Islamic Studies

Eating in a Place that Serves Alcohol?

By Dr. Abdullah Bin Bayyah

The Question:

“Is it allowable for me to eat in an establishment where alchohol is served?”

The Answer:

The origin [related to this act] is that a Muslim is not allowed to sit at a table where alcohol is served as found in a sound hadith related by Imam Ahmed and Imam al-Tirmithi. However, this type of prohibition is from the prohibitions related to means about which Ibn al-Qayyim said, “Indeed, the prohibitions related to means are not the same as the prohibitions related to objectives*.The prohibitions related to means are made permissible in the face of needs and the prohibitions related to objectives are only permissible in the presence of necessities.” Thus, this [act of sitting at a table were alcohol is served] is from the prohibitions related to means.

Some of the scholars stated that the prohibitions related to means are from the makhrohat [disliked acts]. Therefore, if one needs to sit in such a restaurant, he should not sit at a table where alcohol is served, and if he does, he should not do so in the presence of his small children who could be affected by it. If one needs to take food from such a restaurant, and he cannot find any other place to take his food, then this issue is one that rests upon hardship, difficulty and a sincere need. Thus, in the presence of the prohibition [the hadith alluded to above] this order could be understood to be disliked or [an absolute] prohibition. However, it is from the prohibitions related to needs, means and necessities whose rulings are lifted [made permissible] in the face of sincere needs as Ibn al-Qayyim mentioned.

Dr. Abdullah bin Bayyah

*the difference between muharamat al-wasail [prohibitions related to means] and muharamt al-maqasid [prohibitions related to aims/objectives] is that the former, although forbidden, are considered lesser in weight than the latter as the former are related to causes, where as the latter are related to an actual forbidden act. Thus, sitting at the table, although not the same as drinking, could lead to it whereas drinking in itself is absolutely forbidden.

The difference between Hajat [needs] and Daruriyyat [necessities] was discussed in great detail by al-Shatibi D. 691 A.H in his monumental work al-Muwafaqat. He states that Daruriyyat are things whose absence would cause life to cease, and hajjat are things that one needs to function comfortably but in their absence one would experience some hardship. For a more detailed discussion click here.

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  • Salaam,

    Coming down to practical application here in the west…… If my wife and I or if a group of friends want to eat out…. Is it a good idea for us to go to a place such as applebees? Where we know there is a bar in the restaurant? Normally we will ask for seating totally far away from the bar, and will even ask if there is a non-alcohol section in restaurants. If someone went hardcore on us.. they could say… why do you need to eat at these restaurants.. eat at a halal pizza spot instead.. would they be correct in saying we’re not under any hardship, afterall we choose to eat at these places.

    So does that mean we can never eat at red lobsters, olive garden, cheesecake factory etcetcetc.

    Its interesting that I’ll go to these places but will NEVER go into a place which has “Bar and Grill” in it’s title….. but are they really any different?

  • How about a situation where you meet a non-Muslim relative (like your father) in a restaurant and they drink alcohol in front of you (and perhaps your children) or you visit their home and alcohol is consumed by them in your presence?

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