Differences Between “Khamr” and “Alcohol”

In the Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Ever Compassionate…

It is important to differentiate between “khamr” (intoxicants) and “alcohol”.*

The substance called “alcohol” is of three types:

1) That which is deadly, if you consume it you will die or become seriously ill.  This is considered “summ (poison) and it is permissible to buy, sell, transport, or use it, but not consume it.  You can use it when found in mouthwash, perfume, bug spray, etc., but not in foods or drinks.

2) That which intoxicates when consumed, a little of it or a lot, then it considered Khamr (intoxicant), and it is not permissible to buy, sell, transport, use, or consume.  The scholarly verdicts mentioned here and here refer to this category: khamr.

3) That which does not intoxicate no matter how much of it is consumed, then it is not a khamr, rather it is halaal, like the small amounts of alcohol found in many foods and drinks that we eat every day.  This type is permissible to buy, sell, transport, use, and consume.

So if the type of alcohol used in your medicine or food is type #3, then you may use it.  If it is type #1 or #2, then NO.

And Allaah knows best.

*[I learned this point from Shaykh Muhammad Baazmool, who relays it from al-‘Allaamah Al-Albaanee, may Allaah have Mercy on them both.]

Written by: Moosaa Richardson

ST Archives – Originally Published 03-11-2007

86 thoughts on “Differences Between “Khamr” and “Alcohol”

  1. You said: May Allah have mercy on them both. Has Shaykh Muhammad Baazmool passed away? I didn’t hear anything about this.

  2. Assalamu Alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakathahu

    Brother, Could you please give some example of third kind of food that does not intoxicate?

    • Salaam alaykum,

      Most fruits have minute amounts of alcohol in them naturally. No matter how many raisins you eat, you won’t become intoxicated.

      Similarly, natural, unrefined fruit juices will also have traces of alcohol, but don’t intoxicate in any volume.

      • wa ‘alaykas-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. Exactly, Michael, but the point is, if we were to extract only the tiny amounts of alcohol from a number of fruits and combine only the extracted alcohol in one drink which intoxicates, this would not prove that the fruits themselves are haraam.

          • May Allaah reward you and bless you for visiting and asking your question. We are all learning, wal-hamdulillaah, and there are a few points that we can pick up from this question:

            1. “Holy” is not an appropriate description of our beloved Prophet (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace). He was a human being, not divine, and he received revelation from Allaah. It is reported that he (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) said: لا تطروني كما أطرأت النصارى ابن مريم (Do not raise me above my level as the Christians did to Ibn Maryam). See the last two Verses of Soorah al-Kahf.

            2. “SAW” is not sufficient for us to fulfill the obligation of sending salaat and salaam upon the Messenger. Refer to this beneficial article: http://www.bakkah.net/en/saw-saws-pbuh.htm

            3. In response to your question: Exactly, all intoxicants are haraam, small or big. That is the point of the article. It is very helpful to distinguish between the word alcohol and khamr (intoxicant). Without keeping this in mind, we would have to consider apples, dates, bread, and other basic food items to be intoxicants because of the small amounts of “alcohol” found in them naturally.

            May Allaah bless us and increase us in understanding. And Allaah knows best.

        • Assalamualaikum, does perfumes having little alcohol content in them fall under category 3? is it permissible to use such perfumes?

          • wa ‘alaykis-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. If someone consumed perfume as a beverage, he would become ill or die, not get intoxicated. Therefore, the ruling on such a perfume is that (when consumed, which is rare) it is summ (poison), which is permissible to buy, sell, and use for beneficial purposes.
            If there does actually exist a perfume that actually intoxicates when consumed, then it would be a khamr (intoxicant), and would not be permissible to drink, own, buy, sell, or transport. And Allaah knows best.

      • السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته
        Ustadh could you please clarify for us if vanilla extract is halal to use, such we see many chocolate bars containing them and other sweet food?

        Is it permissible for us to eat, such as the chocolate bar Kitkat contains vanilla?

