Alaa Aswani – Chicago: Abbasi Era and Alcohol

Two weeks ago I have finished reading the new novel of the Egyptian famous writer Alaa Aswani who wrote Yacobian Building that was a big hit last year.

I loved Chicago as much as I loved reading Yacobian building. Alaa has a very nice style in writing. I loved the way he gives glimpses of the life of several people’s in his novels where he highlights several problems that people in a certain city face.

Chicago is as close to reality as Yacobian buidling. Every character represents a real case in life where the readers can get a closer look into the characters, the way they behave and the way they handle their problems.

One of the things that stopped me in Chicago is something that was mentioned by a character about Alcohol in the Abbasi Islamic Era.

I am not sure how much credibility one can build upan a character claim in a novel, but I am certain that Alaa wouldn’t have mentioned in his novel is there is no source to this claim.

The character claims that Islamic religious leaders had allowed Alcohol in the Abbasi Era. He even claimed that Haron Al Rasheed, the famous Abbasi khalifah, used to get drunk with his pals in his palace.

I tried to google the topic but unfortunatly I have got no results. I have tried to ask some of my Muslim friends about this claim but everyone denied that it existed, some said that it is a history fabrication.

If this is true, I want to know how those religious leaders explained the versus in the Quran that prohibited Alcohol. I want to know at what time they allowed it and at what time religious leaders prohibited it again and for what reasons.

I have never heard about this before, that is why I am wondering. I thought of blogging it so that people who have a better idea can provide me with more information or links. It would be appreciated.


  1. I’m afraid I can’t help you with finding out how the drinking of alcohol was excused, but the use of wine in the Umayyad, as well as Abassid realms is pretty well documented in contemporary documents. And of course the Ottomans didn’t have a problem, either. Nor, it seems, did the different Persian kingdoms.Sufi poetry extols the virtues of wine. Whether that was meant figuratively or literally is argued.You might find < HREF="" REL="nofollow">this article<> (from an admittedly biased source) of interest.One of the points of argument on the subject seems to be whether ‘wine’ or the ‘abuse of wine’ is what is forbidden.


  2. Thanks John for the informtation. Sounds like a very interesting article. It would give me a better insight about the whole issue. David, Je ne parle pas francaise :). Mecry pour tu comment.


  3. hi. well i did my thesis on Haroun Al-Rasheed. And I guarantee you, he never did drink alchohol. As for taking the words of a character in a novel as a historical fact, well, you know better than that. Aswani is undeniably a talented writer, but there are some historical discrepencies in his Yacoubian novel, so don’t take his historical research in chicago for granted. Do your own research or ask a specialist…


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