by Rutgers University Muslim Students Association


Unspoken Truths

The Grapes of Wrath

By: Part Time Punjabi

AsSalamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuh

Alhamdulillah. You know, life is very confusing. And more confusing and twisted things make it worse! Especially when we are working on improving our deen and trying to get our questions answered. One time I was so sure about one topic related to the fiqh of clothing in Islam and then after reading a short book about it, I was completely lost. It is hard to find quick and easy answers. That is because Islam is a science. You need to do your research. A person with moderate level of knowledge in the sciences will be blind to the miracles of Islamic knowledge. However, a person who knows his or her field in depth will be astonished at what the Qur’an says about many scientific miracles.

Recently, I’ve been asked to publish one of my research “articles” to the RU-MSA blog. The original “article” was actually a response to a brother’s question regarding alcohol and more importantly, the identification of alcohol. The names in the “article” have been changed to protect their identity.

As an aspiring chemistry scholar, I knew the answer to Brother Kevin’s questions about alcohols (ROH). But instead of writing what I knew, I took Brother John’s advice to ask a scholar. And in the past month, I have been emailing a few scholars who are experts in this field. I was also able to get a hold of an Imam from NY who is a chemistry professor. Why did I pursue this and didn’t let this topic get buried in my email? I wanted to shed light on a lot of misinformation about this topic and most importantly, share this knowledge with my brothers [and sisters].

So I begin with things we already know that contains alcohol. Besides the obvious uses, alcohols are in hand sanitizers, soaps, cologne and even mouthwash. And since alcohol is haram, why would you want to wash your mouth with something that has alcohol or spray cologne all over you and then pray in those clothes?

The real answer is the origin of the alcohol. Remember, alcohol derived from dates, grapes and barley is decisively haram. Meaning it is haram to drink and use it for various applications. This type of alcohol is called Khamr (wine). This is haram, and there aren’t any disagreements with this statement with any Sunni school of thought. This is in the Qur’an and it is a Sahih Hadith:

“O you who believe! Alcohol (khamr), gambling, dedication of stones, and divination by arrows are an abomination (impure) of Shaytan’s handiwork. So abstain from such (abomination) that you may prosper.” (al-An’am, 90)

Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “Khamr (wine) is from these two trees, dates and grapes.” (Sahih Muslim, 1985)

So if alcohol is derived from something other than dates, grapes and barley, then there is a difference in opinion amongst the scholars. Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Abu Yusuf (may Allah have mercy on them), from the Hanafi school of thought, view these alternatively derived alcohols permissible for medical purposes as long as it doesn’t intoxicate the individual. They base their conclusion on the following hadith:

Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) stated the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) is reported to have said: “Khamr (derived from grapes, dates and barley) is in itself unlawful (and impure), and also all the other beverages that reach the level of intoxication.” (al-Zayla’i, Nasb al-Raya, 4/306)

Conversely, the other three schools of thought (Shafi’i, Maliki, and Hanbali) and also Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani from the Hanafi school are of the view that all types of beverages are prohibited whether less or more potent, and whether consumed to the level of intoxication or otherwise. They base their argument on the following two Hadiths:

Sayyiduna Ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “Every intoxicant is Khamr and every intoxicant is Unlawful (haram)…” (Sahih Muslim, 3671)

Sayyiduna Jabir ibn Abd Allah (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “Whatever intoxicates in large quantities, then a small quantity of it is also forbidden.” (Sunan Abu Dawud 3673, Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Sunan al-Nasa’i and others)

So according to these scholars, alcoholic beverages are strictly haram. Once we have established that a given beverage is haram, it becomes unlawful to consume it or use it.

But wait, you can also get alcohol from honey, balsamic vinegar, figs, etc. And these will cause intoxication, but are they allowed? Such fitna existed for the late Hanafi scholars. So Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan (student of Imam Abu Hanifa) gave a fatwa that should solve this problem once and for all. He stated that every intoxicant that is made for consumption is khamr and is unlawful. Conceptually, what does this mean? Wine and liquor are haram not because they contain alcohol but because they cause intoxication.

Therefore, all alcoholic beverages are unlawful (haram). Even in small amounts. Also, any beverage that intoxicates in a large amount, a drop (undiluted) would be considered haram.

This applies to vanilla extract. There have been documented cases where people have become intoxicated while drinking pure vanilla extract. Other chemical species in vanilla extract, like coumarin, cause liver damage. But can you eat vanilla ice cream? If it is made from natural vanilla beans which doesn’t contain any ethanol, then it is halal. What if it says, “contains less than 2% of: vanilla extract, etc.”? Remember, whatever intoxicates you is haram and whatever intoxicates in a large quantity, then a small quantity is also haram. But how does vanilla extract becomes haram? They take pure vanilla beans, mash them up and macerate them in liquid alcohol. Yes, that’s right. They take the vanilla beans and let them soak up in the ethanol. Then they let the soaked vanilla beans release their liquid contents (which contains alcohol) and they bottle this liquid as vanilla extract. Letting the vanilla beans soak in alcohol and then letting it release its liquid is called macerating. Vanilla extract is a mixture of alcohol and vanilla. It is haram to ingest it, no matter how diluted it is in coffee, chocolate, or ice cream.

