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Fiqh

Smoking in Islam

Veronika Matulova
Veronika Matulova
Islamic Online University
Fiqh

Islamic Online University 2


Smoking in Islam


Alhamdulillahirabbil-'alamin was salatu was salamu 'ala ashrifil anbiya walmursaleen nabiyina Muhammad wa 'ala alihi wa sahbihi ajma'in. Ammaba'ad:

INTRODUCTION
HISTORY OF SMOKING
Smoking has been part of the ritual and the medical practices in North and South America
long before people from other continents entered it. Tobacco was originally consumed in
various forms; however, it was the burning of the herb that has spread with the help of
Christopher Columbus to Europe and from there to the rest of the world.1 Eastern
Mediterranean region adopted the practice of using a waterpipe to consume tobacco,
marihuana and other substances. Even though this practice was common especially in India,
it has spread to the Muslim world during the period of Ottoman Empire in around the 17th
century.2

SMOKING AND ISLAMIC LEGISLATION


Due to the fact that smoking has not been part of the early Muslim culture and practices,
neither the Qur'an nor the Sunnah directly address the issue of smoking. However, the
principles derived from the legislative sources can be applied to arrive at the Islamic ruling
related to smoking. Nevertheless, before looking at the Islamic maxims that may be applied
to the issue of smoking, we need to look at smoking in detail.

FORMS AND EFFECTS OF SMOKING

1
2

Smoke: A Global History of Smoking edited by Sander L. Gilman, Xun Zhou, p.9
Tobacco Use in Shisha: Studies on Waterpipe Smoking in Egypt, World Health Organization, p. 12

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CIGARETTE
Tobacco, which is used for smoking contains nicotine. Nicotine is an alkaloid that is
addictive and can have both stimulating and tranquilizing psychoactive effects.3 Nicotine is
composed of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and sometimes oxygen and in this combination, it
has poisonous effects on the body.4 Nicotine changes the brain and the body function;
discharges adrenaline; blocks insulin output; and increases basal metabolic rate5, which is
harmful to the body.6 Cigarette smoking significantly increases the risks for a number of
cardiovascular diseases, particularly coronary heart disease; the largest single cause of
deaths in the United States.7 Women who smoke cigarettes and use oral contraceptives are
at higher risk of having one form of stroke - subarachnoid hemorrhage and of coronary
heart disease.8

WATERPIPE
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), waterpipe (shisha) smoking of one
portion of tobacco equals to 2-12 cigarettes. A regular waterpipe user will be exposed to 2-3
sessions of smoking per day. And due to the fact that waterpipe produces much more smoke
than a regular cigarette, it has been estimated that smoke exposure could be as much as
100-200 cigarettes per session.9

E-CIGARETTE AND SHISHA PEN


E-cigarette and shisha pen have been recently introduced to the market as a substitute for
smokers and aid to help them quit. However, according to the WHO, there is no conclusive
evidence that e-cigarette and shisha pen help quit smoking. Moreover, smokers are still

Encyclopaedia Britannica, Chapter on Smoking, http://www.britannica.com


How Many Milligrams of Nicotine in a Cigarette?, http://www.med-health.net/How-Many-Milligrams-OfNicotine-In-A-Cigarette.html, Access: 7th of December, 2014
5
The amount of energy expended while at rest in a neutrally temperate environment, in the post-absorptive
state (meaning that the digestive system is inactive, which requires about twelve hours of fasting).
6
How Many Milligrams of Nicotine in a Cigarette?, http://www.med-health.net/How-Many-Milligrams-OfNicotine-In-A-Cigarette.html, Access: 7th of December, 2014
7
The Secretary of Health and Human Services, Margaret M. Heckler, Nov 17 1983; Health Consequences of
Smoking Cardiovascular Disease: Report of the Surgeon, C. Everett Koop, M.D.
8
Health Consequences Of Smoking Cardiovascular Disease: A Report of the Surgeon, C. Everett Koop, M.D., p. VI
9
Tobacco Use in Shisha: Studies on Waterpipe Smoking in Egypt, World Health Organization p.13
4

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exposed to the addictive part in tobacco - nicotine and due to the various mixtures produce
a great variety in the levels of the toxicants and nicotine they produce.10

NICOTINE PATCH
Nicotine patches are medical patches designed to deliver a small amount of nicotine
through a skin of its user in order to help a smoker to break the evil habit of smoking.
Released nicotine binds to nicotine receptors in the body, reducing nicotine craving and
withdrawal symptoms associated with smoking cessation. Its side effects are relatively mild
and include localized skin reactions at the patch site.11

