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Is Hookah / Sheesha Smoking Safer than Cigarettes? Is it Haram or Halal?

Abu Reem



As if our youth didn’t have enough distractions and bad habits readily available to pick up, we now have the hookah fad. Step aside cigarette smoking, there’s something cooler in town (for our youth to destroy their bodies with)! Different flavors, different settings, a “Muslim export”… how cool is that?Actually not cool at all. And what’s worse is that some Muslims are actually promoting this lifestyle.

First the ground rules: Most scholars now agree that cigarette smoking is haram, i.e. prohibited for Muslims due to its harmful effects on the human body, which directly go against an injunction in the Qur’an.

“And do not kill yourselves. Surely, Allah is Most Merciful to you. And whoever commits that through aggression and injustice, We shall cast him into the Fire and that is easy for Allah” [Qur’an 4:29]

“And do not throw yourselves into destruction.” [Qur’an 2:195]

So, this post is not going to detail issues about cigarette smoking, because not only is cigarette smoking far less socially acceptable, but many Muslims recognize that it is haram (forbidden), even if some are stuck at the makruh (disliked) mistake. Initially, when the harmful effects of smoking were not proven scientifically, scholars hesitated on giving the haram ruling, and instead considered it makruh. However, one would have to be sitting in a cave not to now KNOW and RECOGNIZE the direct link that exists between cigarette smoking and extremely harmful effects to the body, including lung cancer.

Muslim scholars in the past differed in opinion regarding smoking because of lack of evidence relating cigarette smoking to disease. Those who considered Makruh (a hated act) regarded this lack of evidence. But since 30 years ago the evidence clearly demonstrates that smoking is injurious to health. The majority of Ahl Sunnah wal-Jama’ah scholars and Jumhur (majority) have clearly stated that smoking is Haram. [Afifi]

Muhammad Afifi also provides a collection of statements of scholars from a wide spectrum of methodologies and madahibs. In this online booklet, Muhammad Al-Jibaly describes many of the reasons for its forbidden status.

We all know that Satan is such a wonderful con artist. He loves to deceive people. If he can’t get things one way, he uses another. Since cigarettes were becoming harder to sell, Satan is now selling hookah smoking full-force.

Folks, read my words carefully: hookah smoking is in fact MORE dangerous and harmful than cigarette smoking, because you inhale more nicotine via this method. Don’t believe me? Then read what this lung specialist from the prestigious Mayo Clinic has to say:

There is a myth that hookah smoking is safer than smoking cigarettes because the hookah smoke is filtered through water before it is inhaled. But recent studies have found that hookah smokers actually inhale more nicotine than do cigarette smokers because of the massive volume of smoke they inhale…

According to a recent World Health Organization (WHO) advisory, a typical one-hour session of hookah smoking exposes the user to 100 to 200 times the volume of smoke inhaled from a single cigarette. Even after passing through the water, the tobacco smoke produced still contains high levels of toxic compounds, including carbon monoxide, heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens). [More info here]

Here is more information from American Cancer Society:

Hookah is also called narghile (nar-guh-lee) smoking. It started in Asia and the Middle East and involves burning tobacco that has been mixed with flavors such as honey, molasses, or dried fruit in a water pipe and inhaling the flavored smoke through a long hose. Charcoal is usually used to heat the tobacco mixture, which is known as shisha. Hookah smoking is usually a social event which allows the smokers to spend time together and talk as they pass the pipe around. It has recently become popular among younger people in Western countries.

Hookahs are marketed as being a safe alternative to cigarettes. This claim is false. The water does not filter out many of the toxins. In fact, hookah smoke has been shown to contain concentrations of toxins, such as carbon monoxide, nicotine, “tar,” and heavy metals, that are as high or higher than are seen with cigarette smoke. Several types of cancer, including lung cancer, have been linked to hookah smoking. Hookah is also linked to other unique risks not associated with cigarette smoking. For example, infectious diseases including tuberculosis (which can infect the lungs or other parts of the body), aspergillus (a fungus that can cause serious lung infections), and helicobacter (which can cause stomach ulcers) may be spread by sharing the pipe or through the way the tobacco is prepared.

BOTTOM LINE: If smoking cigarettes is harmful and haram, then hookah smoking is only worse.

So, whoever is thinking that they are safe with hookahs as opposed to cigarettes are only fooling themselves. It is especially sad to see this trend catching on fire in the Muslim world. In my trip to Pakistan, I noticed how this has become the “cool” alternative thing to do!

Let’s do whatever it takes to halt this phenomenon, especially in preventing our youth from picking up this harmful/haram habit. Spread the word!

At the request of readers who would like PDF copies for easy distribution, the following file can be downloaded, printed or attached for easy distribution: hookah-smoking-haram.pdf

P.S. Many thanks to Riya for bringing up this subject as a comment on an unrelated post.

See Also:

Abu Reem is one of the founders of MuslimMatters, Inc. His identity is shaped by his religion (Islam), place of birth (Pakistan), and nationality (American). By education, he is a ChemE, topped off with an MBA from Wharton. He has been involved with Texas Dawah, Clear Lake Islamic Center and MSA. His interests include politics, cricket, and media interactions. Career-wise, Abu Reem is in management in the oil & gas industry (but one who still appreciates the "green revolution").



  1. Amad


    March 17, 2008 at 12:00 PM

    Two thumbs down for a pathetic “Muslim export” and to those who are reviewing and providing information about “hookah bars”. What’s next? Tips on the best way to commit suicide?

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      February 4, 2010 at 12:43 AM

      Assalamu alaikum,

      For the advocates of smoking: Remember, when you light up, you are not smoking alone. There is a thing such as second hand smoke. You are making life miserable for those who don’t want to share your makruh or your haram. That includes your innocent children. On the day of qiyamah, all those people you gave disease will also have claims against you because you harmed them, in spite of being warned.

      I am speaking from personal experience as the smoker in my life left me disabled and gasping for air. I could not even walk ten steps without getting breathless. I could not get through the night without taking the inhaler twice. It took my lungs to clear up 5 years after I stopped being exposed to this poison, and be able to live a normal life. Today I have a node in my lung. The doctor asked me if am a smoker. I said no, but I was exposed to a smoker once.

      Following is a very interesting article about smoking in the Middle East:

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        September 1, 2010 at 11:33 AM

        im only 13 years old i honestly think shisha aint haraam and its not really harmfull all it is water at the bottom and molaases which has no tobbaco no nicotine and no tar and whats so harmfull. i dont know why you lot make such a Big Deal of it

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          September 5, 2010 at 7:38 AM

          Did you even read the article? Everything you just said was disproved by quotes from professionals and doctors. The point being you are a child which I’m guessing means you’re not a chemist/biologist who has studied this and don’t actually know what chemicals are in the stuff you are smoking.

          In short you don’t know the facts. Professionals do. They say it is harmful. What makes you think you know better?

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            September 9, 2010 at 4:06 AM

            I am 21 yrs old, i am studying biology at UNC Chapel Hill, my coudin own a hookah bar. I read the boxes that the moasel (tobacco) comes in and the tobacco used with the hookah DOES NOT contain tar which is what impacts the lungs the greatest. It has a very small amount of nicotine in it but nicotine has no impact on the lungs. The impact to your body is very small with hookah. All these studies conducted by these professionals im certain is either false or contaminated. Hookah is much safer than cigarettes and no body can honestly say any different. Shukran katheeran wa ma3 salam….

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            September 30, 2010 at 6:15 PM

            who cares if its harmful its fun

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            October 18, 2010 at 1:10 PM

            joe listen i have studying chemicals in school for a while is that why im a level c it isnt really harmfull they metals are produced which aprantley i dont beleive

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            August 1, 2012 at 2:25 AM

            Hookah doesn’t produce smoke. the charcoal heats the shisha to the point were it vaporizes. There is no tar/ash because its not burning. The tar is what makes your lungs black and is what causes most of the smoking based problems. these “studies” are crap because they are putting the charcoal right on top of the tobacco. If you cover the shisha over with a metal plate there will not be any smoke from the charcoal. shisha also only has .05% nicotine.

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            Virgin Cigarette

            August 1, 2012 at 4:17 AM

            Smoke is smoke. If it’s so healthy and wholesome, then invite parents to let their newborn babies enjoy some. Did Prophet Mohammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) smoke anything? I don’t even know of a hadith where he ever drank tea. His favorite beverage was ground dates. Brother Huefisaskllkjh, there’s no need to to be angry at the truth. As a convert to Islam, there is a lesson that I learned that many Muslims have not: I am not perfect.
            Since saying Shahada a few years ago (alhamdulillah) I learned that I was wrong about everything that I have ever learned about life and the Hereafter.

            Today, it is 2012, and I had to learn to:
            Stop drinking alcohol, stop smoking, stop believing in the trinity, stop saying the word tr*nity, stop swearing, stop using urinal toilets and wash with water instead, stop telling demeaning “jokes”, stop celebrating X-mas with my family, stop propagating the idea of Santa, the easter bunny, and the tooth fairy to my children, stop loving non-Muslims as much as I love my Ummah, stop stealing and cheating in business, and the list goes on and on…..

            My point is that I had to stop doing so many things. Can’t you just stop smoking?
            The best da’wa you can give is by your example! What will the children do, who witness you smoke? What will your “reward” in the Hereafter be? And what would your reward be if you reject evil nafs in all forms and teach others to do the same?

            May Allah (عز و جل) make it easy for you and for all the Brothers and Sisters who struggle in Allah’s cause to overcome the veils of this dunia.

            Ramadan Mubarak

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            December 24, 2012 at 8:23 PM

            Hey man (Joe), to be fair he is reading the ingredient list right off of the container of shisha… and in his defense it does say 0 Tar. I do think that people should be educated on what harm can come from these kinds of bad habits though. He raises another point (though he doesn’t articulate it well) that the information coming from the professionals may be “contaminated”. In my experience with shisha the tobacco is “washed” which means it is boiled like tea leaves until the tar and “dirty” water stop being produced. Then it is boiled again just for good measure. This is done until the water the tobacco is boiled in is clear and looks as though it has never had anything in it. I’m no chemist so I don’t know for sure if that means the harmful chemicals have been removed or not but my intuition leaves me with one conclusion and that is that the tobacco in hookah does indeed contain less of the bad stuff than cigarettes. That said my intuition has been wrong before. In any case… just in case you are curious, the ingredients list off of a commercially produced tin of Hard Rush my roommate likes to smoke (raspberry) says this:::

            INGREDIANTS: Virgin Tobacco (which I assume means unwashed), Honey, Flavor, Preservatives, Glucerin, Nicotine 0.05%, Tar 0%

            I suppose the only way to know for us non professionals to decide is to do some experimenting of our own. In fact I’ll have my room mate help me do one (since I don’t smoke). Ill post videos of it on youtube. (This post was made on 12/24/12)

            The Videos will be named “Hookah: The Experiment”

            I’ll try to test claims that can be easily tested by an average Joe (such as “glycerin is what makes the smoke not the tobacco”)

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          September 5, 2010 at 11:50 AM

          @ Qasim: did u not read the article brother??? there have been scientific experiments done which clearly prove that it is harmful… so watever u ‘think’ is obviously not correct… shaytaan decieves us in many ways.. may allah guide us all, ameen.

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            October 18, 2010 at 1:07 PM

            thank you Saleema For your Post yourslef but it isnt harmfull as ciggerettes because there is a small traces of nicotine and no tar .

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          September 9, 2010 at 4:20 AM

          You are right qasim, it has nicotine in it but very little amount but it has no tar in it

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            EVEN SMALL IS HARAM!

            October 24, 2010 at 3:23 PM

            Waleed, when you say “The impact to your body is very small with hookah”, you should consider the Hadith, “If a large amount of anything causes intoxication, a small amount of it is also prohibited .” This Hadith’s quite well-known and has been in Abu Dawud [Ashriba, 5] and Tirmidhi [Ashriba 3], as well as An-Nawawi’s 40 Hadith.

            Consider it. Not the little excuses the Shaitan whispers to you.

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            January 10, 2011 at 5:10 PM

            @Waleed ..hahaha, of course it won`t include tar in the ingredients! It is not made with Tar, but instead produces it. Tar is the by-product which is observed coating your lungs after smoking.

            And nicotine, no matter how small the dosage, over a period of smoking or ingesting anything containing it, has detrimental effects on ones body especially concerning heart disease.

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          December 22, 2010 at 5:17 AM

          @Waleed. I know I’m a little late. But someone haven’t touched on this one.

          It is true, Hookah/shisha has smaller amount of nicotine, tar or heavy metals. However, the people who smoke sheysha, smokes for a LARGER amount compared to smoking cigarettes. It’s what makes it worse.

          There is a myth that hookah smoking is safer than smoking cigarettes because the hookah smoke is filtered through water before it is inhaled. But recent studies have found that hookah smokers actually inhale more nicotine than do cigarette smokers because of the massive volume of smoke they inhale…

          According to a recent World Health Organization (WHO) advisory, a typical one-hour session of hookah smoking exposes the user to 100 to 200 times the volume of smoke inhaled from a single cigarette. Even after passing through the water, the tobacco smoke produced still contains high levels of toxic compounds, including carbon monoxide, heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens).”

          and this excerpt was taken from this article for those who fail to read it thoroughly.

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          February 23, 2011 at 4:07 AM


          As a former shisha smoker I can tell you that it may have no nicotine but it definitly IS tobacco. Your 13 and I respectfully advice you as a brother that it is very harmful for you and the time one will spend in a one or two hour session is generally equal to smoking a FULL pack of cigarettes. A common cigarette smoker “spaces” apart the puffing while smoking, while the shisha smoker repeats his/her puffing in a matter of around 2 to 3 seconds. A chimney can’t keep up with that! And as soon as the charcoal burns out, another one is immediately lit and so forth. Also, the water serves no purpose other than making a bubbling sound and does nothing to “filter” the tobacco. Hope this helps. :)

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          March 3, 2011 at 9:01 PM

          it is haram or makruh if it hurts u its haram ur to young to even care.

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          July 6, 2011 at 3:21 PM

          Hey Kid – Let me tell you something; If you truly believe that shisha won’t hurt you, think again. IT IS TOBACCO – flavored with molasses, apple, honey, whatever. You light it up and suck it up into your mouth – IT IS SMOKE. It is an irritant, a toxin and will hurt you. You can get mouth cancer, tounge cancer (imagine life without your tongue. It happened to a neighbor of mine). If you inhale it it can cause lung and throat cancer. At 13 years old, now 14, you should be alot smarter. You should be an advocate for non smoking. Shisha does contain tar and nicotine. You should do alot more research –

          edited – stay away from that garbage.

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          July 16, 2011 at 12:58 PM

          well Qasim, i know its more harmful because I’ve had my family dye off of hookah and cigarettes, so i know its harmful, your 13 you don’t know anything compared to these scientists, you may be studying chemicals in school so did we as kids, but its not going to say “tobacco is good for you” who ever is telling you that it is is a dumb **s. okay. So you leave it to the people to tell you this do it or don’t i don’t and im living on the safe side. and Fyi; Tobacco…. and if you read on the back of hookah tobacco boxes, it even SAYS! its made with tar and tobacco leaves, and says the generals warning thank you very much..

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        Conor Brown

        February 19, 2012 at 9:11 PM

        Stop. Stop, stop, stop, stop. No one in their right mind believes a word of what you’re saying.  If you couldn’t “walk ten steps” because of occasionally being exposed to hookah smoke, than i will quit my job, move to arizona and stick cacti up my anus every other day for the rest of my life.  Speak in an unbiased manner and quit giving religious people such as myself a bad name by reciting empty threats and painting God as a bully of those who are mistaken. You should be ashamed of yourself

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      May 25, 2010 at 4:31 PM

      i feel very sad to hear this. i started somking sense i was 12, im 19 now and i want to quit cigarretes so my friend told me about the shisha (hookah), well he explained how shisha was better than cigarretes so i believed him. which is the opposite of what i have reaserched. now im addicted with the shisha and cigarretes, and i also spend more money on tobbaco and i bouht a marmol shisha etc.. for a worse habbit.. im against shisha, and i wanna quit..
      i want to share this story to all the people in my age, so they can think twice before trying shisha.or any addictive products out there.

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        May 20, 2012 at 11:19 AM

        i tried shisha twice already and i’m not addicted. i’m still going to keep smoking but not all the time. maybe twice a month. thank you for your concern though. i hope you are able to quit. i guess everyones’ bodies are different because i can’t get addcted to things. i just say “im not gonna do this anymore” and i dont. i really hope you are able to quit! :]

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      That Guy

      March 24, 2012 at 10:03 PM

      People are gonna smoke it if they want to, your just wasting your effort trying to get people to stop cause they’re just gonna keep smoking if they like it. I sure wouldn’t stop if you told me it was bad, even seeing the pic of lung comparison I still wouldn’t stop. 

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        Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

        March 26, 2012 at 3:24 PM

        People are going to commit many wrong actions if they want to but that doesn’t mean you don’t warn them about it.

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      December 6, 2012 at 5:25 AM

      Dear Amad and others,

      Hope you are good and in increasing stage of Eeman.

      I read your article on hookah/Cigarette.

      would you like to contribute more by writing on Islam related articles?

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    March 17, 2008 at 12:52 PM

    JazakAllahukhair for making the truth plain. I find it astonishing how some people continue to argue for the “mere” disliked nature of smoking(the meaning of Mukruh is not that simple).

    I thank Allah who never allowed me to be exposed to these two evils, and made for me an easy path.

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    March 17, 2008 at 2:00 PM

    Salam Yo, Jazakullah for the shout out, appreciate it…nice article.


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    Dawud Israel

    March 17, 2008 at 2:21 PM

    Props Amad. I’m loving the PDF style…I do that too once in a while and it helps with the Dawah to spread things around.

