Is Alcohol Considered Najis (Impure) & The Ruling Of Using It For Medical Purposes

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Is the external use of perfumes and scents which contain a certain amount of alcohol permissible to clean wounds?


The answer to this question requires clarification on two points:

Firstly: Is Khamr unclean, or not?

On this question, scholars have differed…most of them say that the alcohol is physically impure, meaning that if it is spilt on the clothing or the body, it must be purified. There are also among the scholars those who say that alcohol is not physically impure, because physical impurity is a legal ruling, which requires evidence, and there is no evidence of that. And if it is not confirmed by legal evidence that alcohol is impure, then fundamentally, it is pure. Some may say that the evidence is in the Book of Allâh, the Most High:

يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓاْ إِنَّمَا ٱلۡخَمۡرُ وَٱلۡمَيۡسِرُ وَٱلۡأَنصَابُ وَٱلۡأَزۡلَٰمُ رِجۡسٞ مِّنۡ عَمَلِ ٱلشَّيۡطَٰنِ فَٱجۡتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تُفۡلِحُونَ ٠٩

“O you who believe! Khamr (all kinds of alcoholic drinks), gambling, Al­-Ansaab, and Al­-Azlaam (arrows for seeking luck or decision) are Rijs of Shaitaan’s (Satan) handiwork. So avoid (strictly all) that (abomination) in order that you may be successful.” [Sûrah Al-Mâ’idah 5:90]

And Rijs means filth, as Allâh, the Most High says:

قُل لَّآ أَجِدُ فِي مَآ أُوحِيَ إِلَيَّ مُحَرَّمًا عَلَىٰ طَاعِمٖ يَطۡعَمُهُۥٓ إِلَّآ أَن يَكُونَ مَيۡتَةً أَوۡ دَمٗا مَّسۡفُوحًا أَوۡ لَحۡمَ خِنزِيرٖ فَإِنَّهُۥ رِجۡسٌ أَوۡ فِسۡقًا أُهِلَّ لِغَيۡرِ ٱللَّهِ بِهِۦۚ فَمَنِ ٱضۡطُرَّ غَيۡرَ بَاغٖ وَلَا عَادٖ فَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ غَفُورٞ رَّحِيمٞ ٥٤١

“Say (O Muhammad): “I find not in that which has been inspired to me anything forbidden to be eaten by one who wishes to eat it, unless it be Maitah (a dead animal) or blood poured forth (by slaughtering or the like), or the flesh of swine (pork, etc.) for that surely is impure, or impious (unlawful) meat (of an animal) which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than Allaah.”” [Sûrah al-An’âm 6:145]

That is, the above mentioned foods, the Maitah, pork or blood poured forth are all Rijs, meaning unclean. And the evidence that Rijs here means unclean is the saying of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم concerning the skin of the dead animal, that water purifies it, so his saying: “It purifies it” is a proof that it was unclean, and this is something well known to the scholars. But it may be said in reply to this that what is meant by Rijs here is spiritual unlceanness, not physical uncleanness, the of which is the Words of Allâh, the Most High:

رِجۡسٞ مِّنۡ عَمَلِ ٱلشَّيۡطَٰنِ

“Rijs of Shaitaan’s (Satan) handiwork.” [Sûrah al-Mâ’idah 5:90]

Additional evidence is the fact that gambling, Al-Ansab and Al-Azlam are not physically unclean, and the description (Rijs) here is all four: alcoholic drinks, gambling Al-Ansab and Al-Azlam… and if the description applies to all four of these things, then the ruling on all of them is the same.

Also, those who say that alcohol is not physically unclean have another proof from the Sunnah, which is that when the prohibition of alcoholic drinks was revealed, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم did not order the vessel to be washed clean of it. Likewise, the Companions emptied them out in the markets, and if it was unclean, they would not have emptied them out in the markets, because that would necessitate pollution being spread throughout them.

Secondly: Since it is clear that the Khamr is not physically unclean – and that is the most authoritative saying in my opinion – then alcohol is not physically impure, but spiritually impure, because the alcohol which inebriates is Khamr, according to the words of the Prohpet صلى الله عليه وسلم :

كُلِّ مُسْكِرٍ خَمْرٌ

“Everything which inebriates is Khamr.”

And if it is Khamr, then its useas a beverage or a food , by being mixed with certain food to give flavour to it is clearly forbidden by the Book and agreement of the Scholars. But as for use for other things, such as cleansing bacteria and the like, it is a matter of opinion, and whoever avoids it is more prudent… but I cannot say that it is forbidden, though I do not use it myself, except when necessary, such as sterilising wounds and such likes.

