ALCOHOL – HALAL OR HARAM? What is alcohol and khamar ?

In  general  there  seem  to  be  a  lot  of  misunderstanding  with  regard  to  what alcohol  actually  is. The misunderstanding is due to the incorrect translation of term the khamr (Arabic) to alcohol (English). The term alcohol from a  chemistry perspective is more than just ethanol. Alcohol is an organic compound in which the hydroxyl functional group (-OH) is bound to a carbon atom. There are many types of alcohol such as methanol, ethanol, propanol and butanol. Of those, ethanol is the type of alcohol commonly found in food, beverages, perfumes and medicines. Ethanol is derived from two main processes, hydration of ethylene and biological fermentation of carbohydrate source. Hydration of ethylene is the primary method for the industrial production of ethanol (synthetic alcohol), while fermentation is the primary method for production of beverage alcohol and fermented foods.

Khamr is a term that derived from verb khamara means “to shroud” or “to cloud”. This term refers to any substance that intoxicates the mind and can cause the person who took it lose their ability to control their mind and action. The Maliki, Shafi'i, and Hanbali schools consider khamr to be any intoxicating drink made from grapes, dates, or raisins. Whereas according to Hadith Bukhari and Muslim, khamr is what covers intellect  and made from five things that are grapes, dates, wheat, barley and honey.

Halal issues on the use of alcohol in products

The prohibition of khamr is clearly stated in the Holy Quraan. In Surah Al-Baqarah verse 219: "They ask Thee concerning Wine and Gambling, Say: In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit." and also in Surah Al-Maaidah verse 90: "O Ye who believe! Intoxicants and Gambling, Sacrificing to Stones, and (divination by) Arrows, are an abomination, of Satan's handiwork; Keep away from such, that Ye may prosper.”

Ethanol is not necessarily khamr although the intoxicating substance in khamr is ethanol. Ethanol produced from the non industry is not najs. Local fermented products such as tapai, budu, cencalok and belacan are permissible to consume they contain ethanol as they are not intoxicating. The from a religious perspective and hence the halal compliance of such products will depend on the intention and utilization of the product. The usage of ethanol from khamr industry or it’s by products and derivatives even in small quantity in food products is haram. The Fatwa on alcohol usage in food, beverages, perfumes and medicines have been revised by the Fatwa Committee of the National Council for Malaysian Islamic Religious Affairs on July 14 to 16, 2011. Based on the briefings, presentations and explanations presented by the experts of Halal Products Research Institute, Universiti Putra Malaysia and taking into account of the results of the dialogue held in the Fatwa Committee of the National Council for Islamic Affairs Malaysia earlier, the Fatwa committee has agreed to decide as follows:

  1. All khamr contains alcohol. However, not all alcohol is khamr. Alcohol obtained from khamr making process is najs and haram.
  2. Alcohol obtained from non khamr industry is not najs, but not permissible to drink in its original form because it is poisonous and can kill.
  3. Soft drinks that are processed or made not with the intention to produce khamr and contain alcohol below the level of 1% (v/v) is permissible to be drank.
  4. Soft drinks which are made with the intention and the same way as the process of making khamr, whether it contains a lot or a little alcohol or distilled alcohol are haram.
  5. Foods or drinks containing natural alcohol such as fruits, nuts or grains and its juice, or alcohol produced as by-product during the manufacturing process of food or drink is not najs and permissible to be eaten or drink.
  6. Foods or drinks that contain flavoring or coloring materials containing alcohol for the purpose of stabilization is a permissible to be used if the alcohol is not produced from the khamr source and the quantity of alcohol in the final product is not intoxicating, and at the rate not exceeding 0.5% alcohol.
  7. Medicines and perfumes that contain alcohol (not from khamr source) that being used as a solvent is not najs.


 by Syariena Arshad and Nur Fadhilah Khairil Mokhtar ( Research Officers )



  1. dalammakanan-minuman-pewangi-danubat- ubatan
  3. Unraveling the Issue of Alcohol for the Halal Industry. Mr. Dzulkifly Mat Hashim. Presented at the World Halal Research Summit 2010.
  4. A. Kamarulzaman, S.M. Saifuddeen. Islam and harm reduction. International Journal of Drug Policy 21 (2010) 115–118

Updated:: 28/03/2017 [salehan]

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