What Is an Intoxicant?

Shaykh Jamir Meah clarifies the rulings regarding intoxicants and the moral responsibility of someone who is intoxicated.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

Shafi‘i jurists determined that liquid intoxicants are impure. What is the precise definition of an intoxicant and what are the symptoms of intoxication?

Do symptoms like blurred vision, dizziness, vertigo, weakness, anxiety, etc., denote something causing intoxication?

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

Thank you for your question.

It should first be noted that the impurity of a liquid intoxicant is a separate matter to the impermissibility of consuming a liquid intoxicant.

The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said. “Every intoxicant is khamr, and every intoxicant is unlawful.” (Muslim) Therefore, an intoxicant can be a pure substance and still be prohibited.

Definition of Intoxication

To understand the definition of intoxication (al sukr), which is fundamentally the impairment of the intellect and senses, it is useful to define the intellect (al ‘aql).

The fuqaha have various definitions for the intellect, a common and simple one being “The innate faculty that distinguishes between the morally correct and the morally incorrect.” Others have defined it as “The innate faculty that knowledge of necessary matters are observed when the five senses are sound.”

The fuqaha have defined intoxication as “Disorder and confusion of the intellect accompanied by excitement and muddled speech.”

However, the prohibition of intoxicants is not limited to the specific wording of intoxication given in the definition above, but relates to any significant impairment of the intellect and senses, such as sedateness or absolute stupor.

These definitions and understanding are compatible with medical sources, which list seven stages of alcohol intoxication. For more information, please view this article.

The symptoms you mentioned, such as blurred vision, dizziness, vertigo, weakness, anxiety, etc., are all symptoms of intoxication, as they involve impairment of the senses and the emotions/intellect. They generally fall under stages three–four of intoxication.

Rulings on Intoxication

Depending on the stage of the intoxication, different fiqh rulings may apply. For example, if the person is at the sobriety or low-intoxication level (stage 1), or the euphoric “tipsy” level (stage 2), they would still be considered morally responsible (mukallaf) in many rulings. Weheras, if the person is beyond stage 2, then depending on the individual situation, certain rulings may or may not apply.

(Tuhfat al Muhtaj, al Yaqut al Nafis, Nayl al Raja)

I hope this clarifies the matter for you.

Warmest salams,

Jamir

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.


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