Are synthetic alcohols impure?

Quran

Hadith

Islamic Text

Yes, if they are intoxicating, otherwise they are pure.

يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنَّمَا الْخَمْرُ وَالْمَيْسِرُ وَالْأَنْصَابُ وَالْأَزْلَامُ رِجْسٌ مِنْ عَمَلِ الشَّيْطَانِ فَاجْتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

O you who believe. Indeed wine, gambling, (sacrificing to idols upon) altars and divining arrows are impurity from the (evil) work of Shaytaan. Shun them, so that you may succeed. (Surah al-Maidah, 90).

When it comes to alcohol being impure or not, we divide it into three groups:

  1. Khamr, which may be translated as wine. More specifically, it is alcohol that has been derived from dates or grapes. This is impure by agreement.
  2. Intoxicating liquids that are not derived from grapes or dates. These are impure, according to the strongest opinion in the Hanafi Madhab. Therefore, using them in cosmetics products etc will not be permissible.
  3. Liquids that are called alcohol, but they are not actually intoxicating. These are pure and will not affect the validity of one’s Salah, if he or she prays with them on the body or clothes. Furthermore, it will be permitted to purchase and sell these liquids. This is the position of the Hanafi Madhab.
وفي باقي الأشربة المحرمة ثلاث روايات التغليظ والتخفيف والطهارة كذا في البدائع وينبغي ترجيح التغليظ كما في البحر ورجح في النهر التخفيف. (حاشية الطحطاوي على مراقي الفلاح).

And regarding other intoxicating liquids there are three narrations, major impurity, minor impurity and purity, as has been mentioned in al-Badai. It is correct to consider major impurity the strongest opinion as mentioned in al-Bahr. In al-Nahr he considered minor impurity to be the soundest opinion.  (Imam al-Tahtawi, Haashiyah ala- Maraaqi al-Falah).

وَيَنْبَغِي تَرْجِيحُ التَّغْلِيظِ فِي الْجَمِيعِ. يَدُلُّ عَلَيْهِ مَا فِي غُرَرِ الْأَفْكَارِ مِنْ كِتَابِ الْأَشْرِبَةِ حَيْثُ قَالَ: وَهَذِهِ الْأَشْرِبَةُ عِنْدَ مُحَمَّدٍ وَمُوَافِقِيهِ كَخَمْرٍ بِلَا تَفَاوُتٍ فِي الْأَحْكَامِ وَبِهَذَا يُفْتَى فِي زَمَانِنَا. اهـ. فَقَوْلُهُ: بِلَا تَفَاوُتٍ فِي الْأَحْكَامِ يَقْتَضِي أَنَّهَا مُغَلَّظَةٌ فَتَدَبَّرْ. (رد المحتار)

It is correct to consider them all (Khamr and other intoxicating liquids) to be major impurities. This (opinion) is supported by the text in Gharar al-Afkaar, chapter of drinks. Where he said, ‘All of these drinks are like wine, without any difference in the legal rulings according to (Imam) Muhammad and those who agreed with him, and Fatwa should be given according to this in our time.’ (His saying) without any difference in the legal rulings, dictates them being major impurities, so reflect. (Imam Ibn Abideen, Radd al-Muhtaar).

Some people misunderstand the ruling of alcohol in Islam, they understand that it is prohibited to drink, but do not understand that it is an impurity. As we see in the verse above, it has been described as an impurity in the Holy Quran. Therefore, not only is it prohibited to consume, but just like any other impurity, for example, urine, it is also prohibited to have it on one’s body or clothes and doing so may render one’s prayer invalid.

(وَمِنْهَا) الْخَمْرُ وَالسَّكْرُ أَمَّا الْخَمْرُ؛ فَلِأَنَّ اللَّهَ تَعَالَى سَمَّاهُ رِجْسًا فِي آيَةِ تَحْرِيمِ الْخَمْرِ فَقَالَ: {رِجْسٌ مِنْ عَمَلِ الشَّيْطَانِ} [المائدة: 90] وَالرِّجْسُ: هُوَ النَّجِسُ. (بدائع الصنائع في ترتيب الشرائع)

And from amongst them (impurities) is wine and intoxicants. As for wine, Allah Most High called it impure (Rijs) in the verse prohibiting wine. He (Most High) said, impurity from the (evil) work of Shaytaan. (Surah al-Maidah, 90). And Rijs is impurity. (Imam al-Kaasaani, Badai).

As seen in the Nass above Hanafi scholars used the Ayah as a proof that wine is impure. This ruling is further supported by Hadith.

عَنْ أَبِي ثَعْلَبَةَ الْخُشَنِيِّ، أَنَّهُ سَأَلَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ: إِنَّا نُجَاوِرُ أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ وَهُمْ يَطْبُخُونَ فِي قُدُورِهِمُ الْخِنْزِيرَ وَيَشْرَبُونَ فِي آنِيَتِهِمُ الْخَمْرَ، فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: «إِنْ وَجَدْتُمْ غَيْرَهَا فَكُلُوا فِيهَا وَاشْرَبُوا، وَإِنْ لَمْ تَجِدُوا غَيْرَهَا فَارْحَضُوهَا بِالْمَاءِ وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا»

Abu Tha’labah al-khushani said that he asked the Messenger of Allah(ﷺ) saying, ‘We neighbour People of the Book and they cook swine in their pots and drink wine in their vessels.’ The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, ‘If you find other (pots or vessels) then eat and drink using them. But if you do not find any others, then wash them with water and eat and drink.’ (Sunan Abi Dawood 3839, Hasan).

Although this Hadith is not explicit regarding the issue at hand and is primarily dealing with another matter. Nevertheless, it does establish the requirement to wash out containers used for wine, prior to using them.

In conclusion we see that intoxicating alcohols are impure. However, non-intoxicating alcohol is considered pure and it is not of concern to have it on one’s body or clothes when praying Salah. It can be quite tricky to identify which alcohols are intoxicating and which alcohols are not intoxicating. Therefore, experts should be consulted when trying to clarify this issue.

And Allah (Most High) Knows Best.

– Answered by Shaykh Noorud-deen (31.05.2021)

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