Okay, Is Smoking Really Even Haraam?

Knowledge should always be inhaled deeply.

The Great Mosque of Djenné, Larry Louie
Our story begins with this possible irony: Muslims developed the cigarette as we know it today!
For eons the Mayans and Aztecs had smoked tobacco with palmtree leaves, wrappings of corn, and various pipes. But come the Ottoman Empire,and we see the biggest development in tobacco’s history.
It happened during the Egyptian uprisings in the early1800s, invoked by Ali Pasha, against the Ottomans. As the Turks encircled the rebellion, an Egyptian artilleryman retaliated with innovation. He made the Egyptian gunners increase their fire power by wrapping gunpowder in paper tubesto dramatically increase the cannon crews’ rate of fire. As a reward he and hiscrew received 1 pound of tobacco, much to their delight. War torn, weary and the crew’s single smoking pipe shattered from the battle, they started wrappingthe tobacco in the very pieces of paper they had wrapped gunpowder. Tobacco once rolled with pipe, and leaf now got cozy with paper. The invention spread likefire between the Egyptian and Turkish soldiers, and the Turks later gossipedabout it to the rest of world.
Now “short, snappy, easily attempted, easily completed orjust as easily discarded before completion—the cigarette is the symbol of the machine age” (New York Times, 1920s). The British learnt of the invention fromtheir allies (the Turks) during the Crimea war. Born in Izmir, Turkey, Phillip Morris then went on to open his first shop in London’s Bond Street in 1847selling tobacco and readymade cigarettes. A year after his death R.J Reynolds, oneof Phillip Morris’ greatest rivals to-be, founded his own tobacco company.
Josh Beeman
Todaythe two companies dominate over 1/3rd of the market, and betweenthem span over 60 brand names—Marlboro, Camel, Pall Mall, Benson and Hedges,Virginia Slim etc… In 1880, after the Industrial Revolution, Brosnack’scigarette machine puffed to life. Each machine did the work of 48 workers andthe modern tobacco industry in the United States was lit.
Light Up
Once lit wafts Nicotin:named after the tobacco plant Nicotianna tabacum, which in turn was named afterJean Nicot de Villemain, a French Ambassador in Portugal. First isolated in1828 as a poison, Nicotin is the tobacco plant’s natural protection from beingeaten by insects. A super toxin, drop for drop, it is more lethal than thevenom of a diamondback rattlesnake, and three times deadlier than arsenic. An average cigarette however yields a low concentration, 1mg, of absorbed nicotine. But amazingly, by chance, this natural insecticide when in the brain isalso able to control the flow of lovely dopamine.

Remember that feeling when you didsomething too pleasurable? You know, that “aaah” sensation? Dopamine. It gives you the satisfaction of success, and satisfies the primitive functions needed to survive by hard-wiring our brain’s priorities. Hunger = food. Thirst = water. Dopamine keeps us well fed and healthy, always wanting that “aaah” repeatedly to keep us surviving.

Now think of this. What happens ifa chemical existed that when introduced to the bloodstream was small enough to navigate its way to your brain’s receptors? Once inside, able to control your dopamine pathway? Then gets busy and re-writes the priorities of your mind? Howlong would it take till it lied about its own importance? Where needing more of it seems to then become as important as food and water itself? What if the “aaah” craving begins to occurfor nicotine, in the same way a sundried tongue rolls for a chilled glass ofwater? If we don’t eat food we die. Food craves, nicotine craves. Welcome,then, to the person’s world of nicotine normal, a world built on illusions.
Wanna talk drugs? Okay. While nicotine stimulates the nervous system, alcohol depresses it by slowing the normal brain function. Heroin acts as a dopamine stimulant thatis accompanied by an endorphin-high—short, intense, and numbing. Cocaine’s highis euphoria—delaying the clean-up effect of multiple neurotransmitters; Methgives you the same euphoria just at a supersonic speed. Common to all of these are the hijacked dopamine pathways which falsely tell the brain that the chemical used is now vital for life. It comes as natural as hunger. Imagine starving yourself from eating food? That’s addiction.
Islamic Smoke
The Path is Yours: Smashing Magazine
Addiction or not, in Islam the not-haraam argument of smoking rallies around the legitimate term: markruh. Makruh has many translations in Arabic: dislike, avoid, offensive. The Prophet (Peace andBlessing be Upon Him) has clearly stated that everything that is meant to be haraam (forbidden) has been explicitly stated as haraam. Because tobacco wasn’t forbidden it therefore cannot be haraam. So then we are sure it is makruh, right. Or no?
See, 500years ago when tobacco first came to the Muslim empire, Islamic scholars gathered from near and far to place the ruling on the smoking of tobacco. To do this they had to first observe the effects of smoking. Discussions started with the fact that it first caused bad breath, damage to the teeth etc… Once identified, the next step involved referring back to the authentic sources in Islam to base their ruling. For this they had to go back to the Holy Quran, and Sahih (trustworthy memories and accounts) Hadith as a foundation for theruling. Two important Hadith surfaced for which the ruling was placed. TheProphet (PBUH) said: “Anyone who eats garlic and onions or leeks should not come near our Masjid. The angels are harmed by what harms the sons of Adam”(Sahih Muslim). In another Hadith, Jabir reported: the Messenger of Allah(PBUH) said “he who eats garlic or onion should remain away from us or from our mosque and stay in his house…you may eat it, for I converse with one with whom you do not converse” (Book 4, Hadith 1146, Sahih Muslim). To avoid confusion, the Prophet (PBUH) refused to eat a specific dish at the time because he was about to converse with an angel, and did not want bad breath. Because his audience was not about to converse with an angel he allowed them to eat. Based on this, the Prophet (PBUH) does not ban the eating of raw onions and garlic. Instead, he says to avoid eating them if one cannot rid the stench before coming to a mosque where it becomes a public displeasure. Remember how awkward you felt when your friend smelt like a dead fish every time he/she exhaled in your face and you didn’t have the heart to say it? Yeah. Based on this evidence, then, smoking was ruled as makruh.
But then why does the argument still go on, that smoking might be haraam? Well, the ruling of smoking tobacco as makruh was placed 500 years ago. At the given time the information available had been reduced to the physically observable traits of smoking—bad breath and teeth among others. This reality, it is argued, unhinges since the ruling that smoking can be considered makruh might be outdated because it focuses only on bad breath and other visible observations. However,with the knowledge available on smoking today, a whole new arsenal of Hadithand Verses are able to argue quite differently.

But fear God, and knowthat God is with those who restrain themselves. Quran 2:194

Make not your ownhands contribute to your destruction… Quran 2:195

And do not killyourselves. For indeed Allah is ever merciful. Quran 4:29

In the Hadith regarding that which is haraam is explicit, the Prophet (PBUH) goes on to say the gray area of which one is not sure of, avoidance is better than perseverance. But then the pro-smoking camp launches an important counter argument.
Everyone who smokes doesn’t necessarily perish. What about them?
At this argument, the anti-logic that is lodged forward isthat Islamic law governs for the general outcome and the betterment of society as a whole, not the exceptions. Like a college class room proclaims—the exception is not the rule.

Thinking of smoking, how can we not think sex. Columbia University’s Ask Alice is an online Q&A program about health topics. That’s the official story; today its one of the most famous sex ed forums on the internet. So, duh, I couldn’t resist knowing Alice’s unbiased take. The site is controversially noted for refraining from any moral and religious guidance,especially on topics like pre-marital sex, abortion, sex education,homosexuality and yes, smoking. So I asked Alice too. She says:
“In fact, several studies have looked at exactly this question in regard to male impotence and found that there is a link between smoking and difficulties having an erection. Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor,meaning it tightens blood vessels and restricts blood flow. In the long term,it has even been shown to cause permanent damage to arteries. Since a man’s erection depends on blood flow, researchers assumed smoking would affect erections. Studies have confirmed this time and again. In a study published inAddiction Behavior, it was shown that just two cigarettes could cause softererections in male smokers. Results are corroborated by a review of all studies done on impotent men over the last two decades. The research showed that 40 percent of men affected by impotence were smokers, as opposed to 28 percent ofthe general male population. That is either a really amazing coincidence, orthere is a relationship between smoking and male impotence” (Go Ask Alice).
Horrified after the read, I thought it would be sexist if I didn’t look into women, (and I wasn’t going to take just Alice’s word for it, Columbia University or not).
Women who smoke take longer to conceive as the chancesof conceiving fall by 10-40% per cycle. The greater the quantity of cigarettes smoked, the longer a woman is likely to take to achieve pregnancy. Even comparatively low levels of smoking can have a significant impact. In a study of11,000 women in Denmark women who smoked between five and nine cigarettes a daywere 1.8 times more likely than non-smokers to wait longer than 12 months toconceive. Cigarette smoking can also affect male fertility: smoking reduces the quality of semen. Men who smoke have a lower sperm count than non-smokers, and their semen contains a higher proportion of malformed sperm. By-products of nicotine present in semen of smokers have been found to reduce the motility ofsperm. One study found that sperm damaged by smoking may also result in more couples having baby girls than boys. The researchers suggest that the spermcells carrying the Y chromosome are more vulnerable to the toxins in cigarette smoke. Impotence, or penile erectile dysfunction, is the repeated inability to have or maintain an erection. 40% of impotent men were current smokers comparedwith 28% of men in the general population. Overall smoking increases the riskof impotence by around 50% for men in their 30s and 40s (British Medical Association).
The World: Up in Smoke
Presently trending is the strange reality that Western society seems to be taking an interesting turn on the topic of tobacco. Whilst non-smoking ideas and research goes back as early as WWII (including researchdone by the Nazis), serious attention was given only after the 1960s. In 1964 the Surgeon General’s report issued a serious warning that smoking maybe related to cancer. By 1969 researchers conclusively proved this statement; in1971 it became illegal in the US to advertise tobacco related products in the TV and Radio, while in 1979 the evidence against smoking was branded as“overwhelming”. In America rates have been declining from the mid 60’s and are now at its lowest—23% of the population smokes. Sri Lanka – 43%. In developing countries though the rate continues to increase, sometimes almost as much as 3.4% per year. In Yemen 77% of men smoke, Tunisia 61.9%, Syria 50.6%, however UAE it is only 18.3% and Oman15.5%.

Today an estimated 1 300 000 000 people are smokers worldwide, of which over 5 000 000 die annually from smoking. From this,443 000 will be American, of which 50 000 succumb from second hand smoking. Chinawill have over 1  200 000 dead because of tobacco use alone, roughly 2 000 people a day due to the cigarette. 33-50% of all smokers are killed by their habit, dying on average 15 years earlier than their non-smoking counterparts.

Invisible Smoking
The WHO report finds itself screaming that “it is the only legal consumer product that kills when used exactly as intended by the manufacturer” .

Weirdly, 70% of all smokers want to quit if they can get the help they need. Quitting smoking and getting healthy is the top New Year’s resolution every year.
I’m sorry but there’s simply no nice way tosay this. There is no cure. Nicotine dependency, like alcoholism, is a real mental illness and disease. While we are able to arrest it fully, there is no cure. Once we are free, just having “one” sets us on the road that takes us allthe way back. You see, it isn’t a matter of how much will power we have, but howour infiltrated brain’s prioritizes our lives. The nicotine feedings, in asense, almost rewire our brains making it ever the more difficult for us to unwire them (whyquit.com).

However, this is all a lie. Drug addiction is about living a lie.Knowledge is power here, and the human is able to grow smarter than the addiction stronger. If someone wants help, all they need is the truth: the truth that stopping is always possible. Because once they know there is a very real chance of quitting smoking, the chances of them actually doing so rockets. Full recovery is doable by absolutely anyone. How do people know this?
Because today there are more ex-smokers in the United States than smokers.

As you might have inhaled, this article will not give you a YES or a NO. All it does is give you knowledge. The information is clear, just like the conclusion that is yours to make. Adieu.

The Smoking Effect by Sanaja Malakram Paul


  • tobacco.org
  • stat.org
  • WHO.org
  • pmi.com
  • 2008 WHO report
  • goaskalice.columbia.edu
  • Fonseka,P. “Smoking in Adults in Sri Lanka: Prevalence and Attitudes.” Department ofCommunity Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Univiersity of Ruhuna, Galle, SriLanka
  • whyquit.com
  • British Medical Association

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