Clergy Corner

Prohibition of Smoking in Islam

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Ayatollah Nasir Makarem ShiraziIt has become clear to us that the risks of cigarette smoking are serious based on what a group of expert doctors and professors have stated and the showings of statistics about the deaths and illnesses caused by cigarette smoking.Ayatollah Nasir  Makarem ShiraziTranslator’s Note: Some scholars and seminary students asked Grand Ayatollah Nasir Makarem Shirazi about his scholarly reasons for prohibiting smoking. This is a brief overview of his reasons. It is intended for scholars and seminary students who are familiar with the methods of deriving Islamic law; however, it is certainly not without benefit for the layperson.

I had given this edict (Fatwa) several years ago with stipulations. I stated in Tawdih Al-Masa’il (book of Islamic laws): “If smoking cigarettes (and other such products) has a significant harm based on the testimony of experts, then it is forbidden.”

Lately, however, it has become clear to us that the risks of cigarette smoking are serious based on what a group of expert doctors and professors have stated and the showings of statistics about the deaths and illnesses caused by cigarette smoking. Even the children and those who interact with smokers are not immune from its harms. Therefore, we gave an edict that it is unconditionally forbidden to smoke cigarettes. We ask God to protect all of the Muslims, especially the youth, who are the first victims to this life-ruining calamity, and that they are intelligently careful in regards to themselves, those around them, and their friends. God-willing, we will be alive to see our society cleansed from this smoke-filled pollution.

At this point, based on the repeated request of the scholars, we will briefly refer to the methodical proofs for this matter:

  1. Verse 2:195 of the Holy Qur’an states: “Do not place yourself in ruin with your own hands.” And based on the statistics announced by doctors who specialize in this field, cigarette-related deaths reach up to five million people a year. And the statistics about the dangerous heart ailments, lung diseases, and cancers which are caused by cigarette smoke are also very high. Therefore, smoking cigarettes is a way of placing oneself in ruin.
  2. We have the rule of “no harm and causing no harm” (laa dharar wa laa dhiraar), which is derived from numerous traditions. Even though it is in relation to causing harms to others, we know that that the usage of a general intent does not limit the rule. Therefore, it also includes harm to oneself.
  3. In a well-known tradition of Fiqh Al-Ridha, it is stated: “Every affair that there is destruction in from prohibited matters …is an unlawful matter which is harmful for the body and a corruption for the soul.” There is also a similar tradition to this in Tuhaf Al-Uqool. Based on these traditions, anything that poses a serious risk of harm to a person’s body is unlawful. Certainly, trivial and minor harms that exist in all things are unavoidable and are not the intent of these traditions. What are intended are major harms.
  4. Some people have the habit of eating dirt, which has been phrased as a form of evil whisperings in Islamic traditions. And it has been sternly forbidden, because it harms people. A tradition says, “Eating dirt brings about illness in the body and stimulates pain.” Therefore, the first reason that the late Shaheed has mentioned for its unlawfulness in his book Al-Masaalik is bodily harm. All of this shows that prohibition of harmful things are clear; even an obligatory fast that is harmful must be abandoned, and obligatory baths (Ghusl) and ablutions (Wudhu) turn to Tayammum if they are harmful.
  5. Beyond all of this, and based on the clear principle of “whatever that sound intellect rules, Islamic law rules”, there is no room for doubt about the prohibition of cigarettes and other forms of smoking in our day and age, where its significant harms have become clear to all scientists. The edicts of all the religious authorities forbidding narcotics are derived from what was stated here.

Some Alarming Statistics

  • Close to ten million smokers in Iran spend more than three billion Toman a day on cigarettes (meaning more than one trillion Toman yearly).
  • On average, governments spend twice as much as is spent on cigarettes on dealing with smoking-related illnesses, an amount close to 6 billion toman daily and 2 trillion a year in Iran.
  • The youth and adolescents (the ages between 10 to 15) are the real targets of cigarette companies and are at high risk of starting and becoming addicted to smoking.
  • Cigarettes are a trap for youth getting addicted to smoking and drugs and getting caught up in other social corruptions.
  • Non-smokers, especially the spouses and children of smokers, are at risk from the dangers of smoking just as much as smokers. These innocent individuals forcibly face health risks.
  • American cigarette companies produce more than six billion cigarettes a year, close to 3 percent of which are used in America and the remaining 97 percent are shipped to other countries, particularly poor and developing countries. American companies make over 300 billion dollars in profits in this way, which is equal to 20 years of oil sales of Iran.

Expert Testimony

At this point, we will place the discussion in the hands of the experts who are in the forefront in fighting this affliction.  They have testified that cigarettes are the main cause or assist in the coming about of 50 types of illnesses and 20 forms of cancer. Five million people die yearly from illnesses caused by cigarettes. Ten million people died in four years during World War I, but those who die in four years from cigarettes total 20 million people.

By the year 2020, 20 million people will die yearly from illnesses related to cigarette smoking, with the difference that seven million of them will be from developing countries and 3 million from the developed countries.

The author of over a hundred books and articles on religious and social topics, including a commentary on the Holy Qur’an, Ayatollah Nasir Makarem Shirazi is followed as a Religious Authority by millions of Shias around the world today. He lives and teaches in the holy city of Qom, Iran.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Islamic Insights would like to thank Sayyid Baqir Imrani for translating this article from Farsi into English.

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