Islamic Ruling on Smoking
Sheikh Mahdi Abdul-Hamid Mustafa
Director of Information, AI-Azhar
Member of the Higher Council for Islamic Affairs
The Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office (EMRO), one of six regional offices affiliated to the WORLD HEALTH Organization, made an independent study of its own supplementing the reports prepared by the Expert Committee. EMRO asked a number of internationally recognized Egyptian physicians to help with its I humanitarian mission by explaining to the public the serious hazards involved ~ in smoking, which include cancer, coronary thrombosis, chest diseases and , other killer diseases.
Recognizing the importance of the role played by religious teachings in the molding of people’s attitudes, EMRO approached a number of eminent Muslim scholars, inviting them to spell out the religious attitude and the ruling of Islam with regard to smoking. EMRO has done the right thing and acted in a sound educational manner by taking this step, which could prove quite effective in combating smoking and rooting it out.
After this introductory statement we move on to present the views of this group of elite religious scholars hoping that these efforts will be crowned with success.
The smoking phenomenon: when did it start? how did it spread?
It is likely that the people of Mexico were the first to know about tobacco over 2500 years ago. When Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World in 1492 he found that tobacco smoking was quite common among the natives. A Spanish explorer brought the tobacco plant with him on his way back from Mexico to Spain in the reign of King Philip II. Tobacco seeds were introduced in France by Jan Nicollt, the French Ambassador in Portugal. Towards the end of the sixteenth century smoking became quite common all over Europe.
It was through Europe that Africans and Asians came to know about tobacco. A Jew carried it to Morocco and other Arab neighbouring countries towards the end of the tenth century after hijra ( 16th century AD), while a Christian took it all the way from England to Turkey. It reached Egypt, the Hijaz, and other countries from central Africa through some Magi.
The stand on smoke and smoking in the old world
Many Europeans resisted the new smoking phenomenon coming all the way from America. They adopted various approaches in expressing their hostile reaction to the transfer of tobacco seeds to their countries. Some took a firm stand on the issue. Religious leaders preached against it. They wrote a treatise on it entitled, The dry intoxicants. James I of England was the author of a book on the health hazards involved in smoking. In Russia penalties were imposed on smokers and those trading in tobacco. As a penalty a smoker would have his nose broken or else he would be banished to Siberia. Several other countries enacted, in the 17th century, certain laws prohibiting the use of tobacco.
In the Muslim world the hostility to smoking was much severer. We are told by Hussein Mujib al-Misri in his book, Farissiyyat wa Turkiyyat, that the Ottoman Sultan Murad IV persecuted smokers and arranged for his men to infiltrate their ranks and spy on their private meetings. By his orders, smokers were sentenced to death. During his war against Persia he would put smokers to death, whether they were soldiers from his own army or enemy prisoners. The punishment of a smoker during the reign of Shah Abbas I (1629) was to have his nose pierced and a stick placed through the bole. His son, Shah Safiyy went a step further and ordered that molten lead be poured into smokers’ mouths.
The opinions of former scholars on smoking.
At the time the divine Message of Islam was revealed, and for many
generations to follow, neither Arabs nor any other Muslims had any contact with tobacco. It was only towards the end of the 10th or early in the 11th century after hijra (late 16th and early 17th century)’ that they had their first encounter with smoking. This fact explains why no conclusive ruling on smoking was made at the time and no direct divine ruling on smoking was ever revealed. Those experts of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) who were contemporaries of the smoking phenomenon tried their best to derive from religious provisions some kind of ruling on smoking, but their task was not easy. In the absence of direct and clear cut religious provisions classifying smoking under one of the five verdicts of Islamic law (inevitability, impermiissibility, abominability, recommendability, and permissibility) it is a quite understandable that the jurists were of diverse opinion with regard to I:: smoking. Some of them ruled that smoking was haram; others were of the I opinion that it was abominable; a third group judged it to be permissible; a r fourth group did not wish to give a ruling one way or the other on account of the fact that physical and financial hazards and effects of smoking differ from one person to another.
