• Permissibility of vanilla extract and confectionery glaze

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    Question: There are many products in the food market that have vanilla extract listed as an ingredient. Vanilla extract, as is known, almost always contains alcohol. What would be the ruling on eating products with vanilla extract, or vanilla derivatives (eg: bourbon vanilla, vanillin, etc…)? A similar problem of alcohol residue is found in confectionery glaze. Can you also please comment on this?

    بسم الله الرحمٰن الرحيم

    Answer: Foods containing vanilla extract or confectioner’s glaze are permissible to consume. The path of caution would be to use alternative ingredients when easily available.

     

    Explanation:

    Concern about what one consumes is a sign of īmān. Additionally, our īmān teaches us that Allah alone is the Nourisher (الرزاق) of our outward and inward, our body and our soul.

    يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ كُلُوا مِمَّا فِي الْأَرْضِ حَلَالًا طَيِّبًا وَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا خُطُوَاتِ الشَّيْطَانِ ۚ إِنَّهُ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ مُّبِينٌ

    O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth [that is] lawful and good and do not follow the footsteps of Shayṭān. Indeed, he is a clear enemy to you. (2:168)

    When one takes care to consume and serve only the best – that which is lawful and good, then one takes part in distributing divine sustenance to Allah’s creation. The Prophet ﷺ said, “The honest Muslim trustee who carries out duties assigned to him (in another narration he said, “Who gives”), and he gives that in full, with his heart overflowing with cheerfulness, to whom he is ordered, he is one of the two givers of charity.”1 Imam al-Ghazali explains in al-Maqṣad al-Asnā, “The hands of men, as the storehouses for bodily sustenance,… has been honored with a share of this (divine) attribute (i.e. the Nourisher).” Thus, being concerned about one’s food is a sign of īmān, a path to avoid evil, and a manifestation of a divine attribute. With this in mind, let’s turn our concern to vanilla extract.

     

    Vanilla Extract

    Vanilla extract is an ethanol-based solution containing vanillin and several hundred more organic compounds derived from the vanilla bean. The ethanol content of vanilla extract needs to be at least 35%. These compounds dissolve more readily into ethanol making it the preferred solvent. The vanilla bean is a naturally grown spice permissible in the Sharī`ah. Ethanol is a synthetic compound from the class of chemicals known as alcohols. Intoxicating alcohols have different rulings in the Sharī`ah based upon their derivation.

    1. Intoxicants fermented from grapes, raisins, and dates are impermissible (ḥarām) and impure (najas) in any quantity. This is clear in the sacred texts and by scholarly consensus. Here, impermissibility cannot be removed except by a very strong need like a threat to life or limb.
    2. Intoxicants from other sources, both natural and synthetic (such as ethanol) have different opinions regarding permissibility.

    According to an opinion of Imam Muḥammad al-Shaybānī and the opinions of Imams al-Shafi`ī, Malik, and Ahmad ibn Ḥanbal, the second category is like the first – impermissible and impure. According to this opinion, vanilla extract is impermissible because of its ethanol content. But, according to Imams Abū Ḥanīfah and Abū Yūsuf and another opinion of Imam Muhammad2, this second category is permissible (ḥalāl) and pure (ṭāhir) with some conditions as explained in al-Hidāyah li al-Marghinānī, Badā’i` al-Ṣanā’i`, and many other fiqh texts:3

    • Any intoxication is impermissible, a major sin, and may be punishable in an Islamic state and the Hereafter.
    • Permissibility is reserved only for lawful purposes.
    • Drinking may not lead to disobedient, sinful actions or resemble the actions of the sinful (fussāq).

    These conditions do not apply when vanilla extract is used in foods, and so it will be permissible according to this second opinion.

    Scholars differed on which opinion is preferred. The first opinion has been preferred by later scholars, as stated in al-Fatāwa al-Hindiyyah and Aḥkām al-Qurān li al-Thānwī, because they lead to sins including intoxication, and the people of sin and ignorance gravitated to them.4 Prior to modern times, the use of such intoxicants in everyday food was also rare and easily avoidable.

    In our time, we find ethanol and other intoxicants from the second category pervasive in foods and drink and avoiding it very difficult. Out of the hardship caused by its pervasiveness, we can take the earlier opinion of Imams Abū Ḥanīfah, Abū Yūsuf, and Muḥammad for the sake of ease. Mufti Taqī `Uthmānī wrote in Takmīlah Fatḥ al-Mulhim (3:608), “Indeed, alcohols are used in many medications, colognes, and other compounds. If alcohols sourced from other than grapes or dates are accepted, then the matter is easier according to the opinion of Abū Ḥanīfah (May Allah have mercy on him). Its usage in medication or other allowable purposes is permissible as long as it doesn’t reach the point of intoxication.” Thus, intoxicating alcohols from the second category, like the ethanol in vanilla extract, are permissible to consume as a food additive if all the above conditions are met. Given the existing difference of opinion among the great Imams, the path of caution would be to use alternative ingredients when easily available.

