Are Intoxicants Permissible for Medical Use?
Question: Assalamu alaykum
I have read many Fatwa’s which say that grape wine is absolutely impermissible for a Muslim to consume because of its intoxicating properties. Yet, when one is prescribed pain medication for back pain (for example), they can become intoxicated by its effects. Nonetheless, pain medication is not seen as a haram intoxicant even though most pain medications come from Opiates which descend from the Poppy plant, which is also used to make Heroin.
Similarly, is Cannabis also an intoxicant in the same way as alcohol? What if it is legally prescribed as pain medication in one’s own country?
Answer: Assalam ‘alaykum. Jazakum Allah khayr for your question.
The legal principle is that every intoxicant is unlawful. This includes liquid intoxicants, such as alcohol, and non-liquid intoxicants, such as cannabis, opium, cocaine etc. All are unlawful, however, the difference between these two is that liquid intoxicants are impure (najas) and non-liquid intoxicants are pure (tahir).
The questions then, are a) Can intoxicants be used when there is a genuine need? And b) Can impure substances be used when there is a genuine need?
a) Can intoxicants be used when there is a genuine need?
The scholars have stated that in the presence of a genuine medical need, pure intoxicants maybe used to treat medical conditions. Therefore, strictly medical use of herbs and plants, such as opiates and cannabis may be utilised for medical conditions. This is on the conditions:
1. There is a genuine need
2. That no lawful alternative exists
3. One takes only the amount needed
4. That a qualified, upright, Muslim physician has prescribed it, or one knows with certainty of its benefits from previous experience.
b) Can impure substances be used when there is a genuine need?
In regards using impure substances for a genuine medical need, whether intoxicants or not, the (Shafi’i) scholars differentiate between alcohol and non-alcohol substances. They also differentiate between pure alcohol and admixed alcohol.
Pure alcohol: Pure alcohol, meaning not admixed with other substances, is not permissible to take in any case, unless one is choking to death, and there is no alternative.
Admixed alcohol: Alcohol that has been mixed with other substances, is permitted to use with the following conditions:
1. That the alcohol has been admixed such that there are no traces of alcohol in the medicine.
2. That there is a genuine medical need
3. That there is no pure alternative to the medicine.
4. One takes only the amount needed
5. That one has been informed by an upright Muslim physician, or that one knows through their own experience.
Non-alcoholic impure substances: Non-alcoholic impure substances, such as dogs milk, camel’s urine etc., take on the same ruling and conditions 2 – 5 mentioned in admixed alcohol above.
[Mughni al Muhtaj, Tuhfat al Muhtaj]
I pray this clarifies the rulings for you insha’Allah.
Please also refer to related answers:
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah