Small Quantity of Intoxicant in Foods – Yasir Qadhi This question is basically about having minute quantity of alcohol in one’s food. The basic rule, our Prophet (ﷺ) said, hadith is in Sunan An-Nasa’i (مَا أَسْكَرَ كَثِيرُهُ، فَقَلِيلُهُ حَرَامٌ) “That which intoxicate in large quantities, is haram in small quantities.” This is a maxim of fiqh, and it is a hadith. By large quantities, we don’t mean if you drink a lake. You will die if you drink a lake. We mean that which reasonable, average person may consume in a short period of time. Five, six, seven, eight, glasses, okay… If something kills you before it intoxicates you, that’s not haram, okay. Water will kill you if you drink gallons and gallons in a very short period, as has happened recently in a number of times. So, if something intoxicates in a reasonably large quantity. A very light beer for example, if you drink 10 glasses you’ll become intoxicated, therefore a drop of that beer is haram. A person can drink 10 glasses in an hour or two. If that will intoxicate, then a drop of that beer if you put it on your tongue, it is haram. (مَا أَسْكَرَ كَثِيرُهُ، فَقَلِيلُهُ حَرَامٌ) However, a number of points, first and foremost: The Islamic prohibition is on khamr not on alcohol. Alcohol is a class of chemical compounds anything that has an -OH radical becomes an alcohol. Not every alcohol is khamr. Methanol is not khamr, it will kill you before it intoxicates you. The primary alcohol in our times that is khamr is ethanol or ethyl alcohol, that is what is found in beer and other products. And there are other types of alcohol that also intoxicate, but not every alcohol intoxicates, and not every intoxicant is an alcohol. Therefore when you pick up a food item, and you read all of the ingredients, and you read something; isopropyl glycol whatever alcohol, don’t just say, “Oh, haram!” You need to do your research. Majority of those alcohol, are chemical alcohols, not khamr. What is clearly intoxicating or potentially intoxicating is ethanol or ethyl alcohol, both the same thing. Not all ethyl alcohol is haram as well, why? Because if the quantity of ethanol is so miniscule, that it will not intoxicate you, then it is not khamr. Even if there’s ethanol in there. And the classic example for this is vanilla. We need to look at what is the purpose of those ethanol as well. Vanilla is a chemical compound that is found in a particular substance, the vanilla fruit or not, it is extracted, that is a taste. And in order to get that extraction, from that extraction to your cake, to your ice cream, there’s must be a mechanism to preserve the vanilla. And that mechanism is ethanol. Ethanol, as every chemist and every person who study chemistry knows, ethanol is innate and it does not interact with the substance. That’s why it’s so useful. You can put another substance in ethanol, and preserve the substance, from the production to your kitchen. So ethanol therefore becomes a solvent, that has no actual role other than to preserve. How can you extract this and then take it to the kitchen? It is via the mechanism of the ethanol. So, vanilla extract has a lot of ethanol, but the purpose of ethanol is what? It is to preserve the flavor of the vanilla. And then how much do you add? You will add half a tea spoon, a few drops. And that will then be to your whole cake, or to your homemade ice cream. So, that amount of vanilla extract that you add, it will never be enough to intoxicate you. You can eat lots of vanilla ice cream, and you will not feel any intoxication. (مَا أَسْكَرَ كَثِيرُهُ، فَقَلِيلُهُ حَرَامٌ) That which intoxicates in large is haram in small. Therefore, that which does not intoxicate in large, is halal in large and small. You can eat vanilla ice cream, you can eat vanilla cake, you will not become intoxicated. Therefore it is halal. As well some natural fermentation might occur. Actually at the molecular level, orange juice, apple juice, might have some fermentations. If you were to do a very detail chemical study, of your orange juice at home, you might find some fermentations, some ethanol produced. Does it make orange juice haram? No. Because you can drink a lot of orange juice, and what will happen? You might get sick, but you won’t become intoxicated. So, small-minuscule-quantities are overlook. Now, you go to a halal steak house, and they add whine. You will say, “Sheikh, you just said, that if it doesn’t intoxicate in large quantities, halal in small quantities.” “I can eat two, three, or four, of these steaks, and I will not become intoxicated, does that make the steak halal?” We say, there is another principle. And this is one of the principle of the sharia. (الأمور بمقاصدها) “ِActions are judged by their intentions.” So, we do not say the ruling of vanilla extract is the same as the rulings of meat in which vodka or rum has been added. Why? Because what is the purpose of the ethanol in the vanilla extract? It is to preserved the flavor of the vanilla, and to make the ethanol irrelevant. What is the purpose of adding whine into the meat? To get the taste of the whine. We do not say the same rulings applies. And so we say, the one is halal, vanilla; and the other is haram. Because the goal there is to taste the vodka, or the rum or the whine, whereas the goal here, actually ethanol is inert, you don’t even taste the ethanol. The point is to taste the what? The vanilla. So, to conclude this, we say, first thing: Is it khamr? And khamr is that which intoxicates the mind. If it’s not khamr, it’s halal. So, we look at the ingredients, not every alcohol is khamr, not every khamr is alcohol, there are certain khamrs that are not alcohol, right? Number 2: Does consuming it in a reasonable quantity intoxicate? If it does, then it is haram. So, if you eat marijuana brownies. If you have these brownies that will make you high, and if you have to eat six or seven brownies to get high, can you eat a piece of brownie? Yes or no? No. Based on what? (مَا أَسْكَرَ كَثِيرُهُ، فَقَلِيلُهُ حَرَامٌ) Okay. Now, vanilla cake. You can eat, and eat, and eat. Will you get high? No, then you can eat cake, okay. That’s the second principle. The third principle: Even if it doesn’t intoxicate you, you then go to the rule number three: why was it added? (مقاصد), what was the goal of adding? If it was added to be a secondary product, to preserve the flavor of the vanilla, we say it’s overlooked, because, (لتابع تابع) (the follower is following), there’s another principle. But if it was added for the taste, we say, “No!” That was the intention, so we then say, it is not allowed.