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Islam-msg – 8/29/06


Comments on period Islam. Referances. Beverage restrictions.


NOTE: See also the files: religion-msg, Middle-East-msg, ME-dance-msg, ME-feasts-msg, murri-msg, p-relig-tol-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I  have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done  a limited amount  of  editing. Messages having to do  with separate topics  were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the  message IDs  were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make  no claims  as  to the accuracy  of  the information  given  by the individual authors.


Please respect the time  and  efforts of  those who have written  these messages. The copyright status  of these messages  is  unclear  at this time. If  information is  published  from  these  messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

   Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                         Stefan at florilegium.org



Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Islamic library info...

Date: Sat, 29 Jun 1996 10:05:47 -0600

Organization: Mesa State College


        Was looking at some back issues of magazines before we tossed

them, and came across an issue of Aramco World Magazine I thought some of

our middle eastern friends might enjoy.  


        The March/April 1987 issue is on the topic of the Topkapi

Collection and books and libraries in the Islamic world in general.  

Shows examples of calligraphy and illumination, discusses royal libraries

and literacy in the eastern world, and some of the current libraries.

(One of the finest libraries of Middle Eastern manuscripts is the Chester

Beatty Library in Dublin Ireland).  The articles in general seem well

balanced, with little I find to be obviously propagandist.  


IMHO:  I subscribed to Aramco World for the recipes and archeology

articles, and find it an overall fine magazine, with an interesting

mixture of historical and modern cultural information.  The frequent food

articles with recipes is certainly a most wonderful bonus.  The

subscription is free.  The most recent issue has articles on the Epic of

Gilgamesh the King, on Marzipan, and on the celebration of Manas 1000 -

of the epic of Manas in Kyrggyzstan, among others.


ISSN 1044-1891

March/April 1987 issue in question.



Disclaimer:  This magazine is published under the auspices (I think) of

Suadi Aramco, the oil company, with the expressed purpose of fostering

cross-cultural understanding of the Arab and Muslim world, and as such

may have a bias.  My personal understanding and knowledge of the region,

history and culture are limited enough that I may not notice it, for

which I apologize.  In spite of this, I enjoy this magazine!



From: sbloch at adl15.adelphi.edu (Stephen Bloch)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Islamic library info...

Date: 10 Jul 1996 17:29:14 GMT

Organization: Adelphi University, Garden City, NY


Master Sion Andreas (Ian Engle <ianengle at freenet.columbus.oh.us>) wrote:

>       Like pass on the subscription information, dude.  I've seen

>issues for years (and it is of consistent high quality,) but it'd really

>help to know HOW to get it.


Unfortunately, the previous article has expired from my news-server, so

I can but guess what "it" is.  In Islam-related periodicals for $200,

"what is Aramco World?"  This is a loss-leader for the Saudi national

oil company, which can afford to put out a slick, well-photographed,

well-written magazine on the lands of Islam (including frequent feature

articles on aspects of medieval Islam) gratis.  Whether that's what Sion

wanted or not, it can be had by writing to


Aramco World

POB 469008

Escondido, CA 92046-9008

                                                 Stephen Bloch

                                           sbloch at panther.adelphi.edu


                                        Math/CS Dept, Adelphi University



Date: Wed, 2 Feb 2000 08:44:41 -0600

From: david friedman <ddfr at best.com>

Subject: Re: SC - "Rose Soda" and the evils of "documentation"


At 12:03 AM -0500 2/2/00, LrdRas at aol.com wrote:

>Actually, the prohibition of al-Islam is 'that not one drop' of the fermented

>juice of the grape is to drank. It does not prohibit the drinking of any

>other fermented drinks and does not, technically, prohibit the drinking of

>the remaining drops of wine in a bottle.


I don't think it is that simple.


There are four different orthodox legal schools in Sunni Islam, and

each has its own interpretation of the prohibition. The most severe

bans drinking, in any quantity however small, anything that makes you

intoxicated, however much it takes to do so--a sort of Muslim

equivalent of the Delaney Amendment. The least severe bans the

drinking of wine--i.e. fermented grape juice--and bans getting drunk,

defined as so drunk that you cannot tell the earth from the sky or a

man from a woman.


My source for that summary is the Hattox book on the introduction of

coffee; he discusses the question because there was some dispute as

to whether coffee was covered by the ban. My impression is that he is

generally reliable, but I haven't researched the matter further.


