I was wondering if alcohol in detergents and creams etc. is permissible to use.
In principle, it should be remembered that, alcohol extracted from grapes and dates is decisively unlawful (haram), both its oral intake as well as application, for it is considered to be impure (najis). This type of alcohol is known as Khamr (wine), and it will be unlawful to even consume one drop of such alcohol according to all the classical scholars.
Allah Most High says:
“O you who believe! Alcohol (khamr), gambling, dedication of stones, and divination by arrows are an abomination (impure) of Shaytan’s handiwork. So abstain from such (abomination) that you may prosper.” (al-An’am, 90)
Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Khamr (wine) is from these two trees, dates and grapes.” (Sahih Muslim, no. 1985)
However, if the alcohol is extracted and derived from other than grapes and dates, then there is a difference of opinion between the scholars with regards to its ruling. Imam Abu Hanifa & Imam Abu Yusuf (Allah have mercy on them both) from the Hanafi school are of the view that it will be permissible to consume such alcohol for medication purposes or to gain energy (and not for pleasure and enjoyment) as long as it does not intoxicate.
They base their view on the Hadith narrated by Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) stated above. Also, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace is reported to have said: “Khamr (derived from grapes and dates) is in itself unlawful (and impure), and also all the other beverages that reach the level of intoxication.” (See: al-Zayla’i, Nasb al-Raya, 4/306)
However, the other three schools of thought, i.e. Shafi’i, Maliki and Hanbali and also Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani (Allah have mercy on him) from the Hanafi school are of the view that all types of beverages are prohibited whether less or more, and whether consumed to the level of intoxication or otherwise. They base their argument on the following two Hadiths:
Sayyiduna Ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Every intoxicant is Khamr and every intoxicant is Unlawful (haram)…” (Sahih Muslim, Sunan Abu Dawud, No. 3671, Sunan Timidhi and others)
Sayyiduna Jabir ibn Abd Allah (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Whatever intoxicates in large quantities, then a small quantity of it is also forbidden.” (Sunan Abu Dawud, no. 3673, Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Sunan al-Nasa’i and others)
Thus, according two these scholars, all forms of alcohol beverages will be considered unlawful (haram) and impure (najis). Once it is established that a given beverage intoxicates, it will be unlawful to consume even a small serving of that beverage.
The late Hanafi scholars also gave Fatwa on this position of the student of Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan due to widespread Fitna.
Imam al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) states:
“Imam Muhammad considered the various beverages, such as those made from honey, fig, etc to be categorically unlawful (haram), whether it is less in quantity or more, and the Fatwa is given on his position.”
Imam Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) explains the above:
“Fatwa is given on the view of Imam Muhammad and this is also the position held by the other three Imams (i.e. Shafi’i, Malik & Ahmad), due to the Hadith “Every intoxicant is Khamr and every intoxicant is unlawful (haram)” (recorded by Imam Muslim), and also the Hadith: “Whatever intoxicates in large quantities, then a small quantity of it is also forbidden” (recorded by Ahmad, Ibn Majah & al-Darqutni and he classed it as authentic…..The (hanafi) scholars have stated that the Fatwa of prohibition given in our times is due to widespread Fitna….meaning, due to the fact that most people now consume these beverages for the purpose of pleasure and not to gain strength for worship, they have been forbidden altogether.” (Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar, 6/454-455)
The upshot of all of the foregoing is that, now all the four Sunni schools of Islamic law are unanimous on the fact that all types of alcohols and beverages are unlawful (haram) and impure (najis), even in small quantities. Any beverage that intoxicates in a large amount, even a drop of it will be considered unlawful (haram).
However, due to the initial difference of opinion regarding alcohol and given that Imam Abu Hanifa (Allah have mercy on him) himself is of the view that alcohol from other than grapes and dates is not forbidden if consumed for gaining strength, contemporary scholars have ruled that the prevalent perfumes, deodorants and creams may be used, for normally the alcohol used in them is from other than grapes and dates (or synthetic alcohol), and these types of alcohols will be although unlawful (haram) to consume, but not impure for external application. In other words, the view of Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Abu Yusuf (Allah have mercy on them both) may be used for external application of these alcohols but not for oral intake.
In our times, because of the widespread use of alcohol in all sorts of things, it has become very difficult to avoid it. This is why great Hanafi scholars of our times have given the abovementioned fatwa, in that the external use of this type of alcohol is not Haram. However, its oral intake is still impermissible except in cases of necessary medication.
Shaykh Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani (may Allah preserve him) states in his monumental Arabic work Takmila Fath al-Mulhim:
“With the above (explanation given by Shaykh Taqi on the different types of alcohol), the ruling with regards to the various types of alcohol, the usage of which has become widespread and they are used in many medicines and perfumes, becomes known, in that if the alcohol is extracted from grapes or dates, then there is no question of it being permissible or pure. However, if the alcohol is derived from other than grapes or dates, then there is no problem according to the view of Imam Abu Hanifa, in that it will not be unlawful to use such alcohol (m, and perfumes and medicines made thereof) for medical or other lawful purposes as long as the alcohol does not reach the level of intoxication…. And normally the alcohol used in medicines, perfumes, etc is not extracted from grapes and dates, rather it is derived from seeds, honey, chemicals, petrol, etc. (Takmila Fath al-Mulhim Sharh Sahih Muslim, 3/608)
To summarise, it would be permitted to use the various types of perfumes, deodorants and creams that contain alcohol due to the fact that the alcohol contained in them is from other than grapes and dates or it is a synthetic alcohol (formulated from chemical substances) and not the khamr (wine) that is absolutely impermissible and filthy.
However, it is more religiously precautionary to avoid using such perfumes and deodorants, whenever reasonably possible, because of the differences of opinion regarding it.
But it should be remembered that, occasionally certain deodorants, perfumes, etc contain alcohol that is derived from grapes, dates, etc, such as synthetic ethyl alcohol, thus making the perfume or cream impure and unlawful to use.
And Allah Knows Best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK