Can I use perfumes which contain alcohol?
Can a follower of the Shafi’i madhab use cosmetics (e.g. perfume, lotion, shampoo) that contain alcohol? Someone told me if the alcohol is intoxicating, it is considered filth (najas); otherwise it is not. For example, ethyl alcohol is filth because it is intoxicating but cetyl alcohol is not filth because it is not intoxicating. I am aware in the Hanafi madhab one can use any alcohol except alcohol from grapes and dates. Can you please clarify? Can you please tell me which type of alcohol is permissible to use in the Shafi’i madhab?
The correct opinion that the Shaf'i school of jurisprudence and the other schools maintain is that alcohol is not filth in itself and it is permissible to be utilized in [manufacturing] perfumes, detergents, medicine and other useful usages. If one performs prayer while wearing perfume containing alcohol, his prayer is valid. This is because of the following reasons:
1- It is established in Shari'ah [En. Islamic law] that objects are principally pure [Ar.tahir]. Although it is prohibited in Shari'ah to drink alcohol, it does not necessitate it to be filth [Ar. Najesa]. This is because ruling on alcohol to be filthy in Shari'ah would necessitate separate evidence. Narcotics/drugs and poisonous substances are prohibited, though they are pure, because there is no evidence on its filth. The legal standard state, "Filth is attached to prohibition; prohibition does not necessitate objects to be filth. Any filthy object is prohibited and not otherwise".
2- The Shafi'is generally consider all liquid intoxicants of grabs as wine and stipulate for the filthiness of the liquid to have the property of causing strong state of intoxication. The Hanafis stipulate for the filthiness of the liquid to produce foam. The Shafi' also applied this to all liquid intoxicants other than grabs which also cause strong state of intoxication and they considered them prohibited and filthy. The Hanafis maintain that any liquid intoxicants other than grabs are not filth; though they have considered it prohibited to be taken.
Based on this, alcohol is not considered as wine or filthy. It is not also a liquid intoxicant, unlike wine which scholars have differed over determining its filthy or pure properties. Alcohol is merely a toxicant substance and it is not meant to be drunk in normal conditions for the sake of intoxication. Rather, it is prohibited to take toxicant substances because it is harmful and destructive. Alcohol is pure the same as hashish and opium and all of them are harmful.
3- Alcohol is not naturally drinkable. Although being a liquid, it is not necessary for alcohol to be filthy. According to the most valid opinion of the Shafi's that every intoxicant beverage is filthy. The Shafi's
refer to intoxicant beverage as any liquid that cause strong state of intoxication. They did not use the term liquid in order not to generalize the ruling and consider all liquid intoxicants as filth. Rather, it is conditioned for liquid intoxicants to be drinkable to consider them filthy.
4- The principle is that intoxicant drinkable liquids are prohibited by the texts of Shari'ah. However, any other liquid which is not naturally drinkable such as alcohols is not prohibited by the texts unless there is separate evidence on this especially that it was not available during the time when the ruling was legislated. However, it is prohibited to be taken because of being harmful.
5- Filth is governed by the laws of Shari'ah and it is not a chemical fact. This means that wine is considered filth in the Shari'ah, while the chemical analysis proved that alcohol is considered the intoxicant element in wine. This mere chemical fact does not necessitate alcohol to be filth or prohibited when it is found in liquids other than wine. This is because it is not necessary for the generated elements of a filthy compound to be impure. There is a consensus that filth includes urine and excrement which are made up of chemical elements that can be found in pure things; rather in food and drink. However, filthiness and impurities attached to them as an outcome of the presence of certain filthy compounds. Fermentation only occurs when the object contains a sugary substance, or the fermentation can never be occurred such as the case with colocynth. Fermentation is the conversion of the sugary substance to carbonic acid and alcohol. Consequently, the liquid becomes intoxicant because of the presence of alcohol. Alcohol in itself is not intoxicant, however it is harmful. If someone merely drinks alcohol, he would either fall asleep or be unconscious. In order to transform alcohol to intoxicant liquid, we should mix one part of alcohol with three parts of water and distill the whole amount and it will produce wine. Mixing alcohol with water turns it to intoxicant liquid. The variety of intoxicant liquids result from the different sugar degrees formed when mixing alcohol with much or little amount of water. 'Arrack contains 40% or more of alcohol, the remaining kinds of wine contain 10% of alcohol, beer which is made from barely contains 5% of alcohol and so forth. Alcohol in itself is a toxicant substance and it only becomes intoxicant when mixed with water.
6- Imam al-Nawawi said in al-Minhaj: "filth includes every liquid intoxicant". Thereupon, some Shafi'is doubted this and mentioned that there are some liquid intoxicants which are not filthy such as liquid hashish. The advocators of imam al-Nawawi interpreted his saying "liquid" as causing strong state of intoxication. Consequently, there is a consensus that not every liquid intoxicant is filth, and it is a condition for the liquid to cause a strong state of intoxication to consider it filth. However, imam al-Nawawi said in the section titled "drinks" of al-Minhaj: "Any beverage that intoxicates when taken in large quantities is unlawful both in small and large quantities. The penalty for drinking [a liquid intoxicant] is obligatory enforced against anyone who drinks".
7- It is established [in the Shari'ah] that when the essence and characteristics of objects change, its legal ruling subsequently changes. For instance, filth becomes pure if it is mixed with much amount of
water, and the color, taste and odor of water remain unchanged. Alcohol is not considered as wine if it is mixed with perfume, medicine or detergents. There is also consensus among scholars that if wine converts to vinegar, it is considered pure by the Shari'ah, even with chemists finding traces of alcohol in it.
8- The Shafi's define filth as inexcusable impurity that invalidates prayer. Alcohol is not impure by itself; rather it is a natural detergent that has the ability to remove filth that water and soap can not remove. It is also used in manufacturing some perfumes and medicine compounds. It is merely a substance prepared for sterilizing structures and perfume. Claiming that such perfumes [containing alcohol] are considered as filth is a naturally rejected matter. In addition, perfume is not defined as wine either in language or common custom or usage. The absurd usage of alcohol through taking or drinking does not draw it away form being perfume.
In his book Qawa'id al-Ahkam fi Masaleh al-Anam, the Shafi scholar 'Izz al-Deen Ibn Abd al-Salam said: "The principle is that pure objects maintain good properties and impure (najis) objects maintain impure properties. Therefore, if juice turns to wine, it then becomes filth because it is considered impure by the Sahri'ah. However, if juice turns to vinegar, it is then pure because it is considered pure and approved by the Shari'ah. The same applies to the milk of animals that are eaten by [Muslims], nasal mucus, saliva, tears, sweat, the animals created from filth, fruits watered by impure water, the eggs of the animals that are eaten, musk and rennet [if taken from a slaughtered suckling lamb] all of the above objects are pure because they are turned to pure based state.
Scholars differed over the ash of filth. Some scholars maintained that ash of filth is pure relying on the fact that its impure properties are transformed into pure ones. While filth becomes pure when its impure properties transform to purity, the same is the case with objects contaminated with filth where they become pure when filth is removed. Scholars also differed over tanning the hid of animals; some scholars maintained that purifying an animal hid through tanning means removing excess blood, fat, hair and so forth; others maintained that it is purified through being transformed into pure object and the rest maintained that it consists of both components".
The Maliki scholar, al-Qarafi said in his book al-Thakhira: "There is a rule that clarifies what is mentioned above: Allah has limited filth to certain objects on the condition that such objects carry certain impure properties; otherwise all objects are pure. The difference that exists between objects in regard to filth and purity is relating to the properties of filth. There is a consensus that if the properties of filth attached to the object are completely disappeared, the object then is considered pure. For example, blood transforms to sperm and then to human being. On the other hand, if the properties of filth become greater, the object is then established as impure, such as the case when blood turns to pus, menstrual bleeding or dead. However, if the properties of filth attached to an object become lesser; in this case the degree of impurity is present in the object but is not its complete concentration. Therefore,
the object in this case takes the same ruling that the scholars unanimously agreed upon. This is the general opinion of the scholars regarding this issue. Consequently, scholars (may Allah have mercy on them) differentiated between wine that becomes vinegar as they declared it to be pure, and filthy bones become ash and declared it as filth because of the presence of impurities attached to it".
Sheikh Bakhit al-Muti'I has given a fatwa in 1351 A.H declaring that alcohol is not filth and it is not like wine. Dar al-Iftaa maintains this opinion and has issued fatwas on this subject during the time of Sheikh Muhammad Khatir in 27 Dhul Qi'dah 1391 A.H-13 January 1927 A.D. Sheikh Muhammad Rashid Reda approved this opinion, a group of the contemporary scholars and some of the authentic scientific institutions such as the legal fatawa issued by Fatawa sector in the Ministry of Endowments in Kuwait. Based on this, alcohol is not considered wine neither by the Shafi'is nor others. It is then permissible to use it in perfumes, detergents and medicine.