“My understanding is that alcohol by itself is not a forbidden substance – but the vast majority Muslims think it is (in fact, to be precise – the actual intoxicating chemical in wines…

Answered according to Hanafi Fiqh by Askimam.org

One of my friends raised a question on alcohol. He said:

“My understanding is that alcohol by itself is not a forbidden substance – but the vast majority Muslims think it is (in fact, to be precise – the actual intoxicating chemical in wines, spirits, etc is not alcohol, but ethanol). Some of them acknowledge that the word ‘alcohol’ (in Arabic) is not mentioned in the Qur’an nor in the corpus of Hadith as Haraam (al-khamr – intoxicating drinks – of course is).

 

However, they state that since alcohol has the capacity to make someone intoxicated – it by inference is automatically Haraam. This is a good point until one realises that there is a phenomenon called “water intoxication” that can occur if a person drinks highly excessive quantities of water very quickly. The person can go through a state of disorientation and nausea similar to alcohol induced intoxication. It is caused by electrolyte imbalance and in extreme cases, can result in death.

So, if water is not Haraam (even though it has the capacity to intoxicate and kill) then neither should alcohol (because it is not clearly stated as Haraam in the primary sources).”

 

Can you please explain to me and provide me with an answer so that I can forward to him.

Answer

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Assalaamu `alaykum waRahmatullahi Wabarakatuh

When discussing this issue with your friend, you should first focus on the roots and causes of his error and then address the issue at hand. You should highlight to him that since we are followers of the Hanafi madhab, we do not apply our own analogy in matters of deen. Just as it is preposterous and perilous for a cancer patient to decide on his medication sufficing on his own logic, without consulting the experts in the medical field, it is similarly hazardous for us layman to derive rulings in Shariah with our logic. It is only logical that we follow the combined efforts of Scholars who were masters in Quran, hadith, fiqh, lugha, balagha, mantiq and all other branches of Islamic knowledge. When we try to deduce rulings ourselves from Quran and hadith, we tend to reach such conclusions which are totally hilarious. This is precisely because of the minimal knowledge and tools we possess in present age.

As for the issue at hand, it seems as if the brother does not understand the definitions of alcohol and ethanol. Ethanol is a type of alcohol. The Cambridge international dictionary defines ethanol as “a medical compound which is a type of alcohol.” According to American heritage science dictionary ethanol is “An alcohol obtained from the fermentation of sugars and starches or by chemical synthesis. It is the intoxicating ingredient of alcoholic beverages, and is also used as a solvent, in explosives, and as an additive to or replacement for petroleum-based fuel…” Merriam-Webster’s Medical dictionary defines alcohol as “ethanol especially when considered as the intoxicating agent in fermented and distilled liquors” According to wikipedia “Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a flammable, colorless, chemical compound. It is best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages and in thermometers. In common usage, it is often referred to simply as alcohol.”In another place on Wikipedia it is stated “An alcoholic beverage is a drink containing ethanol, commonly known as alcohol, although in chemistry the definition of an alcohol includes many other compounds.” From the above we understand that alcohol and ethanol is either exactly the same, or ethanol is a type of alcohol. Therefore, the brother’s statement that “….the actual intoxicating chemical in wines, spirits, etc is not alcohol, but ethanol” is irrational.

Furthermore, when we look at the definition of alcohol, we find that it also has the potential of intoxicating (which the brother has admitted). For example, in the Cambridge international dictionary alcohol is defined as “a colourless liquid which can make you drunk…” According to the Oxford dictionary (1998) alcohol is “a colourless volatile flammable liquid which is the intoxicating constituent of wine, beer, spirits, and other drinks, and is also used as an industrial solvent and as fuel…”

