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The use of unlawful or juridically unclean substances in Food and Medicine

The use of unlawful or juridically unclean substances in Food and Medicine

General principles

  1. Every Muslim is under obligation to abide by the rulings of Islamic Shariah, especially in the areas of food and medicine, which is conducive to a healthy life style in diet and therapy. Allah Almighty, out of His infinite Mercy and Providence to facilitate the pursuit and observance of His law, granted us concessions in cases of dire and ordinary needs which are recognised by the Shariah. These include: “Necessities overrule prohibitions”.

    The elevation of ordinary need to the status of dire need when indicated”.

    “The basic rule is that all things are lawful unless specifically prohibited. Similarly all things are juridically clean except those specified not to be. ‘Prohibition of a food or drink need not mean that it is; juridically unclean”.

  2. Alcohol therefore is not juridially unclean, on the basis that things are inherently clean. This applies whether it is Ipure or diluted by water, giving preference to the view that the uncleanness of wine and other intoxicants or  alcoholic beverages is ideational rather than physical. Thus, There is no objection, from the point of view of  Shariah, in using alcohol as antiseptic or disinfectant of i wounds or surgical instruments.

    Therefore there is no problem in using perfumes or scenti (Eau de Cologne) in which alcohol is used as a solvent forI volatile fragrant or aromatic substances or in using creams which contain alcohol.  But his ruling does not apply to wine and other alcohohc drinks, for their use is initially prohibited.

  3. Since taking of alcohol is forbidden because it is intoxicant, and until alcohol-free medicines can be prepared, particularly for children and pregnant women, there is no prohibition to using medicines currently in production containing a very small measure of alcohol for the purpose of preservation or dissolving but not sedating, until an alternative is available.
  4. Foods containing even a little amount of wine are prohibited, including chocolates and drinks or foods tinged with alcohol. “What intoxicates if given abundantly is prohibited at the smallest dose”, as the Sharia rules. The rule of exceptional permissibility is not applicable here due to the lack of the factor of necessity.
  5. It is permissible to take foods where a tiny amount of alcohol is used for the purpose of dissolving materials; which are insoluble in water such as colour makers,! preservatives and so on. The principle on which this permission is based is ‘General Inescapable Necessity’.    (‘ Umum al-Balwa). This apart, it is also a factor that most of the alcohol added actually gets evaporated in the process ofproduction.
  6. Foodstuff containing pig fat which does not undergo denaturation, such as some varieties of cheese, vegetable oil, skin oil/lubricant, butter, cream, biscuit chocolate and ice-cream, are prohibited, on account of the consensus of scholars on the uncleanness of the pig and impermissibility of its eating. Obviously, a situation warranting an exception due to “necessity” does not usually pertain.
  7. Treatment of diabetes patients with insulin obtained from  a pig source is permissible because of “necessity” given that the relevant rules and principles of the Shariah, are observed.
  8. “Transformation”, i.e. the process that causes an object to change into another, totally different in properties and characters, turns the unclean, or what is deemed to be unclean, into a clean object, and therefore turns prohibited things into things permissible by the Shariah. On this account the following is concluded:
    1. Gelatine made of unclean animal’s bones, skin and tendons is clean and permissible for consumption.
    2. Soap produced by treating and transforming pig fat or fat obtained from a dead animal turns into a clean  compound by the process of transformation and  therefore using this soap is permissible.
    3. Cheese processed with rennet, obtained from animals which are dead but are permissible to eat, is clean and  eating it is permissible.
    4. Ointments, creams and cosmetics which contain pig fat are all unclean. Their use is impermssible in Shariah except when transfonnation (of the material into one of totally different properties) is ensured.
  9. All narcotic drugs/substances are prohibited and under no circumstanccs are they permissible except for specific medical treatment as determined by physicians. These substances are inherently clean themselves. There is no objection, however, to the use of nutmeg as an aromatic for food, in small amounts which do not lead to sedation or narcosis.