By Imam Zia Sheikh
Is Beer Halal According to the Hanafi Fiqh?
You might be forgiven for thinking so if you believed the recent viral posting of an Egyptian Shaykh (link) declaring that to be the case, which has now been determined to be fake. Before you rush out to your local convenience store to celebrate, it is better to get the complete picture of the religious ruling, and that is the purpose of this article.
First of all, there are clear ahadith that suggest that all intoxicants are haram, regardless of how they are made: “All intoxicants are khamr, and all khamr is prohibited” (Agreed upon), and “whenever a large amount of an object intoxicates, a small amount of it is also prohibited.” (Tirmidhi)
So then, how would a Shaykh come to the conclusion about the ruling in Hanafi fiqh?
According to Hanafi fiqh, the legal definition of khamr is the juice of grapes or date syrup (nabeedh) that has been fermented to a point that the sugar turned to alcohol, thereby making it into an intoxicant.
Where did this definition come from?
The proof of this is in the decisive, unequivocal texts of the Qu’ran (see 5:90) and Noble Sunnah, as the narrations of the prohibition of khamr together comprise multiple-chain transmission (tawatur). Its prohibition is also confirmed by scholarly consensus. The Prophet also said, “Intoxicants are from these two trees,” while pointing to grapevines and date-palms. [Sahih Muslim]. There is also a consensus of the companions regarding this type of alcohol.
What this means is, that any other form of intoxicant that is not included in the above definitions (grapes and dates) cannot legally be called khamr, and therefore the ruling would have to be based on scholarly legal judgments, known as ijtihaad, or by analogy, which is known as qiyaas. Therefore, any type of intoxicating drink made of barley, honey, figs, or anything other than those things that are clearly mentioned in the Quran and Sunnah, requires some detail, and is subject to a difference of opinion.
Because of this seeming ambiguity, the ruling on this category of intoxicant is divided:
1- The majority of the Ulemaa of the Hijaz and the Muhadditheen have said that all of these types of alcohol are prohibited, whether in small or large amounts.
2- The Scholars of Iraq, Ibrahim Nakhi from the Tabieen , Sufyan Althawri, Ibn Abi Layla, Ibn Shubrumah, Imam Abu Haneefa, and the rest of the scholars of Kufa, and the majority of the scholars of Basra say that the prohibition in these products is the intoxication in the product, not the product itself. This is based upon the seemingly ambiguous and contradictory texts regarding the ruling of these products.
However, prominent scholars from the Hanafi school, like Muhammad ibn Al-Hasan Shaybaani have declared the above opinion to be incorrect, as mentioned in prominent Hanafi books like Ad-Durr-Ul-Mukhtar, “And Muhammad (Shaybaani) has declared the drinks extracted from honey, figs etc to be haram.”
It is mentioned in Al-Mowsoo’atul Fiqh’iyah “As for the nabeedh of honey, figs, barley, and wheat, it is permissible according to Imams Abu Haneefa and Abu Yusuf, with the condition that it is not drunk with the intention of merry-making and mischief, and Imam Muhammad has opposed them in this opinion. The fatwa is given according to the opinion of Imam Muhammad in the Hanafi school of thought.”
The last line is the key in all of this discussion. Despite differences of opinion, the religious ruling (or the mufta-bihi qowl) is derived from the opinion of Imam Muhammad, and not the other Hanafi scholars.
- All intoxicants are prohibited in Hanafi fiqh
- The leniency of the ruling according to some Hanafi scholars can be benefitted from in areas of extreme need, like alcohol in some medications.