Abiding in God's law: The use and sale of alcohol

Use of alcohol prohibited to believers

“Regarding the use of liquor: According to the text of the Book of Aqdas, both light and strong drinks are prohibited. The reason for this prohibition is that alcohol leadeth the mind astray and causeth the weakening of the body. If alcohol were beneficial, it would have been brought into the world by the divine creation and not by the effort of man. Whatever is beneficial for man existeth in creation. Now it hath been proved and established medically and scientifically that liquor is harmful.”
—from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to
an individual believer

“Under no circumstances should Bahá’ís drink. It is so unambiguously forbidden in the Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, that there is no excuse for them even touching it in the form of a toast, or in a burning plum pudding; in fact, in any way.”
—from a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, March 3, 1957

“Although it is clear from the teachings that the use of alcohol is permitted if it is prescribed by a physician for treatment purposes, we have not been able to find any instructions which permit its use in the preparation of home remedies for common illnesses.”
—from a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Ecuador, Dec. 21, 1973

With regard to serving or selling alcohol to non-Bahá’ís

“In response to questions raised on the permissibility of serving drinks in a number of different circumstances, the Universal House of Justice has formulated the following guidelines.

  1. “No Bahá’í institution should serve alcohol to non-Bahá’ís under any circumstances.
  2. “If an individual Bahá’í entertaining an individual guest or a small group of guests as an official representative of the Bahá’í community, he should not serve alcohol in his own home, but must use his discretion whether or not to do so if the entertaining is taking place in a restaurant.  
  3. “No Bahá’í should serve alcohol at any function or reception given by him, such as a wedding reception or a party to which a number of people are invited.
  4. “When a Bahá’í is privately entertaining a non-Bahá’í or a small group of guests in his own home, he must himself judge whether or not to serve alcohol. This will depend to a great degree on the customs of the country in which he is living, the individuals concerned, and the host’s relationship to his guests. Obviously it is better for the Bahá’í not to serve alcohol if possible, but against this he must weigh the probable reaction of the guest in the circumstances which prevail and in the particular situation. In some countries there would be no problem in failing to provide alcohol to a guest; in others it would be regarded as extremely peculiar and anti-social and would immediately raise a barrier to further contact. It is not desirable to make a major issue of the matter.
  5. “When such private entertaining of an individual or small group of non-Bahá’ís taking place in a restaurant the same general principles as in point 4 above apply, except that in such a public place a failure to provide alcoholic drinks would be less easily understood than in a private home, and the Bahá’í must use his discretion accordingly.
  6. “Alcohol must not be served in a restaurant or other business which is wholly owned by Bahá’ís.
  7. “If a Bahá’í is employed by others in a job which involves the serving of alcohol, he is not obliged to change that employment. This is a matter left to each individual to decide in the light of his own conscience. Obviously such kind of employment vary widely from bartending to serving in a grocery in which wine is retailed. If the job requires a great deal of involvement with the serving of alcohol it is better for the Bahá’í to obtain other employment if he can.”

—guidelines prepared by the Universal House of Justice, “The Serving of Alcoholic Drinks by Bahá’ís and Bahá’í Institutions,” attached to a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, Jan. 31, 1982

“Since no explicit text or instruction of the beloved Guardian has been found on such a situation, i.e. the sale of alcoholic beverages by a business in which a Bahá’í is a partner with non-Bahá’ís, the House of Justice feels that no hard and fast rules should be drawn at the present time. This is a matter which needs to be decided in each case in the light of the spirit of the teachings and the circumstances of the case and, unless the situation is endangering the good name of the Faith, it should be left to the conscience of the believer concerned who should, of course, make every effort to dissociate himself from such an activity.”
—from a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of India, Oct. 10, 1983

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