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    Yusuf Smith

    March 17, 2008 at 2:44 PM

    As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    Alhamdu lillah, in this country they banned smoking in indoor public spaces and the hookah bars of the outer West End protested because they said it would wreck their business. But they got no mercy and I don’t know how many of them are still going. A lot of places are so much more pleasant for the lack of tobacco smoke although some people now know they’ve got to do something about their personal hygiene …

  6. Amad


    March 17, 2008 at 4:00 PM

    Thx Dawud, just for you!

    Yusuf, I wish they do it more here.. Philly I think recently went all non-smoking. If people want to smoke, they should go outside and do it, no reason to make everyone else inhale the poison.

    What’s funny is that there are some people who claim some “islamic ties” to hookahs… I think they probably thinking Aladdin! Amazing how “Islamic” urban legends find a way into Muslim homes. Just like mujrahs and qawalis are “islamic” too! When people describe such things as Islamic, they are exposing their pitiful lack of any basic Islamic knowledge.


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      November 13, 2009 at 3:36 PM

      Nigga this is bullshit

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    H. Ahmed

    March 17, 2008 at 5:07 PM

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    March 17, 2008 at 5:15 PM

    Bro, this is sick! I didn’t know that it actually is worse then cigarettes. Man, people have been so ignorant about this issue. But alhamdulilah, with this new scientific evidence, hopefully inshallah it will open their eyes and minds to the truth that it is VERY harmful, more harmful then smoking cigarettes.

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      September 9, 2010 at 4:17 AM

      Bro its not worse than cigarettes, this article is no good and not telling the truth, please do not buy into this b.s.

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        September 9, 2010 at 10:22 AM

        Sorry Waleed it is not sufficient to say ‘the article is no good” you have to disprove. Otherwise you are in denial or like some narrow minded peasant mullah. As for the facts, thre are really a number of studies that indicate that the hookah smoke is harmful. If you smoke a few times a year, harm is minmal. If you smoke every day, there is a lot of harm to you and to anyone around you. I asked a government official about herbal mixtures as an alternative and she said though they lacked habit forming nicotine– but the burning of the herbs itself releases cancer causing chemicals so there was not avoiding bannng this practice in the long run.

        So pls go find some healhier way to have fun. And use a condom! :)

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          March 19, 2011 at 1:45 AM


          Adem, what Mr. Waleed means by “no good” is that, this scientific studies never been shown it proved. If you open you tube or just Google “cigarette dangerous”. U can see many experiment show that how harm the cigar, u can see the tar contain. Then u try to find any video show that shisha is harm.. None u will get!! If really it harm, just show how there do the experiment…

  9. Amad


    March 17, 2008 at 5:34 PM

    H. Ahmed, I linked to the article from the main post. Don’t know how I missed it! :)

    Ali, I didn’t know either that it was worse… you know hookah seems so benign, almost friendly and inviting. And then they create the environment, which usually involves some funky arabian nights tunes… its all a plot!

    Disclaimer: I haven’t had the opportunity walhamdulilah to engage in this evil practice, but I have seen a few of them.

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    March 17, 2008 at 5:40 PM

    Man thats crazy. Im from Chicago, and its ridiculous how many Muslim youth are into this (and I mean A LOT), and they often market it as ‘It’s ONLY makhruh’.

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    March 17, 2008 at 5:41 PM

    Speaking of which, I think MM should post this vid on the subject (its pretty scary):

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    March 17, 2008 at 5:45 PM

    “…But they got no mercy and I don’t know how many of them are still going.”

    Yusuf, in the East End one I know of evaded restrictions by re-opening as a ‘private house’.

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    Aboo Uthmaan

    March 17, 2008 at 6:15 PM

    What is worth noting is all of the other evils that go along with this. I have known of husbands and fathers returning home gone 3am from sheesha and music infested parties.

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    March 17, 2008 at 6:41 PM

    Asim, those “Shaytan” videos are kind of cheezy… a bit humorous too… not sure if people would respond to them, i.e. be affected positively… what do you say, others?

    Aboo Uthmaan, and all for a makruh, but “not haram” purpose (music, smoking toxic mix!)… what a lie… how deceptive is the Shaytan!

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    Meghan Rose

    March 17, 2008 at 7:29 PM

    Thanks for the heads up…I used to smoke shisha before I reverted (as a social thing, not religiously related at all), but I haven’t in the few months since, alhamdulillah. I’ve always wondered about the health effects of shisha, especially since I grew up with parents who were cigarette smokers and I’ve always made it a point not to start that habit.

    The one thing that does strike me is that, at least in my experience (being your average white American and so I can’t really comment on Muslims in particular or immigrants; most of the people who smoke at the bars here are white college students), people who smoke shisha tend to do so socially and not addictively. I used to smoke once a month or so and now I do so maybe once every few months; most people I know prefer to go out to bars to do it, which can be prohibitively expensive, so they only do it max once a week or so and aren’t physically addicted to it (they can stop when they can’t afford it). Versus growing up with people who are addicted to cigarettes, I know what cigarette addiction looks like, and what a three-pack-a-day habit looks like. I’m just wondering if shisha isn’t considered preferable by some because it’s more of a social thing (at least among white Americans) and not an actual physical addiction, and because it tends to be indulged in much, much less often than most cigarette habits (even if we say the average cigarette smoker only smokes a pack a day, a hookah a month has to be somewhat less damaging).

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      January 6, 2010 at 9:20 AM

      there is a bar 30mins from where i live and they only charge $10 for a bowl packof hookah and it last roughly 1-1.5 hours to smoke

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        AdemC from NAfis Salaam

        January 6, 2010 at 10:59 PM

        AA Is your point that it is a cheap high– equivalent of cheap beer– a way that folks kill time without spending alot?

        For 10 dollars you can also drink 5 to 10 cups of coffee depending where you are. Not so healthy either but no where near as bad. YOU might even stretch it to 2 hours.

        frisbee is free

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      February 3, 2010 at 10:56 PM

      i am from pakistan.i hve start smoking sheesha two days ago but now i hve decided to leave thi bad habit

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    Meghan Rose

    March 17, 2008 at 7:32 PM

    Also, another thing that I think might cause some to consider it preferable to cigarettes is that a lot of shisha smokers I know don’t actually inhale – they just do it for the taste/social experience and avoid actually taking the smoke into their lungs (at least as much as possible). I’m wondering what the effects are of this compared to a shisha smoker who does inhale, or who smokes more often.

    Just thinking out loud. Jazakallahkhair! This is a wonderful post and really good information.

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      June 2, 2011 at 10:35 AM

      Salaam Sister! I know Im responding REALLY late (like three years late) bu Ive just seen this post and had to make a comment. If you study anatomy and physiology, it is impossible to take in a deep breath through your mouth without the air going straight into your lungs. Therefore if you are smoking sheesha/hookah, whatever, its impossible to stop the smoke from going into your lungs.

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    Aboo Uthmaan

    March 17, 2008 at 7:35 PM

    @ Amad – I remember once sitting in a khutbah that the Shaykh was delivering on smoking cigarettes, after giving all the proofs as to why it is haram he made mention of those who claim such an act is makrooh. The Shaykh said let’s say hypothetically that smoking is makrooh, who is it you are displeasing with this “makrooh” act?

  18. Amad


    March 17, 2008 at 8:07 PM

    salam Meghan, thanks for stopping by.

    You make some good points.

    The way I see it… Islam comes to cut off the root of the problem. A cup or two of alcohol won’t kill you either (and actually healthy), but Allah forbade it. Similarly, Allah forbade the coming close to zina… Some people can save themselves, but many couldn’t. So for the society as a whole, Allah forbade those.

    Now, some people may argue that Allah didn’t forbid smoking… but at the same time they will be ok with saying that cocaine, for instance, is haram. That is due to the principle of Qiyaas (analogy). So, in “new matters” we rely on scholars.

    Since it seems that most scholars disallow this, we have to just leave it. And as Br. Aboo Uthmaan said, and I am guessing that you are aware from your experience, the social experience is usually not that halal either… music, mixing, etc.

    Alhamdulilah, Allah has given us enough halal socially beneficial and healthy outlets… so lets use them like:

    Muslim Culture vs. Pop Culture: Halaal Alternatives

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    Meghan Rose

    March 17, 2008 at 8:37 PM

    Amad, thanks for your response. :) I totally agree…Allah subhanu wa ta’ala is all-knowing and wise. I was responding more from a secular perspective only because I already agree that all mind-altering substances (tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs) are haraam, except when medically necessary, and I was really particularly interested in shisha vs. cigarettes and the health issues involved just because this particular perspective is new to me.

    Thanks so much for the Halaal Alternatives link! That is really helpful for me, as a new revert :)

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    Ammar Diwan

    March 17, 2008 at 8:57 PM

    I think some clarification is needed. There are definitely top reliable and God-fearing scholars who consider smoking makruh. HOWEVER, if any harm is caused, the ruling is that of makruh tahriman (Sinful & Borderline haram). And who said doing things that are makruh tahriman is okay. The scholars who rule smoking is makruh tahriman ALSO rule that makruh tahriman is worthy of punishment in the hereafter and if it goes unrepented and God decides not to forgive one, it is worthy of time in Hellfire. So I suggest people who keep saying “it’s makruh yo” go and read up on what the ruling really is, and what it implies.

    Secondly, the scholars who rule it as makruh tahriman when harm is caused (Which is true in most cases) canNOT be looked down upon. They certainly have there proofs, and they are quite strong despite what most people think.

    In conclusion, it is permissible to hold smoking to be makruh tahriman, and makruh tahriman is worthy of Hellfire, so don’t take it lightly.

  21. Amad


    March 17, 2008 at 9:22 PM

    salam Br. Ammaar, of course no one is saying that the scholars who said it is makruh are not God-fearing. But if you read the attached article, and the opinion from wide spectrum of muftis (including Mufti Desai of Hanafi opinion), they are moving towards haram. Once you lay out the evidences, it is tough to deny it.

    Also, this is a matter, where it is better and more beneficial to be firmer and “harsher” than to be light… because there is not benefit to be gained in letting people smoke.


  22. Avatar

    Ammar Diwan

    March 17, 2008 at 9:29 PM

    But the point is the scholars that permit smoking yet hold it to be makruh tahriman also hold makruh tahriman to be sinful, so there is no ‘loophole.’ So either way, if you are a habitual smoker, it is sinful Islamically.

  23. Avatar


    March 17, 2008 at 9:33 PM

    I don’t understand SA/Arab Muslims when they argue that the Hookah is part of their “Islamic” culture. The Hookah originated in India (OK, so it has some pull for SA Muslims. Forgive the pun). Tabacco was not introduced into Islamic lands until at least a thousand years after Muhammed started the religion when Columbus discovered the Americas (OK, not “discovered” that goes to the East Asian-extracted Natives and the Vikings; but discovered for purposes of permanent trade lines).

    And it always puzzles me that Muslims will not go near an alcoholic beverage as it is “Haram” but while they are denying it they are chain-smoking on filterless cigarettes that smell awful.

    Me, My one drug is Caffeine and I take it in Coffee form. And lots of it.

  24. Avatar

    Ammar Diwan

    March 17, 2008 at 9:34 PM

    This is the most lenient fatwa in the realm of valid and reliable ones:

    Again, I definitely do not promote smoking, I’m just laying out both sides.

    Given the evidence and taking into account all fatwas, I urge everyone to leave tobacco in all its forms ASAP.

  25. Avatar


    March 17, 2008 at 11:49 PM

    JAZAKALLAHU KHAYR. This is one myth that needs dispelling.

  26. Avatar


    March 18, 2008 at 12:31 AM

    I have been a strong advocate against the tobacco company and when i saw a rise in the popularity of hookah i was disgusted by how much all these people were fooling themselves.

    Long time ago people thought weed, cigarettes, alcohol were all good them… and they’ve continiusly been proven wrong… how many examples do people need before they make the right decision??

    andd i wanted to add some info

    ->average puff on a waterpipe = 500 ml of smoke, while the average puff on a cigarette = 50 ml of smoke.
    -> A hookah smoker =100 puffs with a waterpipe (i.e., in a single 30-45 minute session) while a cigarette smoker = 10 puffs.

    ->STILL produces SECOND HAND SMOKE which is still harmful to those around you

    and my general rule of thumb is… any kind of smoke that you inhale is bound not to be good for you.

  27. Avatar


    March 18, 2008 at 8:02 AM

    Jazakallah for the article! I’ve been trying to tell family and friends this stuff for ages but they actually get angry if you criticise sheesha (sign of addiction I guess!). They’re adamant that a) sheesha doesn’t have nicotine or anything harmful like tobacco, b) the water filters everything to make it less concentrated, and c) any damage it does to your lungs is reparable.

    It’s good to have hard facts and statistics on your side!

    • Avatar


      June 16, 2011 at 1:17 AM

      The water is to cause a reaction in the vapor. It’s not smoke for god sakes. Shisha is not lit it is baked

  28. Pingback:

  29. AnonyMouse


    March 18, 2008 at 7:25 PM

    All smoking is yucky!
    Seriously though, I’m dead set against smoking of any type because my grandpa used to smoke a LOT – since the age of 13! – and his lungs were/ are terrible… alHamdulillaah since his heart attack he was forced to stop ‘cuz the doctors told him straight up that if he started smoking again, they wouldn’t even let him near the hospital. But I really wish it didn’t take something so drastic to make him (and others) stop!

    Just like mujrahs and qawalis are “islamic” too!
    Uhhhh, what are mujrahs and qawalis?

  30. Avatar


    March 18, 2008 at 7:43 PM

    Qawali’s are those songs right? Usually sung by overweight uncles, accompanied by an accordion thing and a drum and stuff. Probably an acquired taste.

  31. Avatar


    March 19, 2008 at 3:12 AM

    Tight post. I copy and pasted it into a Facebook note. =)

  32. Avatar


    March 19, 2008 at 9:41 AM

    Jazzakumulahu khayr for posting this br Amad.
    Recently, on our travel through a US airport, my husband and I saw a Muslim sister alone in a very crowded smoking-room full of non-Muslim men smoking and puffing away with them.
    If it wasn’t due to her full hijab and jilbab, we wouldn’t have known she’s a Muslimah.
    Yeap, bad enough for a man to smoke but a sister?
    Worst still when children are around. One hand is holding a child, another flicking a cig.

    • Avatar


      October 16, 2010 at 11:10 AM

      You probably dont mean this. But the implications of this are that its somehow not as bad when a man does it. Long gone are the days “I’m a man so I can do whatever I want and you are a woman so you have to stay home and be a good wife to me while I go out and be a man.” ie that women will have more “cultural hayaa” than men.

      Thats the consequences that men have to face if they expect to do haram then don’t expect the womenfolk to lose out on the fun either!

      I’m not condoning smoking or sheesha. I’m just saying that gender double standards dont really apply anymore in any country in any place. both genders are living it up!

  33. Avatar

    umm ibraheem

    March 20, 2008 at 11:17 AM

    May Allah reward you for your post on this topic…Just a quick question. What do some of your scholars have to say on this matter? Unfortunately for some people…the proof you mentioned is not enough…they want to know what the “Sheikhs” have to say. I think hookah is the biggest fitnah in our community and marriages have almost broken up over it. People spend like $100 bucks a week on it. Ugh!

  34. Avatar


    March 20, 2008 at 8:19 PM

    Khawla: Yeap, bad enough for a man to smoke but a sister?

    Haram is just as haram whoever’s doing it!

    I do get your point though, it somehow looks more vulgar when women smoke/drink than men.

  35. Amad


    March 20, 2008 at 9:05 PM

    Umm ibraheem
    Inshallah will try to get response.

  36. Avatar


    March 21, 2008 at 9:54 AM

    Yeck! While I respect the right for one to smoke(as it is not around me), it’s a health hazard.

    I think about the late comedian George Burns. The guys smoked cigars from a pre-teen until the age of 100. Although his doctors said that he didn’t die of of a respiratory illnesses, I have wondered what his lungs looked like? I could be wrong, but I just cannot see his lungs being healthy with all of that smoking that he was doing, even if the smoke is supposed to be exhaled.

    Another thing that I find irritating with cigaratte/cigar smoking is the smell. I would get irrititated when I would use my neighbor’s dryer, then come back with half my clothes smelling like cigaratte. I could ghet my clothes dried up her house or just go there just to borrow something, but I end up smelling like her house. I have never smoked in my life.

    • Avatar


      January 6, 2010 at 9:22 AM

      with cigars your not sposed to inhale but to just taste the flavor

  37. Amad


    March 24, 2008 at 11:30 AM

    umm ibraheem, This is the response from Sheikh Waleed who believes it is haram:

    “It is Haram by the Fatwa of Sh. Bin Baz and the committee of the kibaar-Ulama in KSA. It is like smoking”

  38. Avatar

    Nasir Muzaffar

    March 24, 2008 at 12:59 PM

    Definition of Smoking-
    From Smoking A Social Posion By Sheikh Muhammad al-Jibaly

    Smoking refers to the action of lighting a cigarette, a pipe, a cigar, a water pipe, or any other object made from tobacco or materials of similar effects. The object is then sucked on with the lips to extract smoke. This smoke is inhaled into the chest and then exhaled from the nose and mouth as a thick white smoke. “Smoking” is now used to refer to the action of producing this smoke in English, Arabic, and other languages.

  39. Avatar

    Nasir Muzaffar

    March 24, 2008 at 4:24 PM

    So consuming Hookah and Shisha come under the heading of smoking as per the definition stated above

  40. Avatar


    May 17, 2008 at 7:40 AM

    What about cigar and pipe smoking in which a person does not inhale the smoke into his lungs, rather just sucks in order to draw the smoke into his mouth. Sure, nicotine is absorbed via the salivary glands and through the cheeks and there is still the threat of oral cancer but as the rate of nicotine absorption is low it is a lot less addictive and harmful. Most cigar smokers can control the amount they smoke and only smoke once a month or so. My question is, that if this too is haram, then muslims cant really unwind, relax and socialize in any gathering in the mordern world (especially in non-muslim gatherings). Just as a clarification, i do not smoke but after i discovered how less harmful and totally natural cigars are, i kinda feel like changing my mind. I find cigarette smoking and addiction disgusting but was wondering if cigars really are a good alternative to cigarettes.

