Medicines with Gelatine

<QUESTION>

My friend needs some advice about taking some medicine. She has been subscribed some gelatine tablets because of her height. She hasn’t grown at all for the past 5 years and the Doctor has told her that it is important she takes the medication. Does Shariah permit her to use the tablets for this reason, as there is no other alternative?

<ANSWER>
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

Gelatine is a protein obtained by partial Hydrolysis of animal caliginous tissue such as Skins, Tendons, Ligaments, Bones, Cartilage’s and Hooves. The product seems to be of a variety and from the technical standpoint; the raw material must be selected according to the purpose intended. Raw materials intended for medicinal use as well as food production are generally skin and bone of pig or calf.

It is used in the preparation of many pastes, and is the main ingredient in all hard and flexible capsules. It is also used in many food products such as ice-cream, jellies, chocolates, sweets, jams, pastries and jellied meats. It acts as a stabilising and smoothing agent in foods. (Muslim Food Guide, 97/98 Edition).

The ruling on gelatine from an Islamic perspective is that, if it is derived from pork, unlawful animal or an animal not Islamically slaughtered, then it will be impure, thus unlawful (haram). However, if it is derived from a Halal source, then there is permissibility in its usage. In the case of doubt, it will be treated as Haram.

when gelatine is derived from pork and unlawful animals, if it becomes known through research that it undergoes such a change that it retains no properties of its former state (tabdil al-mahiyya), then it will not remain impure, thus permissible to use.

However, most Hanafi fuqaha in our times consider gelatine to be an impure substance (if derived from pork or an animal not Islamically slaughtered), holding that the change it undergoes from its original state is not sufficient to be considered essential transformation.

Therefore, most of the scholars have declared gelatine as unlawful (haram) due to the fact that firstly, it is difficult to establish where it’s derived from, and secondly, the change it undergoes is not sufficient for it to classed lawful (halal).

Now, the general ruling regarding impure and Haram substances is that, it is impermissible to use them, for any reason which includes medical purposes.

However, the Hanafi jurists (fuqaha) have given a dispensation in using impure and unlawful substances for medical purposes, provided certain conditions are met.

The Hanafi jurist, Imam al-Haskafi (Allah have Mercy on him) says:

“The Scholars differed regarding the usage of haram medication. The apparent opinion in the (Hanafi) school is that it is haram. However it is said that, it will be permissible when the medicine is known to be effective and there is no other alternative, just as there is a dispensation in drinking alcohol for a person dying of thirst, and the fatwa is given on this opinion.” (Durr al-Mukhtar, 1/210)

In view of the above text from one of the fundamental Hanafi reference books, it will be permissible to use medicines that have impure and unlawful substances in them, provided the following conditions are met:

1) It is reasonably known that the medicine will be effective, and is needed;

2) There is no permissible alternative reasonably available;

3) This has been established by an expert Muslim doctor who is at least outwardly upright and god-fearing.

In light of the above explanation, if there is a genuine need for your friend to have these tablets (this can be determined by inquiring with a experienced specialist), and there is no other alternative, it will be permissible for her to use them, provided, it has been advised by a expert, god-fearing, Muslim, doctor.
And Allah Knows Best

[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Darul Iftaa
Leicester , UK