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The controversial edict on smoking

The controversial edict on smoking
A smoking banning edict issued by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has met various responses from people. The controversial edict has risen pro and contra even since it was in mass media.
The following is an interview of NU Online with deputy chairman of the Problems Deliberation Committee (LBM) of the Central Board of Nahdlatul Ulama (PBNU) KH Aewani Faishal over the legal status of smoking in the perspective of Islam.<>

Actually when has the smoking been such a legal discussion in Islam?

The discussion about smoking has not yet emerged since the beginning of the birth of Islam. The discussion in dealing with the legal status of smoking by ulema emerged in the 11th century of Hijriyah or around 400 years ago. Smoking has now been popular and been such a culture around the Islamic world. Since then the legal status of smoking has constantly been discussed by ulema in various countries both collectively and individually.

Of course in the discussion any dissenting opinion among the ulema has certainly emerged. Even we have till now found many scientific collections in dealing with the dissenting opinion.

What do you mean with the dissenting opinion?

Some ulema declared it is permissible (mubah), some declared it is objectionable (makruh) and some others tend to declare it was forbidden. We can find the difference up to now either in the form of written texts or in spoken edicts.

The difference will always raise controversy in accordance with the development of people's point of view. As the corruption as such a strong public point of view, there would be some raising opinion to equalize smoking with corruption. Whereas the corruption's legal status is heavy because it is the act of stealing (sariqah). However the problem will be different when the smoking is forbidden (haram). There would be pro from certain parties and there would also be contra and rejection from those whose no similar opinion.

What are common criteria from the emerging arguments upon the smoking?

Basically there are religious texts (nash) that are commonly considered as a legal criterion namely the prohibition of doing everything that can bring destruction, harm, and mafsadah as explained in the Quran sura Al Baqarah: 195 and in the Prophet's hadist from Ibnu Majjah no 2331. In reference with the two nash, many ulema are of view that everything which brings harm is forbidden (haram).

But what is debatable is whether the smoking can bring harms or not and can bring benefits or not. In this regard there have been different perceptions in researching and examining the substance of smoking from the aspect of maslahah and mafsadah.

The different perceptions are a new phase of the existence of opinions in dealing with the legal status of of smoking with their various arguments. If all are of view that smoking does not bring mudarat or brings mudarat but it is relatively small, all of them will agree that smoking is permissible (mubah) and objectionable (makruh). Similarly if all of them agree that smoking will bring big mudarat, they will of course agree that it is forbidden (haram).

If classified how many are mainstreaming opinions about smoking?

Some opinions with their arguments dealing with the legal status of smoking can be classified into three. First the legal status of smoking is permissible (mubah) because it does not bring mudarat. It can distincly be asserted that the nature of cigarette is not the thing intoxicating.

Second, the legal status of smoking is objectionable (makruh) because it brings mudarat that is relatively small and is not significant to be used to justifying it as haram.

Third, the legal status of smoking is objectionable (makruh) because it absolutely brings many mudarat. Based on information in regard with the results of medical researches that smoking can result in various deceases like cancer, lungs, heart attack and so on for smoking for a long time.

If it is supposed to choose, then which is the most appropriate legal status for smoking? 

Smoking is mubah or makruh because it brings no mudarat or brings mudarat but it is relatively small. The justification will stay reinstated as long as it is excessive. Whatever that is excessive and brings such significant mudarat, it is forbidden (haram).

Perhaps what comes to our mind that the harmfulness (kemudaratan) of smoking may also be stated that it is not bigger that the harmfulness of durian that contains a high amount of cholesterol and also has high risks. Somehow, one smoking every day for over ten years has not always been attacked by a decease because of smoking. At the same time those every day eating durian for some three months can be attacked a possible high-risk decease. As smoking can relatively bring less harmfulness for it is objectionable (makruh), then there is a bigger goodness (maslahah) behind the less harmfulness, the legal status of the makruh can be permissible (mubah).

While the goodness can be seen in any form like fueling the spirit of thinking and working as that of the smokers. It is of course different from any intoxicating element that is clearly forbidden (haram) though at the same time it has benefit and again its harmfulness is bigger that its benefit. 

Can you mention specific reasons of ulema banning smoking and why were the reasons rejected by many other ulema?

When the legal status of smoking becomes the object of discussion among ulema there will be controversy. Those prohibiting it will not lack of reasons to explain its arguments and otherwise. But I think prohibiting smoking is not an appropriate attitude. At this point there are at least seven reasons as well as their arguments.

First, it is not objective is prohibiting smoking for the reason that it brings many high-risk harmfulness. Based on information (not evidence) in terms of the result of a medical research, saying smoking may cause such deceases as cancer, heart attack, impotency, interference with pregnancy and fetus respectively. With any sophisticated level of technology, the least harmfulness caused by especially smoking can be found. Nevertheless, all this is still in presumptions that should really be proven.  There is also a possibility over the sophisticated technology capable of finding the least harmfulness (caused by smoking), namely a bigger one from what which is real. If the medical research can not carefully be examined, the harmfulness of smoking would tend to be understood bigger from the real fact. As a result the least harmfulness that is regarded bigger would be used as a reason to stipulate the legal status of smoking as forbidden (haram). Whereas the relatively least harmfulness should ideally be used to stipulate (its status) as objectionable (makruh). Similarly, many foods and drinks which are declared as halal (permissible) are medically not secure to consume. It is possible to forbid the foods and the drinks which are declared  not secure or should its level of harmfulness be examined before stipulating it as mubah, makruh and haram?




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