Shadia: The wine cork is still in the bottle

I'm a hypocrite.

I'm a Muslim who drinks alcohol — except during the month of Ramadan, of course.

There. I said it. I am a hypocrite.

Alcohol is forbidden in Islam.

There are those Muslims, however, including me, who argue that alcohol is not really a big deal, and as long as you don't get drunk, drink before praying or become dependent, it's fine to imbibe in moderation.

But I can't get away with that. The problem here is I can read. I can reason.

And based on all of those readings, the history of alcohol during the Prophet Muhammad's life and verses in the Koran, alcohol is not allowed (and that's just not cool).

Alcohol was not immediately prohibited. When Islam was first revealed in Mecca, everyone, including the few who accepted it from the beginning, drank. It is said that there were more than 40 Arabic words for wine. Alcohol was gradually eliminated during the life of the Prophet.

In fact, forbidding alcohol all at once would have been against Islam's philosophy. You just can't tell a bunch of people to quit everything they do and revamp their lifestyle all at once.

Alcohol was first prohibited during prayer. Some early Muslims prayed while drunk until a verse came down prohibiting the practice.

Then, as time passed, as people became versed in the philosophy and teaching of Islam, alcohol was forbidden altogether. The faithful accepted it.

When I say forbidden, I mean Islam also forbids Muslims from selling alcohol, buying it or benefiting financially from it.

Even though, according to the Koran, God notes that there are some benefits to alcohol, its negatives far outweigh them, because alcohol, like gambling, is viewed as a vice.

I had my first drink at 17. I was already attending college at the time, and one day, I went to a party and there it was. I knew I wasn't supposed to drink, but I was curious and wanted to try it. It tasted so bad.

Until I moved to the United States from Cairo about two years before then, I don't recall ever seeing alcohol, a person drinking or a drunk person, unless it was on television or in the movies.

Though my very first experience with alcohol wasn't all that great, over the years, I've grown to enjoy drinking and learned to be selective.

I've grown accustomed to drinking when I'm out with friends or when I am at a nice dinner. Even at home after a long day at work, I enjoy a glass of red wine.

It has become a part of my lifestyle. My drinking is, without a doubt, social and responsible. I don't get drunk, I don't drink and drive, and I don't sit on the couch and cry with a bottle of wine in hand (I just cry. I don't need alcohol for that).

I've even created my own system around drinking. Because I pray five times a day, I usually have my glass of wine after the last prayer. There were many times when I would be at home, ready to pour myself a glass of wine and would wait until I was done with the last prayer.

But even then, even as much as I have justified it, there has always been this voice in the back of my mind, a feeling in my heart, especially since I started practicing Bikram yoga. The voice is telling me that it's just not right and that it's not good for my body, mind or, above all, my faith.

That voice has recently become louder. (I wish I could just zip it!)

When Ramadan began this July, I, as usual, stopped drinking, but there were a few days at the beginning when I was missing my favorite kind of red wine.

I didn't cave. (I might be a hypocrite, but I'm not weak.)

Even though Ramadan has passed, I still haven't had a drink — yet.

Not even a sip, even though I've carried on with my lifestyle as usual, hanging out with friends, having dinners, going to work (and shopping too, of course).

It's been 25 days since the end of Ramadan, in case anybody is counting.

But wait. Don't hold your breath.

I stopped by the grocery store one night right after Ramadan to pick up a few things. I found myself going toward the wine aisle. I stood there, looking at my favorite bottle of wine for a few seconds, contemplating whether to buy it.

Then I walked away.

But I walked back to it, looked at it, then decided: enough!

I bought it. But I haven't opened it.

Not yet.

MONA SHADIA is a reporter for Times Community News. An Egyptian American, she was born and raised in Cairo and now lives in Orange County. Her column includes various questions and issues facing Muslims in America. Follow her on Twitter @MonaShadia.

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