Some individuals ask that if intoxicants are prohibited, then why does God describe rivers of wine in Paradise?
[47:15] The allegory of Paradise that is promised for the righteous is this: it has rivers of unpolluted water, and rivers of fresh milk, and rivers of wine— delicious for the drinkers—and rivers of strained honey. They have all kinds of fruits therein, and forgiveness from their Lord. (Are they better) or those who abide forever in the hellfire, and drink hellish water that tears up their intestines?
مَثَلُ الْجَنَّةِ الَّتِي وُعِدَ الْمُتَّقُونَ فِيهَا أَنْهَارٌ مِنْ مَاءٍ غَيْرِ آسِنٍ وَأَنْهَارٌ مِنْ لَبَنٍ لَمْ يَتَغَيَّرْ طَعْمُهُ وَأَنْهَارٌ مِنْ خَمْرٍ لَذَّةٍ لِلشَّارِبِينَ وَأَنْهَارٌ مِنْ عَسَلٍ مُصَفًّى وَلَهُمْ فِيهَا مِنْ كُلِّ الثَّمَرَاتِ وَمَغْفِرَةٌ مِنْ رَبِّهِمْ كَمَنْ هُوَ خَالِدٌ فِي النَّارِ وَسُقُوا مَاءً حَمِيمًا فَقَطَّعَ أَمْعَاءَهُمْ
It is worth noting that all the descriptions of Paradise and Hell are purely allegorical.
[2:25] Give good news to those who believe and lead a righteous life that they will have gardens with flowing streams. When provided with a provision of fruits therein, they will say, “This is what was provided for us previously.” Thus, they are given allegorical descriptions. They will have pure spouses therein, and they abide therein forever.
وَبَشِّرِ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ أَنَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ كُلَّمَا رُزِقُوا مِنْهَا مِنْ ثَمَرَةٍ رِزْقًا قَالُوا هَٰذَا الَّذِي رُزِقْنَا مِنْ قَبْلُ وَأُتُوا بِهِ مُتَشَابِهًا وَلَهُمْ فِيهَا أَزْوَاجٌ مُطَهَّرَةٌ وَهُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ
If we look at the first word in 47:15 it tells us that the verse is allegorical مَثَلُ and not to be taken literally. This makes sense as we lack the vocabulary, let alone the senses to comprehend what life would be like in the Hereafter.
But if that is the case, then why would God use the term “rivers of wine” to describe Paradise if intoxicants are prohibited for the believers. It is worth noting tha the word خَمْرٍ used in 47:15 means wine, not intoxicants. While wine can be an intoxicant not all wines are intoxicating as this would be dependent on the alcohol content.
Interesting to note, that the 47:15 describes the خَمْرٍ as لَذَّةٍ delicious/sweet. If it is sweet then that is typically a sign (especially for ancient times) that the alcohol levels must be quite low if even at all existent. The history of storing sweet wine that was not intoxicating was a well-known practice. The ancients knew if somebody wanted to get intoxicated, then the sweetest wines were very unsuitable.
The Roman writer Cato, in his treatise On Agriculture wrote:
“If you wish to keep new wine sweet the whole year round, put new wine in a jar, cover the stopper with pitch, place the jar in a fishpond, take it out after the thirtieth day; you will have sweet wine all the year round.”
By keeping the contents free from oxygen the fermentation process would not convert the sugar to alcohol leaving the wine preserved and sweet, and non-intoxicating.
[47:15] The allegory مَثَلُ of Paradise that is promised for the righteous is this: it has rivers of unpolluted water, and rivers of fresh milk, and rivers of wine خَمْرٍ – delicious/sweet لَذَّةٍ for the drinkers – and rivers of strained honey. They have all kinds of fruits therein, and forgiveness from their Lord. (Are they better) or those who abide forever in the hellfire, and drink hellish water that tears up their intestines?
In addition, God describes the drinks in Paradise as pure drinks, that are never polluted or intoxicating. The Arabic word that is used to describe these drinks in 56:18 and 37:45 is مَعِينٍ, which means a spring, while 52:23 informs us that the drinks in Paradise are never polluted or sinful to drink which would imply that the allegorical rivers of wine in Paradise would fall under this same guidelines.
[56:17] Serving them will be immortal servants. [56:18] With cups, pitchers and pure drinks. [56:19] They never run out, nor do they get bored.
يَطُوفُ عَلَيْهِمْ وِلْدَانٌ مُخَلَّدُونَ
بِأَكْوَابٍ وَأَبَارِيقَ وَكَأْسٍ مِنْ مَعِينٍ
لَا يُصَدَّعُونَ عَنْهَا وَلَا يُنْزِفُونَ
[37:45] Cups of pure drinks will be offered to them. [37:46] Clear and delicious for the drinkers. [37:47] Never polluted, and never exhausted.
يُطَافُ عَلَيْهِمْ بِكَأْسٍ مِنْ مَعِينٍ
بَيْضَاءَ لَذَّةٍ لِلشَّارِبِينَ
لَا فِيهَا غَوْلٌ وَلَا هُمْ عَنْهَا يُنْزَفُونَ
[52:23] They will enjoy drinks that are never polluted, and never sinful to drink.