  3. As-Salaamu alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatu,

    May Allah reward you for sharing this important and beneficial information.

    What about nutmeg? Is it permissible to ingest if it is an ingredient in food? It does alter the taste of food, and it is a known intoxicant and can be considered a poison in some ways.

    What about medications like hydrocodone or vicodin?

    Lastly, what about soy sauce? Most soy sauce has enough alcohol content to be questionable as to whether it can intoxicate (2-3% by volume – some internet sites say that official “alcoholic beverage” level in the U.S. is 0.5%), but so much salt that it is conceivable that it would cause severe dehydration before intoxication.

    Jazakallahu khayran.

  4. Assalamu Aleikum,

    Jazak Allahu kahiran yaa Moosaa.

    To proceed:

    Most perfumes these days contain what is called “Alcohol Denat.” (denatured alcohol).

    Basically, this is ethanol (the type of alcohol which intoxicates) which has had some additives added to it to make it “…poisonous, extremely bad tasting, foul smelling or nauseating, to discourage recreational consumption.” (source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denatured_alcohol)

    So the alcohol is NOT chemically altered, rather it just has stuff added to it to make it undrinkable.

    What’s the ruling on using such perfumes ?

    Baaraka Allaahu feekum

      • wa ‘alaykas-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. Types of alcohol that is summ (poision) but not khamr (intoxicant) can be traded and used for benefit (like perfume), but not consumed obviously. This is what Shaykh Muhammad Baazmool narrated to me from al-‘Allaamah al-Albaanee.

  5. Bismillahi Rahmaani Raheem

    Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

    BaarakAllahu feek; regarding the third type of alcohol mentioned, does this mean that foods which contain alcohol as one of the ingredients, but have an amount of it which CANNOT intoxicate – then such foods are permissible to consume? Can you please provide any references or possibly translate any works of the scholars who have handled this specific issue (for further reading and clarification)?

    JazaakAllahu khayra!

    • wa ‘alaykas-salaamu wa rahmatullaahi wabarakaatuh.

      Examples of everyday foods that have a tiny amount of non-intoxicating alcohol already in them: apples, oranges, dates, grapes, bread, etc.

      • Actually these foods contain a particular substance-i think its called sucrose- which is then fermented and undergoes reaction with certain enzymes to make ethanol(alcohol). this is important because i believe I heard about something being haraam in small quantities if it intoxicates in large quantities. please can you clarify this?

        • Something that intoxicates in large quantities is considered a khamr even in small quantities – as it is. Not that if you single out one tiny ingredient and separate it from the others. With this understanding, one could possibly single out the tiny amounts of natural alcohol found in common fruits and breads and claim they are all impermissible as a result. And Allaah knows best.

          • Jazakallahu khayr brother! I have been struggling to understand this issued. Every time I would think about consuming something mixed with minuscule amounts of alcohol somewhere in it’s ingredients, I would get anxious because of the above mentioned hadith. Alhamdulillah! May Allah bless you! This understanding has made things much easier, and calmed my heart.

            Asalamu alayk!

  6. Barakallhu feek ustaadh for this beneficial article.
    I will like to know that are we allowed to consume iron supplements which are preserved in alcohol and we dont know the type of alcohol it contains and also the soure of iron is cows blood?
    Also what about those nutritional supplements which are based on nonveg soure and we dont know exactly what it is?

    • MashaAllah. BarakAllah Feeki for this article. Very benificial. I was wondering the same thing about the liquid iron preserved in alcohol though. I ordered some online once and I actually got a little light headed My 1st dose. So I thought surely this must be harram. But clarification would be best. InshaAllah.

  7. Bismullahirrahmaanirraheem

    Assalammualaikum

    May I ask if perfumes that contain denatured alcohol as you mentioned are considered najaasa or a form of impurity?