There are jurists from different schools of jurisprudence who ruled that
smoking was impermissible or strongly abominable, namely:
” Shirniblali, Ismail al-Nabulsi, Al-Massiri, Al-Imadi, Muhammad , Alaa-uddin al-Hussqafi, Rajab ibn Ahmad, Muhammad ibn al-Siddiq al-Zubaidi, Muhalnmad ibn Saadeddeen, Muhammad Abdul-Azim al-Makki, Muhammad Abdul Baqi al-Makki, Muhammad al-Sindi, Muhammad al-Aini, Abul-Hassan al-Misri, of the Hanafi School; Shihabu al-Din al-Qalyoubi, Al-Najm al-Ghozzi Suleiman al-Bujairami, Umar ibn Abdurrahman al-Hussaini, Ibrahim ibn Jama’an Aamir, of the Shafie School; Ibrahim al-Laqqani, Salim al-Sinnawri, Khalid al-Sweidi, Muhammad ibn Fathallah ibn Ali al-Maghribi, Abu Ghaith al-Quashash al-Maghribi, Khalid ibn Muhammad Abdullah al-Jaafari, of the Maliki School; and Mustafa al-Ruhaibani, Muhammad al-Hanbali, Mansour al-Bahooti, Ahmad al-Sanhoori; Abdullah ibn Sheikh Muhammad ibn AbdelWahhab, of the Hanbali School.
Similar opinions and fatwa by contemporary jurists
Rulings in line with the opinions of those jurists have been made by contemporary scholars. One such ruling was made by the AI-Azhar Fatwa Committee~ and published by the Islamic Sufist Magazine in its issue of Muharam 1405 AH (October 1984). It reads in part: “Smoking is detrimental to health as has been proved by knowledgeable people, specialists and international medical colloquia. It causes cancer of the lungs and the pharynx as well as artery disease. It is equally harmful from the financial point of view, as money spent on smoking is lost for no return. A meeting on toxicants and narcotics held in Medina, Saudi Arabia, 22-25 March 1982 ruled that using, growing and trading in tobacco are impermissible”.
A ruling made in this connection by the former Grand Mufti in Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Muhammad ibn Ibrahim Aal al-Sheikh exposes the unsavoury nature of smoking and declares that “it is devitalizing and sometimes has an intoxicating effect. In the same emphatic manner he declares that smoking is impermissible on the basis of authentic quotations, sound judgment, and the opinions of reputable physicians”.
Arguments in support of impermissibility or strong abominability
Jurists who consider smoking impeImissible and those who hold it to be strongly abominable base their stand on certain proofs of which the following are of special significance:
Reputable physicians and medical researchers are convinced that smoking is harmful, and anything harmful is impermissible.
It is devitalizing too. The Prophet is quoted by Umm Salama to have forbidden every intoxicant and devitalizer.
The unpleasant smell of smoke annoys not only nonsmokers but the honoured angels as well. Islam forbids annoying others by offensive smells. The Messenger of God says: “Let him keep away from us; let him keep away from our mosque; let him stay home; he whose breath reeks of garlic or onion”. The smell of smoke is not less offensive than that of garlic or onion. That the angels should not be annoyed by human beings is manifest in the following saying by the Prophet g.: “The angels are annoyed by the same things that annoy human beings.
The Prophet speaks forcibly against causing annoyance to other Muslims: “The one who annoys a Muslim is annoying me; and the one who annoys me annoys God.
It is quite clear that money spent on smoking is squandered. Far from helping to achieve any good, such spending causes definite harm. Squander is forbidden by the sharia.
God tells us that the Prophet (6,. Allows them (His followers) as lawful what is good and pure and prohibits them from what is bad and impure (7:157). Undoubtedly, smoking is impure. God enjoins people not to kill themselves (4:29) and not to make their I hands contribute to their own destruction (2: 195). Smoking is a means of self-destruction.
- A saying of the Prophet g. enjoins: “Cause harm neither to yourself nor to others”. Since smoking is at the root of much harm, it is haram.
