Smoking in Islam.

Q. Is smoking haraam?

A. The harmful effects and dangers of smoking is one which is agreed upon by all medical experts, as well as Islamic Scholars. With respect to some of its harmful effects, medical experts have stated that smoking cigarettes affects the smoker’s and the non-smoker’s health; causes tuberculosis, cancer of the lungs, poor memory and loss of appetite. It chokes the breathing apparatus and excites the nerves. The countenance of the smoker grows pale and the teeth turn yellow. The lips and gums become black, the body wears out and character deteriorates. The smoker is weak willed, lazy and lethargic.

The research conducted by ten American experts to study the effects of tobacco (cigarette smoking) concludes the following:

‘The mortality rate of smokers is higher by 68%. They are prone to cancer of the lungs, the risk being 10.8 times more than non-smokers. Smokers are liable to experience swelling in the nasal tract, in the throat or in the respiratory tract – their chances being 6.1 times greater. Similarly, the risk of throat cancer is higher by 5.4%, and of mouth cancer by 4.1%. The risk of cancer of the alimentary canal is 3.4% higher. Diseases of the stomach are 2.4 times more to smokers than to non-smokers, while they are 2.6 times more susceptible to other ailments. Diseases of the heart are more common, the risk being 1.7 times more than others. Heart ailments among smokers occurred 70% more in them than non-smokers. Swelling in the membrane of the spitting tube and breathing tract was 500 times more than among non-smokers. Lung cancer was 1000% more’. (Al Hadharah)

This information given by these great experts suggests that smoking is indeed extremely harmful to the human body. Islam teaches that Allah has given our bodies, organs and limbs to us and has ordered us to look after them and preserve the health and goodness of all the organs. In this regard, we are not only required to nourish our bodies to ensure its constant growth, but, we are equally ordered to refrain from injecting dangerous substances into our bodies which are harmful. In this respect, while ordering us to nourish our bodies, Allah has stated, ‘Eat and drink and be thankful to Allah’. There are many other verses like this which tell us that eating and drinking that which is lawful in order to preserve our life and health is compulsory. The preservation of life and health is so important that Allah has even allowed one to consume the prohibited in order to save his life and health. About this, Allah says: ‘He has forbidden you only the Maytatah (dead animals), and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others besides Allah. But if one is forced by necessity without wilful disobedience nor transgressing due limits, then there is no sin on him. Truly, Allâh is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful’.  (Sura Baqarah verse 173)

This verse gives us the clear understanding that if one stays away from eats/drinks intentionally, thereby causing harm to himself, then he is guilty of committing a grave sin. Similarly, if one gives up taking food and water, and thus destroys his life (and he dies), then he will be guilty of committing suicide. From this, we can see that it is essential upon us to refrain from everything that may cause harm to our bodies and organs. In this regard, Allah has given us a specific command saying, ‘And do not let your hands take you to destruction’ (2: 195). This verse is very clear in its message that no one is allowed to do anything that will be harmful to himself. It is in order to protect us from harming ourselves, Allah has himself given many concessions and allowances in Islam. For example, the law of Tayammum has been revealed so that those who are sick and cannot use water may achieve purification without causing harm to themselves. About this, Allah says, ‘But if you are ill or on a journey or any of you comes from answering the call of nature, or you have been in contact with women (i.e. sexual intercourse) and you find no water, then perform Tayammum with clean earth and rub therewith your faces and hands. Allâh does not want to place you in difficulty, but He wants to purify you, and to complete His Favour on you that you may be thankful’. (Sura Maida verse 6).

In this manner, we also see that the Shariah has allowed pregnant and nursing women to delay the fast of Ramadhan, if they fear harm upon themselves or their babies. In a similar way, we see that Allah has allowed the old, feeble and permanently sick Muslims to miss their Ramadhan fasts and pay a redemption (Fidya) instead of fasting. In all these cases, we see that the underlying objective of these concessions is the preservation of one’s life and health. This is extremely important and is compulsory upon a Muslim.

In Sahih Al Bukhari, the tradition is given that on a journey, a companion of the Prophet (S.A) was in the state of major ritual impurity (Janabah) and needed to take a compulsory bath. Although water was available, he did not take a bath since it was very cold and feared that he may cause harm to himself. Instead, he made Tayammum. The other companions (who were with him) did not approve of his action and so, complained to the Prophet (S.A) when they met him. Upon this, the Prophet (S.A) summoned the companion and enquired about his action. In response, the companion said, ‘O Prophet of Allah, the water was very cold and I feared that if I had used it, I would have caused harm to myself, and Allah has stated in the Quran, ‘And do not let your hands take you to destruction’, this is why I performed Tayammum’. The Prophet (S.A) listened to his explanation and approved of his action.

This incident like others, make it abundantly clear that it is essential upon a person to adopt such measures which seek to protect and preserve one’s health and life.

Keeping these explanations in mind, one will see clearly that smoking damages the health of a person and has a serious effect on his life. Seeing that Islam has ordered us to preserve our health and protect our lives, it means that smoking cannot be accepted as an allowable habit in Islam. The dangers to health are too many and the effects on human lives are countless.

The Fuqaha (expert jurists) and Ulama (scholars) have unanimously declared that it is necessary to stay away from whatever causes ruination and annihilation, and it is a unanimously accepted fact that smoking cigarettes is destructive to health. A Muslim is therefore required to refrain from this habit.

With respect to the Islamic ruling regarding smoking, many of the present day scholars have stated that it is not allowed and it is essential to refrain from it. Some of our past scholars have given a lighter ruling on it, saying that it was only Makrooh (reprehensible) and not disallowed. Contemporary scholars however, have mentioned that this ruling of some of the past scholars was based on the fact that the harmful effects had not yet come to light. They saw it as a simple habit of inhaling and exhaling smoke from the cigarettes, and were not aware of the dangerous effects and harms of the substance and the act of smoking. Today however, the serious harmful effects of smoking has come to light through great research, investigation and experience, and it is with certainty one can say that ‘Smoking is a killer’.

As such, in light of these harmful effects and dangers, it would be safe to conclude that smoking is not allowed in Islam.

And Allah knows best.

Mufti Waseem Khan