    Baarakumullahu feekum

    • wa ‘alaykas-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. Alcohols that are not intoxicants are not khamr. So if you believed khamr to be najas (which is debatable), only the alcohol that intoxicates would be najas. And Allaah knows best.

      • What is the ruling on the person who consumed a product containing alcohol without having knowledge that the item had alcohol in it. The product that was consumed was Apple Cider Vinegar.

      • Assalamu alaykum

        If the perfume contains the intoxicating level of Alcohol then wouldn’t this make it impermissible to buy regardless of whether or no it’s najis?

  8. Assalaamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullaah

    Abit confused about the third category – does it include things like spirit vinegar and vanilla extract that may have alcohol deliberately added to them or is it only for foods that naturally have abit of alcohol in them like fruits?

  9. asslamoalaikum
    jazakkallahukhayran for this clarification.br,moosa
    I still am not clear on nutmeg though, when it is on the food ,it is possible to taste it, so is the nutmeg in it’s original form permissible

  10. Akhee you mentioned in point 2 that it is not permissible to use alcohol that intoxicates I.e. khamr, but fatwa mentioned in link 2 says that it is not impermissible to use that type of alcohol tough it is better not to use but we cannot say that it is forbidden, a bit confusing. so can you please clarify.

    • The article from “link2” says, “But as for use for other things, such as cleansing bacteria and the like, it is a matter of opinion, and whoever avoids it is more prudent…” This seems to be a reference to alcohol, not khamr, since it is impermissible to purchase, transport, or own khamr, but the substance called alcohol has different situations, as detailed in the article above. And Allaah knows best.

      • Jazakallahu khayran, so if our hand sanitizer contains ethanol which is a khamr is it permissible for us to use it as such we are not directly buying khamr but we are buying a product that contains khamr?

        • A substance is judged as an intoxicant or not based on what it is now, not what the individual parts would be if they were isolated. And Allaah knows best.

          • Assalammualaikum

            Recently I bought a few hand sanitizers. I just noticed that it has an active ingredient Ethanol of 68% v/v. It also contains isopropyl alcohol. Is it permissible to use these hand sanitizers?

  11. Baarak Allaahou feek ag Moosaa.
    So to be clear. We are not to look at products, foods, medicines etc.. as being khamr when they contain alcohol (to be specific ethanol, found in beer/wine). But Khamr is that what intoxicates when taken in large quantities. So when the amount of alcohol (ethanol) in an item is so small, that wether you use a large amount of it, it doesn’t intoxicate you, than that is permissible to use, because it is said that khamr is that what intoxicates you when taken in large quantities. And the same goes for substances that intoxicate such as nutmeg etc. Am I correct?

    As-salaamou’alaikoum

    • wa ‘alaykas-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. Yes. When someone hands you a drink or a piece of food, you are not responsible for judging its individual ingredients before they were combined as intoxicants or non-intoxicants, rather you are required to judge it as an intoxicant or not by what it is right now. With a reminder that Muslims are not allowed to purchase or own intoxicants with the intent of making non-intoxicating foods and drinks. This scenario is about when others have already made a food or drink, and Allaah knows best.

      • Assalam3aleykum
        Brother

        Please can you elaborate on nutmeg, whether it is permissable to consume if mixed with other spices?

        May Allaah reward you, aameen.

        • wa ‘alayk as-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. There is no need to elaborate on individual intoxicants. Nutmeg, like any other intoxicant, is impermissible to buy, sell, transport, store, etc. If it -or any other intoxicant- is found as a tiny amount in a much larger food or drink that has already been prepared, and the food or drink simply does not intoxicate, no matter how much is consumed, then we cannot categorize such a food or drink as an intoxicant. And Allaah knows best.

          Review: Nutmeg is a Khamr (Intoxicant)

      • AssalamuAlaikum Akhi,

        Is it permissible for you to buy food which contains Alcohol, or is it only permissible to eat the food which contains alcohol only when someone offers it to you?

