. Speaking on the eve of a New Year, the Khalifatullah called the attention of one and all to the foolish pursuit of synthetic happiness and entertainment so pervasive in all the societies of our times. 

Read the extracts from the Sermon:

“In this last sermon of the year 2011, I seize this opportunity to talk on alcoholism in society. Alcohol can be very dangerous and it is the country’s most abused drug. Alcohol is a drug that is taken mainly for its psychological effects. Alcohol drink is very, very expensive in Mauritius and in the last budget of the Government; the latter has made it a must to increase the price of cigarette and alcohol drink. But these are two evils which the Government knows that shall not decrease, because the more the prices of these commodities go up, the more people will continue to buy, regardless their prices, because these evils have already become some people’s drugs.

So, basically alcohol depresses the nervous system and allows people to lose their inhibitions. If drug companies had discovered the effects of alcohol, then today maybe there would be no chance of it receiving approval from a drug’s safety committee and it would never be marketed for human consumption.

The immediate effects of alcohol are:

 The loss of inhibitions,

 Less self-conscious behaviour,

 Loss of self-control,

 Becoming more talkative and,

 A feeling of cheerfulness.

However, alcohol acts more as a depressant than a stimulant (i.e. it is a drug that dampens down the activity of the nervous system rather like a tranquilliser). Many heavy drinkers are aware that their thinking is not as good as it used to be.

Brain scans of alcoholics with no obvious signs of brain damage show shrinkage of the brain exactly like that found with old age and it is reckoned that regular heavy drinking takes ten years off an individual’s life. In other words, instead of becoming senile at around 73 years of age, the alcoholic will show signs of senility at 63 years. There is no organ in the body which is immune to the effects of alcohol, but those exposed to the most alcohol, i.e. the gut and the liver, are the most likely to be damaged.

In cirrhosis, the liver cells that are destroyed are replaced by scar tissue. This is made up of fibrous bands which shrivel the liver and squash the remaining healthy cells. The cirrhosis mortality rate shows that countries with the highest mortality rates from cirrhosis are associated with alcoholic drinks. The association between alcohol abuse and heart disease is well established. The toxic effect of alcohol on the heart muscle weakens its pumping action and may even cause congestive heart failure. Alcohol may also cause abnormalities in the rhythm of the heart.

Heavy drinkers have long been recognised as having a greatly increased risk of premature death. One large study showed that men who had alcohol problems sufficiently severe to warrant admission to a mental hospital, had greater increased mortality. The chief causes of increased mortality are suicides, accidents, respiratory infection, strokes and cancer.

The mortality rate in the ‘alcoholic’ is three and a half times greater than in the general population. The divorce rate for people with a drinking problem is much higher than for the general population. Drinking is an expensive hobby even for the better off family, and it is not difficult to imagine other better ways of spending the money. It is not surprising that drinking behaviour is frequently implicated in family breakdown. Separated and divorced men tend to drink much more heavily than married or single men. Sexual activity is a fair guide to marital harmony and togetherness. A drinking problem accelerates sexual disinterest and can actually be the cause of the disinterest. The constant threat of violence in a home is an intense source of family stress and episodes of verbal as well as physical aggression can indicate an underlying drink problem. More than half of all wife beaters are also heavy drinkers.

Excessive drinking is also commonly linked to child abuse. According to my estimation that almost one-third of children who have an alcoholic parent will show signs of emotional disturbance such as anxiety, fear, feeling of insecurity and being unloved as well as anger and puzzlement as to why their family is different from others. About two-thirds of children of alcoholics will suffer behavioural disorders such as truanting from school and being destructive.

It seems a fair estimate that alcoholic drinks are involved in about 60% of all crime committed by habitual criminals who form a large part of the prison population. It is likely that over 50% of offences of a violent nature, particularly those which occur late at night are committed near public houses by people who have been drinking. 

Drinking is also associated with many cases of assault on wives. It is also often involved in a wide variety of other crimes from road traffic offences to burglary, where an offender has had a few drinks to give himself courage. There is also the whole range of offences related directly to drunkenness.

Hence, there is little doubt that a connection exists between crime and drink. Sexual offences are often committed by people who would not have done so if their behaviour had not been affected by alcohol. Alcohol consumption can cause problems for employers, the drinking employee and non-drinking colleagues.

The employer is harmed by a loss in profits and productivity through bad time-keeping, sickness, absenteeism, loss of efficiency (employees with a drink problem are 30-40% less productive than other workers), increased risk of accidents and a loss of trained staff to suffer a loss in pay and promotions, injuries from accidents and mentally illness and ultimately a loss of employment and family. A few individuals who were identified as having an alcohol problem had an accident rate some 50% higher than the work place average. Drinking and driving is one of the most serious road safety problems.

Although alcohol may give a feeling of well-being, its major result is the interference with muscular control and co-ordination lengthened reaction time, blurred vision and decreased alertness. It also impairs the ability to judge speed and distance, and to deal with the unexpected. All these adversely affect performance in driving. In addition, alcohol impairs judgement so that many individuals feel increasingly confident in their ability to drive after having consumed alcohol whereas in reality, their ability is impaired. It is not surprising that more than thousand or hundred pedestrian road deaths every year were attributed to drinking by the pedestrian.

About Islamic teachings regarding alcohol, we find the following references to it in the Holy Quran:

“They ask you about intoxicants and gambling, say. “In both these there is great harm and also some (small) advantage for people, but their harm is much greater than their advantage.” (2: 220)

and again: 

“Oh believers, intoxicants and gambling and idols and divining arrows are utterly foul works of Satan. So abstain from them so that you may be saved.” (5: 91)

The Holy Prophet (peace be upon you) said that drinking (alcoholic drinks) is the mother of all evils. Islam has given the perfect answer to the alcohol problem. Allah, who is the Most Merciful and Compassionate towards His creatures, gave them the perfect command. Abstain from them so that you may be saved. There are no other means and no short cuts to control this unfortunate ailment of human society. Islam’s social teachings are extremely important for the protection and survival of the family system. This is the dire need of the hour.

Man cannot have unlimited and unrestricted pleasure however he may desire it. A society which seeks to escape its responsibility or the realities of life with the help of drugs such as alcohol, a society which is obsessed by vain excitement and exhilaration, where control rests with powerful syndicates whose sole purpose is to amass wealth; such a society chooses all of this at the cost of nobler human values, peace of mind and security, for the society as a whole. One cannot have unlimited pleasure and maintain the human values simultaneously.

What lies in our power to do, lies also in our power not to do. He that conquers others is strong; he who conquers himself is mighty. Where self exists, God is not; where God exists, there is no self. May these words act like an eye-opener so that every one of you can think deeply on this subject and Insha-Allah grasp its meaning and repercussions on one’s own body, family and society at large.”