SECONDHAND SMOKING
Burning tobacco produces tar and gases, which have many negative health effects including
lung cancer, pancreatic cancer and laryngeal cancer; heart disease and stroke; emphysema;
chronic bronchitis; and it also increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.12 Hence,
smoker does not directly harm himself only but anyone who is close to him enough to
breathe in the poisonous smoke.
It is important to note that there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.
In 2004, 28% of the deaths attributable to secondhand smoke were those of children.13

SUMMARY OF NEGATIVE EFFECTS


Apart the obvious harm which is caused by the malodor and decay of the teeth, smoking is
addictive causing the user to spend much of his/her income to buy cigarettes and products
related to smoking. Recent studies have proven that tobacco use causes diseases such as
cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases and diabetes.14 Additionally, cigarette smoke
contains more than 7,000 chemical compounds. Many of them can interfere with the
immune system. Thus, diseases that can be worsened by smoking include viral and bacterial

10

Countries vindicate cautious stance on e-cigarettes, Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2014,
http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/92/12/14-031214.pdf
11
Principles of Addiction Medicine, Richard K. Ries, Shannon C. Miller, David A. Fiellin, p. 725-6
12
Encyclopaedia Britannica
13
Tobacco, Fact sheet N339, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs339/en/
14
For full health report, please refer to The Health Consequences Of Smoking - 50 Years of Progress: A Report Of
The Surgeon, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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infections such as pneumonia, influenza, tuberculosis; periodontal disease; bacterial
meningitis; rheumatoid arthritis; Crohn's and other diseases.15
According to the WHO, tobacco kills up to half of its user. Each year, tobacco smoking kills
nearly 6 million people. More than 5 million deaths are due to the direct exposure to the
tobacco and 600,000 deaths are caused by exposure of the non-smokers to the secondhand
smoke. Tobacco caused 100 million deaths in the 20th century and if current trends
continue, it may cause one billion deaths in the 21st century. 16

RELIGIOUS RULINGS ON SMOKING AND TOBACCO USE


MAJOR MAXIM AND ITS SUBSIDIARIES
It must be noted that the effects of tobacco use have been studied in debt very recently. In
the U.S.A., the first official reports of the harms of smoking were published in 1964.17
Therefore, earlier scholars have not been aware of the impact the tobacco use has on the
body. Hence, their religious rulings on the issue of smoking were limited to the obvious
harms such as malodor.
However, scholars of our era posses the knowledge of the effect the tobacco has on the mind
and body of an individual. Consequently, their ruling needed to change. Based on the abovementioned harmful effects, we can place the ruling of smoking under the following major
maxim and its subsidiaries:

'HARM MUST BE ELIMINATED' OR 'NO HARM SHALL BE INFLICTED OR


RECIPROCATED'
This maxim, based on the narration of the Prophet

There should be neither harming

nor reciprocating harm."18 and various Qur'anic verses19, has been established as a

15

Ibid., p. 550-1
Tobacco, Fact sheet N339, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs339/en/
17
Health Consequences Of Smoking - 50 Years of Progress: A Report Of The Surgeon, U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services, p. 46
18
Sunan Ibn Majah, Vol. 3, Book 13, Hadith 2340
19
Qur'an 7:56, 20:111, 2:231, 65:4, 2:233, 4:12
16

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protector of the five essential values: protection of faith, life, intellect, property and lineage,
and other values of lesser importance.
Darar (harm) which is a direct result of tobacco consumption is causing harm to one of the
five essential values - the life. Various harms have been identified to one's body and those
around him, including premature death, which is a direct result of absorption of nicotine
contained in tobacco by the various organs in the body. Hence, this major maxim, which
protects the five essential values, will be applied when arriving at the legal ruling on the
tobacco use and smoking. Additionally, the user of tobacco not only directly causes harm to
himself, he also harms others as demonstrated under 'Secondhand smoking'.
In conclusion of this legal maxim and the effects smoking has upon the individual and
society, the smoking of tobacco in various forms is considered to be forbidden.
Furthermore, based on the data available on the harms of tobacco usage, subsidiaries of this
legal maxim apply.
Harm should be repelled to the degree possible.20 Removing harm is obligatory to the
degree possible. Hence, everything possible should be done to protect society from the
tobacco abuse including removing any sort of advertisement promoting smoking, importing
and selling the product, and educating society on the harms and religious legal issues
pertained to smoking.
"Harm should not be removed by a similar harm." This maxim is a condition for the
previous one and harm should not be removed by similar or greater harm. Thus, the
cigarette may not be replaced by similar or worse, for example shisha, and vice versa.
"A lesser harm is to be tolerated in order to eliminate a greater one. Those who are
already addicted to the nicotine contained in tobacco may use the nicotine patches if this
will help them quit smoking. According to the Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-Uthaymeen,
it is obligatory on such person to use them in order to give up smoking.21
"When the religiously lawful and unlawful coincide, the unlawful shall be dominant."
20