Shaykh Muhammad bin Sâlih al-`Uthaymîn

(Fatâwa Islâmîyah p.26-28)

What is the ruling concerning the use of Alcohol in sterilising wounds and mixing some drugs with alcohol?


Using alcohol for sterilisation is permissible due to necessity. If it is true that alcohol renders one senseless without necessarily making the person drunk, as claimed by some, then it is not Khamr (forbidden intoxicant); Otherwise, if it intoxicates, then it is this which prohibits drinking it according to explicit texts and consensus of the scholars.

When we look at the saying of Allâh,

إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ ٱلشَّيۡطَٰنُ أَن يُوقِعَ بَيۡنَكُمُ ٱلۡعَدَٰوَةَ وَٱلۡبَغۡضَآءَ فِي ٱلۡخَمۡرِ وَٱلۡمَيۡسِرِ وَيَصُدَّكُمۡ عَن ذِكۡرِ ٱللَّهِ وَعَنِ ٱلصَّلَوٰةِۖ فَهَلۡ أَنتُم مُّنتَهُونَ ١٩

Shaitan (Satan) wants only to excite enmity and hatred between you with intoxicants (alcoholic drinks) and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allâh and from As-Salâh (the prayer). So, will you not then abstain? [Sûrah Al-Mâ’idah 5:91]

We can say that using it for other than drinking is permissible since it does not contain the meaning that led to the prohibition. Based on this, my view is that we should avoid using it in perfumes, but for sterilisation, there is nothing wrong with that because of the necessity, and due to a lack of any text prohibiting it.

Shaykhul Islâm Ibn Taymiyyah stated in his Fatâwâ [vol. 24 p.270]:

“Treatment by eating pork is not permissible, but rubbing the body with it then later washing it is based on the permission to handle Najâsah outside Salâh, on which there is a popular difference of opinions. The correct view is that is it permissible due to necessity, and whatever is permitted due to a necessity can be used in treating a sickness.”

Thus, Shaykhul Islâm Ibn Taymiyyah – may Allâh have mercy on him – has differentiated between eating and other uses in the case of handling an impure substance, moreso of alcohol which is not impure? Thia is because if it is not Khamr, then there is no ambiguity about its purity ; and even if it is Khamr, the correct view is that it is not impure (Najâsah) from two points of view:

One: because there is no text on its being impure and as long as there is no text to that effect, the general ruling is that it is pure, since it is not necessarily that whatever is forbidden is impure. Poison for example is forbidden, but it is not impure. On the other hand, the saying of Allâh : ‘for that is impure’ means here that it is not a physical but a symbolic impurity, as it was used in describing what cannot be said to be physically impure such as gambling, idols, divining arrows, and because the impurity was described as being ‘of the handiwork of Satan’, and that Satan aims at ‘causing hatred and enmity (among the believers), which shows that it is not a physical but an abstract impurity.

Two: that the Sunnah indicates the physical purity of Khamr. In the Sahîh collected by Muslim [Al-Labiy edition p. 1206], Ibn Abbâs mentioned that a man gave the prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم a gift of a barrel of wine, but the prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said to him “Did you know that Allâh has forbidden it?” He said, “No”. Then he whispered to someone and the prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said, “The One Who prohibited drinking it has prohibited selling it“, He (Anas) said, “So he opened the container and poured it away completely.”

Also, in the Sahîh collected by Al-Bukhârî [As-Salfiyyah Edition vol.5 p.112], it was reported by Anas that he was the attendant (serving wine) to a group of people in the house of Abû Talha (his step-father), when the prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم ordered someone to announce that ‘Wine has certainly been forbidden.‘ Anas said, “So Abû Talha said to me, ‘Go out and pour it away.’ Thus I went and poured it away, and it flowed in the alleys of Medînah.”

If wine was physically impure, then the prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم would have directed the owner of the barrel to wash his barrel as it is the case when donkey meat was forbidden at the Campaign of Khaybar, when the prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said, “Pour it away and break the pots.” But they asked: ‘Should we throw the meat away and wash the pots?’ And he said, “If you wish.”

If wine had been a physical impurity, it would not have been spilled by Muslims in the markets of Medînah since it is not permissible to throw impurity on the roads of Muslims.

