Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick
How does the Shafiʿi School deal with liquid intoxicants as najasa (ritualistic filth) in the modern era, and is it too restrictive to adhere to today?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate.
Shafi‘i Madhhab on Liquid Intoxicants
According to the dominant view of the Shafi‘i Madhhab, najasa or ritualistic filth includes wine and any liquid intoxicants. [Nawawi, Minhaj al-Talibin]
The alcohol widely used as a solvent today is denatured ethanol. Denatured ethanol is ethanol that has been made unfit for human consumption through the addition of toxins, such as methanol, naphtha, and pyridine, or bittering agents, such as denatonium benzoate. However, adding toxins and bittering agents does not remove the ability of ethanol to intoxicate; it only adds toxicity and a bitter taste to its existing attributes. As such, since najasa includes any liquid that can intoxicate, denatured ethanol has to be regarded as najasa (according to the Shafi’i Madhhab). That it can kill is an additional and coincidental attribute that does not eliminate the point of intoxication. [Karaan, Shellac – a Fiqhi Appraisal]
Practical Application of Rulings About Najasa in the Modern Era
There is widespread usage of denatured ethanol in products such as fruit juice, paint, ink, hand cleaners, soaps, creams, and lotions in the modern era. This widespread usage means that strict adherence to the original dominant view of the Shafiʿi Madhhab is challenging, if not impossible. Generally, contemporary Shafi’i scholars do not practice or advocate practicing strictly according to the Madhhab’s dominant view in this regard but recommend general precaution where possible, “while it is religiously more precautionary to treat them as filth.” [Keller, Reliance of the Traveller]
Contemporary Shafiʿi scholars have and continue to encourage practice according to alternative views. See this answer.
I pray this is of benefit and that Allah guides us all.
[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar Shaykh Taha Karaan.
Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.
He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.
Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and has completed his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.