Monday, February 23, 2009

Ethanol, Biofuels, and Islam

One prominent Islamic scholar, Sheikh Mohamed Al-Najimi, thinks that using ethanol based biofuels could be committing a sin, and he urged further studying of the matter. At issue, the constitution of ethanol:
Ethanol, a common type of biofuel, is made of the same type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, and its production is similar to that of hard liquor. Plant matter is fermented using yeast, and the result is distilled to increase the concentration of alcohol.
Of course, the consumption of alcohol is strictly prohibited in the Qur'an:
The Koran prohibits consumption of alcohol in three separate verses that were written over a period of several years. The first mention occurs in 4:43, in which Muslims are told that they must not pray while intoxicated. A verse written later – 2:219 – says that in wine and gambling “is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit.” Finally, in 5:90-91, intoxicants and gambling are called “an abomination” and “Satan’s handiwork”:

Satan’s plan is (but) to excite enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer: will ye not then abstain?

This admonition is waived in the hereafter, apparently: Many passages in the Islamic holy book describe heaven as having rivers of wine.

It must be said that I am not an expert on the Islamic religion, but there is an easy distinction to be made here. To me, the Islamic prohibition of alcohol revolves around the propensity towards intoxication and derivatively, the increased likelihood that an intoxicated individual would commit other "satanic" acts, like gambling and the excitations of enmity and hatred. And in the state of intoxication, the individual's priorities move from the sacred relationship with God to the hedonistic priorities of instant gratification - see the condemnation of praying while intoxicated. This same logic is employed by many conservative Christians today, but, to my point, it isn't necessarily a prohibition against the existence of alcohol - it's present in the afterlife! - but how those who consume alcohol enter into a potential slippery-slope of sinfulness, a slippery-slope that damages the individual's personal relationship with God. Since we aren't using ethanol for the purposes of intoxication but for purposes of both saving the environment and weening of foreign oil, we are theologically money.

3 comments:

Darren Staley said...

So f**king silly. The Islamists don't seem to mind the poppy fields in Afhganistan. Why? Because they would be tossed out on their butts.

My wife used to clean for a Methodist pastor. He told her once that there is one way to tell the difference between a Baptist and a Methodist. The Methodist will say hello to you when he runs into you at the liquor store.

I will now sit back and wait for Kent to tell me how Jesus turned water into grape juice rather than wine.

Kent H said...

I must be doing something right. Darren can turn an Islamic-view on ethanol fuel discussion into a baiting of me to "a bit of a go." There, there Mr. Staley you know you don't believe Jesus turned that water into anything.

Darren Staley said...

Ha! Good call, Kent!