So what about perfumes, deodorants, face creams, and mouthwash? They contain synthetic alcohol. These are haram to consume but permissible for external applications (I hope no one drinks mouthwash). Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Abu Yusuf both declared that alcohol derived from a source other than dates, grapes, and barley is allowed for external use only and never oral intake. This is because even synthetic alcohol is toxic and will cause intoxication. Ethanol and isopropanol (the two most common alcohols) made synthetically should be used for external applications like cleaning your beautiful nails (nail polish) and/or as antiseptic uses like before getting a flu shot. And by the way, methanol will make you blind!

In our day and age, it has become impossible to avoid alcohol. So remember, alcohol that is made from grapes, dates, and barley are haram but those made from chemicals, seeds, honey, petroleum, etc. are permissible for external applications. Just don’t get intoxicated. So go ahead and put on deodorant, cologne, and creams. Make sure it isn’t khamr because that’ll be just filthy.

What exactly is khamr? Here is the definition from Al-San`ani in Subul al-Salam:

“The word khamr is used literally for frothy, fermented grape juice by consensus and metaphorically for any liquid intoxicant.”

If you take any fruit (dates) or vegetable and ferment it (block access for oxygen and let yeast or fungus grow on it), you will get khamr. I’ve actually seen this done in a lab in my second year. You guys heard of cellular respiration? Glycolysis? Citric Acid Cycle? Well you know that in the absence of oxygen, in glycolysis, we produce lactic acid. And in yeast in the absence of oxygen, what do they produce? They make ethanol. This is khamr!

But you have heard of fermenting fruits and vegetables from before. Dill pickles and pickles in general (achaar) are fermented fruits and vegetables. So why is that allowed? Well for achaar and dill pickles, we don’t use yeast. We use bacteria. There are good and bad bacteria (think yogurt!) and luckily the bad bacteria dies in the presence of salt. By fermenting in salt water, there isn’t yeast or the bad bacteria. Only the good bacteria remains and the good bacteria make lactic acid (like us). This is called lacto-fermentation. Several spices later, you get achaar. Enjoy.

Yeast seems like the problem here. But it isn’t. In fact, yeast is very important to us. It makes bread dough rise. Don’t worry, bread does not contain any alcohol or have any khamr properties. When yeast breaks down sugars (glycolysis) from bread dough, ethanol and carbon dioxide are formed as byproducts. The carbon dioxide gas escapes from the dough and thus causes the rising of bread. So where does that haram ethanol (khamr) go? It evaporates when the bread is baking.

If you take spoiled (fungal) fruits and vegetables and put them in a plastic bag and shut it tight without any holes or air leaks, there will be liquid (ethanol) accumulation inside that bag. That is khamr and that, my friend, is nasty!

Interestingly, prison cells cannot contain any plastic bags. Janitors who service prisons must count and report the number of garbage bags they use. Any missing plastic bag causes a widespread search through all prison cells. Why? Prisoners use the plastic bags to keep spoiled food in them and then drink the ethanol and become intoxicated. So disgusting.

Anyways, I hope I was able to shed some light on the issues of alcohol. Anything I said correct is from Allah and everything I said wrong is from shaytaan and my desires. Please forgive me for any mistakes and errors.

Allah is al-Alim and He (swt) knows best.

P.S. I didn’t mention if Khamr is Najis. The whole alcohol being Najis issue is a madhab speculation. Imam Nawawi in his book Minhadj systemized many things that are Najis. Imam Nawawi is a major authoritative figure in the Shafi’i madhab. Therefore in the Shafi’I school of thought, spirituous drinks like wine are Najis. But that is not the case for the Hanafi school of thought. However, both schools of thought agree that spirituous drinks are haram to consume.

Check All the Ingredients First

By Part Time Punjabi

We all do it. We constantly read those ingredients on the back of food items. Like citric acid, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, monosodium glutamate, niacin, soybean oil, xanthan gum and “artificial flavors”. And when we come across gelatin or vanilla extract, we automatically stop reading and put it back on the shelf. You know gelatin comes from bones and pig tissues and vanilla extract contains khamr (wine & alcohol). You instinctively know they are unlawful for you and furthermore our religion strongly prohibits them.

