The way of ease

I am grateful for this path that others are convinced is so hard for me. It is true that I do not know the names of fine wines, their lineage and classifications. It is true that I could not tell you what a Riesling, Pinot Noir or a Cabernet Sauvignon is, nor whether one has a good nose or a fulsome flavour, or generates dizzying intoxication or just a mild buzz. 

Here is something that might surprise you: I turned my back on the bottle long before I took up this path. Indeed, I only took up the bottle for a matter of months, under the influence of my companions during my first year of university. Up until then, I did not sip intoxicating drinks — my innate spirit inclining towards my grandparents’ sobriety.

For a few short months, pretending to be a character I was not, I drank all manner of unpleasant liquids. One night I drank so much that I fell unconscious and was conveyed by ambulance to A&E to be brought to. I vowed the next day never to imbibe that poison again, but I was soon binging over and over, drowning my sorrows in expensive drinks, until finally, sick of the person I had become, I decided this was not the life for me. Twenty-three years ago, I turned my back on that world for good, a whole year before I set upon the path of faith I have been walking along ever since.

In truth, this path is not a burden for me, but brings ease. This path recognises that there is both benefit and harm in wine, but that the harm far outweighs the benefit. A recent study published in the journal, Addiction, came to much the same conclusion. This review of 1.6 million hospital inpatients found that twenty percent used alcohol harmfully, while ten percent were dependent on it. In 2018/19, there were 1.26 million hospital admissions related to alcohol consumption in England. The annual cost to the NHS for treatment of alcohol-related illness is estimated to be around £3.5 billion, with alcohol a causal factor in more than 60 medical conditions. The social cost to society is estimated to be tens of billions more, impacting crime and violence, unemployment, informal care costs, social care, lack of productivity, child poverty, family instability and quality of life.

The goal of the path I find myself on is to achieve a state of safety and health. To be a Muslim means striving throughout one’s life to be safe and healthy. If we are not moving towards this state, it is not Islam, but something else entirely. Nations, too, are charged with pursuing this goal: to care for the health and safety of its people. Striving for safety and health extends beyond the individual to the community, society and the nation as a whole. The more it broadens out, the more complicated it becomes, which is why public health is so important.

Islam starts from the outside and goes inward. At first, you become a Muslim, and you do those outward actions prescribed for you, and give up those actions that have been prohibited. This state is continuous and without end, until death takes you, but after becoming a Muslim, you must then struggle to become a Mumin. The first sign of a Mumin is that when you see something harmful, you remove it. Such is the way. The path that others believe to be hard for me, is in fact the way of ease. And I am so very grateful for it.

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