  41. Avatar


    May 24, 2008 at 2:03 PM

    i will not even try to atempt to say that smoking tobacco is not haram because i know that the muslim religion believes it is so, and i may say i bdo believe that is justified. I do still feel its necessary to say that the myth that hookah is smoke is more dangerous than cigarette smoke is being blown out of proportion. Most if not all studies that say this is conclusivley true are using extremely high temperature figures(600C to 700C), assuming the hookah smoker is fully charring and burning the tobacco until it turs into ash. Most people who are smoking hookahs during social situations and are not already cigarette smokers burn the tobacco around 100-200C. Smoking the tobacco at this heat NEVER burns the tobacco but simply heats it up to release some amounts of nicotine and flavor. This way is still surely not the best thing for your helath and can cause lung caner, but if smoked this way a hookah will never come to close to being as dangerous as smoking a pack of cigarttes a day every day.

  42. Avatar


    May 27, 2008 at 5:30 PM

    As muslims we need to put things in perspective of Who we are disobeying…this is no joke! we are disobeying Allah!!
    and we must see how those things are affect us and our level of faith in Allah.
    Does smoking and hookah making me a good musliM or a bad one?
    Do i want my last action before i die to be smoking or hookah?
    It is affecting my prayer also…do i goto interview with smoking breath?
    how can i dare choose to smoke and then pray? it discourages from prayer also,
    and most of Allah swt forbade harming one’self and why shud we then choose to harm ourselves with something we know isnt good for us?
    and Allah swt knows best, we just want to try our best to be close to Allah in this life and the next since everyone will be judged on the day that man will be hold accountable for his deeds.

    may Allah swt forgive us all and give us the strength and love for Him to leave such things that take us away from Him. ameen.

  43. Avatar


    July 15, 2008 at 9:43 PM

    thanks for the article but it seems to me that the author is giving a fatwa. we must all be very careful not to give fatwas if we are not qualified. i asked a scholar of fiqh from al azhar with a phD in fiqh and he did not clearly say that it haram but instead he said that you should stay away from it. By doing this, he did not take a solid position because he was not 100% sure of the ruling. may Allah protect us from smoking and all other things that will harm us in this world and the next

  44. Amad


    July 15, 2008 at 9:47 PM

    Brother abuabdullah, the author is not giving a fatwa, because he (me) is not REMOTELY in a position to do so. I provided links to opinions of scholars to summarize a position that I defer to. There is a big difference between issuing a ruling, and summarizing a conclusion based on OTHER rulings. I respect that the scholar you asked differs from the position stated in this article, but I don’t think we should pass an opinion of one scholar that is opposition to what seems to be the jamhoor (majority) that smoking is indeed impermissible. I also believe that a less than firm attitude in this matter provides that little opening that many will abuse, and will cause people to keep on smoking, believing (or wanting to believe) that its just a makrooh thing. I hope inshallah more and more scholars will put their foot down on this firmly, based on information now available (which was not available years ago) about the harms of smoking, so that there is no ambiguity about tobacco, a substance that has nothing inherently beneficial about it. Wallahualam.

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  46. Avatar


    August 31, 2008 at 12:57 PM

    this article is such an eye opener for all the mislead youths of today who think that hukkah/ sheesha bars are a great “islamically acceptable” alternative to pubs and clubs. unfortunately i was one who gave into this new found buzz when at university. i saw my friends who otherwise were very islamical in their dress and attitude, frequented visits to hukkah bars and enjoyed the bliss of puffing away the smoke. for a good while i thought this was nowhere near as dangerous as cigarettes and didnt think it contained tobacco either…untill i watched a television program on the very harmful effects of hukkah.
    we as an islamic community need to do much more to raise awareness amongst our vulnerable youngsters …….and need to sign petitions to close down existing sheesha bars.

  47. Avatar


    October 18, 2008 at 11:27 AM

    Assalamu alaikum.

    I think i am one of these muslim youths who are caught up with fads such as this.

    I should’ve researched more before i went out last night, but i didnt. Last night i did hukkah (shesha) and it was my first time ever smoking anything. Ive avoided cigarettes (and alcohol) my entire life, thinking it was next to one of the biggest sins. I though hukkah was different though, I thought it had little effect and none of it was permanent. After reading his article i am more aware, and pledge to stay away from it for the rest of my life. The picture of the lungs really caught my attention. i have one question though, I was told that shesha doesnt have tabbaco or nicotine, and it not harmful at all to the body…is that true? is it still bad for my body if i do shesha?

  48. Amad


    October 18, 2008 at 12:31 PM

    salam… Azim, please refer to the Mayo Clinic report in the article, which mentions that there is more nicotine that is taken in with hookah than with cigarettes.

    Mashallah, I love your attitude. You read something that is a reminder of haram and halal, and you immediately pledge to leave it. This is indeed the attitude of a believer, may Allah keep you and all of us away from this evil and all others.

  49. Avatar


    October 19, 2008 at 11:07 AM


    Wow, I never knew that sheesha had nicotine!
    There was always a fruity smell to it, and I thought it was harmless (forgive my ignorance!)!
    Here in Malaysia, smoking is generally assumed to be in the ‘makruh’ category with the “well, it’s only makruh, not haram” attitude.
    Many restaurants, high class or roadside – ‘offer’ the sheesha to its customers. More often than not, it’s really young adults at it – just the other day I saw a father letting all his sons have a try as if it was some new dish at dinner!

  50. Avatar


    October 19, 2008 at 11:14 AM

    Oh, I wanted to add that – I was told by a brother who encourages using the miswak as a means to quit smoking – that tobacco companies spend lots of money to make the whole haram/makruh issue uncertain! I wonder how true that is…

  51. Avatar


    October 20, 2008 at 1:07 PM

    Walaikum assalam Amed,

    Of course, I’m sorry, the Mayo Clinic report gave that information and it was not your own writing, you just cited it. There fore you did not plagiarize. Thank you for those words, I intend to stay a strong believer inshallah and may Allah make me and all of the righteous believers stronger in Iman and help us with the jihad against ourselves and shaytan. Ameen

  52. Avatar

    Sara R

    October 30, 2008 at 10:27 AM

    A LOT of my friends smoke hookah and i dont know how to tell them its wrong. i once brought up cigarettes and one of my friends said ohh smoking isnt haraam… i smoke hookah…….. i dont know how to tell them without offending them… and they are girls!!

  53. Amad


    October 30, 2008 at 10:41 AM

    Sara, print this out:

    And give it to them. If they don’t listen or don’t want to listen, you have done your job. Make sure you don’t participate with them or sit with them during their hookah sessions. I am not sure what else one can do. Thx for trying.


    • Avatar


      October 16, 2010 at 11:21 AM

      salaamu alaikum,

      JazakomAllah kheira for the beneficial article and advise.

      I just want to ask, what do you tell family members who believe sheesha is haram but they are okay with family relatives smoking in their backyards and even sit with them while they are doing this act? He says that the relative will not listen to him anyways when he tells him that sheesha is harmful, which is true. But still, isn’t sitting in that environment silently accepting their actions? Also, what are the long term effects/harm on that person’s family just being exposed to this type of condoning even if they are not exposed to the second hand smoke? But just seeing the family member allowing this behavior in their own backyard!

      I don’t know what to do since I don’t have the power in the family to stop this. All I can do is advice both the family member and the relative.

      • Amad


        October 16, 2010 at 12:14 PM

        There are a couple of issues with letting relatives do it in your “OWN SPACE”.

        1) Second-hand smoke and its medical harms
        2) The message it sends to young children and teenagers. They are thinking “it must not be that bad… after all, our parents are allowing in our own home”. It’s like if they allowed the drinking of alcohol (not equivalent but as hyperbole) in the backyard. No matter how much the parents insist that it is haram, the kids will find the double-standards hard to understand.

        For yourself, once you have tried your best, then you should just not be with them when they are involved in it, so that you are sending a silent message.

        However, i should add that this isn’t an issue which should lead to angry fights or arguments or breaking of families. Just try your best and then leave it up to Allah.

        • Avatar


          October 17, 2010 at 9:51 PM

          agreed especially on the last point. i do keep that point in my mind that it is a discussion and not fighting. Alhamdulillah it stays as that.

          insha Allah khair.

          and in the end its a test. may Allah give us the strength and wisdom to pass them.

  54. Avatar


    November 30, 2008 at 4:03 AM

    I am sure that this public service message on this website must have corrected many wrongs. I was just taking some quiz and 4 more info. i just searched and reached here so i m surely benefitted. more more messages should be ppublished inorder to save our youth!!!!!!!!!

  55. Avatar


    November 30, 2008 at 6:31 AM

    Assalammou’alaikum.. JazakAllah khair for this piece of information. Actually i was a smoker and i also smoked shisha twice but i was still ignorant at that time,may Allh forgive me. I can affirme that with the shisha u take in more smoke but due to the fruity smelll i didnt knw it was worse than ciggarette. Alhamdulillah i’ve quit smoking for about 2 years and i’ve become more knowledgeable in islam now but i can tell u zat the majority of muslinms still consider smoking as makruh but inshaAllah i hpe with the article,it brings a change in their mindset. May Allah guide all our ignorant brothers and sisters

  56. Avatar


    November 30, 2008 at 6:44 AM

    Sry i did a little mistake in my post: ‘i was still ignorant at that time,may Allah forgive me..’ And a little request to bro Amad,if u find other links supporting the evidence that smoking is haraam,plz let me knw.. JazaKAllah

  57. Avatar


    December 23, 2008 at 5:43 AM

    So know rulings are based on “western” science. The irony. Well meat has been found to cause ill health and eggs/diary are no friends to the body either. Are those haram? I mean, one can LIVE without them so its not like they are necessary for sustaining life. How bout cake and candy, full of diabetes causing sugar. What if tommrow the Mayo clinic came out with an article that made a claim that there was a strong link btw dates and cancer.(Quite possible they way science is going) Would you give up dates?
    I’m sorry, but that Quranic ruling that forbids anything that harms the body is very broad and can be applied to so much in our lives that we take for granted, such as using cars and building factories(which cause life-threatening pollution) to produce all our precious consumer items.
    Are we ready to pack it all up and move to the woods?

    And this verse being discussed: “And do not kill yourselves. Surely, Allah is Most Merciful to you. And whoever commits that through aggression and injustice, We shall cast him into the Fire and that is easy for Allah” [Qur’an 4:29]
    “And do not throw yourselves into destruction.” [Qur’an 2:195]

    How do we know it is not referring to a specific activity such as going to WAR with each other and oppressing others considering that the verse directly references aggression and injustice.
    If we would make forbidden all that science has deemed potentially destructive, well are lives would be a lot less interesting(or more depending on how one sees it)

  58. Avatar


    December 23, 2008 at 8:16 AM

    This may not answer all your points, but bear in mind that smoking is inherently dangerous, whereas some of the things you mention (e.g. chocolate) are quite simply not so. Smoking also has no nutritional value (and therefore to make a direct comparison with foods doesn’t make sense) , while the other things you mention quite clearly do.

    Doctors encourage ALL patients to stop smoking. They certainly do not do the same for any of the other foodstuffs you mention.

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  60. Avatar


    January 19, 2009 at 1:24 PM

    Hookah is great!

    I will continue to promote its use! It is a cultural component of the East that I respect.
    I smoke on occasion. What are all of you crying and complaining about?

    Occasional use is not deadly.

    Habitual use may be hazardous but again in life there are risks in anything you do. Crossing the street in NYC is risky!!!

    Stop whining and light a bowl, and embrace on occasion a 500 year old ritual.


  61. Avatar


    January 24, 2009 at 3:37 AM

    following is another article on the hookah phenomenon, specifically in Southern California

  62. Avatar


    March 4, 2009 at 2:15 PM

    oky,i know the affects of shisha(worse one is feeling you have water in youer lungs which eventually cause lung infections)but until now no one has talked about jiraak.To explain jiraak is almost similar in structure to shishia only different in:
    1-is extremly huge in its size.
    2-its tube(inhaler tube) is about 1 to 2 meters.
    3-no condensation is caused(formation of water in the tube or lungs).
    4-not to lie but a very high amount of nicotine.
    I actually if anyone can find me a artical about this because it seems no one talks about it(maybe because its avtually very famous with old people living in saudi arabia)also i want to quit smoking for 2 resones:
    1-it will actually break my fathers heart if he found out.
    2-im a medical student and very hypocritical to be a doctor whos trying to contribute in the advancing health systems(i feel dirty)

  63. Avatar


    March 4, 2009 at 2:33 PM

    small typo in the last line(i FEEL very hypocritical) thank you.

  64. Avatar


    March 30, 2009 at 11:59 PM

    although some of the statements in this article may be factual.. you are targeting the muslims.. and quite frankly they are not the only ones promoting hookah.. hahaha

  65. Avatar


    April 1, 2009 at 6:44 PM

    Assalam Alaikum Brothers and Sisters in Islam
    I was searching on the effects of Shisha on google which lead me to this page where I found it very interesting being a Muslim. I admire it when I see people smoking shisha in pictures as I have never seen it physically nor tried it although I wanted to buy it but I first decided to find out its consequences when used. I don’t smoke neither do I promote it but I think you guys using Q 2:195 as a reason why smoking is haram is not really convincing as brother Khalid mentioned in his comment above. I don’t need to repeat what he posted you can refer back to that and read again as it makes a lot of sense. One more thing, Islam is very simple we just complicate matters sometime for ourselves, a person who callls himself an Islamic scholar or believes he is cannot just give a fatwa on an issue. I can recall when we were studying Ulumul Quran years back in Madrasah we were told or more correctly we learnt each ayah (verse) was revealed because of a purpose that happened or done by the people at that era. There are many things we do as Khalid mentioned that are harmful to our health which if verse 195 chapter 2 is applied then they will become haram too. May Allah(swt) guide us to the straight path.

  66. Avatar


    April 18, 2009 at 5:34 PM

    “There is a myth that hookah smoking is safer than smoking cigarettes because the hookah smoke is filtered through water before it is inhaled. But recent studies have found that hookah smokers actually inhale more nicotine than do cigarette smokers because of the massive volume of smoke they inhale”

    Nicotine is addiction-forming but is not really that destructive to the human body compared to tar or other chemicals more prevalent in cigarettes than in a hookah.

    Also this whole article ignores the fact that there are a lot of people who smoke 2 packs of cigarettes in a day (40 cigarettes), while it is very rare for someone to have more than 2 or 3 hookah sessions EVERY DAY. Here is a typical part comparing a single cigarette with a session of hookah smoking:

    “According to a recent World Health Organization (WHO) advisory, a typical one-hour session of hookah smoking exposes the user to 100 to 200 times the volume of smoke inhaled from a single cigarette.”

    By the way it is also pretty meaningless to compare the amount of smoke inhaled in itself, because this way the article doesn’t take into account the levels of chemicals contained and their healt risk.

  67. Avatar


    May 22, 2009 at 6:58 AM

    My question is, if consuming things dangerous to your health is haram, then is trans-fat haram? I mean, should we all go on those no trans-fat diets, as there is a clear link between trans-fat and all kinds of life threatening problems? And it has no nutritional value, trans fat is the “bad” cholesterol not the “good” type. I mean, if we are going to make the, “You can’t damage your health” argument, well then there are a lot of things which would become haram, like not excercising, coffee and tea. So where do we draw the line? I really do mean this as a question though, not an argument.

    • Amad


      May 22, 2009 at 9:23 AM

      Dogagas: if you were eating a hearty transfat bar daily, and it became an addiction, then perhaps we would have a similar discussion on that too. But transfat as you mentioned it, is usually present in other foods that you are eating for nutrition, not for “fixes”. Transfat just happens to be a bad component, but that is not the purpose or intention for your eating the food (i.e. you don’t eat it for the fat). Everything has to be done in moderation… so yes, if there is a food that has no nutritional value and is very harmful, then we would have to ask scholars of its permissibility.

  68. Avatar


    June 15, 2009 at 1:22 AM

    HAHA dw all us younge ppl smoke nargile now. its the latest craze getting together wif a few bottles of smirnoff nd smoking up nargile. id rather the world smoking nargirl than smoking weed,

  69. Avatar

    Jeffery Haji

    June 16, 2009 at 3:23 PM

    Hookah has been part of the muslim lifestyle for hundreds and hundreds of years, as much as you are correct on how all smoking is bad, hookah is something a family does as a whole, and im sorry to say that your just opinion isnt making a difference. You’re right though, smoking is a killer.

    • Amad


      June 16, 2009 at 3:40 PM

      it really doesn’t matter if something has been part of “muslim lifestyle”… alcohol was part of arab lifestyle before the Quranic verses against it came. If Muslims were unaware of its harms, then they would not be accountable, but now with its harms well-known and scholarly information against it widely available, then Muslims need to change their lifestyle. It’s not like we are talking about leaving chicken here :)

  70. Avatar

    Jeffery Haji

    June 16, 2009 at 3:26 PM

    Iluzid, hookah is “safer than smoking cigs. This is because cigerettes have rat poison and other harmful chemicals, where as nicatine is a single element

  71. Avatar


    July 10, 2009 at 6:13 AM

    i fully understand the argument as to why cigarettes and shisha is haram, however in that case so is fast food. Fast food is also harmful to a human being thus it should also be classed as haram right? So are soft drinks. So is Coffee. my thesis is that as long as you are not smoking shisha to kill yourself it should be permissable. you smoke for the fun/addiction/stress relief/it being cool but you do not smoke with the intention to kill yourself

    • Amad


      July 10, 2009 at 7:47 AM

      Mahdi, I have already addressed this logic in a previous comment. According to your thesis, as long as you are not smoking marijuana to kill yourself, it should be permissible, right?

