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Cannabis and Muslims


Silver Member
Aug 9, 2005
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Just read an article, wanted to share.
Asian Times.

God loves a smoker

FETHIYE, Turkey - Some religions are closely associated with drug-taking. Rastafarianism is famous for its use of marijuana, or lamb's bread as it is known, to help achieve oneness with God, Hindu sadus (itinerant holy men) regularly use bhang (a liquid form of marijuana extract), and certain shamanistic traditions use peyote and datura to induce trances and hallucinations to facilitate communication with the spirit world.

Hemp seeds, discovered by archeologists in Pazyryk, southern Siberia, have been dated to around the same time as use by the

Scythians of cannabis (on the Black Sea coast) was recorded by Herodotus in the 5th century BC.

The three religions of the Book, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, are not well known for having drug cultures associated with them, so it comes as something as a surprise to learn that Islam, perhaps the most puritanical of the three, has a strong undercurrent of marijuana use throughout its long history.

The issue of substance abuse, intoxicants and Islam rose to the Turkish media's attention recently when police carried out a raid on the home of private citizen Nazif Kamil Orde in Istanbul for the benefit of current-affairs documentary program Arena. They smashed their way into the home of the man newspapers have nicknamed "the junkie teacher" - Esrarc Hoca - a self-styled imam who interspersed his lessons on Islamic philosophy with some strong tokes on a lit joint and encouraged the young followers sitting around his living room to do likewise. He extolled the virtues of cannabis and said no one could make him stop - smoking was his duty to God.

The headlines screamed "A joint in one hand, the Koran in the other", and more than 32,000 people have watched the video clip of him being arrested broadcast via the Web on Hurriyet Video. Esrarc Hoca's behavior has largely been interpreted as the actions of a drug pusher trying to drum up business, and he has made himself somewhat of a joke to serious media pundits with such over-the-top statements as "My child will learn to roll joints and smoke at the age of six," "How can you outlaw weed? God orders us to smoke it," and "Friends, you can't take away the gun on a Muslim's belt, the horse beneath him or the joint in his hand." However, his behavior and statements do raise the issue of whether cannabis is haram (forbidden by Islamic law).

Generally in orthodox Islam, conservative scholars deem cannabis an intoxicant and therefore, according to the Hadith, it is classified as haram (as is coffee). The Hadith is the book of sayings of the Prophet Mohammed, which states: "If much intoxicates, then even a little is haram." There are dissenting voices, however, who say that the word used in the Koran itself is khamr - which means "fermented grape" - and that this classification doesn't cover use of marijuana. Liberal Muslims believe that opposition to cannabis on religious grounds in Islamic countries has in essence been based on narrow-minded dogma that seeks to regulate all private pleasure in the name of religion.

Certainly some Islamic countries are closely associated with dope smoking and cultivation (Afghanistan, Lebanon, Indonesia, Egypt and Morocco, for example) but its use is often for recreational purposes and largely takes place among the lower classes. In Turkey, while cannabis use is not tolerated by the police or state, there is a smoking culture and a well-known saying, helal ottur, gunah yoktur ("it's a holy weed that carries no sin"). The intoxicant use of cannabis may in fact have permeated Islamic culture because alcohol is forbidden to adherents of Islam. Andre Malraux wrote in Man's Fate: "There is always a need for intoxication: China has opium, Islam has hashish, the West has woman."

Cannabis use for explicitly spiritual purposes is most common among Sufi believers, who are the most mystical of Islam's adherents. According to one Arab legend, Haydar, the Persian monk who founded the Sufis, came across the cannabis plant in AD 1155 in the Persian mountains.

Under normal circumstances he was a reserved and quiet man, but when he returned to his monastery after eating some cannabis leaves, his disciples were amazed at how talkative and animated he seemed. They cajoled Haydar into telling them what he had done to make him so full of spirit, and then they went out into the mountains and tried the cannabis for themselves. The Sufis' religion gives great importance to direct communion between God and man, and it is believed that cannabis is used as a sacrament - an aid to enlightenment.

The most famous Muslim users of cannabis are the Hashishin, from whom our modern word "assassin" stems. These men were a warrior sect who lived in the mountains of Afghanistan and waged a guerrilla war of political murder. Based on Marco Polo's tales of the Old Man in the Mountains, who duped his followers into carrying out evil deeds so they could enter the earthly paradise he had shown them under the influence of drugs, it is traditional in the West to believe that the Hashishin first consumed cannabis and then set about slaying their opponents.

However, Ernest Abel, in his book Marijuana: The First 12,000 Years, claims that Marco Polo never identified hashish as the drug used by the Assassins and that historically cannabis and its derivatives have never been equated with violence in the Middle East.

In modern times the mujahideen used marijuana during their war against the Russians in the 1890s, but they made use of it to keep them going on their interminable marches across the frozen mountains of Afghanistan and not to inspire blood lust.

The use of cannabis by Muslims is as unlikely to die out as is the use of cannabis by any other group. Although religion dictates abstinence, the human spirit has always sought out methods to escape mundane reality, and smoking joints is a relatively harmless and cheap way of freeing one's mind for an afternoon. As for the Esrarc Hoca and his interesting announcements on the laws dictating the use of marijuana, he may well have been smoking weed's stronger and more psychoactive cousin, skunk.

Asia Times Online :: Middle East News - God loves a smoker

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