So why can’t we do that with music? Before you comment and tell me that there are different views on the prohibition of music, I want to make two things very clear. When I say music is unlawful, I’m talking about the instruments and not the lyrics. The lyrics play a minor role on the impact of your imaan. It is the musical instruments in the back that capture your heart, squeeze it and suffocate your imaan. It doesn’t matter if you are listening to soft rock/indie or hip hop. The second thing is that two types of instruments are forbidden: wind and string.

Narrated by Abu Umamah (ra), The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Allah has sent me as a mercy to the universe and as guidance to the universe, and my Lord, Who is Great and Glorious, has commanded me to annihilate stringed instruments, wind instruments, idols, crosses and pre-Islamic customs. My Lord, Who is Great and Glorious has sworn, ‘By My might, none of My servants will drink a mouthful of wine without My giving him a similar amount of pus to drink, but he will not abandon it through fear of Me without My giving him drink from the holy tanks.'” [Ahmad transmitted it. Al-Tirmidhi No. 1029]

The hadith puts instruments of wind and string along with idols, crosses and pre-Islamic customs. It couldn’t be any clearer than this hadith.

But I’m not going to bash ourselves and convince others not to listen to music. Often times we encounter many great alternatives to music like nasheeds. However many nasheeds do contain music. So before you start to lose yourself over a nasheed or any song, check the ingredients! Make sure it doesn’t contain string and wind instruments (like you would check for gelatin and vanilla extract in food). There are so many beautiful nasheeds that praises Allah and gives blessings to His Messenger (pbuh) but why did the composers have to put a guitar in the background? It just doesn’t make sense.

Why are string and wind instruments so bad anyways? They cause sickness and weakness to the heart. Music and the Qur’an can’t be in the same heart and you are going to have to choose only one. But you can probably think of a few good songs that helped you make it through a situation in your life. And you could argue that there are great songs out there to help you and motivate you. Well what if I told you that I have something better? Listen to the Qur’an. For every problem, there is an ayah in the Qur’an. You don’t even need nasheeds. Make your choice: Music or Qur’an and then tell me which is more motivating!

Finally, I want to urge everyone to not become judgmental when they see a brother or sister wearing headphones. Just because they have headphones in doesn’t mean they are grooving and jamming. They could be listening to lectures or nasheeds or even the Qur’an. There isn’t any need to judge someone on the basis that they have headphones on.

Whether it is music or food, check the ingredients first and then decide if it is lawful for you to have it.

And always, Allah knows best.

About Me by Part Time Punjabi

Assalamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuh

In the name of Allah, The Most Compassionate, The Most Merciful.

Sometimes when I read an article online or some analysis of a news event, I don’t get to know who the author is. And that really sucks sometimes because some articles are a great read and I want to make a connection. I want to learn about this author and perhaps want to read other articles by him or her. Nevertheless, I get lucky when they attach their name to the article but a quick google search will reveal it is only a fake name. Knowing the author not only helps you understand the situation (article) better through their eyes but it is essential to learn about different opinions.

So let me briefly attempt to describe myself.

Perhaps the most important thing you need to know about me is that I am a guy. I hope this isn’t earth-shattering news to you. I’m very expressive in my writing so don’t let stereotypes misguide you on who the author is. I learned that the hard and embarrassing way! I chose to have a pen name for myself. Why? I would like to remain private and hidden from everything. Maybe now I understand why some authors like to keep fake names or post anonymously. I wasn’t really accepting of putting my name on the internet. I sometimes google my name to see where I am on the internet because I’m curious. You know you’ve searched your name before so don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about!

My pen name is Part Time Punjabi. For those who do not know what Punjabi means, you’re missing out. No, but really, it is an ethnicity that originates from a region that is half in India and half in Pakistan. You would think it would unify the two countries but this actually caused more culture clashes. And I understand that is debatable. Anyhow, why “Part Time”? Although I’m born in the India side of Punjab, I consider myself more American than Punjabi because I was raised in NJ. However, the Punjabi culture is full of deep tradition, language and history. Therefore, I’m always trying to visit my roots and understand it better. However, I don’t believe I will be able to become a “Full Time Punjabi”. I feel like this occurs to a lot of young immigrants when they become adults. They realize their integration into America (not necessarily American society) but reflect back to their parent’s roots.

So that explains my pen name. What about my column name? Unspoken Truth…sounds dark and mysterious. Well, it is exactly the opposite. Over the years of getting to know many new Muslims and new communities, I noticed there were a lot of taboos and things you just don’t talk about. Certain things that really need to be addressed in our Ummah but are often suppressed away because they are difficult to talk about. You may call such topics…unspoken. And I plan to shed light on them. But please bear in mind: I am not a scholar or an educator. Insha’Allah, I plan to reveal and talk about the dirty truths that we all must face. As rising adults, we have to constantly remind ourselves for the next transition of our lives. Hopefully this becomes beneficial to everyone!

And always, Allah knows best. He really does.

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