CAIRO: A recent decision by a leading committee in Dar Al-Iftaa — the official body which issues religious edicts — permitting the use of drugs like marijuana, opium or cocaine for medical purposes, has triggered controversy among Al-Azhar scholars, according to online news portal masrawy.com.
In Islam, it is considered haram, or religiously forbidden, for Muslims to consume drugs.
According to the new edict, those who consume such drugs for medical purposes are not considered sinners.
Meanwhile, head of the Fatwa Committee at Al-Azhar Sheikh Abdel-Hamid Al-Atrash was quoted by masrawy.com as reciting two sayings by Prophet Mohammed that he argues forbids the use of drugs, even for non-recreational purposes.
“Seek medical treatment but do not seek it with something that is forbidden,” according to one hadith.
However, Al-Atrash added that the use of such drugs medically, as is common during surgeries, is permissible in the absence of an alternative, as long as the doctor making taking the decision is a trusted Muslim.
According to Abdel-Hay Azab, professor of Sharia Law at Al-Azhar University and Dean of the Faculty of Arabic and Islamic studies at Beni Suef University, “Consuming any kind of drug including marijuana, opium or cocaine is forbidden by Sharia law.”
Scholars who follow Azab’s school of thought equate the penalty for consuming drugs to that of alcohol consumption – which is absolutely forbidden – and is punishable by lashing.
“If drugs spread and take different forms in society between trading, smuggling and consuming then the punishment for the consumer is receiving lashes, in line with alcohol consumption, and the penalty for manufacturers and smugglers is that of banditry, because this is considered corruption on earth and corrupting religion, ” he said.
On using drugs for medical purposes, Azab said: “Taking drugs for medical reasons is permissible, as long as scholars and medical doctors approve,” refusing treatment with products that contain alcohol.
Azab said that drugs like marijuana and opium are cultivated naturally, so they are pure, as opposed to alcoholic products which he deems impure.
“It is permissible and shouldn’t be penalized so long as it is not used for recreational purposes,” he added.