Incidentally, I gather there is an exception for date beer that has

fermented no more than three days.


David Friedman

Professor of Law



Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2000 11:25:11 -0800

From: lilinah at earthlink.net

Subject: Re: SC - Islamic alchohol?


Thorbjorn wrote:

>I don't know about period Islamic brews, but today, it is still forbidden

>that any alcohol cross the lips of Muslims.


Rules are rules and actual behaviors and practices are often

something else. We had a discussion along these lines recently on

this list (in the "Spanish Beer" thread, IIRC) and apparently there

are several ways to interpret the injunction in the Qur'an - from the

strictest (no alcohol of any sort), to drinking every alcohol except

wine, to drinking even wine but pouring out the first few drops. It

depends in part on what country one lives in and what sect of Islam

one follows.


Rumi the Sufi writes frequently of getting drunk, and while this is

interpreted as being purely metaphorical ("getting high on god"), it

suggests that drinking alcohol was not unknown to him either through

personal experience or observation.


Certainly wine and other spirits were drunk in al-Andalus "in

period", at least by the ruling class or tribe, which was often

decried by stricter practitioners in the Maghrib. (mentioned in "A

History of the Maghrib")


Another example of Qur'anic rule vs. actual practice is an injunction

against art depicting living beings in art. There are paintings from

just about every Muslim culture throughout the existence of Islam

depicting animals and humans, including Mohammed (although his face

is usually veiled). In iconoclastic periods, manuscripts could be

treated any of several ways, from outright destruction, to effacing

faces, to drawing a line in ink across the throats of the humans to

"kill" them by slitting their throats, so to speak.


Jeff Gedney" <JGedney at dictaphone.com> wrote:

> > I have been reading "the Works and Voyages of John Davis, Navigator".

> > Last night I have found an interesting reference.

> > In the 1580's John Davis was navigator for a Flemish boat making

> > a spice run to the East Indies, and in one of the Malay Kingdoms (Achien)


I believed this would be what is currently called Aceh (pronounced

Ah-chey) on the northern tip of Sumatra, a short boat ride to

Malaysia. They're pretty strict there now, but 400 years ago could

well have behaved differently.


I lived in Indonesia on the island of Java from 1979 to 1980, where

over 90 per cent of the population is nominally Muslim and they drank

beer (and it wasn't rice beer). Granted, this isn't period, but is

illustrative of actual practices of some Muslims...


I did visit the province of North Sumatra (Sumatera Utara, not Aceh)

where there are some non-Muslims (my ex-husband's family, for

example, Bataks on the island of Samosir in Lake Toba). To celebrate

I was served a mixture of beer and Chinese medicinal wine (ugh, not a

recommended mixture).


As far as i know, the Indonesians learned to make beer from the Dutch

who colonized the region for about 300-350 years.


On the island of Bali they still drink an indigenous alcoholic

beverage made from fermented palm sap which is also an indigenous

source of sugar. It is clear, colorless, pretty harsh, and packs a

punch, called "tuak". Most Balinese are not Muslim, so no local

injunction. This or something like it is likely the beverage

mentioned in Davis's work as i know that historically it was known

throughout the archipelago. I don't know exactly how it is made,

although perhaps some of my anthropology books make mention. If you

like, i can pursue it...


Wet rice agriculture has been known there for a *very* long time, at

least 2,000 years (that's growing in "paddies", although this is a

misnomer, as "padi" is raw unhusked rice, the terraced wet rice

fields are "sawah"), so rice was certainly available.


They do use fermentation and yeast ("ragi)) to process several

starchy white tubers which are eaten as a sweet snacks. The

fermentation process seems to make them sweeter and appears to break

down the fibers making the tubers softer (mushy) and less fibrous.


As fruits are picked ripe and refrigerators are rare, one needs to

eat them quickly. I personally experienced fresh pineapple which had

fermented naturally in the heat. So i suppose some sort of fermented

fruit beverage is also a possibility, although i have no



Ananita al-shazhiyya




Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2000 09:43:31 -0600

From: david friedman <ddfr at best.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Islamic alchohol?


The situation as I understand it was:

There were (and are) four mutually orthodox schools of law in Sunni

Islam. In other words, members of one school of law do not regard

members of another as heretics, but they disagree in how they

interpret Islamic law.


