Alcohol in Medicine

Q: Assalaamu Alaikum,

I would like to gain some guidance with regards to taking medication which contain alcohol. As such I am hoping that this can be published on the fatwa section of the website as there are many conflicting views on taking medication which contain alcohol. I do believe it can aid the public immensely. The following are my concerns:

1) Is it allowed to take medications such as cough syrups and tonics which contain alcohol or any other substance which is related to alcohol while being sick.

2) Is it allowed to take medication which contain alcohol not for the purpose of recovering from a sickness but as a form of nutrition or immune supplementation such as Ferrol or Codol compounds.

3) Is there a difference between the alcohol which is in medicine (emulsifies or stabilizers) as opposed to that which is found in drinks for the purpose of intoxication. If there is based on its purpose, does that mean that there is reason for its allowance in medication use or is the nature of alcohol itself completely haram.

Assalaamu Alaikum,

A: Wa alaikum Assalaam

1) It is allowed to take medications such as cough syrups etc. which contain alcohol when there is a necessity to do so. And this allowance is given when there are no other ‘alcohol-free’ medications available and a reliable doctor instructs one to use such medication for the recovery of an illness. If this is not the case, then it will not be allowed to use/consume such medicines.

2) Medications/tonics that are used not based on a necessity, which contain alcohol, are not allowed to be consumed according to the majority of Jurists/Scholars. The only allowance that has been given for their use is when there is a necessity to do so and there are no alcohol-free medications available. Hence, it will not be permissible to use supplements and other forms of nutritional mixtures/substances that are taken for betterment of the body/health/organs and not for the sake of curing an illness or removing ill health. This is not a necessity and alternatives for these can be found.

3) Alcohol found in food/drink may come from dates, grapes and other plants. All these have been considered ‘impure’ and ‘unlawful’ for use by the majority of scholars. If these are found in medications, the same ruling will apply. The traditions regarding the prohibition of intoxicants are general and once these fall within the category of the ‘prohibited intoxicant’ or ‘alcohol’, the ruling will be the same regardless of what it is used for. (that is food/drinks/medications)

In this regard, the Prophet (S.A) is reported to have said, ‘Every intoxicant is haram (unlawful)’. (Sahih Muslim Hadith # 3724). In another tradition, he is reported to have said, ‘Whatever intoxicates in a large amount, then a small amount of it is haram (unlawful)’. (Tirmizi Hadith # 1788)

Based on these general statements, the majority of scholars have stated that all drinks/substances that intoxicate will be deemed unlawful. They are all impure and their use is prohibited. So, the nature of alcohol itself is haram (unlawful), hence, its use is prohibited in foods/drinks/medications. In the case of medications, when there is a necessity to use these, it will be allowed to the extent of the necessity when there is no other substitute or alternative. (Kitabul Fatawa vol.6 pg. 205,206)

And Allah Knows Best

Mufti Waseem Khan

Date: 13/11/2013