      If a substance is inherently harmful, has no tangible benefit, is addictive, then it is not to be consumed. No one has ever considered soft drinks to be in the same category as nicotine.

      • Avatar


        July 10, 2009 at 3:52 PM

        Amad, i do understand your argument, but marijuanna actually was not made haraam becoause of how unhealthy it was but it was made unpermissable due to the fact that it clouds your judgment. i smoke shisha and it does not do that at all. also just thought i would drop this little fact in, nicotine itself is not actually harmful which is why they have “over the counter” nicotine patches. the tar and other chemicals in cigarettes are what make them unhealthy.

        • Amad


          July 10, 2009 at 5:06 PM

          Cigarettes don’t cloud judgment, so why are they haram? And if you limit marijuana intake, it is possible that it won’t cloud your judgement either.

          I really don’t know why we need to take risks in this matter. What benefit does sisha have in our lives? Let’s avoid the doubtful and move on. Until we keep giving excuses for this substance, we’ll never move past it. And finally, let’s defer to scholarly judgment where possible.

          • Avatar


            July 10, 2009 at 5:15 PM

            i do not believe cigarrettes are haram, smoking was around in the time of the prophet muhamed’s (sas) time. if it was haram he would have said so. shisha brings people together a group of people talking sharing it getting together, i do appreciate that there are other things to do when you get together but this is also an option. i do not see why we must flag shisha haraam only for the fact that it is unhealthy. we have established that there are many things that are unhealthy and could lead to death eventually. if i was to see such an obvious argument as to why shisha is haraam then i would stop (seeing as it is not addicting) because i refuse to believe it is haraam based on the fact that it is unhealthy.

            i really do appreciate your efforts amad, may allah reward you for expressing what you believe and trying to stop others from going astray. HOWEVER i can not see a logical argument as to why it is haram.

          • Avatar


            July 10, 2009 at 5:18 PM

            smoking was around in the time of the prophet muhamed’s (sas) time

            Can you pls provide evidence for this? This seems like an urban legend to me.

          • Avatar

            AdemC from NAfis Salaam

            January 6, 2010 at 10:56 PM

            wow some of these comments are uninformed by scholarship. Do we think our judgment is not already clouded? It is a mistake to consider a heavy fog to be a sunny day.

            Very very few Muslim leaders or scholars would agree with you, anyway, about smoking being no problem. Not to mention doctors. Do the study!

            Please see our links below for a start.

            and see some collected links at

  72. Avatar

    Abu Rumaisa

    July 10, 2009 at 12:19 PM

    Cigarette smoking is not the same as a hookah. There was a time I used to do both, smoked two packs a day but when it came to hookah, may once a week. I was addicted to cigarettes but never to hookah. And one person doesn’t smoke a whole hookah, it’s usually shared by 3-4 ppl. And even though I inhaled cigarettes, never did for hookah.. coz that’s not how to use them.

    And if injurious to health is ur argument, then we seriously need to abandon many of our eating habits as they can be considered haraam. Btw doctors warns against eating real spicy food too but who’s goin to give that up or call it haraam?

  73. Avatar


    July 10, 2009 at 7:09 PM

    Tobacco is believed to have been grown in the Americas for many thousands of years, and native Americans are thought to have discovered ways of using the plant, including smoking the leaves, a thousand years before Christ. A pottery vessel, found in Guatemala, dated earlier than the eleventh century, depicts a Mayan smoking a roll of tobacco leaves tied with string.

    amad, there is your evidence that smokig was around before the prophet’s (sas) time

    • Amad


      July 10, 2009 at 7:30 PM

      Even drugs were there before the Prophet’s time. What you have to prove is that smoking was done in the Prophet’s presence, and he either approved it or gave his silent consent. Just because something is historically dated before the Prophet(S)’s time doesn’t mean that it becomes okay.

    • Avatar

      Ahmad AlFarsi

      July 10, 2009 at 7:40 PM

      To use something as evidence for “tacit approval” from the Prophet SAWS (which it seems is what you are trying to do by saying that smoking existed in the world before 600 C.E.), there must be an authentic report that the action occurred in the presence of the Prophet SAWS, and he did not condemn it. This is simply not true for smoking.

    • Avatar


      March 27, 2018 at 9:45 AM

      Assalam alaykum. I would just like to leave a comment here, 9 years later, saying that I was ignorant when I first commented here. I now accept that smoking is haram and, by extension, so is shisha.

  74. Avatar


    July 11, 2009 at 4:58 AM

    ya its haram no doubt..!!

  75. Avatar


    July 28, 2009 at 7:39 PM

    I use to smoke cigarettes for a short time then quit. I felt the need of nicotine afterward. The feeling was great. Just waking up in the morning, you get the desire for a smoke. Since then I have quit and now no longer a cigarette smoker.

    I recently have been smoking hookah for the last few months. I don’t know what you guys are saying about nicotine being higher than cigarette. If it was higher than I would have definitely noticed it. I even tried smoking every day, 2 hours at a time, for a month. Then I just stop smoking. No sign of withdraw. The reason is, there’s no burning of the tobacco. all the smoke is generated from the sugar. if you don’t know how to set it up or maintaining it, then you will definitely get the full effect of burning tobacco.

    In the end, I did notice my endurance improving after quitting cigarettes, but was not diminished by hookah. Those scientists need to get the actual smoke tested because nobody would want to smoke a burning bowl of hookah tobacco.

  76. Avatar


    August 24, 2009 at 11:12 AM

    No doubt, hookah involves inhaling more smoke, which would cause more nicotine consumption. However, in terms of smoking, I think nicotine is the least of our problems. Cigarettes contain a plethora of poisons nonexistent in normal tobacco, and while people believe nicotine is the big killer, I think we might want to look into the fact that cigarettes contain things like cyanide, that little ingredient that causes people to die in suicide pills. It’s hard to test individuals who smoke hookah alone on the dangers because a great deal of them smoke cigarettes as well, sometimes simultaneously with hookah (I see this all the time at the hookah bars). You cannot abandon the fact that, per inhalation, cigarettes contain more poisons than sheisha, which is just flavored tobacco

    • Avatar

      Abu Rumaisa

      August 25, 2009 at 3:44 PM

      As a person who smoked both hookah & cigarettes at one point… majority of ppl who smoke hookah don’t inhale the smoke (into the lungs). unlike cigarettes which inhaled by all those who smoke them.

      • Avatar

        Abu Rumaisa

        August 25, 2009 at 5:15 PM

        btw… i m not imply that hookah is not harmful & that we should be indulging in this habit.

  77. Avatar

    Jibran Khokhar

    August 24, 2009 at 2:41 PM

    Assalamu’Alikum wa rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu,

    Jazakumullahu Khairan for the post. As someone who is pursuing his Ph.D. in Pharmacology working specifically on nicotine/tobacco addiction and its pharmacological effects, I can vouch for the scientific authenticity of your post. I would like to add that most people argue that the water has a purifying effect on the smoke. I must remind them that most of the harmful substances (over 4000 chemicals in sheesha smoke) are actually not water soluble including PAHs, tobacco specific nitrosamines (carcinogens) etc. I would also like to remind them that nicotine remains a drug that is neuroactive, and has considerable addiction liability. Once you are addicted, cessation is almost impossible, and if the exposure to the smoke is prolonged, the risk for doing permanent harm to Allah’s amanah to you (your body) is extremely high. As for some of the comments above indicating that there are poisonous chemicals in cigarettes that are not in Hookah tobacco are definitely misplaced. A lot of the of chemicals in cigarette smoke come from either the curing/growing of the tobacco or the combustion thereof. The curing/growing of the tobacco is the same in both cases. As for the combustion, any time you burn any organic matter (e.g. paper, oil etc.), the compounds produced are very similar, and are equally as harmful. I would actually argue that the fact that cigarettes have much tighter monitoring by the government agencies, and are regularly put through smoke tests, that they have a much more controlled and lower amount of the chemicals. Whereas shisha tobacco or even Ma’sal are hardly ever controlled and are not put through rigorous testing. So while I concede that nicotine in shisha tobacco is not harmful, the exposure to all the other chemicals that come with can have dire consequences. The higher puff volume only results in more exposure, and thereby more damage. The only reason we don’t have good scientific data to prove the morbidity associated with hookah smoking is because its a recent trend, and the pathology takes some time to develop (e.g. cancer), and even more time for scientists to retrospectively study the effects. The comment about inhalation and the fact that people usually don’t inhale is also one that is flawed. Any time a person inspires the content of what is inspired easily reaches the lungs, and the fact that cigarettes are designed with pores to make the smoke more aerated only serves to increase the amount of oxygen you take in with your breath, which can help to ward off some of the damage of the smoke (due to oxidative metabolism taking place in the lungs by enzymes that require oxygen). My only concluding point to all of you is that any time you burn organic matter, be it cigarette tobacco, shisha tobacco, marijuana, wood etc. the chemical content of the smoke is almost entirely identical, making anything that you smoke harmful to your body. WAllahu Ta’ala A’lam. I hope this sheds some light on the topic, and serves to clarify some issues for you.


    • Amad


      August 24, 2009 at 7:53 PM

      jazakallahkhair katheeran Br. Jibran! You have indeed done more justice to this subject than me!


      • Avatar

        Jibran Khokhar

        August 25, 2009 at 11:49 AM

        You guys will be happy to see that now there is actual research to back up my contentions, and perfect timing nonetheless. Here is a recent BBC article:

        I will go back to the published research and provide a synopsis soon inshAllah.

        May Allah guide us all towards what is right, and allow us to stop dabbling in the mutashabihat, looking to make them right. Its the king’s pasture that we keep trying to graze our sheep in, and that can’t possibly be a good idea.


        • Avatar

          Abû Mûsâ Al-Ḥabashî

          August 25, 2009 at 4:46 PM

          Jazâkumullâh khayr. I’m not sure if this is what you meant, but in case it isn’t, I would love to read such a synopsis as a blog entry on MM brother.

        • Amad


          August 25, 2009 at 7:52 PM

          Br. Jibran, we can publish your synopsis (plus anything else on hookah) as a post on MM… let us know.

          our email is info at muslimmatters dot org

  78. Avatar

    usman tariq minhas

    September 6, 2009 at 3:20 AM

    sheesha has bcom part of my life i smoke it jus 4 fun , n that white cloud n that fragnance of diffferent flavours give great releif to my brain 4 short term period . my brain which is stuffed wd tensions get relief 4 a while ..but after readin that aurticle i hv decided to avoid that poison n i hv decided nt to inhale a single particle of sheesha n i hope our youth also avoid that poison n our government also have ban the sheesha bars 4 good of pakistani youth

    • Avatar

      abu abdAllah Tariq Ahmed

      September 6, 2009 at 2:41 PM

      May Allah strengthen you in your resolve, and may He make your giving up of this evil a means to much good in this life and in the next.

  79. Avatar

    rani jojo

    September 12, 2009 at 4:59 PM

    it is indeed clear to me..i hav always known dat hookah is not as harmful as cigrts…scary t oknw …i kept on googling abt it all n dis article made things easier to understand….. it is really hard to explain the young ones abt it al ln to aware em all…but hope fully i may share out dis infromation to whoevr i cld…
    its really nice to hav our muslim borthers n sisters making things clear and with proofs …the best fo this article is dat its summarised n with proofs …
    jazakallahukhair …=)
    may allah bestow all his blessing upon all muslims
    ameen =)

  80. Avatar


    October 3, 2009 at 4:22 AM

    I disagree that Hookahs are more harmful than cigarettes….

    first of all if you do hookahs on a certain heat temperature (150 C or less), makes it less harmful than cigarettes smoking, and it doesn’t contain as much “additives” as cigarettes… and and… and…. im going to smoke one… hehe… i dont smoke it often… infact… i hardly smoke it… but yea…

    so far as i know hookahs doesn’t contain anything from rat poison like cigarettes do

  81. Avatar


    October 20, 2009 at 2:03 PM

    i disagree that hookah is harmful more dan cigarettes .. im 45 and i start smokin age of 16 and i did check my lungs when i went to the doctor and im perfectly fine mashallah .. so if you guyz think that hookah is haram then why arab people started it .. and why all islamic country invented it .. plus cigarettes is haram that;s for sure but you see all our muslim people smokes it .. thanks for the research but its all wrong ..

  82. Avatar


    October 20, 2009 at 6:18 PM

    I think :Both are dangerous for health in different methods. So harammm

  83. Avatar


    October 25, 2009 at 10:21 PM

    I don’t know about the rest of you,but the sheesha that I am smoking says that it is tobacco free, nicotine free, as well as tar free. The only ingredients in it are Ugarsay anecay agassebay + molasses + flavouring. The brand name is Soex Herbal Hukka. Can anyone tell me about the sheesha im smoking? I have absolutely no idea what the ingredient Ugarsay anecay agassebay is. I assumed from the box saying tobacco free and the ingredients that it was not a tobacco product.

  84. Avatar


    December 18, 2009 at 9:39 AM

    It’s funny that any time someone goes on a rant against someone they call up religion. Hookas are your big target mr author guy? Religion should demand no Hookas? How about religion shouldn’t demand war, shouldn’t demand a single line of thought, shouldn’t demand obedience. I thought this site was an interesting one to use to expand my understanding on the matter but you have proven to me that in any form, paper, online, or audio; any scared little man with a column can spread his own fears and insecurities like wildfire.

    I honestly didn’t expect to find someone to compare to Bill O’Reily on a muslim site. Kudos, you’re a fine example of closed minds and conservatively skewed results.

    Don’t bother being ashamed of yourself for spreading this filthy fear of a horrible plant instead of the mindset required for addiction, or the twisted cultural norms that allow for it’s allure, i’m sure it’s just the plant. i’ll spread the article a little bit so that my entire peer group can be ashamed of you in your stead.


    • Amad


      December 18, 2009 at 1:34 PM

      seems Dage, from your comments that you are high on the hookah right now!

      • Avatar


        December 18, 2009 at 2:29 PM

        Wow…that was the least witty response I could have ever imagined…I actually don’t smoke it, I just hate pompus people who need to regurgitate statistics to make other people feel bad and make themselves feel better. Fact of the matter is, you wanna gripe about an injustice or something that’s wrong, start at the source fool. Addiction and indulgences are psychological methods we use to deal with a world decaying and bitter on it’s own advance. Not knocking your research, but you should really aim above the cheap seats.

        One day, you could do an article worth reading, and then I will read it hopefully, and be quite happy that I knew you when you were still whipping tabloid level rips on other people’s articles around sites claiming them as insightful.

        Now don’t get mad, just prove me right and show me an article of true insight with the intention of actually righting a wrong.

        Hope this little blast of fake anger and internet stupidity has had some positive effect on you, good luck writing something worthwhile.


        • Amad


          December 18, 2009 at 3:07 PM

          First of all, I have no idea why you keep closing with “Nameste”…. perhaps you haven’t quite figured out the difference between Hindus and Muslims. Nameste is used by Indians, a hindu-origin greeting. Muslims use salam.

          Secondly, this article is intended for Muslims, based on Islamic perspectives. I don’t expect you to understand it.

          So, keep smoking whatever you are smoking, and don’t worry about my writings…

          • Avatar


            December 18, 2009 at 10:46 PM

            Actually I don’t see where perspective lends ground to idiocy. Secondly, i’m not muslim, I end with Nameste because…and say it with me since you got it earlier, I am HINDU. I digress however, fine, ignore my well intended words, I really don’t care, I just needed a way to kill some time and you’re so easily irritated that you argued about it.

        • Avatar

          AdemC from NAfis Salaam

          January 6, 2010 at 11:11 PM

          self righteousness- yours or mine– does not play well– yes it plays to the cheap seats, but maybe someone you love is sitting in those seats. If you require more enteraining approach, or more sophistication, you can easily read accounts of peple who have lost someone to smoking-caused cancer, heart disease etc. THIS IS REAL LIFE not attitude or one upmanship.

          How could an approach be more honest, inclusive, effective? Berating others to stop using tobacco (ie the “going to hell” approach) does not work with alot of folks To want change we have to see things for ourselves.

          But having facts and figures can begin to tip the scales. Some smokers do begin to get tired and want to quit but can’t. And obviously some are in heavy denial.

          We are blaming the world for our own actions? That does not sound right. Start making the world better by making every breath count. OK that sounds like slogan — but as you read this are you even aware of your breaths going by, never to return?

  85. Avatar


    December 19, 2009 at 7:21 PM

    I know that smoking Cigarettes is bad but I am going to smoke anyway.

    • Avatar


      December 20, 2009 at 12:42 AM

      I think admitting the problem is the first step towards cure.

      I hope it will be the same for you.

  86. Avatar


    December 31, 2009 at 3:43 AM

    Assalamo Alikum
    Now adays people are earning money from pay to click(ptc) and pay to read (ptr) websites.Is it halal earning?

    • Amad


      December 31, 2009 at 5:45 AM

      Excuse me??

  87. Avatar


    December 31, 2009 at 3:56 PM

    As Salam Aleykum my father recently died quite young and suddenly from lung cancer, my mother has heart disease from it, and i have asthma (i quit the cigarettes though 9 years ago). Cigarettes or shisha, whatever goes into your lungs and is not the clean fresh air that Allah subhaana wa ta’aala has provided to breathe might kill us, sooner or later. I think promoting it is very wrong. Tabarak allah for all who quit and stay away from it.