Pro-smoking opinions examined
It is obvious that the jurists who ruled that smoking was pennissible did so prior to the recent discovery by modern medical research of the many health hazards posed by smoking. Those hazards, far from being negligible, are fatal, destructive and incurable. In the circumstances, taking a soft line on smoking might have been ojustifiable. Not so now with all the incriminating evidence that we have at our disposal. In other words, arguments for permissibility are no longer valid. As the harm caused by smoking has been firmly established through evidence and experience, the ruling must be anything but permissiblity.
The group of Muslim scholars polled by the World Health Organization
” Regional Office for the Eastern Mediteuanean were almost unanimous in declaring that smoking was impermissible or at least strongly abominable.
Before passing their judgement, EMRO had placed at their disposal all the scientific medical evidence reached by distinguished specialists and scientific authorities on the subject.
Smoking hazards as documented by medical experts
Dr Abdul Aziz Samy, professor of chest diseases and former dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Cairo University, says that the medical evidence against smoking is overwhelming and that any lingering doubts as to the serious natureI .ef the-health hazards associated with smoking are no longer justified.
He explains those hazards as follows:
A vailable data indicate that the number of smokers who die before they have reached the age of 65 is twice that of nonsmokers; that for every nonsmoker who stays away from work there are three smokers; that the incidence of lung cancer is 70 to 90 times greater among smokers than nonsmokers and that the incidence of acute bronchitis among smokers is six times more than among nonsmokers. Moreover, smoking is closely associated with early death of patients with cardiac diseases. It is equally related to peptic ulcers and diseases of the peripheral blood circulation. A woman smoker reaches menopause much earlier than a nonsmoker. Furthermore, there is a higher risk of stillbirth, birth defects and premature billh. Those who come into close contact with a smoker are exposed to health hazards similar to those faced by the smoker himself, especially if they meet in places which lack proper ventilation. The quantity of smoke which the nonsmoker is forced to inhale in this manner in one hour’s time may be equivalent to the actual smoking of one cigarette.
Professor Ismail al-Sebai, member of the Board of Directors of the World Cancer Federation, has the following to say about the topic under discussion:
The diseases associated with smoking are considered to be the most serious cause of death known so far. Diseases of the blood vessels, the heart and the brain cause 50 per cent of all deaths in any developed country, while cancer is responsible for 30 per cent. Smoking is a major factor in these diseases as well as numerous other diseases and physical disorders which could lead to death, such as the diseases of the lungs.
Professor Sherif Omar, professor of cancer surgery, Cairo University, says that:
Smoking has definite bad effects on health. It causes cancer and heart
diseases as well as other kinds of disease. The following are some of the diseases which are associated with smoking: cancer of the lungs, cancer of the pharynx, cancer of the mouth, cancer of the oesophagus, cancer of the urinary bladder, cancer of the kidneys, cancer of the pancreas, diseases of the heart and blood vessels, such as blood clotting and mitral and acral arteriosclerosis, and lung disease.
In the case of women, smoking can stunt the growth of unborn children, lead to a drop in their weight, and expose them to physical defects and deformities. The mortality rate among unborn children is 28 per cent higher in the case of smoking mothers than it is in the case of nonsmokers. Likewise smoking speeds up the onset of the menopause.
The fetus is directly affected by smoking. The ill effects of smoking are transferred from the mother’s blood to her unborn child through the umblical cord and may last after birth until the child is eleven years old.
The opinions expressed by Professor Sherif Omar were endorsed by Professor Ismail al-Sebai as well as by Professor Abdul Basit al-Asar, Head of the Department of Cancer Biology, the National Institute for Cancer.
Dr Mahmoud Muhammad al-Marzabany, Professor of Chemo- pharmacology and Experimental Cancer Therapy at the National Institute for Cancer, Cairo University, says:
It has been proved beyond any doubt that smoking causes numerous diseases of which the most serious are diseases of the respiratory tract, heart diseases and arteriosclerosis. It is a major factor in the development of lung cancer as well as cancer of the oesophagus, pancreas and the urinary bladder.
Smoking hazards also affect nonsmokers who are forced to inhale smoke as a result of living or working with smokers.
Professor Muhammad Ali al-Barr, member of the Royal College of Physicians, says that ” Smoking hazards are not to be denied. It is far more dangerous to health than the plague, cholera. smallpox, tuberculosis and leprosy combined”.