     

    A Short Discussion on the Proofs

    يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنَّمَا الْخَمْرُ وَالْمَيْسِرُ وَالْأَنصَابُ وَالْأَزْلَامُ رِجْسٌ مِّنْ عَمَلِ الشَّيْطَانِ فَاجْتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

    O Believers! al-khamr, gambling, altars, and divining arrows are filth, made up by Shayṭān. Therefore, refrain from it, so that you may be successful. 5:90

    The discussion about proofs is rather lengthy. We will suffice with the basics, in shā Allah. The second opinion states the Qur’anic word, al-khamr, refers specifically to alcohol derived from grapes and dates as per the hadith, “Al-khamr is from these two fruit-trees: the date-palm and grape-vine.”5 Thus, other intoxicants hold a slightly different ruling. Additionally, Companions like Sayyiduna `Abdullah ibn `Umar, one of the most knowledgeable among the Companions specifically on matters of Fiqh, differentiated between the two groups, “As for al-khamr, it is completely impermissible. As for drinks other than it, whatever (amount) intoxicates is impermissible.”6

    On the other hand, scholars of the first opinion state the general rule is stipulated by the hadith, “That which intoxicates in large amounts is impermissible in small amounts.”7 This hadith implies that all intoxicants regardless of the source have the same ruling.

    The end ruling differs based on the principles of Fiqh laid out by each group. May Allah immensely reward them all.

     

    Confectioner’s Glaze

    Confectioner’s glaze is a coating applied to candies and other foodstuffs to give it a shine and an outward hard coating. It is composed mostly of shellac, a substance secreted by the lac beetle somewhat like a bee’s secretion of honey or a silkworm’s secretion of silk. When industrially purified, insect parts are removed. During the coating process ethanol is used and likely remains in extremely small amounts. Like vanilla extract, shellac is permissible (ḥalāl) and pure (ṭāhir).8

     

    والله أعلم بالصواب

    And Allah knows best,

    Mufti Sulaiman Yusufi
    Shaykh Mateen Khan

     

    [1] عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أنه قال‏:‏ ‏ “‏ الخازن المسلم الأمين الذي ينفذ ما أمر به، فيعطيه كاملاً موفراً، طيبة به نفسه فيدفعه إلى الذي أمر له به أحد المتصدقين‏” – البخاري 1438، مسلم 1023
    [2] وَنَبِيذُ التَّمْرِ وَالزَّبِيبُ فَهُوَ حَلَالٌ شُرْبُهُ مَا دُونَ السَّكَرِ لِاسْتِمْرَاءِ الطَّعَامِ وَالتَّدَاوِي وَلِلتَّقْوَى عَلَى طَاعَةِ اللَّهِ – تَعَالَى – لَا لِلتَّلَهِّي وَالْمُسْكِرُ مِنْهُ حَرَامٌ، وَهُوَ الْقَدْرُ الَّذِي يُسْكِرُ، وَهُوَ قَوْلُ الْعَامَّةِ، وَإِذَا سَكِرَ يَجِبُ الْحَدُّ عَلَيْهِ، وَيَجُوزُ بَيْعُهُ، وَيَضْمَنُ مُتْلِفُهُ عِنْدَ أَبِي حَنِيفَةَ وَأَبِي يُوسُفَ – رَحِمَهُمَا اللَّهُ تَعَالَى – وَأَصَحُّ الرِّوَايَتَيْنِ عَنْ مُحَمَّدٍ – رَحِمَهُ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى – وَفِي رِوَايَةٍ عَنْهُ: أَنَّ قَلِيلَهُ وَكَثِيرَهُ حَرَامٌ وَلَكِنْ لَا يَجِبُ الْحَدُّ مَا لَمْ يُسْكِرْ (الفتاوى الهندية، دار الفكر 5:412)
    [3] انظروا تفصيل الدلائل في تكملة فتح الملهم 3:600، والمبسوط للسرخسي كتاب الاشربة
    [4] لِأَنَّ الْفُسَّاقَ يَجْتَمِعُونَ عَلَى هَذِهِ الْأَشْرِبَةِ فِي زَمَانِنَا، وَيَقْصِدُونَ السُّكْرَ وَاللَّهْوَ بِشُرْبِهَا كَذَا فِي التَّبْيِينِ. (الفتاوى الهندية، دار الفكر 5:412)  5:497، انظروا أيضا أحكام القرآن للتهانوي ج 1
    [5]  عن أبي هريرة:] الْخَمْرُ مِن هاتَيْنِ الشَّجَرَتَيْنِ: النَّخْلَةِ والْعِنَبَةِ. صحيح مسلم ١٩٨٥]
    [6] أمَّا الخمرُ فحرامٌ لا سبيلَ إليْها وأمَّا ما سواها منَ الأشربةِ فَكلُّ مسْكرٍ حرامٌ. مصنف عبد الرزاق 9:222
    [7]  (٣- [عن جابر بن عبد الله:] ما أسكَرَ كثيرُهُ، فقليلُهُ حرامٌ. أبو داود (٢٧٥ هـ)، سنن أبي داود ٣٦٨١، أخرجه أبو داود (٣٦٨١)، والترمذي (١٨٦٥)، وابن ماجه (٣٣٩٣)، وأحمد (١٤٧٠٣
    [8] For a detailed explanation see Maulana Taha Karaan’s verification of shellac at
    http://ahlussunnah.boards.net/thread/242/shellac-fiqhi-appraisal-halal-haram
    .

    Disclaimer: Many of these answers are unique to a particular scenario and cannot be taken as a basis to establish a ruling in another situation or another environment. ICMC bears no responsibility with regards to these questions being used out of their intended context.

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