        • Wa ‘alaykas-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. Again, the substance is judged by what it is now, not what it would be if all its ingredients were separated individually. It is either an intoxicant or not. If it is, then it is not permissible to receive it as a gift, nor is it permissible to purchase.

  12. I have to give my toddler iron supplement in liquid form.Its ingredients contain alcohol 0.2% v/v. Is it halal to give it to my kid?

  13. Assalaamu Alaykum,brother
    I bought Kalamata olives (and lots of other prepared food) from the supermarket , on the ingredients list it has :olives, water,red wine vinegar.salt. Can you clarify if red or white wine vinegar is halal to consume.I don’t know how the vinegar was made?

  14. Asalaamu alaykum. Could you give a little more response to the alcohol issue when it is found in baking goods, i.e, Vanilla essence, flavourings and confectionery? It is found in chocolates sometimes (not speaking of those with an alcoholic centre).

  15. What about using perfumes that contain alcohol as a suspension and therefore surface medicines and sterilising fluids. I read a fatwa by Sheikh Uthaymin that he wouldn’t but it is okay so can we sell ethanol on things like petrol or fuel or suspensions and some chemicals come dissolved in alcohol which also intoxicated. Because petrol contains ethanol so can we sell crude oil?

    • Assalamu alaykum,
      I second this comment. You see nowadays ethanol is in many things. When treating crude oil often some ethanol is produced. Also in order to do certain chemical reactions notably with things like oil and alkanes ethanol is used as a solvent so what I’d the ruling on this?

  16. السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته

    Is the pastas found in supermarkets containing spiriit vinegar permissible? I assume they do not intoxicate if you consume a large quantity of pasta.

    جزاك اللهُ خيرًا

  17. As salaam alayk
    May Allah protect and preserve u my brother

    Is water kefir brewed in dates raisin figs etc..with sugar soln fr upto 3 days permissible or not? Upto how mamy days would you say it is permissible to drink bfr it fogs the mind..

    BaarakAllah feek

  18. Assalaamu ‘alaykum warahmatullaahi wabaraakaatuhu,

    HayaakumAllaah ya Ustaadh. Can you give us information regarding vanilla extract (it is an oft-used ingredient in baking to give vanilla flavouring – functions like salt in cooking)?

    It is made by leaving the vanilla beans in alcohol and there have been instances of intoxication through consuming vanilla extract directly.

    May Allaah bless you and your family.

    BaarakAllaahu feekum

    • Wa ‘alayk as-salaamu wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh. If the vanilla extract can intoxicate someone, then it is an intoxicant (khamr). If it is true that “there have been instances of intoxication through consuming vanilla extract directly” then this means it is classified as a khamr. To be thorough, we would need to know if all products called “vanilla extract” are all the same or not. And Allaah knows best.

  19. Assalamualaikum,
    Is homeopathic medicine allowed, uptill now we have been taking homeopathic medicine and no matter how much you take it doesn’t have any bad effect on you, please let us know about this too.
    BarakAllahufeek.

  20. Assalamu alaykum

    If a perfume contains the intoxicating level of Alcohol, then wouldn’t this make it impermissible to buy regardless of whether or not it’s najis?

    • Wa ‘alayk as-salaam. If the perfume intoxicates (when sniffed or drunk in large quantities), it is classified as an intoxicant. If not, its not. And Allaah knows best.

  21. Assalamualaykum,

    BaarakAllahu feekum, does this ruling have any relation to the ruling on the ingredient “Carmine” found in foods/cosmetics/dyes (it is a dye derived from beetles, after they are boiled and dried, as well as mixed with other ingredients to form a red color)? This dye is used widely in the west in foods and cosmetics. It is used in very small amounts; however it is hard to avoid as it is so widely used and it is hard to even find out sometimes if things contain it. Please provide some insight on the issue as to whether it is permissible to consume or use on the body externally (cosmetics, creams etc). JazaakumAllahu khair.

