A Fatwa on Smoking
It is Forbidden
With the growing health awareness in Britain more and more people are giving up smoking. The new legislation banning smoking in public places will undoubtedly have a positive impact and more smokers will quit smoking. There is an urgent need to increase the awareness of health benefits of stopping smoking amongst the Muslim community.
For a long time, Muslims have ignored the issue of smoking, regarding it merely as makruh – a disliked activity. However, since the last five decades research has conclusively established that cigarettes contain some 4,000 different chemicals and 42 of those are carcinogens i.e. cause cancer.
In light of these scientific facts, it is obvious that smoking is a very harmful activity, which is equivalent to slow suicide. Therefore it is haram, completely forbidden. Anyone who engages in this activity is disobeying the Divine Law and therefore incurs the Divine wrath.
The aim of this fatwa is to encourage Muslims to give up smoking and adopt a healthy lifestyle.
A fatwa is an authoritative ruling on a point of Islamic law given by a mufti – a competent Islamic scholar. It is a binding proof (hujjah) like the decision of a judge in a law court and therefore a fatwa must be followed. The society or a government usually issues a fatwa on a problem that an individual or the society encounters. Most Muslim countries have shariah courts or councils of scholars, which issue the fatawa.
Before we issue the fatwa here are some medical facts about smoking.
Lung Cancer, Mouth Cancer, Bladder Cancer, Ischaemic heart disease, Emphysema Alveolar damage, Cerebrovascular disease, increases risk of Peptic ulcer disease, Hypertension, Memory problems, Abnormal spermatozoa, increases fetal and neonatal mortality, Decreases birth weight of the infant.
Cigarette smoking is addictive – giving a nicotine rush. Cigarettes contain tar, which damages the cells in the airway of a lung. Eventually this damage can produce cells whose growth is uncontrolled leading to cancer. The more cigarettes one smokes the greater the risk of cancer.
Passive Smoking is the smoke inhaled by people near the smoker; this also increases the risk of sudden death in young children and Increases the risk of lung cancer in non-smokers.
“Since it became common in the seventeenth century, the scholars have expressed differing views about its legality, the reason being that they were not quiet sure about its actual harm. Therefore, some said it is forbidden, haram, others said it is permissible and yet others believed it to be offensive, makruh. Amongst those who regard it forbidden are the following:
From Hanafiya School of law; Sheikh Shernablai; Maseeri;
From Malikiya, Salim As Sanhuri; Ibrahim Al Liqani.
From Shafiya: Najaddeen Al Ghazzi, Al Qalubi & Ibn Ulan.
From Hanabila; Sheikh Ahmad Al Bahtuti and some scholars of Najad ”.
(Excerpts from the Encyclopaedia of Fiqh. Ministry of Awqaf, Kuwait)
Their arguments for forbidding smoking are:
- Smoking is addictive; since its withdrawal stopping smoking causes symptoms like anger, hunger for it, lack of concentration etc. Umm Salema said, “The Messenger ﷺ stopped us from using anything that is intoxicant or addictive”. This alone is a sufficient argument against smoking and for it to be haram.
- Smoking is known to cause physical and mental harm too. It damages the heart and weakens the muscles, changes the skin colour and so on. This is contrary to the Divine commandment “Do not kill yourself”. They cite many examples from medical doctors who show the harmful effects of smoking. Even if these are not conclusive, we should avoid them. Since the Prophet ﷺ said, “The halal is obvious so is haram obvious, and between the two are doubtful things which many people do not know. However, whoever avoids the doubtful things will have saved his honour and religion”.
- Smoking is the squandering of wealth and wasting it. This could be better spent on healthy pursuits activities and helping the needy.
- The ottoman Sultan had issued a fatwa forbidding smoking. This was based on the fatawa of contemporary scholars. Amongst the reasons given by scholars was the fact that smoking breached the obedience of the Sultan, which is forbidden. Thus, emphasizing the need to follow the law of the land.
- The smell of cigarettes is foul and harmful. We know that bad smell is forbidden. The smell of smoking is worse than the smell of onion and garlic. The Prophet ﷺ has forbidden any one from entering the mosque after eating onion and garlic. There is a difference here between an offensive smell of onion and garlic and the harmful and obnoxious smell of smoking.
- Those who claim they smoke for medical benefit or relaxing purpose are deluded. It has no medical benefit, and it is futile activity. As such it is haram. Allah ﷻ says, “Do you think we made you without a purpose”.
Imam Ahmad Rida Khan (d.1921) says,
“If cigarettes are smoked for intoxication, then they are haram, as they cause harm to mind and body … similarly if using tobacco in Paan is taken for this reason it too is haram” (Al-Fatawa al-Ridhawiyya).
Five facts to help you quit
- This year on average 20 a day smoker will spend more than £1,300. Pension’s provider NPI estimates that if you were to give up aged 20 and put the money into a personal pension you’d be worth around a million pounds by the age of 60.
- Half of all smokers – 120,000 a year die of their habit, usually through lung cancer, coronary heart disease or chronic obstructive lung disease. That is more than 300 people a day, the equivalent of a Boeing 747 crashing with no survivors.
- If you are a woman smoker your fertility will average 72% that of a non-smoker, your baby could weigh 8oz less than a non-smoker. Your menopause is likely to arrive two years earlier and you are four times as likely to contract cervical cancer.
- Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, 43 of which are known carcinogens.
- Ten to 15 years after giving up your chances of dying of a smoking related disease are almost the same as those of a non-smoker.
Benefits of stopping smoking
Best way to avoid the effects of smoking is never to start. The sooner you stop smoking the less damage that is done. Symptoms such as coughing begin to decrease within a few days or weeks. Improved sense of taste and smell. More energy. The risk of cancer decreases with time and after 10 years the risk is almost the same as a life long non-smoker. Never too late to stop.
Can Smoking be stopped?
Many people think this is very difficult. But more and more are managing to kick the habit. Some people have physical and mental withdrawal symptoms for a few days, e.g. shaking, irritability. These improve after about a week.
Can be improved by taking nicotine replacement gum, spray or patches. Better to stop altogether than cut down slowly. Choose a definite day to stop. Don’t give up if you have a lapse. Take one day at a time. Consider it as a choice not to smoke rather than as a deprivation. Try not to substitute in overeating although it is common to put on some weight. Try to eat the right foods and to start gradual exercise.
Give yourself small treats with the money you save. Smoking is a learned behaviour. It can be unlearned.
What role can Ramadan play in helping someone to give up smoking?
We must remember the month of Ramadan is a month of fasting, it is a month of spiritual awakening an opportunity to become close to Allah ﷻ – A time to strengthen the faith. During the 30 days of this month a Muslim is obliged to fast. This means we cannot eat, drink, smoke or have sexual relations. Its abstention from all these pleasures.
Now if the smoker can give up smoking during the fasting period, from dawn till dust (from nearly 11 hours) there is no reason why they cannot continue for few more hours before he goes to sleep. Fasting is about leaving things for the smoker its leaving smoking! These thirty days of fasting is really training in self-control and self-discipline.
It is an ideal opportunity for them to build up resistance to smoking. To strengthen his will against the temptation. I believe that a Muslim smoker who does not give up smoking at the end of Ramadan has not really reaped the benefits of this arduous and most difficult worship. And that is a pity!
Dr Musharraf Hussain Al-Azhari – Chief Executive, British Fatwa Council