Shaykh (Maulana) Ashraf Ali Thanwi (RA) [1863-1943] on Alcohol (Part 9 of Bahishti Zewar):
The rule concerning intoxicants is that if they are dry, they are considered to be pure. In extreme situations and at the time of dire need, for example, on the advice of a pious, reliable and qualified doctor, it will be permissible to consume such dry intoxicants as long as the amount is such that it does not cause any intoxication whatsoever. It is definitely not permissible to consume an amount that would cause intoxication. Despite all this, as far as possible, it is preferable to abstain from such intoxicants and to exercise extreme caution. The reason for this is that in most cases one's consumption definitely increases and very soon one is unable to differentiate between a dire need and no need. It is for this reason that Allamah Shaami rahmatullahi alayh says: "If dry intoxicants are taken in very small quantities (i.e. an amount that does not cause intoxication) merely for pleasure (i.e. without any valid medical reason), then such consumption will be absolutely haraam." Here, dry intoxicants includes those that are pure (unadulterated) and also those that are mixed with some other substance or added into some other substance. Based on this, dry intoxicants include the following: opium, hemp leaves (a herbaceous plant from which cannabis is produced), dagga, marijuana, etc. Such intoxicants will be permissible only if one has a valid medical reason and provided that the amount is such that it does not cause any intoxication. If they are consumed without any valid reason and merely for pleasure, they will be absolutely haraam (irrespective of whether they cause intoxication or not). It is permissible to use opium as an ointment, to inhale hemp leaves in the form of steam or vapour, and to take hemp leaves in the form of tablets. It is permissible to eat opium in order to prevent oneself from catching a cold on condition that the amount consumed does not lead to intoxication. It is also permissible to consume hemp leaves in order to delay emission (provided that the intercourse is halaal, i.e. with one's Shar'ee wife), but on the condition that the amount consumed does not lead to intoxication.
As regards intoxicants that are in a liquid form, which we commonly refer to as alcohol, it is a well known fact among all Muslims that alcohol, pork, dead animals, interest, etc. are things which Islam is totally against. The Shariah does not even consider such things to be wealth or items of value. If a Muslim possesses such items and someone else destroys them, the latter does not have to pay any compensation. Transactions which comprise these things are not even considered to be valid. This is not the place to go into great details because these things require very lengthy explanations. At the same time, we do not wish to close off this topic completely. We will therefore try to suffice with what is necessary.
It should be known that there are four types of drinks which are considered to be impure and haraam according to all the ulama. These four are:
- Grape juice which is left in its crude form until fermentation takes place - popularly known as alcohol.
- Grape juice which has been burnt until slightly less than two thirds of it evaporates.
- Juice that is obtained from raisins that have been soaked in water.
- Juice that is obtained from dates that have been soaked in water.
The rule concerning these four is that it is not permissible to drink even a single drop. One cannot even keep them in one's house (or anywhere else). One cannot use them in any way. One cannot even buy or sell them (nor can one engage in any transactions which involve any of them).
As regards all other drinks, there are many details concerning them. This is not the place to go into details. However, we will explain the ruling concerning another drink which, in our times, has become extremely difficult to avoid. This refers to spirit (which is largely used for industrial purposes). This substance is used in practically all modern day medicines. Apart from medicines, it is also used in various other items such as pens, inks, colourants, carpets, chairs, duvets, mattresses, etc. It has some usage or the other in almost all items that need colourants, polishing, or the actual item itself. It is a well known fact that according to one Hadith, this is also impure and haraam. According to another Hadith it is pure and could be used for medical purposes internally as well, provided that the amount consumed does not cause any intoxication. However, one cannot overlook the fact that the temperament of a normal Muslim cannot accept such a substance in which there is difference of opinion concerning its purity and permissibility. This is similar to a utensil in which there is water. Someone informs you that the utensil contains water while another person comes and informs you that it is not water but urine. Upon hearing this, any normal Muslim will definitely have an aversion to it. However, when it becomes extremely difficult to avoid a particular thing, then in such circumstances, we get a certain amount of leeway or concession from the fatwa (legal) point of view. Therefore, one should not be too strict in such matters and those who can, should exercise caution. From this principle, we can deduce the ruling concerning modern day medicines, particularly tinctures. Spirit has a definite influence in most modern day medicines. As regards tinctures, the process of this is that the medicine is soaked in spirit and thereby cleansed. In doing so, the medicine is very quickly absorbed. The following is mentioned in the malfoozaat (sayings) of Hadrat Thanwi rahmatullahi alayh: "In my opinion, it is not good to write the name of Allah or Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wa sallam with red powder. This is because there is the possibility of this red powder containing spirit. Although certain types of spirits are pure according to Imam Abu Hanifah and Imam Yusuf rahmatullahi alayhima, they are definitely not pure according to Imam Muhammad rahmatullahi alayh. And we know that as far as possible it is preferable to abstain from those things in which there is difference of opinion. This is more so when the fatwa of the majority of the ulama is based on the opinion of Imam Muhammad rahmatullahi alayh." In another place, Hadrat Thanwi rahmatullahi alayh has the following to say: "Every spirit is not made from the above-mentioned four intoxicants (which are absolutely haraam according to all the ulama). Spirit that is not made from these four intoxicants is permissible according to Imam Abu Hanifah and Imam Yusuf rahmatullahi alayhima. However, the fatwa is based on the opinion of Imam Muhammad rahmatullahi alayh so that the masses do not develop any lack of caution in this regard. Since this fatwa has been issued as a precaution, at the time of extreme necessity we can make a concession. However, the pious should abstain from using tinctures and they should not adopt any strictness on the masses who have no alternative. If spirit is added in vinegar and it changes its form thereafter, it will now be considered to be vinegar. The substance in which it has been mixed and the spirit together will now be permissible."
The following question and its answer appears in Imdaadul Fataawa:
Question: Modern day medicines generally contain spirit. This spirit is the highest quality of alcohol. In fact, it could be referred to as the essence of alcohol. Since this is an accepted and well known fact, is it permissible to take such medicines or not?
Answer: "If the spirit is not made from grapes, raisins, dry or fresh dates, a concession in its permissibility can be given (because of the difference of opinion). If it is made from the above-mentioned fruit, it will not be permissible because all ulama are unanimous in this regard."
Medical books state that spirit is a very strong form of alcohol which is prepared by further distillation of alcohol. It is also stated that low quality alcohol is manufactured by using potatoes, jujube, barley, wheat, etc. High quality alcohol which generally comes from Europe is manufactured by using grapes, apples, pomegranates, raisins, etc. Spirit is of three types: methylated spirits, proof spirits, and rectified spirits. That which is used in medicines is of the higher quality and is known as rectified spirits. It is much more expensive than the other spirits. Since the majority of alcohol that comes from Europe is of a high quality, it is therefore highly possible that the spirit that comes from Europe is also made from grapes, raisins, or dates. If this is the case, it would be considered to be impure and haraam. The medicines in which it is used will also be considered to be impure and haraam. Despite this, we cannot issue a fatwa with regard to the impermissibility of all medicines. However, what we can definitely say is that it is preferable not to use such medicines except when really necessary. From this we can also deduce the ruling concerning homeopathic medicines. That is, they should not be used except when really necessary because the intrinsic ingredient of these medicines is spirit and all other ingredients are just by the way.
Mas'ala: It is permissible to administer chloroform to a patient as an anaesthetic in order to operate on him.
Necessary Clarification (for British Muslims):
Alhumdulillah, to date from over 15 years of experience in the field, we have yet to come across flavourings sourced from dates and grapes in the UK market.
Shaykh (Mufti) Abdullah Patel (HA)