Wine of Islam

Go to any coffee shop in America and you’ll find an avid coffee drinker, a connoisseur of coffee you may call them. Although they may be able to tell you about the varying flavors of different types of beans and the contrast in aromas, one thing they may not be able to tell you is that coffee’s heritage stems from the Sufi orders of Southern Arabia. It was originally discovered by a Shadhiliyya shaikh while visiting Ehtiopia, who is believed to be Abu’l Hasan ‘Ali ibn Umar. After returning to Yemen with his newfound knowledge of the coffee berry and its unique benefits, coffee began it’s great journey throughout the Islamic world.

Coffee originally gained popularity among Sufi dervishes, who would boil the grounds and drink the concoction to stay awake during dhikr. This drink became known as “qahwa,” a term that previously referred to wine. Because of this, Europeans later gave coffee the name, “The Wine of Islam.” A Sufi theologian named Shaikh ibn Isma’il Ba Alawi of Al-Shihr claimed that coffee combined with prayer could “lead to the experience of qahwa ma’nawiyya… [which was] defined as ‘the enjoyment which the people of God feel in beholding the hidden mysteries and attaining the wonderful disclosures and the great revelations'” (Superluminal).

Because of its high regard among the Sufis, coffee gained popularity in Southern Arabia, and was also highly regarded for its economic benefits. Arabian climates were optimal for coffee farming, and eventually became a hub for exporting the delicious beverage. Within a short course of time, coffee began making its spread throughout the Islamic world due to the help of pilgrims, traders, students, and travelers.

With this rapid spread, coffee began making its way into religious practices and stories as well. One devotional ritual of the Yemeni Sufi included coffee drinking with the recitation of a ratib. Coffee also gained a celestial reputation, as it was included in Persian legends. One legend claims that coffee was first served to a drowsy Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel, while another tells of a story of King Solomon who, upon Gabriel’s request, cures a diseased town with a brew of roasted coffee beans.

Although coffee was gaining momentum among the Islamic world, there was bound to be skeptics. Many believed that the effects of caffeine were unholy, as were the gatherings in which it was consumed. Being that coffeehouses had such a high reputation at this point, mosques were constantly competing with them for attendees. Efforts were made to ban coffee under Islamic Law, and coffeehouses were raided and closed. Fortunately, their attempts were unsuccessful, and the houses made a quick recovery.

Around the 1660’s coffee finally made its way to Europe, as it was introduced to the high society by a Turkish ambassador named Suleyman Mustapha Koca. By the end of the century, it had also spread to North and South America. Although it originated as a Sufi practice for connecting with Allah, coffee quickly became a symbol of hospitality and sociability.


“Coffee – The Wine of Islam.” Superluminal. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2016. <;.

“Coffee: History and Health Benefits |” Islamic Informational Portal, 06 May 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2016. <;.

“Coffee.” National Geographic, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2016. <;.


5 thoughts on “Wine of Islam

  1. There are so many things that ancient Islam created, or discovered, that I’ve never thought might have originated from them. I’m especially surprised about coffee houses, more than the coffee itself, because they seem so modern! It’s so cool to think about how far back a lot of common place things go.


  2. I did not know that Muslims had a major influence on coffee besides what you told me in class today. Nice grabber by the way. Coffee sure seems popular in America.


  3. That is so interesting to know that coffee was originally came from the Islamic world and that they used to call it the wine of Islam. I personally don’t drink coffee because I don’t like the taste and I can’t handle to caffeine. I could see how ancient peoples saw caffeine as something that would need to be banned. The world would definitely be a lot different place if coffee/caffeine was illegal.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s