  88. Avatar

    AdemC from NAfis Salaam

    January 3, 2010 at 5:47 PM

    assalamu alikum! This is a great discussion mashAllah. as Director of Muslim COnsultative Network (MCN) at I wanted to ask if any of you would be willing to get involved on this important issue. If you have not yet contacted our program Nafis Salaam Muslims Against Smoking, please email us to find out how or suggest ideas. Our program has completed a fairly detailed community survey of over 400 diverse Muslim New Yorkers and found out percptions, needs and vulnerabilties. We will be posting results midmonth (jan 2010) but you can get a taste of the news good & bad by visiting and going to surveys. For other reources, videos we have done and blog referrals, come visit us at and follw the links. We are also on Youtube.

    It is hard to quit and quitters need our support. Assuming most of you do not smoke, one major question is how to best communicate/share quitting resources with our friends and family that do. Most of us don’t try for whatever reason. But our loved ones are killing themselves. We do have a responsibiilty here but it takes planning and thought to be effective. It is moving to hear stories like Sabirah’s– and she is not alone. May Allah bring us peace.

    And seeking stress through smoking is a real mistake. The Hookah phenomenon is particularly troubling, as it seems to many of us to be a kind of gateway drug for further addiction. In Ramadan 2010 our program will be doing major outreach on this issue and to be effective we need your help in teh month before that to plan and tighten our message. We can be so much more effective if we work togther, InshAllah.

    Good to see this. Hope to hear from you! Adem NAFIS SALAAM is a prtnership with Islamic Medical Association of North America & funded by American Legacy Foundation

    • Amad


      January 7, 2010 at 5:51 AM

      jazakAllahkhair Adem… keep up the good work please.

      It is amazing how many people are addicted to all forms of smoking in the Muslim lands. It seems that the tobacco companies got the message that business in the West will continue to recede, so let’s move to the East and use the SAME exact deceptive marketing and hook kids early and young! People are smoking here as they used to in the West 20 years ago. And our governments are kept fat and happy by the tobacco companies in allowing the addiction to flourish. We want to be like the West in all the things we shouldn’t, and we ignore the West in the things we should take (education, medicine… campaign against smoking!)

  89. Avatar


    January 24, 2010 at 3:30 AM

    this is a exellent post brother. keep up the good work inshallah.
    i ablsoutely abhor the smoking smell even a small smell of smoke can set me off buzzing. i just cant comprehend why people smoke knowing thats its very well proven smoking causes cancer.
    like a brother already mentioned in one of the post above, as a muslim we are told not to consume anything harmfull to our bodys.
    so by smoking we are comitting a sin by harming our bodys, and a sin of disobeying Allah swt.
    how hard could that be to understand? its very clear.
    a lot of brothers out there use the excuse that smoking is makruh, what is up with this makruh business? if im correct mukruh means displeasing right……so who is it exactly that we are displeasing…..? i ask every one who takes this issue light to take heed and reflect on this great sin which is pretentiously portrayed as acceptable to us.

  90. Avatar


    February 4, 2010 at 10:36 AM

    But recent studies have found that hookah smokers actually inhale more nicotine than do cigarette smokers because of the massive volume of smoke they inhale…

    Shisha tobacco doesnt contain nicotine, and if it does (in some brands) its something like 0.07% so i think this statment is invalid… as for it being harmful to the body, i think that goes without say, any kind of smoke intake cant be good…

    • Avatar


      February 4, 2010 at 2:31 PM

      Lest see what are the facts and then make our cnclusions in regards to Shisha:

      1.The tobacco used in Shisha smoking knwon as Mu’asal regardless of the brand is the same Tobacco used in manufacturing cigarettes.
      2. Nicotine is a natutal componet present in tobacco. Nicotine causes additction becuase it attaches to nicotinic receptors in the brain and release specific neurotransmitters that makes the individula want to smoke more.
      3. Nicotine delivered in one hookah/shisha is approximately 0.9 mg (Eissenberg & Shihadeh, 2009 while in one cigarette it ranges .1mg – .4 mg (Maisto, et al., 2008)
      4. Plasm nicotine is twice as much after smoking a hookah compared to smoking a cigarette
      4. Levels of Carbon monoxide in the was eight times more after smoking a hookah compared to pre smoking (Maziak, Rastam, et al., 2009)(Maziak et al., 2009)

      The list can go on and on…

      The indicators are beyond doubt demonstarte that Shisha/Hookah is a threat on health of people who smoke it and those are around smokers.

      • Avatar

        zaina batool

        February 13, 2010 at 6:53 PM

        i usually have flavoured sheesha… it has no tobacco in it.. i go out for sheesha with friends every few months… is that really haraam?

  91. Avatar

    zulrani md

    February 12, 2010 at 12:21 AM

    Have anyone heard of none tobacco molasses used in shisha/hookah/water-pipe/nargile?
    No tobacco, no tar and no nicotine. Please refer to : Shisha Pipe UK. or do some serious research first or get to know the product that you are all talking about first-hand before writing or commenting something base only on others or hearsays.

    We humans love to ‘haram’ things which Allah give us after having a little of His Knowledge.

    • Amad


      February 12, 2010 at 4:44 AM

      The fact that most have not heard of the “healthy” shishas probably tells you a bit about their popularity.

      If the vast majority of folks do this form of shisha, then it is one thing, but the opposite is true. And even if there is a significant minority that ends up doing the “Bad shisha”, then it is enough to discourage it totally. Is it something that if we don’t do, we won’t enjoy our lives anymore?

      Perhaps we humans love to go after doubtful things (and many of them haram) so much when there is so much clearly halal that we could do instead :)

      By the way, your complaint about my research should be targeted at all the major health organizations that disagree with you doc.

      • Avatar

        zaina batool

        February 13, 2010 at 7:02 PM

        i usually have flavoured sheesha… it has no tobacco or tar in it.. i dunno about nicotine. i go out for sheesha with friends every few months… is that really haraam? i mean its practically steam with a few chemicals in it… i doubt they are anymore harmful than strong air sprays… just asking.

        as for cigarettes i used to smoke occasionally- a teen thing. i thought it was makruh. i was smart enough not to get hooked on them as i would smoke heavily at a party or something and then not do it for a month or so. i guess i’m convinced now its haraam… man, i do wish it wasn’t- it was fun. but what the hell, i already have a bunch of sins on my back so i guess i’m better off. i’ve been keeping away from them, i dunno what i’ll do if they are right in front of me.

  92. Avatar


    April 6, 2010 at 5:04 AM

    Smoking hookah may be worse than cigarettes, but if one does not smoke regularly and is not an addicted cigarette smoker is it still as dangerous as it could be? In short would’nt one have to smoke hookah regularly for many years to receive lung cancer from this habit?

  93. Avatar


    April 22, 2010 at 12:23 PM

    Addictive behaviors seriously interfere with Tawheed. We love to socialize, but who and what is driving our behavior? Our minds, or desires, or a deeper God-consciousness? We have the right to that deeper joy which is greater than what comes from puffing nicotine or “steam with a few chemicals in it” lol.

    The complex truth is that soem people are less likely to get addicted. WHile foks who start behaviors like smoking late in life are less likely to get addicted, there are other physical, psychologicial and spiritual factors. You might think you are “too smart” to get addicted, but smarts in themselves rarely work against such powerful urges.

    For all of us to get beyond compusive living (including compulsive religious practice) is a real challenge in this age of instant gratification, 24/7 news cycle, internet, texting etc etc etc. But it is really important for our inner Unity– for the care & maintenance of our soul.

    That does NOT mean we have to be oh so serious. But seeing what is important and what is not –is important!

    Finally, in these shisha cafes, those who might actually find some tobacco free –even maybe chemical free?- if it is exists–flava– you are still inhaling a ton of second hand smoke–a ton of cancer causing dirt. And, your presence is lending support to those who smoke tobacco, encouraging what will be a habit in others.

    How about Tobacco free shisha cafes, or Tobacco Free Shisha Fridays in ramadan? If we have any organizers here, you would be taking the community a step in the right direction –blessings and peace to you all

  94. Avatar


    May 17, 2010 at 11:26 AM

    Probably Dr Music’s nonsensical comment should be removed!
    Is this someone who insults God to protect his addiction? The Compassionate, Patient, All Powerful Sustainer and Creator cannot be insulted by little minds tapping their keyboards. May God as Higher Power and Prime Mover make Himself known to all understandings. Too bad we insult our bodies by our stupidities, by poisoning ourselves by unhealthy activities like Hookah and silly rantings. We all have much to learn.

  95. Avatar


    May 17, 2010 at 5:04 PM

    assalamu alaikum,

    i have heard that smoke is also jinn food which is another reason to avoid it.

  96. Avatar


    August 3, 2010 at 1:21 PM

    “Let’s do whatever it takes to halt this phenomenon, especially in preventing our youth from picking up this harmful/haram habit. Spread the word!”

    i’ll smoke to that!

  97. Avatar


    September 27, 2010 at 1:17 AM

    can anyone suggest ways for getting over the sheesha addiction. Like if you want a second person to quit it, like is there any kind of food that you can intake after which sheesha intake doesnt feel all that yummy anymore.

  98. Avatar

    Molly Moore

    October 5, 2010 at 2:47 PM

    i am looking for an organic rat poison coz i do not want to use synthetic ones-:~

  99. Avatar

    shisha pipe

    October 12, 2010 at 5:08 AM

    Debunking the myth that its ok to do hookah/sheesha smoking, even though it is far worse and much more dangerous. Muslims should know its haram (prohibited)

  100. Avatar


    October 16, 2010 at 9:13 AM

    Shisha haram ?

    has it been proven to kill ? no

    And do not kill yourselves. Surely, Allah is Most Merciful to you. And whoever commits that through aggression and injustice, We shall cast him into the Fire and that is easy for Allah” [Qur’an 4:29]

    “And do not throw yourselves into destruction.” [Qur’an 2:195]

    so please brothers and sisters stop making things up it is not haram but mukrur

  101. Avatar


    October 26, 2010 at 7:05 PM

    as salam wale kum
    i think hokkah is not injuries to health than ciggratte !!!! i do understand its little bit harmful but better than smoking cigrate hokkah smoking is good

    • Avatar


      October 29, 2010 at 10:01 AM

      i back dat brother!!

  102. Avatar


    November 4, 2010 at 9:43 PM

    Even though we have shared with you scientific studies that show that Hookah smoking is worse than cigarrette smoking, people keep writing that is is ok or not so bad. Listen, this is like denying climate change– wishful thinking that flies in the face of most evidence. Dont fool yourself!

    Sure, if you participate for 5 minutes once a month the effect is minimal but the quantity of smoke is so great that the average smoking session is really harmful– not to mention the added second hand smoke which makes it still more dangerous.

    The herbal blends still cause cancer throgh the other substances– tar is not the only issue and neither is nicotine. This for od smokineg may be less physically addictive–which is good– but you also have to watch if you are psychologically addicted–like to your texting or your facebook.

    Human beings are meant to be free of compusions and habits– this is the path to inner peace

  103. Avatar


    December 15, 2010 at 12:53 PM

    Thanks for this article and comments, I knew that hookah isn’t good, especially for ladies! But how to make yourself stop smoking it!

    • Avatar


      July 6, 2011 at 3:27 PM

      Just keep thinking about how you will look in a few years with sallow skin, deep wrinkles around your mouth, and rotten teeth. If that is not enough to make you quit smoking shisha, nothing will work.

  104. Avatar


    January 17, 2011 at 1:42 PM

    I think the deal here is concerning the consumption of the smoke inhaled. People who smoke cigarettes regularly usually smoke a half a pack to a whole pack a day, at the least. So those 20 puffs from one cigarette equates to about 200 to 400 puffs a day, up to 800 for those who smoke two packs a day. Shisha smokers usually do not smoke every day, and although it may have some of the same harmful side effects as cigarettes, it is absurd to say that it is more dangerous than cigarettes.

    I have read the article and most of the comments, I have smoked cigarettes for a number of years, and Shisha for a number of years. I have never taken in 400 puffs during a hookah session, and I’ve never felt addicted to Shisha. Look, we all know anything physically smoked can be bad for you, but the nicotine is the real threat, and cigarettes are far more likely to cause addiction, period. We can find facts from scientists and physicians who say Shisha is more dangerous, but we are excluding the facts from scientists and physicians who can disprove the others. If you want a solid argument, try to present both sides people.

  105. Avatar


    January 17, 2011 at 2:26 PM

    To Anthony who just wrote in– yes interesting…you write that you smoke cigarrettes and hookah and that you have never felt addicted to Shisha? Do you feel addicted to cigarettes? After all I notice you have been doing this for “a number of years”… perhaps in this repeated behavior it is true that shisha is less addictive or somehow subsidiary to your tobacco addiction. Depending on intentions shisha smoking might even be a door for you to reduce your cigarette smoking– maybe you could try that?

    Your calculation about 400 puffs in shisha may not be the most accurate way to measure this– I think it is not the number of puffs but the much larger volume of smoke that is at issue. Perhaps a reseacher or public health professional could best respond. I think it is good that they have to answer such questions.

    Yes you admit “anything smoked is physically bad for you” but interestingly then quickly move on to various rationalizations. I do not know that “nicotine is the real threat” ie not the only threat as there are many other carcinogens involved.

    Most researchers find smoking very problematic and so do the vast majority of imams. From a health and religious/spiritiual perspective, are we pretending to do “due diligence” but really making excuses? We all make excuses for our habits– so do I– so as the saying goes, if the shoe fits wear it

    • Avatar


      January 17, 2011 at 6:44 PM

      I respect and acknowledge your comment, and I don’t condone my decisions to smoke or anybody else’s. I don’t smoke either anymore thankfully, but I can say from experience that yes I was addicted to cigarettes, and Shisha helped me to quit. Referring previous comments, tobacco naturally has nicotine, but cigarettes have added nicotine to make them more addictive. Although both may be subconsciously addictive, cigarettes are more likely to be physically addictive too. I think of Shisha like I do clove cigarettes, yes they are worse than moderate cigarette smoking, but it’s meant to be leisurely. If you smoke them everyday you’re in trouble.

      While Shisha may be worse if you factored in even consumption to cigarette smoking, I believe cigarettes are consumed to a greater degree because they are very physically and subconsciously addictive. When under stress or around other smokers, people can find dozens of reasons to fit a cigarette into their schedule on a daily basis. Shisha is more of an activity, and I’ve never felt like I needed to smoke it in the mornings before work, under pressure, or around cigarette smokers.

      This whole argument is like comparing apples to oranges. Shisha and cigarettes are both very dangerous in the grand scheme of things, but from a pure consumption standpoint I believe cigarettes are more of a plague on our society.

      I might be more convinced if the article was not one-sided. To put a definite answer on which is worse you need to take the cons, evidence, and reasoning from both sides, then draft a conclusion. I feel like everyone has their mind made up and the argument has elongated to the likes of a silly political debate.
      They are both bad, get them both off the market and scientists need to find a healthy way for people to get a buzz, if it will ever be possible. Why can’t I just drink an herbal tea that makes me feel like I had a few drinks? When is that coming out?

  106. Avatar


    February 1, 2011 at 5:33 AM

    This article is so opinionated its almost funny. First off, there have been absolutely NO studies that have been done on the long term effects of smoking only hookah. Secondly, Most brands of hookah have 0% tar in them due to the fact that the hookah itself is not burning like the tobacco in a cigarette. Which in itself makes smoking hookah theoretically safer than smoking cigarettes. Also, if you are going to take into account that in fact people do inhale more hookah smoke in one session of smoking hookah than by smoking one cigarette, you also have to take into account that hookah is a social event. Often times when people smoke hookah there are 5 to 10 people participating while smoking out of several pipes. Which means that each person is inhaling far less smoke by volume than they would smoking one bowl by themselves. Not to mention the fact that when people smoke cigarettes they usually smoke multiple cigarettes back to back, making comparing a bowl of hookah to ONE cigarette ridiculous. While you are correct in saying that the water in the pipe does not filter out all of the carcinogens as many believe, it does cool the smoke. Making the smoke much more tolerable and less harsh on your lungs and throat. There are even tobacco substitutes such as nicotine free shisha which has no tobacco in it, is completely organic, and made from herbal tea leaves. Believe what you will, but I personally know a man who owns a hookah lounge and has been smoking for 30 plus years. About a month ago he had a total physical and when he got the results back the doctor told him that his lungs were as pink as a normal, non smoking human being. Would his results have been the same if he had been smoking cigarettes for 30 years? Absolutely not.

  107. Avatar


    February 10, 2011 at 11:15 AM


    • Avatar

      waqas..(vicky vertex)

      March 8, 2011 at 4:36 PM

      i honestly advise to all of u that sheesha z very very bed for our health…
      and i requset to all of u plz plzzzzzzzzz avoid to urself from this bed habbites…..
      many peoples dnt knw about his disadvantges………..
      i knw personly those peoples which that have many dessise by reson of shesha…..
      this masge from… face book id,

  108. Avatar

    Young Brother

    April 5, 2011 at 9:05 PM

    Assalam Fellow bloggers,

    this article has been most helpful alhumdulillah
    i have a few friends who are thinking of trying this and now that i have this to back me up
    i believe i can stop them

    once again jazakullah Khair

  109. Avatar


    May 17, 2011 at 9:54 AM

    I’ve just come back from Palestine/Umrah a few weeks ago and I would like to share my experience which hopefully brothers and sisters will find shocking…..

    In our group we had a brother who didn’t smoke cigarettes, a young professional lawyer with children. My impression of him was young, well dressed and great personality.

    In Madinah he injured chest and decided to go to hospital to have it checked out. They did an x-ray; nothing was damaged but found his chest in a very bad aged and unhealthy state for a young man. The reason….he is a regular sheesha smoker!

    Now as you can appreciate his guilt of being in our Prophets Muhammad’s (pbuh) city when receiving this distressing news. He believes Allah has shown him mercy and he considers himself very fortunate, to find out before it was too late.