On the subject of alcohol, the most tolerant of the four schools

holds that the prohibition applies to wine (i.e. fermented grape

juice) and to getting drunk on other things, but not to drinking

other things. And at least one interpretation holds that "drunk"

means "so drunk that you cannot tell the earth from the sky or a man

from a woman." The least tolerant school holds that it is forbidden

to drink any quantity at all of anything that, in sufficiently large

quantities, gets you drunk.


I think my source for all of this is Hattox's book on the

introduction of coffee; he discusses it because there was some

dispute as to whether the prohibition applied to coffee.


Also, there is apparently a tradition according to which the Prophet

said that date beer fermented no more than three days was permitted.


I don't know what the Shia position is.


So far as recipes are concerned, the nearest thing I know of is the

description of how to make arrack (distilled liquor from sugar cane)

in the _Ain I Akbari_. I don't know if the Mughals considered arrack

permitted, or if it was being made by the Hindus, Jews, or

Christians, or what.


David Friedman



Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2000 18:55:45 -0600

From: david friedman <ddfr at best.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Islamic alchohol?


At 11:25 AM -0800 2/28/00, lilinah at earthlink.net wrote:

>Rules are rules and actual behaviors and practices are often something else.


Of course. There are lots of period anecdotes about wine drinking by

Muslims, including by the Caliph.


A certain holy man saw a barge on the river Euphrates, laden with

great clay jugs, and asked of a bystander what they were. He was

informed that they were jugs of wine, destined for the palace of the

Prince of the Muslims. So the holy man picked up a barge pole and

smashed the jugs, all save one that he missed.


He was seized and taken before the Prince of the Muslims, the Caliph

Mutadid (May Allah be content with him) for judgement.


"And who is it that has made thee inspector of the marketplace?"

Asked the Prince of the Muslims.


"He who has made thee Prince of the Muslims," responded the holy man.


And the Caliph Mutadid (May Allah be content with him) was abashed,

and ordered that the holy man be released.


David Friedman



Date: Tue, 29 Feb 2000 09:09:46 -0600

From: "Decker, Terry D." <TerryD at Health.State.OK.US>

Subject: RE: SC - Islamic alchohol?


The prime difference in the political dogma of the Sunni and the Shia is

that the Sunni accept the traditional order of the caliphs who followed

Mohammed, while the Shia hold that the 4th caliph, Ali, represents the true

line of descent of religious authority.


The Sunni are divided by ritual and law into Hanafites, Malikites, Shafites,

and Hanbalites.  These probably represent the four major schools of law

Hattox mentions.  


In general, the Shia are stricter in interpretation than the Sunni.





Subject: Arabic And Islamic Books

Date: Sun, 9 Sep 2001 03:13:29 +0200

From: Jihad Baydoun <marketing at al-ilmiyah.com>

To: "Mark.S Harris (rsve60)" <mark.s.harris at motorola.com>


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From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

To: <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: Chocolate+Muslim (was Re: [Sca-cooks] Probably OOP but just


Date: Tue, 18 Dec 2001 18:38:14 -0600


>Were the Ishmailis similar to the Hashshashin?  Who

>gave us that wonderful word "assassin"?




The Ishmailis or Ismailis are an esoteric branch of the Shiites.  The name

derives from Isma'il, the name of the the son of the sixth imam, Jafar (8th

Century).  The Ishmailis are primarily Persian and it is believed the

"Assassins" were a cult of the Ishmaili.  There is also a strong link

between the Ishmailis and Sufism.





Date: Sun, 21 Aug 2005 10:47:08 -0700

From: lilinah at earthlink.net

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Moslems and alcohol

To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org


>> The range of utterly no alcohol to some alcohol so long as it isn't

>> brewed from grapes, appears to have varied by sect. I'm not sure that

>> there has been a loosening of the alcohol restriction over the  

>> years  in general. I believe that it is still forbidden to most Moslems.


>> Stefan


> The prohibition on alcohol depends on interpretation of the religious law.

> The absolute prohibition is on "the fruit of the grape," so grape wines,

> brandies, etc. are completely prohibited, while othr alcoholic beverages

> may or may not be permitted depending on the particular brand of Islam one

> follows and on how strictly one follows Islamic dietary laws.  The strictest

> adherents say that the prohibition applies to anything that alters the mind,

> which is part of the reason coffee and qhat were prohibited at one  

> time. The best general rule is that alcohol is forbidden to Moslems.


> Bear


The "official" rules are important to know. But we are faced with an

additional issue as students of history - and that is what people

really did.


