Smoking: Haram or Makruh?

By: Dr. Rifyal Ka'bah

Question :

Is smoking an example of actions which are makruh or haram. Makruh is of course a common view, but I would like to question it.

A couple of years ago, I attended lessons in Jakarta, given by an Islamic teacher; Pak Ishan. During those lessons, I raised the questions of smoking and our teacher told us that most Indonesian consider it to be Makruh (better to be left), whereas now most ulamas would agree that it  is Haram (prohibited). I thought a lot about this, it does not seem to me to be a question where personal opinion should rule.

First, it should be remembered that tobaccos was unknown in Arabia (and Africa and Asia and Europe) in the seventh century, when Islam was given to us.  It originates from America and another 800 years or so were to pass before it was brought to Europe (by Sir Walter Raleigh, who has probably been regretting his stupidity ever since).  Allah is the supreme teacher and the Qur’an was given to teach us.  Imagine a competent teacher saying: “ Oh, and don’t touch the weed which will be discovered in 800 years’ time!”

All right, that explains why tobaccos was not specifically forbidden in the Qur’an.  Is it an adequate discharge of our obligations to refrain from only those things known to the Arabs in the seventh century? sure not – what about LSD, crack cocaine, ecstasy and other modern ‘designer drugs’? What about nuclear and biological weapons? Are they merely makruh (and therefore not as bad as eating pork)?Isn’t it more likely that later generations are expected to have the common sense to work things out for themselves?  Perhaps we all need to follow the excellent example of Imam al-Ghazali (1058-111 A.D.),as presented to us in the last issue of Muslim Executive & Expatriate.

Surely it is obvious to us that Allah’s together with only a few specific examples (to help us better see the main point).  We have to obligate to work out the rest of the details from the general principles He has given us.  Indeed this point is made explicitly in the Qur’an where we are told that the Book is part statement of reality and part allegory, but people are too stupid to see the difference (I am sorry that I cannot quote the verse at the moment – can any body remind me of the reference?).

Which general principals can guide us in judging this poisonous weed? The last 25 years have shown beyond all doubt that it is extremely harmful, both to the smokers and to all those around them, who are forced to share their evil habit by passive smoking Doesn’t Islam teach us that everything which is harmful is also haram” Isn’t causing (unavoidable) harm to other people also haram?

For there reasons, I cannot agree that smoking is merely makruh.  That view seems to deny the validity of two very important principles of Islam.  To say that Allah did not mention it in the Qur’an seems to me to be at best naïve.  All in all, I can see why Pak Ishan told us that most ulemas would now agree that smoking is definitely haram.

I would welcome any enlightenment that others can give me this point if aam wrong. (Rod Livesey, Jakarta)


Answer :

You are right that tobacco and smoking were unknown during the time of the Prophet Muhammad p.b.u.h., but there is a general principle in Islamic law which says that everything harmful to human mind, body and soul is prohibited inIslam.  The Qur’an says :

“He (Muhammad) will enjoin on them that which is right and forbid them that which is wrong.  He will make lawful for them all good things and prohibit for them only the foul.” (al-A’raf 157)                  

Smoking is harmful to human health and causes diseases like cancer, tuberculosis etc. which lead todeath.  In the meantime Allah prohibits us from killing ourselves (al Barqah 29).  The habit of smoking is wasting money.  It is the habit of the squanderers.

“Lo! the squanderers were ever brothers of the devils, and the devil was ever an ingrate to his Lord.” (al-Isra’27)

In tobacco there is a poisonous weed that makes the smokers die slowly.  A smoker, when he is smoking, is actually drinking poisonous substance and trying to kill himself.  The Prophet Muhammad p.b.u.h. warned Muslims in one of his saying as narrated by Muslim:

“The one who drinks poisons that makes himself killed by that stuff will continuously hold it in his hand in the hell and drink it forever.”

According to Shaikh Mohammad bin Jameel Zeeno of Saudi Arabia in his book Tawjihat al-Islamiyyah Li Islah al-Fard al-Mujtama (Islamic Guidance for the Good of individually and Society) said that some Muslim jurists look at smokingas haram based on the above considerations, because of its harmfulness to human health from many perspectives, and some others who see it as makruh did not see the immediate danger of smoking to mankind. Today, all of us are well informed about the danger of smoking to ourlives; so it becomes haram now.

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