    Let this be a warning to our Ummah! You may look healthy and youthful and enjoy the social aspect of sheesha smoking but how old is your chest and how long do you have to live!!

    Palestine was an experience of a life time which I would like to share with others. If you want to read my personal account on

  110. Avatar

    H Y

    May 31, 2011 at 4:35 PM

    What if we were smoking a sheesha which is tobacco free, tar free AND has a filter in the nozzle (which clears out ALL the hazardous stuff that water doesn’t) and still gave a great taste and equivalent amount of smoke density?

  111. Avatar


    June 1, 2011 at 1:04 AM

    Muslim scholars in the past differed in opinion regarding smoking because of lack of evidence relating cigarette smoking to disease. Those who considered Makruh (a hated act) regarded this lack of evidence. But since 30 years ago the evidence clearly demonstrates that smoking is injurious to health. The majority of Ahl Sunnah wal-Jama’ah scholars and Jumhur (majority) have clearly stated that smoking is Haram.

    This bothers me. Quite a bit.

    Carbs should be haram. Especially simple carbs. They cause diabetes, hyper tension, heart disease, obesity. They are poison for you.

    Sugar. Soda. Any products with high fructose corn syrup. All proven to be just as damaging as cigs.

    Can we get going Muslim scholars and declare these haram also?

    • Amad


      June 1, 2011 at 1:48 AM

      No need to be bothered bro.

      there are somethings that have intrinsic benefits. Excess of ANY halal thing can actually be bad too, and at some point, its ruling can vary from person to person too.

      Smoking doesn’t have any intrinsic benefits. It is not a food item. It is not in the category of anything that the body needs. Thus, it only has one effect– harm.

      So, hope that makes more sense now.

  112. Avatar


    July 7, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    it does,nt matter if it has nicotine in it. if you are not sure about it then don,t do it to be safe.

  113. Avatar

    Conor Brown

    February 19, 2012 at 9:05 PM

    why would I even read this if it quotes the Qu’ran?  If you are trying to provide accurate information about smoking shisha, then for the love of everything good, do not quote religious text. You are a clearly biased and immature writer.  Please remove you article and avoid clouding the minds of innocent readers with your misguided warnings.  Smoking Shisha is bad for you. Tell me in a way that doesn’t make me hate the internet.

    • Avatar

      Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      February 20, 2012 at 4:39 AM

       Dear Conor

      The Quran is the word of Allah and is the foundation upon which being a Muslim is based on. In addition, this is a religious website. Hence, quoting the Quran makes perfect sense.

      In addition, your comments have been censored for not complying with our Comments policy.

      *Comments Team*

  114. Avatar

    Asim Mohammad

    February 20, 2012 at 4:05 AM

    i have a friend who argues that if smoking is harmful and thus haram then playing rugby would also be haram..walking down polluted roads would be haram..he says its just a hated habit which has nothing to do with being illegal in Islam

  115. Avatar


    February 22, 2012 at 9:11 PM

    okay so your facts here are off… just saying i don’t know where you read your research for this article but you need to read some more.

    • Avatar

      Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      February 23, 2012 at 12:18 AM

      Dear Derbyjoker

      It would be great if you point us in the direction of this research.

      • Avatar

        Virgin Cigarette

        August 1, 2012 at 4:25 AM

        Yes, indeed. Present solid proof everyone. We can all make guesses, that’s easy. :-) Let’s be sure to post evidence that is substantial in quality.

  116. Avatar


    March 13, 2012 at 11:47 PM

    Cigarettes have literally THOUSANDS of more bad chemicals than the natural bi-product of tobacco, formally known as nicotine. HOOKAH isn’t bad, Tobacco is. They make herbal remedies which include NO nicotine or tar, as they are made with tea leaves or another plant compound. Don’t shun the hookah, blame the tobacco.

    • Avatar

      Virgin Cigarette

      August 1, 2012 at 4:34 AM

      Unless you know the exact crop and origin, you cannot begin to qualify that statement. I am a bit sad to read your username. What if hookah is 100% proven to be haram, will you then change your name to Haram4lyf ? In fact, inhaling any smoke is haram because it damages the lungs. Harming the body intentionally and habitually is ALWAYS haram.

      If cigarettes/tobacco/hookah are not haram, then why are they so hard to quit? It’s called addiction. It’s not the Straight Way that is meant for Believers like us Muslims, Brother.
      There are so many alternatives and even addiction counseling available these days. Please don’t squander your wealth on something that harms yourself and the Ummah around you. Why do my children need to be punished because smokers cannot control their nafs? It’s not fair and not an Islamic practice.

      May Allah (عز و جل) make it easy for you, and may you only seek to purify your heart and body, and may you only die in a perfect state of Islam. May Allah lift this veil from you and keep you upon the Straight Way.

  117. Avatar


    March 15, 2012 at 3:55 AM

    I am generally not a preacher and believe in the notion of ‘live
    and let live’ but I almost feel obligated to share what little I know about
    Sheesha and its harmful effects. I should tell you that I was a regular sheesha
    smoker myself for many years, not a daily addict but few pipes a week was a
    normal occurrence until I came across an article which presented a clear
    picture of what it does and at the end left the decision to me to either take action
    or do nothing. At the end of the day it is your lung and you may do with it as
    you please.

    Yes sheesha smoking is fun, you are hanging out with your
    friends, food all around, mint tea for everyone and before you know, you have
    spent hours smoking the pipe. The reason we can smoke sheesha for a very long
    time because of the water at its base. The water serves as a coolant and
    actually cools down the otherwise hot smoke that we inhale. In consequence we
    end up inhaling more than we would if smoking a cigarette. To give you a small
    comparison, an average cigarette puff is approx 50 ml compared to a sheesha
    puff at 500ml. Therefore, if an average sheesha smoker takes 100 puffs an hour,
    they are inhaling 50000 ml of smoke which is equivalent to 25 two-liter bottles
    of smoke.

    For years I would justify to my friends that would warn me
    against sheesha smoking by saying that it does not contain any TAR and tar is
    the leading cause of cancer and the most poisonous toxic element in tobacco. Sorry
    to be the bearer of bad new friends but no tobacco has tar whether cigarettes
    or sheesha molasses – until you light it. Tar is produced by burning. As soon
    as you place a charcoal on the sheesha, tar is instantly produced. The reason
    that sheesha smoke is darker than cigarette smoke is also because it contains
    more tar. Tar inhaled by smoking a single cigarette is 22.3 mg compared to 802 mg
    in a medium size sheesha head (36 times more tar).

    At the end of the day, we will do what we want. My
    suggestion is to do your research before playing around with your body/organs. Tobacco
    is poison without a doubt, unfortunately tobacco lobbies are so strong that the
    world is still unable to ban it — now it is an individual choice.

  118. Avatar


    March 18, 2012 at 7:05 PM

    have there been any scientific studies on this yet? i thought hooka didn’t have nicotine its just tobacco? …can you give us proof that it is linked? there needs to be a study on it..

  119. Avatar


    April 12, 2012 at 2:30 AM

     It’s a myth that hookah smoking is safer than smoking cigarettes. The tobacco is no less toxic. Hookah smokers actually inhale more tobacco smoke than do cigarette smokers because of the massive volume of smoke they inhale. Hookah — also called narghile, shisha and goza — is a water pipe. The device has been used for centuries in the Middle East and Asia to smoke tobacco. Now, hookah bars and cafes are popping up across the United States — fueled by the growing popularity of hookah smoking among teens and young adults. The hookah device consists of four parts: • A base, or smoke chamber, which is partially filled with water • A bowl, which contains tobacco and the heating source • A pipe that connects the bowl to the base and dips into the water in the base

  120. Avatar

    tanzeela masood

    April 27, 2012 at 7:40 PM

    Load of bullshit!!

  121. Avatar


    May 29, 2012 at 6:22 AM

    ASSALAM ALIKUM every one
    my question is that there are some new flavours introduced for shesha lovers which have zero nicottin,tabacco and tar. Is that still harmfull for us ?

  122. Avatar


    June 18, 2012 at 5:17 PM

    This is definitely harmful and it’s crazy for people to think otherwise. The research by the health service is quite damning.

    • Avatar

      miley smiley

      October 9, 2012 at 6:49 PM

      okay… cigars are basically toxic for u. even if u think just a little wont hurt it WILL HURT… YA KNOW WHY?? BECAUSE then once becomes twice and twice becomes hmmmm lets guess… what do u think u are doing to your lovely body? you are torturing it… as we grow up we need to learn that smoking, alcohol, drugs, make u become addicted… why do u think people become monsters after a month or two? its the ingrediants that cause the pain. please do not even take a ciagar dont even dare to put it by your mouth. think of u and your family your basically torturing yourself and your family. dont make fool out of yourselves.

  123. Avatar

    Muhammad Saleem Anwar

    July 8, 2012 at 1:32 PM

    The topic is very crucial and nicely explained. Jazaakallaahu khayra for this. However, I must say this. Why did you have to criticise those who differ with regards to the ruling of smoking? After all it is a matter of ijtihaad where none could claim having received ‘revelation’. Work out how many of those who smoke actually get cancer or any serious illness. (I am a respiratory Physician in London!)

    If we dont learn to tolerate other legal rulings by qualified jurists, we would never progress due to the lack of mercy of Allaah upon the ummah. We need to unite and teach tolerance rather than further the ‘mistrust’ of laity over the ulamaa.

    May Allaah guide us all aright and unite us, aameen.

  124. Avatar


    February 11, 2013 at 10:40 AM

    i am a practicing christian ian, and i respect the muslims andthe importance on living a clean life. i’m living in asia at the moment and enjoy mint hisha. i was hoping this article would have more scientific basis as i respect that practicing muslims , like practicing christians would reveal more scientific truth about the impacts on the body. to merely cite religious material and neglect scientific theory does nothing to respect our faith and doesn’t add to our awareness of what we may be doing to our health. this was a very well written article which i enjoyed reading … but was lacking any factual basis. im a little disappointed… but inspired to do more research on this issue. thanks all. :)

  125. Avatar

    Ahsan Raza

    July 3, 2013 at 10:48 AM

    if its harmful then its haram.

  126. Avatar


    July 3, 2013 at 10:54 AM

    Sugar and carbs are harmful. Are they haram?

  127. Avatar


    August 16, 2013 at 5:08 PM

    It is well known that smoking is dangerous in many different ways. Smoking over a period of time leads to many different health problems. Smoking is particularly damaging to the heart and lungs. Smoking can lead to a number of lung diseases or disorders including COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder), lung cancer, Emphysema, and shortness of breath. But exactly how can smoking destroy your lungs.

    Article source :

  128. Avatar

    Hasse Karlgreen

    April 4, 2016 at 9:23 AM

    The hookah and cigarettes both are dangerous for our health because the tobacco in hookahs is exposed to high heat from burning charcoal and cigarettes is also using the tobacco as well as nicotine.

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Grit and Resilience: The Self-Help vs. Islamic Perspective

Omar Usman




I don’t really care about grit.

Persevering and persisting through difficulties to achieve a higher goal is awesome. High-five. We should all develop that. No one disagrees that resilience is an essential characteristic to have.

Somehow, this simple concept has ballooned into what feels like a self-help cottage industry of sorts. It has a Ted talk with tens of millions of views, podcasts, keynote speeches, a New York Times best-selling book, and finding ways to teach this in schools and workplaces.

What I do care about is critically analyzing if it is all that it’s cracked up to be (spoiler alert: I don’t think so), why the self-help industry aggressively promotes it, and how we understand it from an Islamic perspective. For me, this is about much more than just grit – it’s about understanding character development from a (mostly Americanized) secular perspective vis-a-vis the Islamic one.

The appeal of grit in a self-help context is that it provides a magic bullet that intuitively feels correct. It provides optimism. If I can master this one thing, it will unlock what I need to be successful. When I keep running into a roadblock, I can scapegoat my reason for failure – a lack of grit.

Grit encompasses several inspirational cliches – be satisfied with being unsatisfied, or love the chase as much as the capture, or that grit is falling in love and staying in love. It is to believe anyone can succeed if they work long and hard enough. In short, it is the one-word encapsulation of the ideal of the American Dream.

Self-help literature has an underlying theme of controlling what is within your control and letting go of the rest. Islamically, in general, we agree with this sentiment. We focus our actions where we are personally accountable and put our trust in Allah for what we cannot control.

The problem with this theme, specifically with grit, is that it necessitates believing the circumstances around you cannot be changed. Therefore, you must simply accept things the way that they are. Teaching people that they can overcome any situation by merely working hard enough is not only unrealistic but utterly devoid of compassion.

“The notion that kids in poverty can overcome hunger, lack of medical care, homelessness, and trauma by buckling down and persisting was always stupid and heartless, exactly what you would expect to hear from Scrooge or the Koch brothers or Betsy DeVos.” -Diane Ravitch, Forget Grit, Focus on Inequality

Focusing on the individual characteristics of grit and perseverance shifts attention away from structural or systemic issues that impact someone’s ability to succeed. The personal characteristics can be changed while structural inequalities are seen as ‘fixed.’

Alfie Kohn, in an article critical of Grit by Angela Duckworth, notes that Duckworth and her mentor while studying grit operated under a belief that,

[U]nderachievement isn’t explained by structural factors — social, economic, or even educational. Rather, they insisted it should be attributed to the students themselves and their “failure to exercise self-discipline.” The entire conceptual edifice of grit is constructed on that individualistic premise, one that remains popular for ideological reasons even though it’s been repeatedly debunked by research.

Duckworth admitted as much in an interview with EdSurge.

There was a student who introduced himself having written a critical essay about the narrative of grit. His major point was that when we talk about grit as a kind of ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps,’ personal strength, it leaves in the shadows structural poverty and racism and other things that make it impossible, frankly, for some kids to do what we would expect them to do. When he sent me that essay, of course, I wanted to know more. I joined his [dissertation] committee because I don’t know much about sociology, and I don’t know much about this criticism.

I learned a lot from him over the years. I think the lesson for me is that when someone criticizes you, when someone criticized me, the natural thing is to be defensive and to reflexively make more clear your case and why you’re right, but I’ve always learned more from just listening. When I have the courage to just say, “Well, maybe there’s a point here that I hadn’t thought of,” and in this case the Grit narrative and what Grit has become is something that he really brought to me and my awareness in a way that I was oblivious to before.

It is mind-boggling that the person who popularized this research and wrote the book on the topic simply didn’t know that there was such a thing as structural inequality. It is quite disappointing that her response essentially amounted to “That’s interesting. I’d like to learn more.”

Duckworth provides a caveat – “My theory doesn’t address these outside ­forces, nor does it include luck. It’s about the psychology of achievement, but because psychology isn’t all that matters, it’s incomplete.” This is a cop-out we see consistently in the self-help industry and elsewhere. They won’t deny that those problems exist, they simply say that’s not the current focus.

It is intellectually dishonest to promote something as a key to success while outright ignoring the structures needed to enable success. That is not the only thing the theory of grit ignores. While marketing it as a necessary characteristic, it overlooks traits like honesty and kindness.

The grit narrative lionizes this superhero type of individual who breaks through all obstacles no matter how much the deck is stacked against them. It provides a sense of false hope. Instead of knowing when to cut your losses and see a failure for what it is, espousing a grit mentality will make a person stubbornly pursue a failing endeavor. It reminds me of those singers who comically fail the first round of auditions on American Idol, are rightly ridiculed by the judges, and then emotionally tell the whole world they’re going to come out on top (and then never do).

Overconfidence, obstinance, and naive optimism are the result of grit without context or boundaries. It fosters denial and a lack of self-awareness – the consequences of which are felt when horrible leaders keep rising to the top due, in part, to their grit and perseverance.

The entire idea of the psychology of achievement completely ignores the notion of morality and ethics. Grit in a vacuum may be amoral, but that is not how the real world works. This speaks powerfully to the need to understand the application of these types of concepts through a lens of faith.

The individual focus, however, is precisely what makes something like grit a prime candidate to become a popular self-help item. Schools and corporations alike will want to push it because it focuses on the individual instead of the reality of circumstances. There is a real amount of cognitive dissonance when a corporation can tell employees to focus on developing grit while not addressing toxic employment practices that increase turnover and destroy employees physically and emotionally (see: Dying for a Paycheck by Jeffrey Pfeffer).

Circumstances matter more than ever. You’ve probably heard the story (of course, in a Ted Talk) about the famous marshmallow test at some point. This popularizes the self-help version of delayed gratification. A bunch of kids are given a marshmallow and told that if they can avoid eating it for 5 minutes, they’ll get a second one. The children are then shown hilariously trying to resist eating it. These kids were then studied as they grew older, and lo and behold, those who had the self-discipline to hold out for the 2nd marshmallow were far more successful in life than those who gave in.

A new study found that a child’s ability to hold out for the second marshmallow had nothing to do with the ability to delay gratification. As The Atlantic points out, it had much more to do with the child’s social and economic background. When a child comes from a well to do household, the promise of a second marshmallow will be fulfilled. Their parents always deliver. When someone grows up in poverty, they are more attuned to take the short term reward because the guarantee does not exist that the marshmallow would still be there later. The circumstances matter much more than the psychological studies can account for. It is far easier to display grit with an entrepreneurial venture, for example, when you have the safety net of wealthy and supportive parents.

Valerie Strauss writes in the Washington Post that grit discourse is driven by middle and upper-class parents wanting their spoiled kids to appreciate the virtues of struggling against hardship. Unfortunately, this focus on character education means that poor students suffer because less money will then be spent on teaching disadvantaged students the skills they need to be successful. Sisyphus, she notes, had plenty of grit, but it didn’t get him very far.

Strauss asks us to imagine if a toxic dump was discovered near Beverly Hills, and our response was to teach kids how to lessen the effects of toxins instead of fixing the dump.

The grit discourse does not teach that poor children deserve poverty; it teaches that poverty itself is not so bad. In fact, hardship provides the very traits required to escape hardship. This logic is as seductive as it is circular. Pulling yourself up by the bootstraps is seen as a virtuous enterprise whether practiced by Horatio Alger’s urchins or Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs (bootstrapping is a common term in technology finance circles). And most importantly, it creates a purported path out of poverty that does not involve any sacrifice on the part of the privileged classes. -Valerie Strauss

This approach is a way to appear noble while perpetuating the status quo. It provides the illusion of upliftment while further entrenching the very systems that prevent it. We see this enacted most commonly with modern-day Silicon Valley style of philanthropy. Anand Giridharadas has an entire book dedicated to this ‘elite charade of changing the world’ entitled Winners Take All.

The media also does its fair share to push this narrative. Stories that should horrify us are passed along as inspirational stories of perseverance. It’s like celebrating a GoFundMe campaign that helps pay for surgery to save someone’s life instead of critically analyzing why healthcare is not seen as a human right in the first place.

Islamic Perspective

Islamically, we are taught to find ways to address the individual as well as the system. Characteristics like grit and delayed gratification are not bad. They’re misapplied when the bigger picture is not taken into account. In the Islamic system, for example, a person is encouraged not to beg. At the same time, there is an encouragement for those who can give to seek out those in need. A person in debt is strongly advised to pay off their debts as quickly as possible. At the same time, the lender is encouraged to be easygoing and to forgive the debt if possible.

This provides a more realistic framework for applying these concepts. A person facing difficulty should be encouraged to be resilient and find ways to bounce back. At the same time, support structures must be established to help that person.

Beyond the framework, there is a much larger issue. Grit is oriented around success. Success is unquestionably assumed to be a personal success oriented around academic achievement, career, wealth, and status. When that is the end goal, it makes it much easier to keep the focus on the individual.

The Islamic definition of success is much broader. There is the obvious idea of success in the Hereafter, but that is separate from this discussion. Even in a worldly sense, a successful person may be the one who sacrifices attending a good school, or perhaps even a dream job type of career opportunity, to spend more time with their family. The emphasis on individual success at all costs has contributed to the breakdown of essential family and community support systems.

A misapplied sense of grit furthers this when a person thinks they don’t need anyone else, and they just need to persevere. It is part of a larger body of messaging that promotes freedom and autonomy. We celebrate people who are strong and independent. Self-help tells us we can achieve anything with the right mindset.

But what happens when we fail? What happens when we find loneliness and not fulfillment, when we lack the bonds of familial solidarity, and when money does not make us whole? Then it all falls on us. It is precisely this feeling of constriction that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), give good news to those who are steadfast, those who say, when afflicted with a calamity, ‘We belong to God and to Him we shall return.’ These will be given blessings and mercy from their Lord, and it is they who are rightly guided.” (2:155-157)

Resilience is a reflex. When a person faces hardship, they will fall back on the habits and values they have. It brings to mind the statement of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) that patience is at the first strike. He taught us the mindset needed to have grit in the first place,

“Wondrous is the affair of the believer for there is good for him in every matter and this is not the case with anyone except the believer. If he is happy, then he thanks Allah and thus there is good for him, and if he is harmed, then he shows patience and thus there is good for him” (Muslim).

He also taught us the habits we need to ensure that we have the reflex of grit when the situation warrants it –

“Whoever would be pleased for Allah to answer him during times of hardship and difficulty, let him supplicate often during times of ease” (Tirmidhi).

The institution of the masjid as a community center provides a massive opportunity to build infrastructure to support people. Resilience, as Michael Ungar writes, is not a DIY endeavor. Communities must find ways to provide the resources a person needs to persevere. Ungar explains, “What kind of resources? The kind that get you through the inevitable crises that life throws our way. A bank of sick days. Some savings or an extended family who can take you in. Neighbours or a congregation willing to bring over a casserole, shovel your driveway or help care for your children while you are doing whatever you need to do to get through the moment. Communities with police, social workers, home-care workers, fire departments, ambulances, and food banks. Employment insurance, pension plans or financial advisers to help you through a layoff.”

Ungar summarizes the appropriate application of grit, “The science of resilience is clear: The social, political and natural environments in which we live are far more important to our health, fitness, finances and time management than our individual thoughts, feelings or behaviours. When it comes to maintaining well-being and finding success, environments matter. In fact, they may matter just as much, and likely much more, than individual thoughts, feelings or behaviours. A positive attitude may be required to take advantage of opportunities as you find them, but no amount of positive thinking on its own is going to help you survive a natural disaster, a bad workplace or childhood abuse. Change your world first by finding the relationships that nurture you, the opportunities to use your talents and the places where you experience community and governmental support and social justice. Once you have these, your world will help you succeed more than you could ever help yourself.”

The one major missing ingredient here is tawakkul (trust in Allah). One of the events in the life of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) that epitomized grit, resilience, and perseverance was the Battle of Badr. At this occasion, the Companions said, “God is enough for us: He is the best protector.

“Those whose faith only increased when people said, ‘Fear your enemy: they have amassed a great army against you,’ and who replied, ‘God is enough for us: He is the best protector,’“ (3:173)

This is the same phrase that Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), while displaying the utmost level of resilience, said when he was thrown into the fire, and it was made cool.

There is a core belief in Islam about balancing between fear and hope. Scholars advise when a person feels despair, they should remind themselves of the traditions that reinforce hope in Allah’s forgiveness. When a person feels themselves sliding further and further into disobedience to Allah, then they should remind themselves of the traditions that warn against Allah’s punishment. The focus changes depending on the situation.

Grit itself is a praiseworthy characteristic

There is no doubt that it is a trait that makes people successful. The challenge comes in applying it and how we teach it. It needs a proper level of balance. Too much focus on grit as a singular predictor of success may lead to victim-blaming and false hope syndrome. Overlooking it on the other hand, enables a feeling of entitlement and a victim mentality.

One purpose of teaching grit was to help students from privileged backgrounds understand and appreciate the struggle needed to overcome difficulty. Misapplied, it can lead to overlooking systemic issues that prevent a person from succeeding even when they have grit.

Self-help literature often fails to make these types of distinctions. It fails to provide guidance for balancing adapting the advice based on circumstance. The criticisms here are not of the idea of grit, but rather the myopic way in which self-help literature promotes concepts like grit without real-world contextualization. We need to find a way to have the right proportionality of understanding individual effort, societal support, and our reliance on Allah.

Our ability to persevere, to be resilient, and to have grit, is linked directly to our relationship with Allah, and our true level of trust in Him.

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To Kill a Muslim – Part 1

Yahya noticed the obscene gesture that the man across the street gave him, but he ignored it, and chose not to tell his wife Samira. He knew how deep racism ran in these small towns. He would just have to be patient.




1. Ragheads

Rotting wooden porch steps

Nursing a warm beer, Chad sat on the ramshackle front porch with the rotting steps and peeling paint. His hand clenched tightly the beer can as he watched the filthy camel hugging family move in across the street. Liquid sloshed over his fist.

It was unbelievable. This was Alhambra, a white town in America. Trump’s America. Making America great again, putting the freaks and coloreds back in their places. Sure, there were wetbacks in Alhambra – you couldn’t escape them in California – but there were hardly any blacks, and there were certainly no terrorist camel huggers.

Until now. There they were across the street and two houses down, unloading a trailer hooked to a silver Honda Accord. It was a whole family of ragheads – a woman with her stupid oppressed scarf on her head, a little boy and girl, and the father. Chad studied the man with contempt. The guy was tall, maybe 6’1 or 6’2, and black. Well, maybe he was African or some such, ‘cause he wore one of those long, colorful African shirts. His skin was mud colored, and his hair was short under that stupid beanie. He was skinny though. Chad was pretty sure he could kick the guy’s ass. The man noticed Chad looking and waved. Chad flipped him the bird. The man frowned and went on moving his crap.

Chad spent a lot of time sitting on the porch nowadays, ever since he’d been fired from his loss prevention job at Walmart. That still made his jaw clench and his vision go red every time he thought about it. Some black dude – a gangbanger no doubt – had tried to shoplift box of tampons, of all things, and Chad stopped him. A scuffle ensued. Chad recovered the tampons, but the banger got away. And Walmart fired him. Said he’d violated the terms of service of his employment, which required no physical engagement of any kind. You were supposed to ask the thief to return the goods, but if they refused you were not supposed to stop them, follow them, or “engage” in any way, due to the liability to other customers if the encounter turned violent.

So the shade goes off scot-free, and Chad gets fired. A law abiding, hard working, white American gets fired for doing the right thing. It made him want to smash something. Actually it made him want to smash someone, ideally his Filipino woman boss at Walmart, but any foreigner would do.

So here he was, twenty two and unemployed, nothing but a high school diploma to his name, sitting on his mom’s porch. All his old high school friends had jobs and girlfriends. Some even had wives. A couple had gone to college.

It wasn’t right. His life wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. He’d been a track star in high school – hundred meters and hurdles – and was supposed to have gone to college on a scholarship, but he’d blown out his knee, and they’d all abandoned him. It was like, if you weren’t of use to people, they didn’t give a crap about you. You were disposable. Blood sucking leeches. They’d given his spot on the track team to a black kid, a sophomore. Kid probably couldn’t even read. Was that piece of crap out there now, living the life that should have been Chad’s? How could this happen in Trump’s America? That was the problem, that it hadn’t been Trump’s America back then. It had been Barack Hussein’s America, the Commie Muslim traitor, damn his terrorist soul.

He seethed with the unfairness of it. He was no genius, he knew that. But he’d been a good runner, talented. He’d had the opportunity to make something of himself, to be the first in his family to go to college. He could have been more than his parents. A teacher maybe, or even a lawyer. His mother survived on welfare and what she could beg, borrow or steal from her string of boyfriends.

As for his dad, sure, Chad admired him in some ways – the man had been a shot caller in the Aryan Nation prison gang, able to point a finger and have another man killed. He’d been looked up to and respected. And he’d taught Chad what it meant to be a proud white man, standing up for your race and not taking any crap from coloreds. But let’s face it, Dad had spent 90% of his adult life in prison, and in the end had died the way he lived, with a knife in his gut. That wasn’t what Chad wanted for himself.

Plus, if Chad was being honest, he’d evolved beyond this father’s way of thinking. His father always used to say that the coloreds – no matter the shade – were filthy and inferior and should all be eliminated, even if that meant a race war across the face of America. It was a certainty, according to him, that the race war was coming. RaHoWa, he used to call it – Racial Holy War. The coloreds were secretly plotting to wipe out white America. It was an assault on the white, Christian values that had built everything worldwide in the modern world.

But when Chad had worked at Walmart he’d been forced to work with people of all colors and even folks from other countries like Filipinos and Chinks. He´d asked a few of them about RaHoWa, trying to find out about their plans to destroy the white race, but they seemed genuinely clueless. Chad slowly realized that RaHoWa was a myth, and that the coloreds were ordinary people like himself. They liked the same sports teams he did, played the same video games, watched the same shows. Yeah, they ate some weird crap and some of them smelled different, and their music was garbage. And they weren’t as smart of course. That was a fact. White people were the smartest, they had invented everything. That was why they ran the world. But the point was that the coloreds weren’t evil.

He had come to the conclusion that what was needed was not a race war, but separation. Let the coloreds live in their own neighborhoods and go to their own schools. Let them marry their own women and breed their own brats. And Chad and the white people would do the same. Live and let live. Not the Filipino bitch who fired him of course, he still wanted to bust her head open. But the others, yeah.

But the Muzzies – the Islamics – that was a different story. They were terrorist, cult following traitors. Not normal people. Muzzies were evil and sick in the head. Everybody said so. Plus, they lied as part of their sicko religion. It was called takaya or some crap. What kind of twisted bullcrap was that? They beheaded people, for Christ’s sake. If you were Christian in their country they would cut off your head with a hunting knife. They were devil worshipers. They should all either be kicked out of the country or killed. Period. And then Mecca should be nuked, and that would be the end of it.

But instead of taking care of business, the government was letting them go around like normal people. Even Trump had wimped out. The evidence was right in front of Chad’s eyes. Ragheads in his neighborhood, on his street. It was insane. How could terrorists go around openly showing off their rags? Where was Homeland Security? That was a good idea, actually. See something, say something, right? He took his phone out of his pocket and called 911.

2. Moving Day

Yahya Mtondo noticed the young man across the street staring. He waved, and when the fellow gave him an obscene gesture in return he frowned. In the old days – that is to say, in his angry and lost years of his youth – he would have marched straight over there and punched the man in the face, and damn the consequences. But he wasn’t that man anymore. So here merely shook his head and turned back to the job of moving.

His wife Samira must have noticed his expression. “What’s wrong habibi?”

He forced a smile. “Nothing’s at all, mchumba wangu.” Usually he called her mpenzi wangu – my love. But when he wanted to tease her he called her mchumba wangu, my homemaker. It was actually a term of endearment in his native Kenya, or at least it was what his dad always used to call his mom, may Allah have mercy on them. But he knew it annoyed Samira. In any case, he wasn’t going to tell her about the young man across the street. Samira tended to worry – she even had anxiety attacks sometimes – and he didn’t want to give her anything more to stress over.

“Just tired from the fast,” he added. “But I love it. I feel so light and free. I’m a bird doing loop de loops. Oooh!” He spread his arms. “My feathers are as cool as ice.”

Samira rolled her eyes. “You’re such a nut.”

He had not been crazy about the idea of moving to this poor, mostly white enclave in Central California, about twenty miles northeast of Fresno. He knew from experience how deep racism often ran in such towns. And he had two strikes against him in these people’s eyes, since he was both African and Muslim. Not that he was ashamed. He was proud of his Kenyan heritage, and was grateful that Allah had guided him to Islam.

They were here because his wife had just completed her medical residency in Fort Worth, Texas, where they’d moved from, and Alhambra Community Hospital had unexpectedly offered her a fellowship in her specialty of oncology. The salary was not spectacular, but it was better than she’d earned as a resident. Between that and his income as a rideshare driver, plus the low property values here in Alhambra, they’d been able to buy a house for the first time, alhamdulillah – thanks to God for all His blessings.

Craftsman bungalow cottage

The best part of all was that there was no ribaa involved. No interest. They’d gone through a group called Central Valley Islamic Finance, which helped qualified Muslims to buy cars and homes without interest. Yahya was deeply relieved about that. He ́d made plenty of mistakes in life, but so far he’d managed to avoid the sin of ribaa, sometimes making great sacrifices in the process.

It felt like an achievement. He could see himself on Yawm Al-Qiyamah – the Day of Resurrection – standing before some great angel who held in his hand a parchment listing Yahya´s sins, each with a small checked box: anger, resentment, cursing, jealousy, ingratitude, and more. But then Yahya ́s eyes would settle on the one little unchecked box – Ribaa. He would point to it excitedly, saying, ̈Look, look!̈ And he ́d hope that it might perhaps, offer him a chance for safety on that Day.

It was pretty sad, he knew, when avoiding a major sin was your last chance for salvation. Welcome to the 21st century. Or maybe that was a cop-out. He sighed.

̈Come on babe, tell me. What is it?̈ His sweaty-faced wife touched his cheek. She was always so alert to any sign of inner turbulence on his part.

He smiled. ¨Nothing.¨

She slid her arm through his. ̈Look at our house. Our house. SubhanAllah.¨

He set down the box he had tucked under one arm and studied the house. 701 Minarets Avenue. They had taken the street name as a sign. Their own little homestead, their own piece of earth – of course it all belonged to Allah, but it was theirs to care for. He would import a few elephants and a lion and call it Little House on the Serengeti. He chuckled at his own joke.

The house was small for a family of four – only 1,100 square feet. But it was cute – a little Craftsman bungalow built in 1901, painted teal with white trim, and featuring a small covered veranda to relax on when the weather go too hot, as it often did here in Central California. The yard was planted with wildflowers and native shrubs, while an immense magnolia tree grew in the front yard, casting shade over most of the house, its thick, waxy leaves glowing deep emerald in the morning sun. Some sort of songbird trilled from deep in the tree, praising God in its own language. Yahya loved it.

As an added bonus, Samira’s family lived in Los Angeles, only a four hour drive from here.

Allah the Most High had opened a door for them, and they’d walked through, taking the path that the Most Wise chose for them. Yahya knew in his heart that there would be good in this path, or Allah would not have set them upon it. That was trust, tawakkul. Doing your best, then putting your life in Allah’s hands and trusting Him to bring you through whatever obstacles you faced. Tawakkul was not, as some thought, naivete. Yahya had not lived an easy life. He ́d experienced terrible tragedies, and had walked through trench and terror, metaphorically speaking, just to stay alive. No, tawakkul was a choice and a mindset. It was faith.

As for the young man across the street, Yahya would make an effort to reach out to the neighbors, get to know them. Weren’t Muslims commanded to be kind to their neighbors? Only through kindness could an enemy become a friend.

He kissed his wife on the temple and bent down wearily to pick up the box.This was Ramadan, and Yahya’s energy level was at rock bottom. He hadn’t taken any food or water in many hours. Fortunately, all the family’s possessions fit into a small U-Haul trailer, and the moving was nearly done. That was one advantage of being poor, he thought wryly. It made moving easier.

Ten minutes later, hefting a 6-foot bookshelf and turning, he almost tripped over Sulayman, his four-year-old son, who had picked up a table fan by the cord. Yahya resisted the temptation to chide the boy. The irritability he felt was a byproduct of his hunger and weariness from the fast. Part of the challenge of Ramadan was to overcome that irritability and replace it with compassion. Instead of anger, to give love. Instead of resentment, to exercise generosity. Instead of self-absorption, to expand your sphere of concern to include your family, neighbors, the community, the Muslim ummah, and finally the world. That was Ramadan, and that was Islam.