  22. salam alaykum akhi moosa jazakallahu Khayr for your effort! regarding fruit that is clear, but if for example have bought a pastry that contains rum, or for example crepes that contains rum or wine so much that it sometimes feels the taste for example rum pastry in what is the ruling?

    Jazaakallahu khayran .

    • because in the article above it says ”
      3) Does not intoxicate qui That no matter how much of it is Consumed, Then It is not a khamr, Rather it is halaal, like the small water equivalent of alcohol found in Many foods and drinks That we eat every day. This kind is permissible to buy, sell, transport, use, and consume.

      “While at the end of the fatwa of Shaykh utheymine he said :

      ” And if it is Khamr, then its useas a beverage or food has, by being white mixed with some food to give flavor to it is Clearly forbidden by the Book and agreement of the Scholars. Purpose as for use for –other things, Such As cleansing bacteria and the like, it is a matter of opinion, and Whoever Avoids it is more cautious … but I can not Say That it is forbidden, though I do not use it myself, except When Necessary, Such As Sterilising wounds and Such likes. ”

      Shaykh Muhammad bin Saalih al-`Uthaymeen

      • Review the source of the above quote attriuted to Sh. Ibn ‘Uthaymeen please. The shaykh has mentioned the case of intoxicants put into food or drinks and the intoxicant is entirely mixed into the product vs. When the intoxicant remains, like a slightly cooked wine sauce where the smell and presence of alcohol is still detectable. The latter being impermissible.

        In addition, a separate issue is the process of diluting the original intoxicant, which is not permissible, because it includes purchasing, storing, owning, and interacting with the intoxicant in its original form. Do not assume that when the scholars say when an intoxicant is mixed into a food item (completely) and the resulting food item is not intoxicating then it is halaal, do ant assume that this includes the permissibility of owning the original intoxicant to use it in preparing food. That is when others have done this and the product reaches us. And Allaah knows best.

        • But even if the final product doesn’t intoxicate, if we know that the product was produced by mixing alcohol into it, and we, the public keep buying it, aren’t we aiding in sin – by supporting the company which buys / stores / mixes alcohol into their products?

    • Wa ‘alaykas-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. If it is rum which is not mixed in, like a sauce or topping which is distinct, uncooked and unchanged, smelling of the original substance, then this is to be avoided, as it is feared that eating this product may intoxicate you. And Allaah knows best.

    • Halaal. Vinegar is halaal, it is not an intoxicant. A strange case of an improperly produced amount of it does not change the ruling on vinegar, just like old juice mistakenly fermented (and thus intoxicating) being sold as juice does not make juice an intoxicant as a general rule, and Allaah knows best.

  23. Assalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuhu… how about fermenting vegetables for example; beets, so to make this we have to ferment the beets for sometime or even a long time we just add water and salt are we allowed to consume drinks like this?

    Jazakallaahu khayran

    • Wa ‘alayk as-salaamu wa rahmatullaah wa barakaatuh. If the resulting fermented beet juice or beets actually intoxicates, then we understand it to be a khamr, and it is haraam.

  24. Salam

    I had a question on the vanilla extract
    If the original vanilla extract is extracted with alcohol and khamr but then baked such as in a cake and evaporated the alcohol content is it still allowed to consume Insha’Allah?

    If I was given a piece of cake ( store bought ) is it upon me to check if it has vanilla or consume and not to ask or look at the ingredients knowing its possiable there is vanilla extract in the cake?

    Jazakum Allah khair

    • If the cake intoxicates in large quantities, then a small amount of that cake is forbidden. You may not use any khamr to cook it, as it is not allowed to purchase or possess khamr. However, if someone else cooked with it, and they cooked the intoxicating properties out of the item, then the resulting food item is not classified as a khamr, so long as large amounts of that food item do not intoxicate. And Allaah knows best.

