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A Small Amount of Nutmeg is Permissible, but a Large Amount is Prohibited

Answered as per Shafi'i Fiqh by Darul Iftaa Jordan
Why is nutmeg excluded from the Sharia rule: “If a large amount of anything causes intoxication, a small amount of it is prohibited"? Also, is it permissible to add a little bit of nutmeg to the food to make it tastier?


All perfect praise be to Allah the Lord of the Worlds. May His peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Mohammad and upon all his family and companions.

The scientific name of the nutmeg is (Myristica fragrans). It is a plant of the warmer regions, and it is native to Malaysia.

Scientists and physicians are agreed that it is a narcotic psychotropic substance, however, its effect is narcotic, not intoxicating, and consuming a small amount of it has no effect. Dr. Mohammad Ali Al-Bar stated: "The volatile oil in the seed contains myristicin, which is a hypnotic substance if taken in a large amount and produces languidness if taken in an amount lesser than that. If used repeatedly, it could have a toxic fatal effect on the liver and could lead to addiction.

Therefore,  jurists are agreed that a large amount of nutmeg is a prohibited narcotic, however, they disagreed about the ruling on taking a small amount of it.

Hanafi, some Shafie and Maliki jurists are the of view that it is prohibited without differentiating between a small and a large quantity. They have based their view on the Hadiths: “If a large amount of anything causes intoxication, a small amount of it is prohibited"{Abu Dawoud} and "The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) forbade every intoxicant and everything which produces languidness." {Abu Dawoud}.

However, Shafi and Maliki jurists divided intoxicants into two types:

First: Liquid, such as Nabidh (Intoxicant made from other than grapes) and Khamr (Intoxicant made from grapes). They ruled that it is impure and disgusting, and prohibited small and large amounts.

Second: Solid, such as nutmeg and saffron. They ruled that it is pure, not disgusting, and harmless in small quantities. They permitted using a small amount, which doesn`t cause intoxication, to make food tastier. However, they prohibited using it in a quantity that is harmful to human being or causes intoxication. Rather, some Maliki jurists stated that it is permissible to have a small amount of nutmeg alone since they don`t prohibit the nutmeg itself, but its harmful effect when consumed in large quantities.

It is stated in Hashiyat Al-Sharwani: "………………………..Ibn Hajar said, "The solid, such as the nutmeg, is pure, so it is prohibited to consume the intoxicating amount of all the aforementioned substances." "Al-Kurdi stated, "The non-intoxicating amount isn`t prohibited, because it is pure, harmless, and not disgusting."

When Imam Al-Ramli, the eminent Maliki jurist, was asked whether nutmeg is permissible to eat or not? He replied, "Yes, it is permissible in small quantity, but prohibited in large quantity."

It is stated in Mawahib Al-Jaleel, a Shafie book, "Nutmeg corrupts the mind, it is permissible in small quantity, and it is considered pure. Al-Barzali said: "Some of our scholars permitted eating a little bit of nutmeg to stimulate the brain, and some stipulated mixing it with another substance, however, it is lawful in both situations."

Apparently, Shafi and Maliki jurists have differentiated between Khamr and nutmeg from several perspectives:

First: Impurity: They don`t consider nutmeg impure and disgusting like Khamr.

Second: Punishment: One who eats an amount of nutmeg that harms him isn`t given the Hadd of drunkennes; rather, he is subjected to T`azir (Corporal punishment determined by Islamic Law).

Third: Ruling on selling nutmeg. It is permissible to sell it and agricultural and industrial products in which it is used. Also, it isn`t included in the Hadith "God has cursed* wine, its drinker, its server, its seller, its buyer, its presser, the one for whom it is pressed, the one who conveys it and the one to whom it is conveyed."

Fourth: Effect: Nutmeg produces languidness (Large quantity causes numbness), but it isn`t (Intoxicating). The general meaning of the latter word (Intoxicating) is intended, which is causing numbness and languidness, and not intoxication accompanied by ecstasy, pleasure, and rapture. This is a significant difference between Khamr and nutmeg. Therefore, the Sharia maxim “If a large amount of anything causes intoxication, a small amount of it is prohibited" doesn`t apply to nutmeg, because it refers to Khamr and other intoxicants, and not foods that cause some numbness or languidness when having a large quantity. For more details, kindly check "Al-Fatawa Al-Fiqhiyah Al-Kubra" by Ibn Hajar.

In conclusion, there is no sin in having a small amount of nutmeg to make the food tastier since it isn`t an intoxicant. Therefore, the Hadith “If a large amount of anything causes intoxication, a small amount of it is prohibited" doesn`t apply to it. And Allah the Almighty knows best. 

This answer was collected from the official government Iftaa Department of Jordan.

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