As salamu alaikum. Is alcohol denat halal or haram?
Wa alaykum salam wa rahmatuLlahi wa bakaratuHu,
All praise is to Allah. And, prayers and salutations are on the Prophet Muhammad.
What is Alcohol Denat?
“Alcohol denat” or denatured alcohol is ethanol mixed with additives to form an inconsumable mixture. Furthermore, it is a common ingredient in many hygienic and cleaning items, like toothpaste, window cleaner, deodorant, etc. Alcohol denat is not manufactured for an unlawful use. In fact, its many uses are a benefit and advantage to people.
An Opinion on the Purity of Alcohol Manufactured for a Lawful Reason
The reason behind producing alcohol has caused a difference of opinion amongst scholars regarding whether or not it is physically impure. There is a differentiation related pertaining to alcohol [khamr] made for the manufacture of vinegar. This type of alcohol [muhtaramah] would be considered as pure.
The purity of alcohol produced to make vinegar is not a strong view; it is related as a wajh shadhdh. (Rawdat al-Talibin 1/122, Tanqih 1/142, Wasit 1/141) A weak opinion, on the authority of Sh. Abu Ali al-Sinji, that it is permissible to buy and sell khamr muhtaramah is related. His view is based on it being considered pure. (Sharh al-Muhadhdhab 2/595) The official view of the Madhhab shall be discussed below.
An Opinion on the Purity of Alcohol
According to some authorities alcohol is pure. This is transmitted by Qadi Abu al-Tayyib and others from Imam Malik’s teacher Rabiah, and also from Imam Dawud al-Zahiri. (Sharh al-Muhadhdhab 2/563) This view has also been attributed to Imam Muzani. (Hashiyat Amirah 1/69-70) This view is also given consideration by Sh. Muhammad al-Shatiri in his commentary on al-Yaqut al-Nafis.
The Shafi School’s Ruling on Alcohol’s Purity
In the Shafi School, every liquid intoxicant is impure. (Tuhfat al-Muhtaj 1/288) Imam Nawawi mentioned, “impurities are: every liquid intoxicant…” (Minhaj al-Talibin 80)
The Concept of “’Umum al-Balwa”
Rulings in the Sacred Law are not intended to place undue and excessive difficulties on people. The evidence for this is Allah’s saying, “Allah desires for you ease, he does not desire for you difficulty.” (Surah al-Baqarah 185) Also, Allah says, “There has not been made for you, in din, a difficulty.” (Surah al-Hajj 78) And, on the authority of Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet Muhammad said, “Verily, din is easy.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 1/59 with Shaykh al-Islam’s Tuhfat al-Bari) These texts (and others) establish the well-accepted legal principle:
المشقة تجلب التيسير، إذا ضاق الأمر اتسع
“Difficulty incurs ease; when a matter becomes constricted it widens.”
This principle, moreover the evidence it is based upon, permits dispensation during difficult circumstance. Various reasons allow for relaxation in a given ruling. One of these reasons is public affliction or ‘umum al-balwa.
The widespread usage of alcohol denat in industrialized countries creates a situation where at some point most people will come into contact with a product containing it. A widespread affliction is considered accordingly under the discussion of the abovementioned principle. It is stated that:
الحاجة العامة تنزل منزلة الضرورة الخاصة
“A public need reaches the level of individual necessity.”
Therefore, in the instance that something is rife in the public sphere, it is considered an utter necessity. A necessity is considered in this context.
The principle and the others connected to it are related by various authorities, such as Ibn al-Subki in al-Ashbah wa al-Nazair 1/48, Suyuti in al-Ashbah wa al-Nazair 160-80, and Zarkashi in al-Manthur fi al-Qawaid 1/120; 2/24, 317; 3/169.
When considering the issue in light of ‘umum al-balwa, it does not necessarily entail considering alcohol denat pure. Rather, it may be considered excusable [‘afw]. (Hashiyat Nihayat al-Muhtaj 1/101) In his marginalia on Khatib, Bujayrimi cited Ramli as saying:
المراد بعموم البلوى كثرته في ذلك المحل المقصود عادة بحيث لو كلفناه العدول عنه إلى غيره لأدى إلى الحرج
“What is meant by ‘umum al-balwa: it is consistently rampant in that given place, whereas if we made refraining from it necessary, that would entail difficulty.” (2/93)
Examples of ‘Umum al-Balwa Being Applied
1) In Nihayat al-Muhtaj with Shabramallisi’s marginalia 2/27-28, consideration is made for excusing impurities found in places commonly affected by them, like streets, pathways, restroom entrances, etc. Also, see Tuhfat al-Muhtaj with Sharwani’s 1/130.
2) In Sharh al-Muhadhdhab 1/209, consideration is made for mouse droppings when a common affliction. Also, see al-Fatawa al-Kubra al-Fiqhiyyah 1/25.
3) In al-Fatawa al-Kubra al-Fiqhiyyah 1/159, mention is made regarding some authorities considering small amounts of blood from the body’s orifices excusable.
4) In Nihayat al-Muhtaj 1/204, wearing socks stitched from impure hair is excused. Also, see Ibn al-Subki’s al-Ashbah wa al-Nazair 1/49.
5) In Nihayat al-Muhtaj 1/245, cheese with certain types of rennet is excused.
In conclusion, reputable authorities have related that alcohol is pure. Other views are also found stating that alcohol may be pure, depending on the reason for why it was made. The Shafi Madhhab’s reference works express that liquid intoxicants are impure. Today, some products, like hygienic and cleaning products, are essential. Authorities within the Madhhab have established legal principles [qawaid fiqhiyyah], such as what is mentioned above. In light of these principles, there is satisfactory justification to consider the alcohol found in products vital in people’s lives as excusable [‘afw].
And Allah knows best.
Shafiifiqh.com Fatwa Dept.