Prohibition of Alcohol

Prohibition in US

History of Drinking Alcohol

In the late seventeenth century, the Reverend Increase Mather, probably the most influential Puritan minister of his time, said that alcohol was "a good creature of God" and that man should partake of the gift without abusing it. His son, being a little more concerned about drinking, encouraged people to set a good example by not getting drunk. But no one of that time cared. Everyone, men, women, and even children were drinking huge amounts of alcohol without any feeling of doing something bad. Alcohol was part of daily life. Nearly everyone was addicted to it.

However, starting in the late 1700s, some people started being concerned about the amount of alcohol that people were drinking. By 1800, abstinence pledges were introduced in churches. During the Second Great Awakening of the 1820s and 30s, people started drinking less. By 1833, 6000 societies for prohibition were formed in several states. Physicians, ignorant as they were, started to prescribe less dangerous alcoholic items. Many Protestant churches started supporting antiliquor movements. In 1826, Reverend Lyman Beecher, one of the most powerful voices for prohibition delivered six furious sermons condemning liquor.

Prohibition on State Levels

Though antiliquor movements were a little successful on local levels, they were not successful on state levels. In Massachusetts, a law was passed in 1838 that prohibited sales of spirits in less than 15-gallon quantities. The law was repealed only two years later. Maine, with the reputation of being the drunkest state in the nation, passed a strict prohibition law in 1851. The law did not help its reputation much. Other states followed without getting good results. The laws were just too difficult and expensive to enforce. The majority of the people did not want to stop drinking alcohol. Many states drastically changed or even repealed the laws soon after passing them.

National Prohibition

However, in the late 1800s, antiliquor movements started becoming politically successful. In 1893, a new organization called the Anti-Saloon League was formed in Oberlin, Ohio. It was against the drinking of alcoholic beverages anywhere and affected elections greatly by hurting opponents of prohibition. By 1913, over half of the people of the United States were living under some sort of prohibition. The drys (people that were against alcohol) then went a step ahead. In the end of 1913, five thousand supporters of prohibition paraded from the White House to the Capitol calling for national prohibition by 1920. They presented a petition to the Congress asking for a Constitutional amendment that would prohibit all alcoholic beverages. It was the first time such an action had been formally suggested.

The wets (people who opposed prohibition) did not believe that national prohibition could take place. Even the most optimistic drys expected an uphill fight. However, something happened that no one had expected. World War I broke out and the United States entered it in 1917. The entire political climate changed. There was a massive outbreak of anti-foreign sentiment, particularly anti-German. The Germans had dominated the sale and manufacture of beer. Prohibition speakers often referred to the "un-American saloon". They also argued that grain and other ingredients used in the manufacturing of beer and hard liquor were needed for the war effort. A temporary Prohibition Act was passed during this time to save these ingredients for use as food.

Congress voted for Prohibition in the end of 1917. The amendment got the necessary votes in both houses of Congress. Even then, the wets were confident that the Eighteenth Amendment would not be ratified by the thirty-six necessary states in the limited time of seven years. However, much to the people's surprise, the amendment was ratified in only thirteen months. Only Connecticut and Rhode Island did not ratify it.

Still there was not much of a change in the common people's hearts. Most still wanted to drink alcohol at all costs. In the days before the National Prohibition Act (the lengthy document explaining what exactly was the prohibition and its limitations) became law, many people could be seen moving alcohol from warehouses and other places to the safety of their homes where drinking alcohol was allowed. Even then, prohibitionists were optimistic. They thought that once the American public would recognize the importance of a liquor-free society, the need for enforcement would rapidly disappear and estimated the cost of enforcing the law at about five million dollars. It was the greatest miscalculation they ever made.

Enforcement of Prohibition

In the first year of enforcement (1920), Congress appropriated $6,350,000. By 1923, the secretary of treasury was asking for $28,500,000 and a few years later, it was estimated that at least $300,000,000 would be needed.

There were many exceptions in the Act. For example, farmers could make cider and let it become alcohol without adding anything to it, treating it in any way, or trying to sell it. Beer still could be brewed legally, if nearly all of the alcohol was removed before it was sold. Liquor was still available for medicinal purposes in pharmacies and was easy to get by forging prescriptions or getting prescriptions from unscrupulous doctors.

Many people got alcohol illegally. Workers in the industrial alcohol business could easily remove the poisons from industrial alcohol to drink it. Many people distilled alcohol at home. Others imported alcohol from neighboring countries such as Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. A lot of alcohol also came from Britain.

Results of Prohibition

The structure now called organized crime was born during the Prohibition. People hijacked alcohol that was on its way to government warehouses where it would be sold for medicinal purposes. New criminals were formed such as the bootleggers and rumrunners. Bloody shoot-outs took place between rival gangs. American society was becoming totally corrupt. Bribery became a way of life. Many people started dying because of poisonous alcohol.

End of Prohibition

Seven months after the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment, the Nineteenth Amendment, giving women the right to vote, was ratified. This seemed to be a victory for Prohibition as women were thought to be solidly antiliquor. However, women had started to deal with bootleggers, etc and many joined movements calling for the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment. Even then, the drys had enormous political power and repeal didn't seem possible. Then the Great Depression took place. Unemployment rates were soaring. People were becoming extra poor and remembered the days that the government used to get huge amounts of money through taxes on liquor. Now the government was spending money trying to enforce unenforceable laws while all the money spent on buying alcohol by the people was going into the pockets of gangsters. Many supporters of Prohibition now started turning against it. On December 5, 1933, Utah became the thirty-sixth state to ratify the Twenty-First Amendment and the Eighteenth Amendment was repealed. Some states chose to remain dry, but by 1966, there was not a single dry state in the whole nation. The "Noble Experiment" had lasted only thirteen years and ten months. It had failed.

Prohibition in Arabia

An earlier prohibition had taken place more than 1300 years before the one in America. The people of Arabia loved to drink. However, a few did not drink alcohol. Among them was the Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. After becoming a Prophet, the Quran was revealed slowly to the Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. Many verses contained guidance about how a community should work. Some rules agreed with people's customs and traditions before Islam. However, many of the new rules required big changes that were carried out by the Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, and his companions without any complaints. One of these changes was the prohibition of alcohol.

Three Verses Revealed

Three verses of the Quran concerning alcohol were revealed to Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, in Madinah and from that time, alcohol was prohibited. The first verse showed that Allah dislikes alcohol. Even though this verse was not a command to stop drinking alcohol, many people stopped drinking it as soon as this verse was revealed, in order to abstain from something disliked by Allah.

The second verse prohibited people from praying when drunk. In a sermon before the third verse was revealed, the Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, said that Allah hates alcohol and very soon the verse for prohibition might be revealed. He told the believers to sell the alcohol that they had. After that, people were not in a hurry to hide whatever alcohol they had with them. Instead, they were in a rush to get rid of something that was hated by Allah. Even addicts got rid of it. No one questioned why and no one complained that it was too hard for them to stop drinking alcohol. This was because they knew that they had to obey Allah and His Messenger in order to be believers.

After only a little time, the third verse was revealed. It prohibited alcohol completely. No one was allowed to sell it, to buy it, to make it, or have anything to do with it. There was no exception, whatsoever. When this order came, those who had not got rid of their alcohol did not try to hide it or sell it, but threw it away in the streets. There was no need for setting aside money to enforce the law. Everyone followed those laws whole-heartedly. What happened here was totally opposite of what happened in the US. The prohibition of alcohol never had any bad effects on society in Madinah, has never had any bad effects on society in any Muslim country, and will continue to only have good effects on society. Alcohol is still prohibited in Islam and will remain prohibited forever.