Let's say, for example, that we only study Christianity through the

Bible (as a parallel to studying Islam via the Qur'an). We will then

have one idea of who Christians were/are and what they id/do.


But if we look at the actual lives of Christians throughout history

and in many different cultural areas, we will find that who

Christians were/are and what Christians did/do is quite varied.

Christians did not (and most still do not) scrupulously and literally

follow the Bible, even if they say they do. Even literalists are

quite selective as to which parts of the Bible they ignore - and it's

not just an issue of different interpretations.


The same is true of Muslims. While it is true that "alcohol is

forbidden to Moslems", whether or not Muslims within SCA-period drank

alcohol is a completely different issue. I'm interested in what

people did, not just what they were supposed to do or not do.


Let's look at some other Muslim laws: A literal interpretation of the

Qur'an indicates that pictures of living beings, especially humans,

is forbidden. And yet we have a wealth of art that includes or even

features humans, from what is now Afghanistan to al-Andalus. The one

place that representations of humans do not appear is in the Qur'an

itself. Yet there are, outside of the Qur'an, paintings of the life

of Muhammed and the Prophet is represented as a normal human (and

this is in several cultures, not just one) - the one fairly

consistent hedge is that he s painted with a small rectangle of

cloth covering his face from forehead to chin.


In studying the Islamic world - and especially foodways, hospitality,

and entertaining - it is clear that wine was commonly used by many in

the upper classes and among intllectuals and artists. There are

clear unveiled non-metaphorical references to wine and wine drinking

in many parts of Dar al-Islam.


Now, many modern converts have complained that historical references

to alcohol-imbibing Muslims are just falsehoods spread by non-Muslims

trying to slander Islam. Or that such references are due to faulty

translations or even intentional errors by non-Muslims, yet many of

the texts I'm reading have Muslims as translators.


In fact, the actual and the ideal do not always math. I suspect that

some of our tiptoeing around this issue is due to several factors.

One is our desire not to be offensive to actual Muslims. Another is

the fact that most of us are not Muslims. And a third is that most of

us have not studied this issue deeply.


I am not a Muslim, I don't intend to offend Muslims, and i have not

studied this issue to the fullest extent - I'm still studying. But it

is clear that some Muslims drank alcohol - some very important

Muslims, such as the highest classes in Persia, and the ruling class

and Janissaries in the Ottoman Empire - and some to excess within SCA



Let me note here that I am myself not much of a drinker. In the

course of a year i may have a few sips of alcoholic beverages in

toasts at weddings, annivesary parties, and similar celebrations.

And i may have a few - and I mean, maybe 2 or 3 - entire glasses full

of some mixed drinks in the course of a year. So my comments are not

an excuse for me to drink alcohol.


Before the Almohads invaded, wine was a common beverage openly drunk

in al-Andalus by all classes and religions. And I've been reading

Andalusian poetry which is clearly not metaphorical discussing

drinking wine.


There are many paintings of pitchers and cups of wine in Persian art

- ok, no absolute proof, but i'm skeptical that all those wine

colored beverages are merely wine-dark sharbats. Europeans travelling

in Persia in the 16th and 17th centuries were shocked that the

Persians they met - generally high level officials - drank

*undiluted* wie - and began drinking it in the morning. And in his

own autobiography, Baybars, the Persian who became the first Moghul

ruler, discusses his drinking, and there are paintings of him

drunkenly riding his horse.


The Turks, especially the Ottomans, were known to drink alcohol

(certainly not all of them, but many of them) and they appear to have

a tradition of making and drinking non-grape alcoholic beverages as



And there is the clear probability within Dar al-Islam of non-grape

based fermented beverages from fruits, honey, or palm sap.


Certainly, we cannot assume that Muslims generally ignored the

injunction against drinking. And it is true that while grapes were

grown by Muslims, wine was made and sold by non-Muslims - there were

laws to this affecting many polities that were actually enforced

(many laws were made that were not). But it is clear that wine was

not unknown in the Muslim world as a beverage of some prominent, and

not so prominent, Muslims.


Urtatim (that's err-tah-TEEM)

the persona frmerly known as Anahita



Date: Mon, 22 Aug 2005 08:43:15 +0000

From: David Friedman <ddfr at daviddfriedman.com>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Moslems and alcohol

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


> The range of utterly no alcohol to some alcohol so long as it isn't

> brewed from grapes, appears to have varied by sect. I'm not sure

> that there has been a loosening of the alcohol restriction over the

> years in general. I believe that it is still forbidden to most

> Moslems.


