Merely disapproved of or forbidden by Islam?

by Shahid Aziz

The Light (UK), August 2011 Issue (pp. 4–6)

It is generally thought that smoking cigarettes is merely disapproved of but not forbidden, in Islam.  Many Muslims use this excuse to ignore the advice to stop smoking. This is an attempt to answer the question asked above.

Cigarettes, like many other things, did not exist during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). So, in order to decide whether Islam prohibits, disapproves or allows smoking, we have to see whether there are any Commands prohibiting similar substances and the reasons for the prohibition. To use an example, one cannot argue that because Heroin is not forbidden in the Holy Quran it should be available freely in Muslim majority countries. 

If there are no specific prohibitions about similar substances, we need to look at the overall Islamic teaching with regard to human life and draw conclusions from those general Commandments. Islam allows Muslims to develop law by the use of comparators, consensus, common sense, etc. One approach is to look at why something is prohibited. In general legal theory the question we ask is:

“What mischief was it that the law was designed to prevent?”

This interpretive approach is common in ordinary courts of law.

Although there are no specific rulings as far as cigarettes and similar substances are concerned, the Holy Quran and the authentic traditions of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) make general statements prohibiting eating and drinking, which may be harmful.  As a rule, the Holy Quran forbids everything that is bad.  It says:

یَاۡمُرُہُمۡ بِالۡمَعۡرُوۡفِ وَ یَنۡہٰہُمۡ عَنِ الۡمُنۡکَرِ وَ یُحِلُّ لَہُمُ الطَّیِّبٰتِ وَ یُحَرِّمُ عَلَیۡہِمُ الۡخَبٰٓئِثَ وَ یَضَعُ عَنۡہُمۡ اِصۡرَہُمۡ وَ الۡاَغۡلٰلَ الَّتِیۡ کَانَتۡ عَلَیۡہِمۡ ؕ

“He (The Holy Prophet Muhammad) enjoins them good and forbids them evil, and makes lawful to them the good things and prohibits for them impure things, and removes from them their burden and the shackles which were on them.”  (The Holy Quran, 7:157)

Evil mentioned in the above verse is something that harms our body or our soul.  Thus, if, in accordance with this verse of the Holy Quran, we can show that smoking is harmful, this should be enough for Muslims to realise that smoking is forbidden because as the verse quoted above says everything that is bad is prohibited. Smoking kills. This is even stated on the warning on the cigarette packets. Smoking causes lung cancer, breathing problems and heart disease, among other diseases, which kill humans.

In addition to the verse quoted above the Holy Quran says:

وَ لَا تُلۡقُوۡا بِاَیۡدِیۡکُمۡ اِلَی التَّہۡلُکَۃِ ۚۖۛ

“… and cast not yourselves to perdition with your own hands …” (The Holy Quran, 2:195)

By smoking we are putting ourselves in harms way which is against this specific injunction of the Holy Quran. Smoking is also the cause of many devastating fires because the smoker fell asleep while smoking, setting their bed and subsequently the whole house on fire. This is a violation of this injunction of the Holy Quran.

Smoking is a waste and the Holy Quran forbids waste:

وَ لَا تُبَذِّرۡ تَبۡذِیۡرًا ﴿۲۶﴾ اِنَّ الۡمُبَذِّرِیۡنَ کَانُوۡۤا اِخۡوَانَ الشَّیٰطِیۡنِ ؕ وَ کَانَ الشَّیۡطٰنُ لِرَبِّہٖ کَفُوۡرًا ﴿۲۷﴾

“… and squander not wastefully. Surely the squanderers are the devil’s brethren. And the devil is ever ungrateful to his Lord.” (The Holy Quran, 17:26–27)

Also, smoking harms all those in the company of the smoker.  The Holy Prophet said:

“There should be neither harm, nor reciprocating harm.” (Sheikh al-Albani, Saheeh al-Jaami # 7517)1

Passive smokers experience breathing problems because they inhale the smoke from the smoker’s pipe or cigarette, especially those suffering from bronchial asthma. Smoking of parents has been linked to respiratory problems in their children and cot death. The Holy Quran says:

وَ لَا تَقۡتُلُوۡۤا اَنۡفُسَکُمۡ ؕ

“And kill not your people.” (The Holy Quran, 4:29)

As has been said earlier, smoking in bed causes many fires. People may remember that there are sometimes public service advertisements on the television, which warn people of this danger. These fires endanger lives of other people living in the building thus violating this verse of the Holy Book.

Smokers set a bad example to others and invite them to something that is evil in disobedience to Allah. When a person smokes openly he encourages others.

Smoking causes people to neglect religious devotions. Many smokers dislike fasting because they constantly crave cigarettes. The smoker is an addict, both physically and psychologically.

Smoking makes everything smell of cigarettes, e.g., car, clothes, home, etc. Therefore, when a smoker prays in congregation, he makes his fellow worshippers uncomfortable with his smell. The Holy Prophet said:

“Whoever has eaten from such greens as garlic, onions or leek should keep away from our mosque ….” (Sahih al-Bukhari)

The purpose of this injunction was to make sure that the congregation or any part of it is not distracted in its remembrance of Allah.

This is clear evidence that smoking is bad and therefore it is forbidden. To relieve stress a Muslim must turn to Allah for help. The Holy Quran says:

اَلَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا وَ تَطۡمَئِنُّ قُلُوۡبُہُمۡ بِذِکۡرِ اللّٰہِ ؕ اَلَا بِذِکۡرِ اللّٰہِ تَطۡمَئِنُّ الۡقُلُوۡبُ ﴿ؕ۲۸﴾

“Those who believe and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah. Now surely in Allah’s remembrance do hearts find rest.” (The Holy Quran, 13:28)

Smokers find it very hard to give up their habit. We are approaching the month of Ramadan and in this month we give up many lawful things, even those on which our own lives or future of humanity depends, so why not try and give up something that is, as has been shown above, forbidden by Islam. The Quran says:

وَ الَّذِیۡنَ جَاہَدُوۡا فِیۡنَا لَنَہۡدِیَنَّہُمۡ سُبُلَنَا ؕ وَ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ لَمَعَ الۡمُحۡسِنِیۡنَ ﴿٪۶۹﴾

“And those who strive hard for Us, We shall certainly guide them in Our ways. And Allah is surely with the doers of good.” (The Holy Quran, 29:69)

Giving up smoking is to strive in the way of Allah.


  1. Quoted by Syed Amaanullah in his article on smoking on Facebook.