A friend of mine that I worked closely with for over 3 years recently left for another job. This friend (let’s call him Robin, mainly because that’s his name) is a really good guy, and he will be sorely missed. Just how sore is yet to be determined, but the office was definitely better with him around.
On his last day of work there was the customary trip to the local pub after working hours for a few drinks to celebrate his getting a new job and to commiserate his leaving his old job.
I was asked if I was going to the pub, to which I replied no. I was then asked why ever not, since Robin and I have sat next to each other for over 3 years, working closely on the same project during that time.
My reason for not going to the pub was that as a practising Muslim I can’t really go to a place that openly serves alcohol. By now there were several people in the office listening in to this conversation, and someone asked me (totally in jest) if I go to Pizza Hut, as they serve alcohol. Then someone else asked if I shop at Tesco, as they also sell alcohol.
Afterwards these questions that were asked during light hearted banter got me thinking seriously, as they raise some interesting points, but when you get down to it there are subtle differences in all three cases, and here’s a few of these off the top of my noggin:
- Pizza Hut: the main point of going to a restaurant like Pizza Hut is to buy and eat food, not to drink alcohol, and not to get drunk whilst you are there. Their main source of income is food, not alcohol. Also, if you are drunk in Pizza Hut, they may ask you to leave. Likewise, if Pizza Hut stopped selling alcohol (as it does in many Muslim countries) then it would still be considered to be a restaurant.
- Tesco: the main point of going to a supermarket like Tesco is to buy groceries, not alcohol, and as above not to get drunk whilst you are there. Again, their main source of income will be through the sale of non-alcohol related items. Likewise, you cannot openly consume alcohol in Tesco, and if you were drunk they’d probably ask you to leave. Similar to the point above, if Tesco stopped selling alcohol then they would still be considered to be a supermarket.
- Pubs: a pub, short for ‘public house’, is defined as ‘an establishment for the sale of beer and other drinks, and sometimes also food, to be consumed on the premises’. In other words, their main source of income is alcohol. This means you have to be really drunk in a pub in order to be asked to leave. If a pub stopped selling alcohol, it would no longer be a pub.
Day to day, it is so difficult for Muslims to completely avoid alcohol in a country such as the UK, but we must try to do our best. Every little helps, as Tesco would say. This means if we can get our groceries from somewhere that doesn’t sell alcohol, then we should go there. It also means that if we can go to a restaurant that doesn’t allow alcohol, then we should eat there instead of ever feeling the need to hit the Hut. Both of these are easy to do in a place like Birmingham.
I guess I would have liked to have gone to the pub to say goodbye to my friend properly, but I am a Muslim and I do try to follow Islam as much as I can, and this is more important to me in the end. Being the decent guy that he is, this is a point that I know Robin sincerely understood.
So there you have it, a few basic points to note regarding Islam, alcohol, and friendships.