Shaykh Muhammad Rashîd Ridha said in his Fatâwâ [Majmuatu Fatâwa Al-Manâr p.1631]:

“In short, alcohol is a pure and purifying substance and a pillar in pharmacology and medical treatment and other manufactures. It is used in uncountable number of drugs. That forbidding Muslims from using it will prevent them from mastering several arts, sciences and many works. It is one of the greatest causes behind the excellence of the Europeans upon them (Muslims) such as chemistry, pharmacy, medicine, cure and manufacture. Certainly prohibiting its use in those things can lead to the death of many sick and wounded persons, or lead to increase in their period of illness and their pains.”

Indeed, this is a nice and strong statement – may Allâh have mercy on him.

Mixing certain drugs with alcohol does not mean they are forbidden if the concentration is of such a minute amount that its effects do not appear in the mixture, as mentioned by scholars.

Ibn Qudâmah said in Al-Mughnî [Al-Manâr ed. Vol. 8,p. 306]:

“If a person mixes flour and makes paste with it (meaning wine), then bakes and eats it, he is not to be punished because the fire has burned away the wine, removing its effect.”

In Al-Iqnâ’ [vol 4,p. 71] it is stated that:

“If the drinker were to mix it with water to the extent that he neutralised intoxicating effect, and turns the mixture such that it can bear the name of water, or treats his wounds with it (wine), he will not be caned (hadd), because he did not take it as a drink nor in a similar manner.”

This is also the implication deduced from hadîth and in accordance with Qiyâs (legal analogy).

A hadîth was reported from the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم that he said “Water is pure, nothing makes it impure, except when changed in its smell, taste or colour, by a Najâsah which occurs in it.” Even though the second part of the hadîth (i.e except) is weak, but there is a consensus of the scholars on abiding by its contents. The point of interest in the hadîth is that when Najâsah falls into it but does not change it, it retains its purity. Similarly, if wine is mixed with a Halâl substance, but does not affect it, then it remains Halâl.

There is a Ta’alîq [a narration with an incomplete chain of narrators] in the Sahîh of Al-Bukhârî [Vol. 9, p. 64] which states that: Abû Dardâ said concerning almurî [salted fish, made by placing it in wine and spread under the sun, changing the taste to other than that of wine] wine and sunshine have slaughtered whales.

The meaning of this statement (of Abû Dardâ) is that the fish – as a result of the salt placed on it and the sunshine it was exposed to, which removed the effect of the wine, hence making it halâl – is lawful to eat.

In addition, this view agrees with valid Qiyâs because:Wine (and all intoxicants) was prohibited due to the effect it causes (i.e intoxication). Whenever such an effect vanishes, the prohibition is removed. This is because rulings go hand-in-hand with their causes, as whenever the cause is certain and precise, as mentioned in a text or based on consensus, as is the case here.

Some people mistakenly thought that whatever is mixed with wine is forbidden, even if the quantity of the wine in the mixture is such that it does not have any observable effect in the mixture. They thought that this was the meaning of the hadîth which states : “Whatever intoxicates in large quantities, then its small quantity is also forbidden.” They said, “In this mixture there is a little of the wine (intoxicant) which intoxicates in large quantities, hence it becomes forbidden”.

They can, however, be answered as follows : that this small amount of wine is neutralised by something else, leaving it with no effects, neither in its qualities, nor on the ruling. The ruling thus goes to the overwhelming majority. As to the hadîth that says “Whatever intoxicates in large quantities, then its small quantity is also forbidden” means that if a drink is such that when taken in large quantities it intoxicates, and if taken in small quantities does not, then even small quantities of it is forbidden, because taking small quantities even though it does not intoxicate, leads to taking larger quantities. This is clearly explained in the hadîth reported by Â’isha – may Allâh have mercy on her – that the prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said, “Every intoxicant is forbidden, and whatever intoxicates if a Faraq (equal to 19 cubits) of it is taken, then a handful of it is forbidden.”

The meaning of the hadîth is that if an intoxicating drink is such that only a Faraq of it intoxicates, even a handful of it is forbidden, which is exactly the meaning of the previous hadîth, “Whatever intoxicates in large quantities, then its small quantity is also forbidden.”

Shaykh Muhammad bin Sâlih al-`Uthaymîn

(Guidelines and Fatâwa Related to Sickness and Medical Practise, p. 143-148)

Published by أبو زكريا عيسى الألباني

BSc (Hons) Microbiology | Qur'ān | Sunnah |

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