February 10, 2004

Appeal of shisha

A while back, I posted something on an Egyptian government ad campaign aimed at stopping women from smoking the shisha, the "complex smoking apparatus that involves tobacco soaked in molasses -- and often, more recently, flavoured with apple, strawberry or other fruit essence -- whose smoke is filtered through water and into the flexible, hose-like pipe through which it is inhaled," as the article says. I noted, of course, that smoking is bad for you, and also noted that there's nothing wrong with anti-smoking campaigns per se, but it's equally bad for women and men. I didn't note, however, that I on occasion partake of the joys of tobacco, and thoroughly enjoy it. A spartan lifestyle devoid of the occasional pleasure doesn't appeal to me in the least.

So I'm entirely in sympathy with the comment that reader Nawal left on this old post:

Why is it so unclean for women to smoke shisha? Are women made of porcelain? Haven't we the right to pleasure as well as long as it doesn't involve haram? I mean, I wouldn't advise a women or even a man having a child watch them smoke shisha, to begin with it is for adults. But for centuries this has been a male dominated smoke a thon. And many times it was the women who made ready the shisha for their husbands. Take me for example I am a young women. I work, I go to college. I come from a good family. I don't smoke stick tabacco. I keep my lungs clean, but yes I do enjoy sometimes having a hot cup of joe or tea, and inhaling on some fruity flavored smoke. Is this haram? Does this make me not suitable for marriage? Is this an outrage? By no means. I have my whole life in front of me. I have always been taught not to limit my potential. Will me late night shisha inhale exhale prevent me. Never. If one opens their eyes, even have a conversation with a young lady you would understand. It all stems from fear. Fear is what causes your disaprovals. Restriction breads more desire, increased smokers. You will see.

Thanks for the spirited comment, and of course, you're right -- nothing wrong with a little pleasure. I think that's what attracted me to this subject in the first place.

Note: I know I promised another installment on Milestones, but I'm wiped out. Busy day at work, busy night at home. Tomorrow...

Posted by Ideofact at February 10, 2004 09:01 PM

It should be noted that according to many, if not most Islamic scholars, the use of tobacco is in fact haraam or forbidden. Of course this is for both men and women.

Abu Noor al-Irlandee

Posted by: Abu Noor al-Irlandee at February 11, 2004 10:01 AM


What about chocolate?

Posted by: Bill at February 11, 2004 02:49 PM

I hope you don't think I was being facetious. I came acrosss this opinion on the subject of tobacco. For what it's worth, I certainly believe all the surgeon general's warnings, but they were hardly necessary. Around 1610, or so, the Pope noted the hacking cough of smokers, and banned smoking from the Churches.

That said, not all smoking is equal. The occasional cigar (as opposed to the pack-a-day cigaratte smoker) doesn't strike me as particularly terrible.

I raised chocalate because it too has deleterious health effects. Bad for the teeth, bad for the waistline, bad for the heart ... is it haram too?

(By the way, the article linked suggests that caffeine is also haram.)

Posted by: Bill at February 12, 2004 02:30 AM


To really understand this issue one needs to have studied usool al fiqh (Islaamic Jurisprudence).

Anyways, the issue is a matter of ijtihad. That is, there is no verse of the Qur'aan or Hadith of the Prophet (saw) saying literally that it is forbidden to smoke or to otherwise use tobacco.

Therefore, the qualified Islamic scholar, in consultation with medical experts so he can understand the actual effects of tobacco or other drugs involved in smoking and then he has to struggle with the evidence that is available to determine the actual ruling on smoking.

Since there is no literal statement, there can be disagreement among scholars about the ruling.

It is not true that this brother in 1983 was the first to declare smoking to be haraam, but it is true as far as I can tell that the majority opinion has shifted from smoking being makrooh (disliked by God but not absolutely forbidden) to one where it seems the majority of jurists would say smoking is haraam. A lot of this has to do with increasing medical information about the true effects of smoking.

The health effects are not the only reason that smoking is forbidden however, and I don't think one would argue that eating chocolate is as bad for one's health as smoking, but I'm no doctor.

I am not aware of any scholar who has declared chocolate or caffeine to be haraam, but there are certainly many Muslim scholars and other teachers who warn about the overuse or abuse of anything and who spend a great deal of time stressing the importance of purifying one's diet in Islaam.

I could be wrong, but it seems to me that the article is written by a doctor, not necessarily an Islamic scholar. So one should be careful about his conclusions. Although doctors should be involved in advising Islamic scholars so that they understand the medical issues, doctors should not be issuing their own legal opinions (fatawa) or doing their own ijtihad.

Posted by: Abu Noor al-Irlandee at February 13, 2004 10:43 AM

I should think that the known carcinogenic aspect of tobacco--its inherent cancer-causing potential-makes it necessarily haram. (Although the carcinogenic aspect of tobacco was not known until mid twentieth-century.) Of course, breathing the air of Cairo or Mexico City is also quite toxic, but this is hardly a vice or addiction, and instead is simply asthma- and cancer-inducing. (The issue of pollution and environment is no doubt another issue for fatwa consideration.)

Interestingly, except for the occasional Egyptian and many Saudis, in my experience smoking is quite common with many Muslims, and perceived of as innocent and ubiquitous. And I have never imbibed so much sugar and nicotine in one sitting as I have at a Palestinian wedding (though guests were segregated by gender and there was no alcohol).

I see that Mufti Farid Wasil of Egypt and other Middle Easterners have issued fatwas vis-à-vis tobacco use (I assume this also covers the nastier clove cigarettes popular in India and Indonesia), but I wonder if Central and SE Asian scholars concur?

The moderate use of chocolate as haram? I have never heard that one. Though if were believed anywhere, it would most likely erupt from the collective, killjoy mind of the Saudi Arabian “Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice”: Why, if people eat chocolate, then women might drive cars, and, then, anarchy!


Posted by: Troy at March 1, 2004 08:47 PM