Elaborating on the health hazards posed by smoking, Professor AI-Barr says:
Mil1ions of people die each yemo as a reasult of their addiction to smoking. Tens of mil1ions more contract serious diseases that make their lives a continuous chain of unrelieved suffering and mjsery-all because of smoking. Professor AI-Barr gives a detailed list of the diseases which afflict smokers more than any other group of the population. The list runs as follows:
Respiratory tract diseases
Cancer of the lung and the larynx, chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Heart and circulatory system diseases
Cardiac thrombosis, fatal heart attack, blood vessel clotting resulting in paralysis, and disorders and clotting of the peripheral blood circulation.
Digestive system diseases
Cancer of the lips, mouth, pharynx and oesophagus as wel1 as peptic ulcers and cancer of the pancreas.
Urinary tract diseases
Benign and malignant tumours of the urinary bladder and cancer of the kidneys.
Pregnancy and childhood diseases
Recurring miscarriages, high incidence of low birth weight and high perinatal mortality rates, increase of stil1births, and higher incidence of infant bronchitis.
Inflammation of the optic nerve, blindness, aggravation of al1ergic diseases, such as asthma urticaria and skin inflammation, as wel1 as diseases of the nose, ear and throat. This is in addition to the aggravation of hypertension and diabetes, a rise in the level of the cholesterol, and excessive obesity. Dr Al-Barr goes on to state that 95% of all patients suffering from leg arterial diseases are smokers and only five per cent are nonsmokers. “Thus the disease is onc that almost exclusively attacks nonsmokers. It has also been ascertained that smokers run ten times the risk of developing cancer of the mouth, the oesophagus, the pharynx, and the larynx as nonsmokers. Likewise smoking takes a heavier death toll than all the infectious diseases combined. One smoker in three is destined to lose his life as a result of smoking.
Ruling by contemporary Muslim jurists in the light of the views of physicians and reports of research experts
As we have already mentioned, the World Health Organization Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office placed at the disposal of the group of eminent scholars whom it polled in connection with smoking all the available medical reports and studies prepared by specialists and distinguished physicians on the question of smoking. By so doing the Office was trying to spare these distinguished scholars the difficulty of having to pass judgement on a particular matter without being fully equipped with the necessary information as to its drawbacks and hazards. Thus these eminent scholars had the good fortune of having access to information and scientific evidence which other religious scholars did not have. They were able to acquaint themselves with the real damage caused by smoking, and the hazards associated with the use of tobacco.
Basing their judgement on established facts, strong arguments and undisputable findings, they were in agreement that smoking was haram or at least strongly abominable. If jurists in former times were of a different view it was because they did not have at their disposal the same emphatic evidence. As their conception of smoking hazards was based on mere assumption rather than established truth their ruling was of a similar nature to their assumptions.
The group of eminent scholars who were of the opinion that smoking is haram based their verdict on the following evidence:
Smoking is associated with serious health hazards \’hich can lead to destruction. Under Islam people are forbidden to destroy themselves, for God says: Kill not yourselves for )Iel-ily God haj. been to you Mo.s’f Merciful (4:29).
Also the Prophet says: “Do not harm yourselves or others”.
Smoking involves a large measure of extravagance and waste. Such things are forbidden under Islam, for God says: But do not be extravagant, for God does not love the extravagant (6:141,7:31).
- Another Quranic verse enjoins: But squander not your wealth in the manner of a spendthrift. Verily squanderers are Satan’s brothers ( 17 :27).
The Prophet says: God prohibits you from showing disobedience towards your mothers and burying your daughters alive. Likewise He hates to see you involved in malicious gossip, in asking too many inquisitive questions, and in money wasting. Moreover the Prophet tells us that we will be asked on the Day of Judgment how we earned our money and in what ways we spent it.
The offensive odour associated with smoking justifies the classification of smoking as one of the evils. The stand which religion takes on all forms of ‘ evil is well explained in the following verse from the Quran:
Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet whom they shall filld in their the scripture-in the Torah and the Gospel-who will enjoin righteousness upon them and forbid them to do evil (7: 157).
Our Lord! Do not be angry with us if we forget or fall into error.