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Smoking and Islam
Religious Leaders Dub Smoking a Major Sin
  By: -
Source: South China Morning Post, December 28, 1995, pg 10

A MOVE by senior religious officials to ban Muslims from smoking by declaring the practice haram, or sinful and forbidden, has divided the Islamic leadership.

Unsurprisingly, non-smokers are the leading proponents of the ban while smokers of friends of them oppose it.

Smokers were not overly concerned when a senior official of the Johor State Islamic Council reminded Muslims in October that smoking was makruh, or a minor sin.

He did not sugget it should be outlawed but ruled that Muslims who smoked could not be witnesses to marriages.

But since then, religious organisations in the states of Kedah and Selangor have declared smoking haram.

Sheik Abdul Majid, chairman of the Kedah committee that issues religious rulings, said that in the past smoking had been considered makruh “because of its smell”.

“Now, there is proof that smoking can seriously endanger your health”, he said. But the Kedah Islamic Council said smoking would not immediately be gazetted as haram.

This would only happen after it had undertaken a campaign to educate Muslims on the dangers of smoking.

There was no such grace period for the smokers of Selangor, the state surrounding the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur and including some suburbs of the capital.

Ishak Baharom, chairman of the Syarak Consultative Committee of Selangor, which makes pronouncements on religious matters, announced that smoking had been gazetted as haram for Muslims with effect from December 7.  He did not explain the back-dating of the decree.

Declaring the practice detrimental to people’s health, he said Muslims in the state must stop smoking immediately but did not say what penalties smokers could expect.

Deputy chairman of the State Islamic Council, Dr. Zainal Abidin Ahmad, said the state Government had no plan to penalise Muslims who smoked in Selangor.

He added that the decision announced by Mr. Baharom was unclear and needed to be clarified.

Several Islamic officials in the state echoed his call for clarification and said the matter should be discussed by the National Fatwa Council, which has the last word on religious issues.

The Imam of the Shah Alam mosque, Ahmad Shauqi, said the opposing views of the State Islamic Council and the Syarak Consultative Committee “could cause misunderstanding among Muslims”.

He said that as far as he know smoking was only considered makruh in Islam.

“In fact, many of my colleagues are smokers”, he said.


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