Alcohol: In soft drinks

Q24 :I attach copies of two letters from the manufacturers of Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola which clearly indicate that alcohol is a part of the basic formula of both of these drinks. In the light of this information, is it permissible for Muslims to consume these drinks?

A24 : Thank you for attaching copies of these two letters. I will begin by quoting the relevant parts. The manufacturers of Coca-Cola in Britain say in their letter: "Some of the flavors in our products are produced by an alcohol extraction of natural substances. However, the extremely small amount of alcohol involved in the process becomes insignificant in the beverage." Schweppes International which produces Pepsi-Cola says: "Pepsi-Cola contains only a small amount of alcohol, which is present in order to dissolve the flavoring. The composition of the natural flavoring is confidential and it is only known to a few individuals of the Pepsi Headquarters in U.S.A." Both letters indicate clearly that alcohol is used in the preparation of these beverages. Hence, it is right to ask whether they remain permissible or not. In order to answer this question clearly, it is important to remind ourselves that what Allah has forbidden is what intoxicates, not a substance. No Qur'anic verse or Hadith refers to alcohol as forbidden, but we have several Hadiths, in addition to the Qur'anic orders, which make it clear that any drink that intoxicates is forbidden. The Prophet explains that when intoxication is produced by taking only a very large amount of a particular drink, then it is forbidden even to have a sip of it. The important thing is, then, to know whether a drink intoxicates or not. Human experience shows that no one begins to feel any intoxication after drinking any amount of Coca-Cola or Pepsi-Cola. Besides, there is no indication whatsoever that any cola drink is habit-forming, or that the continuous consumption of that drink leads to dependence on it. If there was a sign of any of these or other aspects of intoxication, then we would have attributed that effect to the alcohol used in these beverages, and we would have concluded that they become forbidden as a result. What is clear, therefore, is that the alcohol dissolves during the chemical interaction which results in the production of a new substance. We have then to apply the Islamic rule which states that a change of substance may lead to changing its position with regard to permissibility or otherwise. This rule applies to all substances and it is universally agreed by all Muslim scholars. In this connection, I may mention that when any intoxicant drink is turned into vinegar as a result of a chemical process, it becomes permissible to use by Muslims. What we are using here is vinegar, not an intoxicant drink. If this applies to wine and other intoxicants which people may use in order to get drunk, then it certainly applies to other liquids and beverages. The thing in which we are interested here is the end product which human beings use. We do not start by classifying the ingredients or go further to identify the elements that are part of the makeup of every ingredient, because that would lead to the prohibition of numerous things that are perfectly permissible. In this regard, I may give the example of milk. If we were to consider the place at which it originates, we would have concluded that milk is forbidden to drink. There is no Muslim scholar who suggests that because there is a clear indication in the Qur'an that it is perfectly permissible and there are numerous reports that Prophet always enjoyed a drink of milk. Verse 66 surah 16, entitled The Bee, may be translated as follows: "In cattle too you have a lesson. We give you drink of that which is in their bellies between the bowels and the blood streams: pure milk, pleasant for those who drink it." You note how Allah refers to the place at which the milk originates and the substance in-between where is produced, what is in the bowels and the blood streams. Such stuff is forbidden to consume, but the milk that results from their interaction, possibly with other ingredients, is perfectly permissible. In the light of the fact that no amount of a pure cola drink produces any sign of intoxication, we conclude that such beverages as Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola are permissible.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )