If our heads weren’t hurting enough over the Islamic debate on whether smoking cigarettes is makrūh, harām or death itself, along comes another pain in the backside: e-cigarettes.
The modern e-cigarette comes in a few different forms such as an e-pen, e-pipe, e-hookah etc and are known collectively as electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). They are basically vaporisers, devices that allow users to inhale an aerosol (vapour) containing nicotine or other substances. They are battery-operated and use a heating element to heat e-liquid from a refillable cartridge, releasing a chemical-filled aerosol.
The idea here is that smoking normal cigarettes are super-harmful because of the effects of smoking tobacco, tar and thousands of other carcinogens on our bodies and lungs in particular all in order to get a shot of the addictive drug nicotine.
So what if we can get you your shot of nicotine but without having to burn tobacco and all the nasty stuff, surely that is better right? And so “vaping” is all the rage: here we get nicotine in an e-liquid form (and sometimes flavoured to reel in the kids) and inhale its vapour through this device. Almost like an artificial cigarette but instead it is meant to be “safe and clean”.
To make things worse, it’s not just smoking which is undergoing an artificial revolution. Drug laws have always made it difficult for people to get hold of marijuana and smoke weed and get high and stoned out of their heads. Naturally, the effects of smoking weed come with very similar harms to that of smoking a cigarette.
So what if we can get you your shot of weed but without having to smoke it or fall foul of the drug laws etc, surely that is better right? And so “vaping” – not with nicotine e-liquid – but with c-liquid is now spreading: here we get a synthetic cannabinoid (an artificial, manufactured product which mimics the psychotropic active ingredient in cannabis) in an e-liquid form and inhale its vapour through this device. Almost like an artificial joint but instead it is meant to be “safe and clean”.
Lā ilāha illallāh.
We are now not just faced with the issue of whether using e-cigarettes in their original form is permissible or not, but also the worrying development of people – especially the youth – using novel concoctions such as synthetic cannabis which effectively gives you weed through vaping in what might seem a “clean and pure” way and not get you thrown in prison either. I want to concentrate on this latter issue more but let me put the first one to bed.
The mass majority of scholars and fiqh councils consider the smoking, manufacturing and supplying of cigarettes to be impermissible. This position of ḥarām should be the public stated ruling of the Muslims in order to push people away from cigarettes which is something harmful to the body, something repulsive in its effect on appearance and smell, and something displeasing to Allah jalla wa ‘alā. This ruling also applies to shisha and hookah which are very common in Muslim gatherings, despite popular belief to the contrary. Shisha is actually at least ten times more harmful than just smoking cigarettes and even more clearly impermissible.
There should be no doubt whatsoever about promoting these legal positions to the masses.
However e-cigarettes have been deemed to be less harmful than normal cigarettes because of the lack of tobacco and the reduction of carcinogens. This is undoubtedly true and thus some Health Authorities consider “vaping” a safer alternative. However, from an Islamic point of view, “safer” as a word and a concept needs further investigation.
It is safer to jump out of a window five stories high, than jumping out of a window twenty stories high. That doesn’t make it safe to jump out of a window.
The nicotine inhaled from an e-cigarette is still the original nicotine drug found in a cigarette, a drug which is addictive, a poison in large quantities, cell-damaging in small quantities including apoptosis, necrosis and DNA splitting, and thought by some to cause cancer and real damage to the body. This is the harm which renders the intake of nicotine to be impermissible regardless of whether that intake is via a cigarette, cigar, shisha pipe, vaping on a e-cigarette or anything else, as the Prophet ﷺ said, “Let there be no harm or any reciprocation of harm.”
Also, the wider ingredients that make up a typical solution which is vaporised in an e-cigarette are also problematic. Although not as many as in normal “smoked” tobacco cigarettes, there are a number of other carcinogenic components in e-cigarette vapour – some identified such as formaldehyde and diacetyl, some not – which cause harm to the body, and in particular to cells and their DNA. A number of countries continue to ban e-cigarettes due to the evidence body that is building against them showing their real harm.
As for the social impact: statistics show more and more school children getting involved with e-cigarettes (my own 13 year old in a decent public school tells me that it is rife in his year). Mitch Zeller of the FDA, the body responsible for drugs and medicines regulation in the USA, says, “The striking increase in middle school and high school use of e-cigarettes . . . is really a public health emergency.”
