Smoking in Islam

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Health From Abdel J. Nuriddin, N.D., Ph.D

By Imam Ivan G. Nassar
On Feb. 5, 2014, CVS announced it will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at its more than 7,600 CVS/pharmacy stores across the U.S. by Oct. 1, 2014, making CVS/pharmacy the first national pharmacy chain to take this step in support of the health and well-being of its patients and customers.
According to a statement from CVS, “ Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS pharmacy is the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health,” said Larry J. Merlo, President and CEO of CVS Caremark.
The CVS press release should rekindle the age-old debate among Muslims: Is smoking allowed in Islam? Historically, Islamic scholars have mixed views on smoking, because cigarettes are a recent invention; therefore, one cannot find a verse in the Qur’an or in the sayings of the Prophet (PBUH) forbidding cigarette smoking in Islam.

There are general principles in Islam which Islamic scholars use to make a legal ruling in matters not covered by the Qur’an or Sunnah; these rulings are a fatwas, or a legal verdict. Once a fatwa is issued, the followers of that particular Mathab or school of thought are expected to comply with the decision.

The legal ruling of most Muslim scholars has forbidden the use of tobacco products. However, there are some Muslims who argue that smoking falls under the category of makrooh, a word given to all matters disliked, hated, or detested and actions referred to negatively in the Qur’an and Sunnah and, therefore, not as serious as haram or something forbidden.

The Qur’an 5:90 states: “O you who have attained to faith! Intoxicants, and games of chance, and idolatrous practices, and the divining of the future are but a loathsome evil of Satan’s doing, shun it, then, so that you might attain to a happy state!”

Most Muslim scholars believe that tobacco is an idolatrous practice and all forms of tobacco constitute an intoxicating substance. “O ye who believe! Eat not up your property among yourselves in vanities. But let there be amongst you traffic and trade by mutual goodwill. Nor kill (or destroy) yourselves; for verily Allah hath been to you Most Merciful!” (Qur’an 4:29)

Arguably, we know the harm of smoking to one’s general health. The negative health consequences of smoking are liken to one killing him or her self; smoking is a slow suicidal death. The justness of man’s spiritual nature is based on or behaving according to what is morally right.

The Qur’an 30:30 states: “So set thou thy face steadily and truly to the Faith; (establish) Allah’s Handiwork according to the pattern on which He has made mankind: no change (let there be) in the work (wrought) by Allah; that is the standard Religion, but most among mankind understand not.”

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act requires the FDA to include warning labels on cigarette packages and in cigarette advertisements.  On June 22, 2011, the FDA published a final rule requiring color graphics depicting the negative health consequences of smoking to accompany the nine new textual warning statements.

Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) said: “Leave that which made you doubt for that which does not make you doubt.”

All acts that are averse to the sacredness of Islam are undesirable for Muslims. Doubtful acts can easily lead to punishable sinful acts, such as the drinking of alcohol, drug dependency, fornication and adultery. Satan misleads and deceives the ungrateful ones with vain desires.

The desire to indulge in adverse acts first comes from a want to emulate others. The Prophet (PBUH) warned Muslims about imitating non-Muslims. He said: “You will imitate the nations before you very closely, to the extent that if they went into a lizard’s hole, you will enter it as well.”

This press release from CVS, the second largest drugstore chain, contains a forward-looking statement, it sends a message. President Barack Osama praised CVS Caremark’s decision to take tobacco products off the shelves, saying it will save lives and reduce health care costs.

Muslim businesses should following the lead of CVS Caremark and halt the sells of Haram and Makrooh items in their place of business. This is a grand opportunity for Muslims who own business throughout this country to use this opening to promote the true meaning of Islam at a time when our great religion is under so much negative scrutiny.

Let us all band together and propagate the noble characteristics of the Qur’an and Sunnah. “Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain felicity.” (Qur’an 3:104)

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