Sharia & Alcohol
Reader comment on item: More on Those Alcohol-shy Taxi Drivers
Submitted by Mordechai Ben-Menachem (Israel), Feb 22, 2007 at 10:30
Upon reading this, I was unsure of the correct concept of Sharia, so I asked a leading Islamic Cleric for his opinion. My question was:
The taxi drivers are not really attempting to impose Sharia. They are attempting to impose Wahabbism.
Sheikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi was kind enough to respond, and this is his response:
Dear Mr. Ben Menachem,
Shari'ah does not only forbids drinking wine only, since the Qur'an does not say what means "drinking wine is forbidden for you", but "wine is forbidden for you". A know hadith explains that the prohibition of wine includes " drinking, serving, selling, buying, pressing the grapes, transporting, asking for it and receiving its payment." From this point of view there exist no difference whatsoever between Sunni Islam, Shi'ism or Wahhabism.
However, the application of the rule to the specific case in question is surely depending on a Wahhabi-inspired interpretation. A taxi driver earns money by driving a car which transport passengers, which is a lawful job, and goes on being lawful even in cases when the passenger uses the taxi to go doing things which are forbidden in Islam. Were someone accepting a job which includes drinking, serving, buying or transporting wine, that would be forbidden in Islam and the money one earns would be unlawful. In this case, however, the taxi driver's job consists in transporting passengers, not wine, and in some cases those passengers - not the driver - can choose to bring the wine with them. By accepting those passengers and wine they carry, a Muslims driver does not violate the Shari'ah in the minimum.
Apart from this, I am not exactly informed about the legal status of taxi drivers in the U.S. In Italy taxi drivers are not public employees, but private workers (as individual firms or cooperative firms) who have an municipal authorization for a service of public utility. Every taxi driver is free to accept a passenger or to refuse him and/or his baggage, irrespective of the motivation, in the same way the owner of a shop is free to sell merchandise produced by a certain firm and not by another. A taxi driver can even choose to work for passengers without baggage only. He cannot work more than a certain number of hours each day, but is free to work less or even to abstain from work as long as he likes. The only exception detailed by the Law concerns carrying passengers with a physical handicap.
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