Moreover, the respected journal JAMA Pediatrics published a study which shows that one is four times more likely to start smoking normal cigarettes after using e-cigarettes, than not using e-cigarettes at all. And even if they don’t move onto cigarettes, every puff of “pure” nicotine that is inhaled via one of these devices is causing untold damage. Zeller continues, “I can say definitively that nicotine is harmful to the developing teenage brain. And no teenager, no young person, should be using any tobacco or nicotine-containing products.”
After a good few years of decreasing cigarette use amongst teens, we are starting to reverse all that good work by ignoring the danger behind the “innocence” of vaping.
Therefore, it is impermissible to use e-cigarettes because of their harmful nature, and in addition they also break the fast due to the ingestion of nicotine as well as the manner of its ingestion, identical to the rulings applied to normal cigarettes.
It should be noted that vaporiser devices also take non-nicotine e-liquids of different flavours and aromas which can be “vaped”, being marketed as a shisha-esque cool alternative. However, the presence of carcinogens in the vapour which is inhaled – regardless of the presence of nicotine or not – has proved to be damaging to cell development and one cannot rely on the safety of the different concoctions on the market. At the very least, all of these products should be avoided to safeguard one’s deen from its doubtful legal nature, to protect one’s health from the clear threat of carcinogens, and last but not least to protect one’s honour from the rightful shame associated with such pathetic and weak behaviour which is more the wont of the people of Shaytān than the people of Allah.
The Use Of E-Cigarettes In Nicotine Addiction
If one cannot overcome his/her smoking addiction after trying and failing with every other possible means, I hold it to be permissible for such a person to move to e-cigarettes as part of a program that will titrate the smoker downwards and off smoking, and then vaping too, altogether. Despite the harm of vaping, it is not as dangerous as smoking, and will become the lesser of the two evils performed due to the necessity of addiction. This is of course for a limited time only as a course of treatment, and not a fatwa for continued use of vaping/e-cigarettes. And Allah knows best.
The Use Of “Marijuana E-Liquid” In E-Cigarettes
If cannabis didn’t have enough slang synonyms as it is, here’s another one: “marijuana e-liquid” or more commonly known as “c-liquid”. What is the ruling of using this liquid in a vape device and thus avoiding all the dangers of physically smoking it as dry weed/skunk etc?
The main psychotropic ingredient of cannabis is a compound called tetrahydrocannabinol or better known as THC, and is what gives cannabis/marijuana/weed its intoxicating and thus impermissible effect.
Due to drug laws making it difficult to work with naturally occurring cannabis, as well as the undoubted harmful effects of inhaling the smoke which is produced when weed is smoked in a joint/cigarette, people started to focus on a product free from the above restrictions by creating compounds synthetically which mimic the action of THC.
They eventually created cannabinoid compounds which they called “synthetic marijuana” which act on the same cell receptors as those affected by the THC in all-natural marijuana. That means they create more or less the same feeling of intoxication, altered perception, relaxation, euphoria, “being high” and “stoned” as one finds with normal smoked cannabis/weed.
The synthetic marijuana was then either smoked directly, or turned into a spray which was sprayed onto natural herbs that were smoked, or in current times, turned into an e-liquid so that it could be vaporised and vaped in an e-cigarette device. The use of this “c-liquid” is rocketing amongst young people especially due to its perceived cleanness, legality (it’s not technically cannabis), and cool status.
Again, similar to the case of cigarettes and e-cigarettes, the ruling which will apply to marijuana will apply to synthetic versions as well. This is without taking into consideration the harms of the associated carcinogens which are inhaled along with the marijuana vapour, which would be enough to bring doubt to the whole issue. So what is that ruling on marijuana?
The General Ruling On Cannabis/Marijuana
Cannabis – also known by its other colourful slang names of spliff, marijuana, ganja, weed, hash, skunk etc – was used initially as a food product thousands of years ago and then later for other uses. It is well known across the Muslim world in all of its slightly different forms; whether we call it charas/qinnab (Indian hemp), hashīsh, banjj, and so on, they are all either solid resin, liquid, or herbal forms of cannabis plants, either purified, or slightly mixed with other compounds.
As a recreational drug, it is completely impermissible to use marijuana by consensus of the scholars. Those ignorant of usūl’l-fiqh have sometimes argued that there is no single ḥadīth or Qur’ānic verse which prohibits drugs like marijuana. Not only is this not true, but Islamic law is also dependent on the use of qiyās or the tool of analogy. As Allah has prohibited alcohol consumption for its intoxicating effect, anything which similarly intoxicates is also impermissible. It is for this reason that the Ummah has unanimously held the impermissibility of drugs such as cannabis.
