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Rulings On Smoking And Diseases

Back to Rulings On Smoking And Diseases
  Writer Name : S.A. Ali
Language English
Translation By
Article Source
Addition Date 09/09/2013
Islamic Ruling on Smoking. Edited by Adil Salahi
Q. What is the Islamic ruling on smoking? If it is forbidden what is the status a smoker who finds it practically impossible to quit? What should be the national policy on importing, selling and consuming tobacco? Drawing on the punishment for drinking, should there be a similar punishment for tobacco offenses?

S.A. Ali

A. More than 25 years ago the Presidency of Islamic Research and Fatwas issued a ruling that makes tobacco smoking and other methods of consumption, as well as its growing and selling forbidden in Islam. The Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean of the World Health Organization, which caters for 21 Muslim countries, published a book entitled "The Islamic Ruling on Smoking", in which about 15 distinguished scholars issued their separate fatwas. All but two of these fatwas make smoking strictly forbidden, while the other two say it ranges between strongly reprehensible, i.e. makrooh, and forbidden. Many other scholars have subscribed to these fatwas and the number is always increasing. No scholar has ever revised his ruling of prohibition on smoking, while many who used to be reluctant to issue such a ruling found it necessary to change their mind when they knew the full extent of the danger tobacco smoking causes to the health of the smoker and those who are in close proximity to him.

Indeed it has been irrefutably established that smoking causes around 25 killer diseases, including a wide range of cancers and heart disease. One in two smokers will eventually be killed by tobacco-related diseases. With such risks, Muslim scholars can only issue one verdict on tobacco, which is a verdict of strict prohibition. It is certainly forbidden for a Muslim who is not a smoker already to start smoking, or to smoke casually. There can be no justification for that.

The reader poses a more difficult question, which is the position of a Muslim who has been smoking for several years before he learned of this ruling on smoking. He tries to quit, but he finds quitting very difficult.

To quit smoking is difficult indeed, because tobacco is addictive. Every smoker who has been smoking for more than one year is addicted to it, according to the medical definition of addiction. Some distinguished scholars have qualified their ruling on tobacco by saying that smoking is strongly discouraged, or reprehensible, i.e. makrooh, for a person who is already addicted to it and finds quitting extremely difficult. While this is understandable considering the difficulty of quitting, it should not give smokers a license to continue smoking. What I would say is that smoking is also forbidden in the case of an addicted smoker, but he must do certain things in order to seek God's forgiveness and help. The first is that he must continue to try to quit. He must never pacify himself by saying: "I have tried and I have failed." If he fails for the tenth time to completely quit, he should try again. He should never tire of trying. He should also seek whatever help is available so that his next attempt could be successful. Many countries offer different types of help, and different people find different methods working for them. So, one should seek such help wherever it is available.

Another thing a smoker should do is to always try to reduce his tobacco consumption. Suppose you used to smoke 20 cigarettes a day, and your latest attempt to quit has failed. When you go back to smoking try to limit yourself to, say, 15 a day, then reduce the number slowly at regular intervals. For a smoker who has failed three or four times to quit, reducing his consumption from 20 to 10 cigarettes a day is a great achievement, even if this takes him a year to accomplish. He can then reduce it further over the next year, until quitting becomes much easier. It should be remembered that this method requires a great measure of discipline, because the smoker should always be on the watch, stopping himself from taking an extra cigarette. But the advantage is that it develops his will power in controlling his smoking addiction. This will be of immense help to him when he finally decides to quit altogether.

Another thing such a smoker must do is to express his regret to God for his inability to quit, and seek His help to make his next attempt successful. He should do this all the time, so as to remind himself that he is contravening an Islamic ruling and that he must try further to overcome his addiction.

Moreover, Muslim smokers have a chance to quit every year during Ramadan. Fasting will help them much in getting over the difficulty, provided that they adopt a proper strategy that sees them working during the day, and sleeping mostly at night, rather than the opposite system adopted by many people.

Governments must take several measures to help reduce tobacco consumption. These measures range from organizing awareness campaigns to make all people aware of the serious health risks smoking poses, to health education programs in schools to make children aware of the problem of tobacco smoking and deter them from starting to smoke, to imposing heavy increases of tax on tobacco, because repeated price increases provides an incentive to quit and puts tobacco beyond the reach of young children. Governments must also run quitting programs. There are several of these. Here in Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Health runs several clinics specialized in helping smokers to quit.

As for public punishments, this is open to a government to consider. It should be studied carefully so as to assess its likely effects on smokers and non-smokers.