Sulayman and his three-year-old sister Amirah were only trying to help in their little way. But yeah, they were getting underfoot. He was about to suggest they go play inside the house when he heard sirens approaching. It sounded like there were a lot of them, and they were close. Curious, he set the bookshelf down in the driveway. The sirens kept getting louder, and a moment later a black-and-white Alhambra police cruiser careened around the corner, then another right behind it, tires squealing. Yahya didn’t know what was going on – a burglary in the neighborhood, or a domestic dispute maybe? – but he wanted his family out of harm’s way.

“Samira,” he said urgently. “Take the kids into the house, please. Right away.” His wife had also paused to see the source of the commotion. She stood near the front door of the house, her hands gripping tightly on the box of dinnerware she was carrying. Like him, she was tall – about 5’10” to his 6’1” – and though she was Palestinian, her skin was a beautiful shade of brown that fell somewhere between copper and mahogany. Her purple hijab concealed long black hair that she typically wore loose beneath her scarf.

While Yahya was quiet and contemplative, Samira could be loud. She had a laugh that rang out, and a smile that stretched a mile wide. People were drawn to her brash and bubbly personality. Only those who knew her best understood the insecurities and worries that she hid beneath that bright and happy laugh.

As the wailing sirens mounted Samira dropped the box. Whatever was inside shattered when it hit the ground. She scooped up the kids, lifting them bodily off the ground, and disappeared inside the house.

Cop with gun drawn

What on earth? What had gotten into her? Yahya was about to go after her when the police cars skidded to a halt in the street in front of his own home. Doors were thrown open, and officers kneeled behind them, pointing their guns at his house. Yahya looked around in confusion. Was a fugitive hiding in his yard?

“Put your hands on your head,” someone bellowed through a loudspeaker, “and get down on your knees!”

Again Yahya looked around. Surely they did not mean him?

“You with the hat and the beard! Put your hands on your head and get down on your knees! This is your last warning!”

SubhanAllah, they did mean him! He considered protesting or at least asking for clarification. Then he looked at the barrels of the firearms pointing at him, one of which was bright yellow for some reason – some kind of phaser pistol? he thought crazily – and realized this was not the time for anything less than obedience. Moving slowly so as not to alarm the cops, he put his hands on his head and went down to his knees. Two offers charged forward, their weapons trained on Yahya’s chest. One pulled his hands behind his back and handcuffed him, then shoved him forward. He fell, turning his face to the side at the last second and striking his cheek on the driveway. The impact made him grunt in pain. He thought he heard the muffled cries of his wife or children from inside the house. They were probably watching through the window.

This was not something he would have ever wanted them to see. He struggled to rise up, to say to the officers, “Come on now, what’s this all about?” He was not personally afraid. It was never his way to be afraid of people or the things people did. He was good with God and trusted in the path. He just didn’t want his children to see their father being treated this way.

The cops tased him. He didn’t understand at that moment what was happening. Every muscle in his body seized in a terrible cramp. His limbs thrashed uncontrollably and his torso flopped like a dying fish on the floor of a boat. His vision went red as agonizing pain blasted his consciousness. He still heard his family screaming, and in the distance he heard laughter as well – triumphant, mocking laughter. The agony seemed to go on forever, then vanished without a trace, leaving no remainder of pain.

He regained control of himself and turned his head to look at the officers. The one who’d tased him stood rigid, his arms in a classic firing pose, his muscles quivering. He was young and slender, pasty white with red hair and a prematurely receding hairline. What Yahya noticed most of all, however, was that the man was petrified. His eyes were wide with fear. SubhanAllah, what was he so afraid of? He was staring as if Yahya were some mythical monster laying in the driveway, like an abominable snowman. Except he wasn’t an abominable snowman. He was an abominable Muslim, apparently.

“Hey,” Yahya said in what he hoped was a soothing tone. “It’s alright. I’m not-”

“Shut up, faggot!” one of the officers bellowed, and once again the electricity coursed through him. He spasmed and fell hard, striking his mouth this time. Then he felt hard objects hitting him, striking his legs and back. A hammering blow clapped the side of his head, and darkness descended upon his mind.

* * *

Next: Part 2 – The Black Jesus

Reader comments and constructive criticism are important to me, so please comment!

See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s other stories on this website.

Wael Abdelgawad’s novel, Pieces of a Dream, is available on

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Go Visit Bosnia

Abu Reem



Visit Bosnia

I have been to 35 countries, from Japan and China in the Far East, to Mexico and Columbia in South America, to Egypt and Morocco in North Africa, and there has not been another trip that was as profound in so many ways as my last trip to Bosnia. Go Visit Bosnia.

Besides Bosnia’s natural beauty, affordability and hospitality, the enrichment that comes from learning about a different culture, its cuisines, its complicated politics, and a genocide not yet 25 years old, is one that turns tourism into an experience not easily forgotten.

To the last point, why do human beings travel? What is it about a new destination that is appealing to us? Fun can be achieved in your neck of the world, so why wander? There are those who live in picture-perfect Switzerland but love to travel to remote deserts of Africa or the beaches of Indonesia. That is because traveling through new lands is a human instinct—a yearning to experience different cultures, foods, and environments.

Moreover, there is nothing more precious in life than experiences. Those who have had a sudden onset of terminal disease at an early age have an important perspective from which we can all learn. Why? Because the knowledge that you are dying quickly ends any sense of immortality, and what truly matters is crystallized. When asked what is it that they cherished most in their lives, pretty much all of them mentioned how the satisfaction from experiences such as travel beats the enjoyment of material riches any day.

What is an experience? Is it a fun week at Disney? Is it an adventure-filled trek through mountains? Is it going to a place to learn a new language? Actually, all of them are experiences, and it is not just going to a new place, but it is what you make out of that travel. If it is just fun, games, and shopping, have you really enriched your own life? Or have you missed out?

So when we planned our trip to Bosnia, many in our circle were a bit surprised as Bosnia is not on most travelers’ bucket lists. Muslims generally have Turkey and Malaysia in their must-visits “halal trips”, but after my trip to Bosnia, I feel that all Muslim travelers should add Bosnia to their short-list. Bosnia is a Muslim majority country, but barely so with about 50% Muslims, 30% Serbian Orthodox Christian and 15% Croat Catholics. I know this concerns many people, so let me add that food is generally halal unless you are in a non-Muslim village. Your guide will ensure that.

However, let me add that Bosnia is not just good for Muslims (just as Turkey and Malaysia appeal to everyone); people of all faiths can enjoy from the enriching trip to Bosnia.

Our trip began with selecting a reliable tour operator. While people tend to skip operators, preferring to book directly, I firmly believe that a professional should organize your first trip to a relatively unknown destination. I can honestly say I would have missed 50% of the enrichment without the presence of Adi, a highly educated tour guide, who was such a pleasant and friendly person that we almost felt him part of the family. The tour company itself belongs to a friend who worked for a major international company, before moving to his motherland to become part of Bosnia’s success. At the end of this article, I am providing contacts with this tour company, which MuslimMatters is proud to have as its partner for any Balkan travel.

Travel Bosnia, Visit Bosnia

Coming to the trip, I am not going to describe it in the sequence of the itinerary, but just some of the wonderful places we visited and the memorable experiences. We had 10 days for the trip and I would say a minimum of one week is needed to barely enjoy what Bosnia has to offer. However, two weeks if available would make it less hectic and give more time to absorb most of what Bosnia has to offer.

Our trip started in Sarajevo, a beautiful city. Even though it’s Bosnia’s largest city, the population is around half a million. Remember Bosnia itself has a relatively small population of 3.5 million. An additional 2 million people in the Bosnian diaspora are spread throughout the world, mostly due to the Balkan wars of the 1990s. We walked through the old town and heard amazing stories from our guide. Although I have never been to Jerusalem, I have seen its pictures and can see why many people refer to Sarajevo as the “little Jerusalem”. We heard the interesting story about the assassination of the Archduke of Austria in 1914 (the Austria-Hungarian empire controlled Bosnia at the time) and the beginning of World War 1. We visited the Ottoman bazaar, the City Hall, the Emperor’s Mosque, and many other interesting areas.


Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a compact city on the Miljacka River, surrounded by the Dinaric Alps. Its center has museums commemorating local history, including Sarajevo 1878–1918, which covers the 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, an event that sparked World War I. Landmarks of the old quarter, Baš?aršija, include the Ottoman-era Gazi Husrev-bey Mosque.

Like most cities in Bosnia, a river flows right through the center of Sarajevo.

The magnificent building that houses Sarajevo City Hall is located in the city of Sarajevo. It was initially the largest and most representative building of the Austro-Hungarian period in Sarajevo and served as the city hall. During the siege of Sarajevo that lasted over 3 years, Serbs targeted this building, focusing on destroying a rich collection of books and manuscripts inside it, and it was essentially burned down. After years of reconstruction, the building was reopened on May 9, 2014.

As we were walking on the streets, I took a picture of a man sitting carefree on the bench near the garden. I found this man’s peaceful enjoyment of the weather fascinating. He was in his own world— eyes closed and smiling.

Visit Bosnia

As you go into the Old Town, you will find many shops like this one in the picture of metal-crafts. Bosnians have been historically folks with mastery in metal and wood crafts. One historic shop that still functions and has some fabulous wood pieces is shown in the pictures.



As you go through the city, you will find many graveyards as well, reminding everyone of the longest modern age siege of Sarajevo. One particular grim reminder is a memorial near the city center dedicated to the children who were killed during the war.

Visit Bosnia, SarajevoOur trip coincided with the annual somber anniversary of the beginning of the siege, April 5, 1992. Bouquets of flowers adorned the remembrance area.

Visit Bosnia

Another major graveyard (massive area) has graves of Bosnian Muslims, Bosnian Serbs (Orthodox Christians) and few Bosnian Croats (Catholics). They fought against each other with the oppressor by all accounts being the Serbs. Now they all lie together next to each other. The white tombstones are Muslims, the black ones Serbs. One pic shows a particular Serb person who lived 101 years, only to die in the first year of the war. Most of the tombstones indicated the year of death during 1992-95, the war years. Some of the white tombstones have “Sehid” written which means martyr. Interestingly, Serbs use Greek letters and other Bosnians Latin, so most signs are in both languages.

You can go up to a café in Hecco Deluxe Hotel, which is Sarajevo’s oldest “skyscraper” and just absorb a 360 view of the city.  I was able to take one picture that captured the signs of all three major religious groups in Bosnia, as labeled in the photo. However, this is also a reflection of a country divided with 3 presidents, one from each religious group. Remember that the massacres were conducted by mostly Bosnian Serbs (not Serbian Serbs) and at some point, the Bosnian Croats also backstabbed the Bosnian Muslims (for example by destroying the vital ottoman old bridge in Mostar). Croatia and Serbia were planning to divide Bosnia between themselves but the Bosnian Muslims held their own until finally, NATO stepped in. It remains shocking how genocide could happen in the 90s in the heart of Europe. And it says a lot about the hypocrisy of the “West” in general. Many Bosnian Muslims remain bitter about it and I find it amazing that despite living among their potential killers, no revenge attacks have taken place. The political situation remains stable but tenuous— extremely safe but one political crisis away from going downhill. However, everyone is war fatigued and in case of a crisis, most people intend to just leave the country than to fight again.

Visit Bosnia

A view from Hecco Deluxe Hotel, Bosnia

Visit Bosnia

In the old city, you will also find the famous Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque that was built in the 16th century; it is the largest historical mosque in Bosnia and Herzegovina and one of the most representative Ottoman structures in the Balkans. A very interesting facet of the mosque is the clock tower. This is probably the only clock in the world that starts at dawn and ends at dusk. Every day, a caretaker adjusts the time to reflect the actual hours. So whenever you look at it, you will know how many hours to Maghrib prayers!

Watering hole structure for stray cats and dogs

Another interesting feature and a reflection of the concern for animals is the watering hole structure set up for stray cats and dogs. It kind of looks like a toilet seat, with the purpose that an animal like a cat may climb the seat and drink from the small water reservoir that is constantly filled by the caretakers.

If you want to shop for normal stuff, there is the Sarajevo City Center (SCC). It has all the popular international brands, but what I found interesting is that the prices were in many cases even lower than American prices, which if you have been around, is quite rare. So if you are coming from the Middle East or Europe, definitely check this mall out.

Vrelo Bosne:


Just outside Sarajevo in the outskirts of the city, you a public park, featuring the spring of the River Bosna, at the foothills of the Mount Igman on the outskirts of Sarajevo. This beautiful park and the spring is a remarkable sight. It is a must see when you visit Bosnia. Crystal clear water allows you to see the entire waterbed. A beautiful white swan swam, followed by a couple of gorgeous ducks.

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Museum Tunnel of War:

This small museum showcases the tunnel that was built underneath the airport tarmac by Bosnian Muslims in order to carry food, supplies and even arms. It was called “Tunnel of Hope” and constructed between March and June 1993 during the Siege of Sarajevo. While the Bosnian Serbs besieging the country were armed to the teeth with weapons from the ex-Yugoslavian army, an embargo of weapons was applied, essentially making Bosnian Muslims sitting ducks. Such was the treachery of the international community. This tunnel helped the Bosnian Muslims protect Sarajevo from total surrender. You can see the names of those killed here.

A truck driver on the “exit” side of the tunnel would then transport these supplies up and down some treacherous mountains. The driver’s wife is still alive and has a small shop that sells souvenirs—be sure to visit and buy some.


This is a village-town in the southeastern region of the Mostar basin. Here we relaxed and ate fresh fish at the source of the Buna River, right next to where the water sprung out from the mountains underneath a cave. This is one of those dining experiences where the scenery makes your food even more enjoyable than it would have otherwise been.


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This is a town and municipality and the administrative center of Central Bosnia Canton. It is situated about 50 miles west of Sarajevo. Historically, it was the capital city of the governors of Bosnia from 1699 to 1850, and has a cultural heritage dating from that period. Here you see a pre-Ottoman Fort (1300s) is still in great shape. It stands on top of the hill with mountains behind it so no one could enter the city without being spotted. The scenery from the top is also fantastic as seen in the picture. The oldest mosque of the city was built here. There were 20 mosques were built in the city, of which 17 survived to date.


It is situated in the mountains; there is a beautiful countryside near the city, rivers such as the Vrbas and Pliva, lakes like Pliva Lake, which is also a popular destination for the local people and some tourists. This lake is called Brana in the local parlance. In 1527, Jajce became the last Bosnian town to fall to Ottoman rule, and you will see the gate to the city that fell to the Ottomans.  The 17-meter high Pliva waterfall was named one of the 12 most beautiful waterfalls in the world.


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It is situated on the Neretva River and is the fifth-largest city in the country. Mostar was named after the bridge keepers (mostari) who in the medieval times guarded the Stari Most (Old Bridge) over the Neretva. The Old Bridge, built by the Ottomans in the 16th century, is one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s most visited landmarks and is considered an exemplary piece of Islamic architecture in the Balkans. The Old Bridge stood for 427 years until the Croatian army destroyed it in an act of treachery in November 1993. It was rebuilt and reopened in July 2004 with support from various nations.


Mostar is a beautiful city. You can also shop here and like all of Bosnia, you will not be haggled or conned (something that has become a feature of doing business in Turkey, unfortunately). There is one large shop that sells bed-sheets, table covers, etc. owned by a guy from Kosovo. You will not miss it if you are going through the bazaar. That is worth buying if you like such stuff.

Not far from the Old Bridge, you can climb up a narrow staircase to a top of a mosque minaret and have another breath-taking view of the city and of the Old Bridge itself. The climb is not terribly difficult but may be a stretch for the elder.

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Mostar Old Bridge (1567) (UNESCO World Heritage List)

Olympic Mountains Bjelasnica

Bjelašnica is a mountain in central Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is found directly to the southwest of Sarajevo, bordering Mt. Igman.  Bjelašnica’s tallest peak, by which the whole mountain group got its name, rises to an elevation of 2067 meters (6782 feet). This is one of the resorts that hosted the 1984 winter Olympics. The main hotel here serves delicious food. If you are a skier, then the many mountains of Bosnia make for perfect (and very cheap) skiing options.



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Srebenica, Bosnia

Epicenter of the Bosnian genocide, where 8372 civilians were murdered as the world watched callously. This is a must when you visit Bosnia. The genocide museum houses stories and eyewitness accounts. It is in one part of a massive warehouse that used to be a factory for car batteries before it became the command post for the UN designated Dutch army, sent to protect the Bosnian Muslim civilians, but later turning into cowards who gave up thousands for slaughter.

We met a survivor whose to this date chokes as he recalls his escape, walking 60 miles sleepless, hungry to reach Bosnian territory. Shakes you to the core.

Till today, not all bodies have been found or identified. Some of the bodies were moved to secondary graves by the Serbs to hide evidence. The green posts are the discoveries between one July 11 anniversary to the next— to be converted to white tombstones.


This day trip by far was the most moving. A genocide that shook us 25 years ago, but that we only heard of, is brought to life here. The museum offers stories and footage of the genocide. The graveyard makes your heart sink.

Unfortunately, this genocide is mostly forgotten and is something that we must never forget. Just as visits to Auschwitz are important to remember the Holocaust, we must make Srebrenica a place to visit, such that it becomes a history that we must never forget.

Other places of interest (not all-inclusive by any means):

Woodcrafts in Konjic, Bosnia

On the way back from Mostar to Sarajevo, be sure to stop by Konjic where you can stop by a very old woodcarving shop that to this date provides fabulous woodcrafts.

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You can also stop by Sunny Land, a small park where you can ride an alpine roller coaster that kids (and adults) will definitely enjoy. A bit further from this location, you can see the remains of the bobsled structure, built for the 1984 Winter Olympics.

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Our guide was The Bosnian Guide.

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