Ibn Taymiyyah said in Majmū‘ al-Fatāwa (34/206):
“Hashīsh is one of those things which Allah and His Messenger ﷺ have prohibited from the categories of alcohol and intoxicants – in name and meaning – and the aḥādīth on the matter are many. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ with his pithy speech has referred to every single substance which impairs the ability to think and intoxicates, and he did not differentiate between the forms they may take or whether they are eaten or drunk.
As for the one who claims there is no āyah or ḥadīth concerning these forms, then that is from his ignorance. The Qur’ān and Ḥadīth use comprehensive words, and establish general principles and rules that cover all matters under it. All of these products are mentioned in the Qur’ān and Ḥadīth using their general name because it wouldn’t be possible to mention all their many individual names.
So just like Allah sent Muḥammad ﷺ to all of the creation, He said, “Say [O Muhammad], ‘People, I am the Messenger of Allah to you all’” (7:158) and He said, “We have sent you [O Prophet] only to bring good news and warning to all people” (34:28) and He said, “Exalted is He who has sent the Differentiator down to His servant so that it may be a warning to all people” (25:1) and He said “It was only as a mercy that We sent you [O Prophet] to all people” (21:108).
The word “people” and “‘ālamīn” include the Arabs, the Persians, the Romans, the Indians, the Berbers etc. If someone said “Muḥammad was not sent to the Turks, the Indians and Berbers because Allah did not mention them in the Qur’ān” then he is an ignoramous, similar to if someone said that he was not sent to the tribes of Bani Tamīm, or Bani Asad, or Bani Ghaṭafān and any other tribes. Allah did not name these tribes by their specific names!”
This is not the place to go through all the evidences that establish the impermissibility of cannabis and intoxicants like it – perhaps another time – but the consensus on hashīsh’s forbidden nature is clear.
Ibn Rajab al-Ḥanbali commenting on the statement of the Prophet ﷺ in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim that, “Every intoxicant is a khamr, and every khamr is forbidden,” said:
“An intoxicant brings about pleasure and joy…a group of the scholars said, “This doesn’t matter whether it is a solid or a liquid, whether it is eaten or drunk, whether it comes from a seed or a date or from milk or whatever.” That is why ḥashīsh resin made from the leaves of the cannabis plant was included as well as other substances which are consumed, because of the pleasure they induce and because of their intoxicating effect.” (Jāmi‘ al-‘Ulūm wal-Ḥikam, 2/464).
Ibn Ḥajr and al-Nawawi confirmed the same ruling as in al-Fatḥ al-Bāri, 10/47.
For those who just think that cannabis is prohibited due to its intoxicating effect should also be aware of its many health risks. Apart from the obvious short-term dangers related to being intoxicated such as driving and other mechanical tasks, and of course the inability to make dhikr and perform obligatory prayers, there are long term risks too. Fertility can be affected, carcinogens in the smoke can cause all the problems mentioned earlier, but worst of all are its links to developing a number of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia etc. Indeed, many cases presented to Muslim faith healers (for ruqyah) as jinn possession or black magic, are nothing more than drug use such as cannabis, something which I have personally witnessed a number of times.
The Ruling On Marijuana E-Liquid
The ruling on recreational use of c-liquid or any form of cannabis product, whether natural or synthetic cannabinoid, solid or liquid, smoke or vapour, is the same. They are all completely impermissible in Islam.
Islamic law does not look to the form of the substance, but to its impact and effect. As we have established above, once a substance has an intoxicating effect then it becomes forbidden to ingest it in any form, and in any amount, despite any argument that small amounts will not intoxicate. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Whatever intoxicates in large quantities, a little of it is also harām.” (Tirmidhi, 1865)
C-Liquid and other forms of marijuana e-liquid to be vaporised and inhaled, all aim to create a euphoric and intoxicating effect on the user, and this must be avoided at all costs.
– smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products is forbidden
– “vaping” or inhaling vapour from an e-cigarette with nicotine in it, is forbidden
– smoking and ingesting marijuana and cannabis products is forbidden
– vaping “marijuana” synthetic cannabinoid e-liquid is forbidden
– vaping substances which have no nicotine or marijuana, should be avoided
And Allah knows best.