  25. asalaamu alaykum wa rahmatuLlaahi wa barakaatuh,

    I read once that coffee can be haraam if you drink it to be awake… [Question abridged by admin]

    • Wa ‘alayk as-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. Coffee is not an intoxicant, and it is permissible. Knowledge of Islam is sacred, not based on what someone has read, but rather based on the Book and the Sunnah, as understood by the Salaf, and in matters like this we return to the people of knowledge. May Allaah bless you and keep you from harm.

  26. Assalamu Alaykum Ustaadh

    If the perfume contains the intoxicating level of Alcohol then wouldn’t this make it impermissible to buy regardless of whether or not it’s najis?

    Baarakallahu Feek

    • Wa ‘alayk as-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. Yes, exactly. “The intoxicating level” = what intoxicates you (not sickens or kills you) when you drink it.

  27. Assalaamu alaikum wa Rahmatullaahi wabarakathuhu,

    Can I understand from this that if any intoxicating substances like rum or other wines are added to cakes and then baked after which the alcohol has evaporated and even if you eat a hundred such cakes you will not become intoxicated then eating that cake or buying that cake from a shop is halal?

    • Wa ‘alayk as-salaamu wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh. Yes, that is correct. And Allaah knows best. While you are not allowed to take part in the process of producing such a cake, since it involves the ownership and usage of khamr (during the process). Afterwards, the resulting product is simply not a khamr, just cake.

  28. As salaamu alaykum

    Ok so if food stuff already prepared is “bought” ingredients say alcohol of some type of spirit vinegar and so on, it is permissible?

    Even though you can simply pick up another product as an alternative which does not contain any type of alcohol or even khamr in its original form

    Isnt it Better to take the alternative, or simply ignore what the label says because it’s no longer khamr ???

    Khamr is put into foods for various reasons of course mainly preserving /taste

    • Wa ‘alayk as-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. Whatever you buy, you judge it by what it is now, not by what it used to be, as it relates to it being a khamr (intoxicant) or not. And Allaah knows best.

  29. Assalmou Alaykoum,

    What can be said for those who follow ***** “Famous Islamic Cleric” who stated that drinking liquor without getting drunk is not sinful?

    Im trying to make sense of this?

    Jazzakallahu Khairan

    • Wa ‘alayk as-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. That’s the old Hanafee position, well known. Be warned of those who follow and promote the mistakes of the scholars, mistakes known by their contradiction to evidences. When this error is taken as Deen, its falsehood is known by its results: Muslims will be drunk all the time, quite simply because the closer one gets to the line between being sober and drunk, the more difficult it is to judge matters. This understanding is in direct opposition to the hadeeth of our Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam), ما أسكر كثيره فقليله حرام “Whatever intoxicates in large quantities is haraam in small quantities.” [Ahmad, Aboo Daawood, others, a hasan hadeeth] So the path is in front of us: The opinion of So-and-So… or the verdict of the Messenger of Allaah (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace)?! Let’s keep it simple. And Allaah knows best.

  30. As salamu alaikum. I just recently purchased 100% beef jerky . While reading through the ingredients it states in paranthesis next to the ingredient soy sauce (water, soybeans , salt, alcohol). is this product permissible to consume??

  31. Contrary to what most people believe, the entire alcohol content doesn’t always evaporate or boil away before the food is served. A study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Data Laboratory showed that it can take longer than two and a half hours for all the alcohol to be cooked out of food to which wine or some other alcoholic beverage has been added. The study showed that the amount of alcohol remaining depends in part on the cooking method. For example, after brandy has been “flamed” – poured on foods and then set alight – approximately 75 percent of the alcohol remains after the flames have died down.
    The study also revealed that alcohol content diminishes with cooking time. After being added to food that then is baked or simmered for 15 minutes, 40 percent of the alcohol will be retained. After cooking for an hour, only about 25 percent will remain, but even after 2.5 hours of cooking, five percent of the alcohol will still be there. Of course, the amount of alcohol in an individual serving will be quite low.
    This is by Dr Weil, MD

    It isn’t safe to say that all alcohol has evaporated…Why not safeguard against such doubtful matters?
    Allah knows best

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