In most Muslim countries, alcohol is banned on religious principles. The Qur’an (Koran) makes few references to wine and intoxicants. Unlike Catholic sacraments, wine is not used in Muslim services because drinking wine is frowned upon. The prophet Mohammed did not mention it directly, but he chastised a drunkard for not performing his duties. This concept was delineated by Mohammed’s brother-in-law Ali:
“He who drinks gets drunk, he who is drunk, does nonsensical things, he who acts nonsensically says lies, and he who lies must be punished.”
A further passage from Yusaf Ali includes all intoxicants:
“O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling . . . . are an abomination-of Satan’s handiwork: eschew such [abomination] that ye may prosper.” -- Qur’an 590
Many alternative substances were tried over the centuries, especially those that didn’t interfere with one’s religious duties. Hashish and opium were tried but it was stimulants such as coffee, tobacco, and khat that continued to be used because they (especially coffee and tobacco) did not intoxicate to the point of indifference to one’s religious duties.
By contrast, the Christian bible has more than 150 references to wine, some positive and some negative. A quote similar to Ali’s admonition is
“And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled with the Spirit speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music to the Lord in your heart.” --Ephesians 5:18-19.
Other Christian religions that forbid or discourage any alcohol consumption are the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and some Protestant sects of fundamentalist Christianity. However, there is ambivalence in the Bible towards wine and its place in society.
“God give you of the dew of the sky, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and new wine.” -- Genesis 27:28
The Jewish religion has historically use wine as part of their religious and secular celebrations, including circumcisions, weddings, and the Sabbath. And even though wine is praised in the Old Testament, there are still warnings about over indulgence. Drunkards are not allowed to perform religious, legal, or political functions and are even forbidden from praying until sober.
The Buddhist attitude towards alcohol and other intoxicants has similarities to both Islam and Christianity. Buddhists believe that using alcohol or other intoxicants interferes with understanding the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, which lead to an awakening or enlightenment about the true nature of reality. The guiding principle of Buddhism is known as the Middle Way, often described as the practice of non-extremism; a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and opposing self-mortification.
Hinduism, the worlds oldest extant religion, disapproves of alcohol consumption, particularly excessive consumption, because it interferes with leading a moral life. However, certain passages in Hindu scriptures seem to condone its moderate use by certain classes such as kings, nobles, warriors and manual workers. Its use is prohibited for priests, students and those seriously following Hinduism as a way of life. India’s constitution (written in 1947) declared, "The State shall endeavor to bring about prohibition of the consumption of intoxicating drinks." Prohibition was enacted in 1977 but lasted only 2 years except for a few more conservative states. Unfortunately, the written provision has not been able to prevent the rapid increase in the consumption of alcohol in India during the last few decades.