The Legal Rulings on Chewing Tobacco and Smoking Cigarettes

(1) Chewing Tobacco and Wudu

Chewing tobacco (in any form, such as naswar) would not invalidate wudu. One should rinse  the mouth before praying though, to fulfill the sunna. [Shurunbulali, Nur al-Idah]

(2) The Legal Ruling on Smoking Cigarettes and Chewing Tobacco

Tobacco is not considered an intoxicant, as it does not cause inebriation and is not mind-altering, so its legal ruling differs from that of alcohol and substance abuse drugs.

With respect to details on the issue of one’s prayer not being accepted for 40 days due to consuming intoxicants or the like

Chewing tobacco is certainly detrimental to one’s health. One’s body is a trust (amana) granted by Allah Most High, and He has ordained that we safeguard our trusts. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Verily your body has a right over you.” [Sahih Bukhari]

Yet smoking cigarettes is generally considered worse than chewing tobacco, as cigarettes contain hundreds of ingredients aside from nicotine, dozens of which are carcinogenic. Classically, scholars did discuss the issue of smoking cigarettes and differed on its legal ruling:

– Some considered it unlawful, such as Imam Shurunbulali [Sharh Wahbaniyya, as cited by Ibn Abidin in Radd al-Muhtar];

– Some considered it disliked (makruh), such as Imam Laknawi, who said it could either be prohibitively disliked (makruh tahriman) or mildly disliked (makruh tanzihan), yet even if the latter is correct, prolonged usage would be blameworthy and sinful [Laknawi, Tarwih al-Janan bi Hukm Shurb al-Dukhan; Zajr Arbab al-Rayyan `an Shurb al-Dukhan];

– Some considered it permissible, such as Sayyidi Abdul-Ghani al-Nabulsi [Al-Sulh baynal Ikhwan fi Ibahat Shurb al-Dukhan]. The Imam’s reasoning, however, was that it is neither intoxicating nor harmful to one’s health, yet its harmful effects to one’s health have since been established by physicians. This position is therefore not applicable.

[Dr. Salah Abul Hajj, Al-Bayan fil Ayman wan Nudhur wal Hazr wal Ibaha]

In light of the manifest harm of cigarettes — especially long-term — as well as their highly addictive nature and their impact on public health, at minimum they are disliked. And as Imam Laknawi states, prolonged usage would be blameworthy and sinful. One should take utmost care to not open the door to addiction, and if already addicted, one should diligently strive to break the habit.

Chewing tobacco would take a similar ruling, although less severe than smoking cigarettes. Religious precaution (wara`) would certainly entail avoiding it.

And Allah knows best.

By: Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

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