I believe the range is from "no amount, however small, of anything

that in sufficiently large amounts can intoxicate" to "nothing from

fermented grapes, and don't get really drunk on anything."


And the division isn't, I think, so much by sects as by schools of

the law. The Sunni recognize four mutually orthodox schools.


Another poster mentions "fruit of the grape" as being the original

category. I haven't checked the Koranic passage, but my memory from

the Hattox book on coffee is that it wasn't that explicit.






Date: Mon, 22 Aug 2005 18:15:37 -0400

From: "Jeff Gedney" <gedney1 at iconn.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Moslems and alcohol

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


> Another poster mentions "fruit of the grape" as being the

> original category. I haven't checked the Koranic passage, but my

> memory from the Hattox book on coffee is that it wasn't that

> explicit.


Apparently it was anything that intoxicated or clouded the mind.

Coffee could be said to do that, and then again some say it

sharpens it... hence the confusion.


Here are the Koranic verses that I could find that touch on the

subject, there may be others.  You will note that the holy ones in

paradise drink as much pure wine as they please.


Qur'an: Sura 2 verse 219

They question thee about strong drink and games of chance. Say: In

both is great sin, and (some) utility for men; but the sin of them

is greater than their usefulness. And they ask thee what they

ought to spend. Say: that which is superfluous. Thus Allah maketh

plain to you (His) revelations, that haply ye may reflect.


Qur'an: Sura 4 verse 43

O ye who believe! Draw not near unto prayer when ye are drunken,

till ye know that which ye utter, nor when ye are polluted, save

when journeying upon the road, till ye have bathed. And if ye be

ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from the closet, or ye

have touched women, and ye find not water, then go to high clean

soil and rub your faces and your hands (therewith). Lo! Allah is

Benign, Forgiving.


Qur'an: Sura 5 verse 90

O ye who believe! Strong drink and games of chance and idols and

divining arrows are only an infamy of Satan's handiwork. Leave it

aside in order that ye may succeed.


Qur'an: Sura 5 verse 91

Satan seeketh only to cast among you enmity and hatred by means of

strong drink and games of chance, and to turn you from remembrance

of Allah and from (His) worship. Will ye then have done?


Qur'an: Sura 16 verse 67

And of the fruits of the date-palm, and grapes, whence ye derive

strong drink and (also) good nourishment. Lo! therein is indeed a

portent for people who have sense.


Qur'an: Sura 47 verse 15

A similitude of the Garden which those who keep their duty (to

Allah) are promised: Therein are rivers of water unpolluted, and

rivers of milk whereof the flavour changeth not, and rivers of

wine delicious to the drinkers, and rivers of clear-run honey;

therein for them is every kind of fruit, with pardon from their

Lord. (Are those who enjoy all this) like those who are immortal

in the Fire and are given boiling water to drink so that it

teareth their bowels?


Qur'an: Sura 83 verse 22-28

Lo! the righteous verily are in delight,

On couches, gazing,

Thou wilt know in their faces the radiance of delight.

They are given to drink of a pure wine, sealed,

Whose seal is musk - for this let (all) those strive who strive

for bliss -

And mixed with water of Tasnim,

A spring whence those brought near (to Allah) drink.



Capt Elias

Dragonship Haven, East

(Stratford, CT, USA)



Date: Mon, 22 Aug 2005 17:57:38 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Moslems and alcohol

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


> I believe the range is from "no amount, however small, of anything that in

> sufficiently large amounts can intoxicate" to "nothing from fermented

> grapes, and don't get really drunk on anything."


> And the division isn't, I think, so much by sects as by schools of the

> law. The Sunni recognize four mutually orthodox schools.


> Another poster mentions "fruit of the grape" as being the original

> category. I haven't checked the Koranic passage, but my memory from  

> the Hattox book on coffee is that it wasn't that explicit.

> --

> David/Cariadoc


You are correct the prohibition is not that explicit.


The prohibition rides primarily on sura 5 verse 90 of the Koran,  "[5.90] O

you who believe! intoxicants and games of chance and (sacrificing to) stones

set up and (dividing by) arrows are only an uncleanness, the Shaitan's work;

shun it therefore that you may be successful."


In 16.67, some intoxicants are defined, "[16.67] And of the fruits of the

palms and the grapes-- you obtain from them intoxication and goodly

provision; most surely there is a sign in this for a people who ponder."




<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org