“Have you lost your mind?”

I heard those words more than a few times growing up.  Now, I say those words on occasion as a parent.  I even said those words recently as a teacher to a student who, well, had lost his mind.

Today’s passage starts with the admonition to stay away from intoxicants and gambling.  Devout Muslims have a complete prohibition (haram) against any involvement with either.  Purists won’t even use soy sauce or vanilla extract that contains alcohol.  (Forgive me, but I find it ironic that I can buy a beer and a lottery ticket at my neighborhood gas station owned and operated by Muslims.)  This passage makes it clear why:

With intoxicants and gambling, Satan seeks only to incite enmity and hatred among you, and to stop you remembering God and prayer. (5:91)

In other words, they will make you “lose your mind.”  And they will.

I can remember when I was about fifteen the carnival came to town.  In the middle of the midway, they had this one gaming table where you could “play the ponies.”  It was a simplified roulette table with twelve spots around the circle where you could lay down a dollar bet.  The “carnie” would spin the five or six spinning horses, and they would whip around the table until they each stopped on one of the spots.  If no horse landed on your spot, you lost your dollar.  If a horse or two or five did, you won that many dollars.  I remember working my way up to $24, big money on $1 bets.  I remember thinking I ought to walk away now.  Within a few more spins it was all gone.  I had lost my mind.

Sadly, too many of us have seen first-hand or in those around us how alcohol can make a person lose their mind.  And their job, their marriage, or even their life.

Let’s move past the two examples given in the Qur’an.  Anger can do it too.  The red flash of rage and all control is gone.  I hear shopping can do the same for some people.  A couple of hours and a credit card and more damage is done than is realized.  Pornography or other sexually illicit behavior creates a rush that suspends reason and prudence.  The possibility of attention is heavily intoxicating for some too.  Even video games seem to have the same effect for some.  What else?  A great number of things can cause us to lose our mind.

The Qur’an specifically mentions how alcohol and games of chance stir up people against each other, make one forget about God, and hinder prayer.  I am not sure there are three more deadly results to behavior than those.  Strained relationships with God and with others and the feeling that you cannot reach out with the words necessarily to restore those relationships.  Spiritually lethal.

There is something else that stands out in this same passage, though, and I believe it is God’s answer.  The phrase “mindful of God” occurs six times in these 18 ayahs.  Instead of losing one’s mind through alcohol or gambling, let your mind be filled with God.  The apostle Paul said something similar:

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.  Instead, be filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18)

According to the Qur’an, mindfulness makes belief easier (5:93, 108).  Obedience then comes more easily as well (5:93).  A mind fixed on God knows what to do and is more easily kept on track (5:96).  Being mindful of God is the path to spiritual prosperity (5:100).  Where your mind is your body is soon to follow.  Lose your mind and you are likely to lose much more.

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