Once it has been established that alcohol has the potential of intoxicating, we now move on to discuss the second issue which the brother has raised. Allah Ta’ala has not discussed everything in detail in the Quran but has sufficed on mentioning basic principles. For example, there is consensus on the impermissibility of drugs. In which Quranic verse is this mentioned.  The reality is that the Quran has merely laid down general principles; we need to weigh all things in accordance with these principles. The brother confessed that khamr is mentioned in the Quran and authentic Ahadith, however, what is the meaning of khamr. The world renowned Arabic lexicographer, Abul Fadhl Ibn Mandhoor has defined khamr as

والخَمْرُ ما أَسْكَرَ من عصير العنب لأَنها خامرت العقل   (لسان العرب – (ج 2/ ص 313 دار صادر – بيروت)

((Khamr: It is an intoxicant (derived from) grapes..(It is name as such since) it covers (khamara) the brain)) (Lisanal Arab 2/313, Dar as sadir)    

The great Hanafy jurist, Allamah Murghinani has defined khamr as

الهداية شرح البداية – (ج 4 / ص492)

وهي النيء ماء العنب إذا صار مسكرا وهذا عندنا وهو المعروف عند أهل اللغة وأهل العلم

((…it is grape juice which becomes intoxicant, this is accordance to us and also famous amongst lexicographers and people of knowledge.))(Hedayah 4/492)

So if the Quran forbids intoxicants (khamr) and alcohol is an intoxicant, the conclusion will be that alcohol is forbidden.

As for the brother’s analogy on water, in terms of Usool fiqh this is called Qiyaas faasid (corrupted analogy). There is consensus that Qiyaas cannot be applied on what is mansoos (expressly mentioned in Quran and hadith).

We have learnt above the definition of khamr according to the Fuqahah. It should also be noted that intoxication itself is not the illah (reason) for the prohibition of wine. The following is mentioned in Hedayah

الهداية شرح البداية – (ج 4 / ص 109)

والثالث أنه عينها حرام غير معلول بالسكر ولا موقوف عليه ومن الناس من أنكر حرمة عينها وقال أن السكر منها حرام لأن به يحصل الفساد وهو الصد عن ذكر الله وهذا كفر لأنه جحود الكتاب فإنه تعالى سماه رجسا والرجس ما هو محرم العين وقد جاءت السنة متواترة أن النبي عليه الصلاة والسلام حرم الخمر وعليه انعقد الإجماع ولأن قليله يدعو إلى كثيره وهذا من خواص الخمر ولهذا تزداد لشاربه اللذة بالاستكثار منه بخلاف سائر المطعومات ثم هو غير معلول عندنا حتى لا يتعدى حكمه إلى سائر المسكرات

الهداية شرح البداية – (ج 4 / ص 111)

 قال ونبيذ العسل والتين ونبيذ الحنطة والذرة والشعير حلال وإن لم يطبخ وهذا عند أبي حنيفة وأبي يوسف رحمهما الله إذا كان من غير لهو وطرب لقوله عليه الصلاة والسلام الخمر من هاتين الشجرتين وأشار إلى الكرمة والنخلة خص التحريم بهما والمراد بيان الحكم ثم قيل يشترط الطبخ فيه لإباحته وقيل لا يشترط وهو المذكور في الكتاب ولأن قليله لا يدعو إلى كثيره كيفما كان وهل يحد في المتخذ من الحبوب إذا سكر منه قيل لا يحد وقد ذكرنا الوجه من قبل


Since we are adherents to the Hanafy madhab, we restrict ourselves to the texts which have been quoted. There is no need to explain this entire aspect through science. The brother has confessed that “al-khamr-intoxicating drinks- of course is (mentioned in the Quran).” The most that could be established from his analogy is that water is haram due to the presence of nass (Quranic texts) prohibiting intoxications. It is obvious that nobody agrees to this.

 

الهداية شرح البداية – (ج 4 / ص 109)

 والخامس أنه يكفر مستحلها لأنكاره الدليل القطعي

And Allah knows best

Wassalam

Ml. Ismail Moosa,
Student Darul Iftaa

Checked and Approved by:

Mufti Ebrahim Desai
Darul Iftaa, Madrassah In’aamiyyah

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