Translator's Note: Some scholars and seminary
students asked Grand Ayatollah Nasir Makarem Shirazi about his
scholarly reasons for prohibiting smoking. This is a brief overview
of his reasons. It is intended for scholars and seminary students
who are familiar with the methods of deriving Islamic law; however,
it is certainly not without benefit for the layperson.
Ayatollah Nasir Makarem Shirazi
I had given this edict (Fatwa)
several years ago with stipulations. I stated in Tawdih Al-Masa'il
(book of Islamic laws): "If smoking cigarettes (and other such
products) has a significant harm based on the testimony of experts,
then it is forbidden."
Lately, however, it has become clear to us
that the risks of cigarette smoking are serious based on what a
group of expert doctors and professors have stated and the showings
of statistics about the deaths and illnesses caused by cigarette
smoking. Even the children and those who interact with smokers are
not immune from its harms. Therefore, we gave an edict that it is
unconditionally forbidden to smoke cigarettes. We ask God to protect
all of the Muslims, especially the youth, who are the first victims
to this life-ruining calamity, and that they are intelligently
careful in regards to themselves, those around them, and their
friends. God-willing, we will be alive to see our society cleansed
from this smoke-filled pollution.
At this point, based on the repeated request
of the scholars, we will briefly refer to the methodical proofs for
- Verse 2:195 of the Holy Qur'an states:
"Do not place yourself in ruin with your own hands." And based
on the statistics announced by doctors who specialize in this
field, cigarette-related deaths reach up to five million people
a year. And the statistics about the dangerous heart ailments,
lung diseases, and cancers which are caused by cigarette smoke
are also very high. Therefore, smoking cigarettes is a way of
placing oneself in ruin.
- We have the rule of "no harm and causing
no harm" (laa dharar wa laa dhiraar), which is derived
from numerous traditions. Even though it is in relation to
causing harms to others, we know that that the usage of a
general intent does not limit the rule. Therefore, it also
includes harm to oneself.
- In a well-known tradition of Fiqh Al-Ridha,
it is stated: "Every affair that there is destruction in from
prohibited matters …is an unlawful matter which is harmful for
the body and a corruption for the soul." There is also a similar
tradition to this in Tuhaf Al-Uqool. Based on these
traditions, anything that poses a serious risk of harm to a
person's body is unlawful. Certainly, trivial and minor harms
that exist in all things are unavoidable and are not the intent
of these traditions. What are intended are major harms.
- Some people have the habit of eating
dirt, which has been phrased as a form of evil whisperings in
Islamic traditions. And it has been sternly forbidden, because
it harms people. A tradition says, "Eating dirt brings about
illness in the body and stimulates pain." Therefore, the first
reason that the late Shaheed has mentioned for its unlawfulness
in his book Al-Masaalik is bodily harm. All of this
shows that prohibition of harmful things are clear; even an
obligatory fast that is harmful must be abandoned, and
obligatory baths (Ghusl) and ablutions (Wudhu)
turn to Tayammum if they are harmful.
- Beyond all of this, and based on the
clear principle of "whatever that sound intellect rules, Islamic
law rules", there is no room for doubt about the prohibition of
cigarettes and other forms of smoking in our day and age, where
its significant harms have become clear to all scientists. The
edicts of all the religious authorities forbidding narcotics are
derived from what was stated here.
Some Alarming Statistics
- Close to ten million smokers in Iran
spend more than three billion Toman a day on cigarettes (meaning
more than one trillion Toman yearly).
- On average, governments spend twice as
much as is spent on cigarettes on dealing with smoking-related
illnesses, an amount close to 6 billion toman daily and 2
trillion a year in Iran.
- The youth and adolescents (the ages
between 10 to 15) are the real targets of cigarette companies
and are at high risk of starting and becoming addicted to
- Cigarettes are a trap for youth getting
addicted to smoking and drugs and getting caught up in other
- Non-smokers, especially the spouses and
children of smokers, are at risk from the dangers of smoking
just as much as smokers. These innocent individuals forcibly
face health risks.
- American cigarette companies produce more
than six billion cigarettes a year, close to 3 percent of which
are used in America and the remaining 97 percent are shipped to
other countries, particularly poor and developing countries.
American companies make over 300 billion dollars in profits in
this way, which is equal to 20 years of oil sales of Iran.
At this point, we will place the discussion in
the hands of the experts who are in the forefront in fighting this
affliction. They have testified that cigarettes are the main cause
or assist in the coming about of 50 types of illnesses and 20 forms
of cancer. Five million people die yearly from illnesses caused by
cigarettes. Ten million people died in four years during World War
I, but those who die in four years from cigarettes total 20 million
By the year 2020, 20 million people will die
yearly from illnesses related to cigarette smoking, with the
difference that seven million of them will be from developing
countries and 3 million from the developed countries.
The author of over a hundred books and articles
on religious and social topics, including a commentary on the Holy
Qur'an, Ayatollah Nasir Makarem Shirazi is followed as a Religious
Authority by millions of Shias around the world today. He lives and
teaches in the holy city of Qom, Iran.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Islamic Insights would like
to thank Sayyid Baqir Imrani for translating this article from Farsi