Qur'an, 8:60
Al-Jalasaat al-Ramadaaniyyah (1415 AH, 1/question no. 10). Islam Q&A, Fatwa no: 103523,
http://islamqa.info
21

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This maxim is based on the narration where Prophet

speaks about lawful which is clear,

unlawful which is clear, and the area in between which is doubtful and should not be
followed.22 E-cigarettes and shisha pens lack a proper research and should not be used as
aid to quit smoking since there is no conclusive research on this issue. Hence, leaving the
doubtful is better and safer.

CONCLUSION

Smoking is a great evil that harms not only individuals who indulge in such evil; it also
harms those around them.
THE QUR'AN STATES, "...WHO ENJOINS UPON THEM WHAT IS
RIGHT AND FORBIDS THEM WHAT IS WRONG AND MAKES
LAWFUL FOR THEM THE GOOD THINGS AND PROHIBITS FOR
THEM THE EVIL..." 23

Thus, smoking, selling and growing tobacco has been declared forbidden and Muslims
should stay away from it. 24 This is supported by the following major and
comprehensive maxims: "Harm must be eliminated", What is prohibited to take, is
prohibited to give. and What is prohibited to use, is prohibited to keep.
Additionally, it is important to note that smoking shisha (waterpipe) is no different from
smoking cigarette and it has been clearly classified as forbidden by the scholars of the
Standing Committee25 and the maxim of harm elimination applies.
On the issue of e-cigarettes and shisha pens, while this is fairly new issue requiring further
investigation and research, the recent statistics point out various harm.26 Hence, when the
effects of the e-cigarettes and shisha pens will be confirmed to be harmful to the human
being, it will have the same ruling as smoking of tobacco. For now, the minimum that can be

22

Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 1, Book 2, Hadith 50; Sahih Muslim, Book 10, Hadith 3882
Qur'an, 7:157
24
Fatawa al-Lajnah al-Daimah, 13/31, Islam Q&A, Fatwa no: 10204, http://islamqa.info
25
Fatawa al-Lajnah al-Daimah, 26/351, Islam Q&A, Fatwa no: 10204, http://islamqa.info
26
Countries vindicate cautious stance on e-cigarettes, Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2014,
http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/92/12/14-031214.pdf
23

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said, it is better to stay away from it based on the maxim "Leave that which is doubtful for
that which is doubtless."27
And Allah knows best.

27

Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 1, Book 2, Hadith 50; Sahih Muslim, Book 10, Hadith 3882

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BIBLIOGRAPHY
al-Bukhari, Muhammad ibn Ismail. Sahih Bukhari. USC-MSA web (English).
Al-Munajjid, Muhammad Salih. IslamQ&A. www.islamqa.com.
al-Qazwini, Abu Abdillah Muammad ibn Yazid Ibn Majah al-Rabi. Sunan Ibn Majah.
English translation.
Britannica, Encyclopaedia. Encyclopaedia Britannica Concise.
C. Everett Koop, M.D. Health Consequences Of Smoking Cardiovascular Disease: A Report Of
The Surgeon. Diane Publishing Co., 1983.
Encyclopaedia Britannica .
"How Many Milligrams of Nicotine in a Cigarette?" Med-Health.net. Article: How Many
Milligrams of Nicotine in a Cigarette?, http://www.med-health.net/How-Many-MilligramsOf-Nicotine-In-A-Cigarette.html (accessed December 7, 2014).
International, Sahih. Qur'an.
Organization, World Health. Tobacco Use in Shisha: Studies on Waterpipe Smoking in Egypt.
Cairo: World Health Organization, WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean,
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http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs339/en/ (accessed December 21, 2014).
. "World Health Organization." Countries vindicate cautious stance on e-cigarettes, Bulletin
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http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/92/12/14-031214.pdf (accessed December 21,
2014).
Richard K. Ries, Shannon C. Miller, David A. Fiellin. Principles of Addiction Medicine.
Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a Wolters Kluwer Business, 2009.
Sander L. Gilman, Xun Zhou. Smoke: A Global History of Smoking . London: Reaktion Books
LTD, 2004.
Services, U.S. Department of Health and Human, and U.S. Department of Health and human
Services. Health Consequences Of Smoking - 50 Years of Progress: A Report Of The Surgeon.
Rockville: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2014.