Partaking of alcoholic beverages is a major sin. The Prophet (peace be upon him) cursed the one who does so, saying: “In the course of liquor, Allah has cursed it, the one who drinks it, the one who pours it for others to drink, the one who sells it, the one who buys it, the one who presses it, the one for whom it is pressed, the one who carries it and the one for whom it is carried.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhî (1295) and Sunan Ibn Mâjah (3381)]
The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said: “If any man from my followers drinks wine, Allah will not accept his prayer for forty days.” [Sunan al-Nasâ’î (5667) and Musnad Ahmad (4898)]
This does not mean that the prayers offered by that person during those forty days are invalid. What it means is that his prayers will be bereft of blessings and will earn him no reward for that period of time. However, those prayers are still legally valid, and he will be fulfilling his legal obligations by offering them. He is still obligated to offer all of his obligatory prayers during those forty days.
Al-Nawawî says: “It means that he will receive no blessings for his prayers, even though his performance of those prayers is a fulfillment of his legal obligation and duty.”
The non-acceptance of his prayers for forty days is a punishment for his drinking. This punishment is conditional on his being unrepentant. If at any time during those forty days, he truly and sincerely repents for his drinking, then this threat of punishment is lifted, and his prayers will again be as acceptable as anyone else’s. This is because true repentance obliterates the sins that have gone before.
It is also in accordance with the good hope and opinion that we are obliged to have of Allah, the All-Wise Lawgiver who is both loving and merciful, who loves the repentance of His servants, and who expunges the evil deeds of the penitent and brings good deed in their stead.
The non-acceptance of a person’s prayers for forty days, regardless of whether or not he repents, would certainly hinder a person’s desire to repent, since what benefit would repentance bring if his prayers are still to be rejected? This runs contrary to the very intent and purpose of Islamic Law.
In short, the obligation to pray is not lifted from the shoulders of one who partakes of an alcoholic beverage. His prayers remain valid and benefit him to the extent of fulfilling his legal obligation. By praying his prayers, he will remain clear of the sin that he would incur by neglecting them. However, he will receive no blessings or rewards for his prayers for those forty days unless he repents for his drinking. If he truly and sincerely repents during this time, then the punishment will be lifted and his prayers will have the same potential for reward as the prayers of a person who did not drink.
And Allah knows best.
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