This is a benefit on the prohibition of using nutmeg, which is an intoxicant. Most Muslims are not aware of this reality and use nutmeg in many of their sweets. In fact, you can find nutmeg so commonly in grocery stores and even at the side counter of Starbucks that people cannot imagine that it is a drug. The non-Muslims have also documented the negative side-effects involved in using nutmeg, which include hallucinations. I wanted to share this benefit so that we can inform ourselves and our families to avoid it.
Imam Ibn Hajr al-Haythami rahimahulllah considered it a major sin. He said:
“Major sin number 170: Consuming a pure intoxicant, like hashish (cannabis), opium, Shaykraan, which is an anesthetic, and like Anbar, Saffron, and Nutmeg…That which the Imam, al-Mujtahid Shaikhul Islaam Ibn Daqiq al-Eid clarified is that nutmeg is an intoxicant. It was recorded from him by the latter Scholars from the Shafiyyah and Malikiyyah. They relied upon his statement and prohibited it due to that. Rather, ibn ‘Imaad exaggerated and made hashish (cannabis) the analogy for the mentioned nut…”
[az-Zawaajir ‘an Iqtiraaf al-Kaabir (1/355)]
Imam adh-Dhahabi rahimahullah said:
“It acts similar to hashish (cannabis). The unemployed people add Saffron to it and become intoxicated so as to have a pleasurable time, digest their food, and aid them upon evil”.
[at-Tibb an-Nabawi pg. 98]
Shaikh al-Albani rahimahullah was asked:
Nutmeg, Oh Shaikh?
It is known that a lot of nutmeg is a narcotic and not an intoxicant, so if it is affirmed through chemical analysis that it intoxicates, then it is haram.
A narcotic is haram?
The narcotic which is harmful from them is haram…”
[Silsilatul Huda wan-Nur no. 25]
And Allah knows Best
Faisal Ibn Abdul Qaadir Ibn Hassan
Also some speech of the Lajnah (Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ifta’) on nutmeg can be found here
Ash-Shaykh Muqbil rahimahullah was asked the following question:
We have heard that a high intake of nutmeg could intoxicate, so what is its ruling?
Yes, we have also heard that. Therefore, based upon this eating it will be considered unlawful. And Allah’s aid is sought. Once one of our fellow brothers eat from it and we were told he began to act differently.
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Also, Shaykh Sulaymaan ar-Ruhayli hafidaho-Allah said:
“The Hanbali scholars state that nutmeg is an intoxicant and that it intoxicates in itself…those who produce alcohol [usually] add nutmeg with it to speed up the intoxication effect. Therefore, if a person were to consume a large dose of it, it will make him intoxicated. Whilst, the principal [in fiqh] goes as follows ‘Whatever intoxicates in large quantities, then a small quantity of it is forbidden’. Yes, of course they refer to it now as a spice, which is added to food. However, the correct opinion is that it is not permissible to intake it since it has a substance which intoxicates. Hence, if a person were to intake a large portion of it, then it will intoxicate [him]…”
The Lajnah Daa’imah stated the following:
“Thus, it is confirmed that consuming nutmeg is prohibited according to the Four Imams; Al-Shafi`y, Malik and Ahmad literally and Abu Hanifah by deduction… When we say that Hashish and nutmeg intoxicate, we mean they dull one’s senses…”. End quote. [Reference]
Malcolm X rahimahullah mentioned the following about his experience with nutmeg before converting to Islam:
“I first got high in Charlestown on nutmeg. My cellmate … bought from kitchen worker inmates penny matchboxes full of stolen nutmeg … stirred into a glass of cold water, a penny matchbox full of nutmeg had the kick of three or four reefers (i.e marijuana).” End quote. [The Autobiography of Malcolm X]
A Muslim Professor from a university in Malaysia performed a detail thesis on nutmeg titled, “Toxicity of Nutmeg (Myristicin): A Review”, with an excerpt as follows:
“One to three nutmegs or 5-30g of the ground nut can induce psychogenic effect, while a minimum 5 g of nutmeg powder is considered as toxic dose. One tablespoonful of ground nutmeg spice is approximately equal to 7g”. End quote.
A Side Note: Others have argued that the same substance that is in nutmeg is in parsley leaves. However note that parsley is permissible to consume. As well they have mentioned a small amount of nutmeg as a flavour added to food or drink is usually something that dissolves so chances of it being intoxicated are extremely low. However, the safer stance is to avoid it due to the doubts around it. And Allaah knows best
AbdulFattaah Bin Uthman
Some of the Scholars have argued that nutmeg is a (مُفَتِّر) – something that creates numbness and weakness in the body and not a (مُسْكِر) an intoxicant. So from that angle, they said little amount of nutmeg added to food is not haram.
Imam al-Adheemabaadi (may Allah have mercy upon him) the author of ‘Awn al-Ma’bood Sharh Sunan Abi Dawood said:
“So all these six things [one of which he mentioned was nutmeg] are not from the category of intoxicants at all. Rather some of them are not from the (الْمُفَتِّرَات) nor from the intoxicants according to the verified opinion. Rather some of these items are from the (الْمُفَتِّرَات) according to the opinion of some and from the category of harmful items according to the opinion of others. So a small amount is not haram to eat alone or consumed with food or in medicine. Yes, eating an additional amount which causes numbness/weakness is not allowed because the Prophet (ﷺ) prohibited every (مُفَتِّر). He (ﷺ) did not say everything that causes numbness/weakness in large amounts is prohibited in small amounts” [‘Awn ul-Ma’bood (5/224)]
Shaikh al-Albani (may Allah have mercy upon him) said, after discussing nutmeg with those sitting with him – including a professor of chemistry-”
“And you know many of the women and other than the women use a small amount of it (nutmeg) to give aroma to food. So it is not said it is haram using the analogy that what intoxicates in large quantities than small quantities are haram. This is because this is not an intoxicant. This is the answer of our brother here” [Silsilatul-Huda wan-Nur (no. 83)]
However, as Abu Fajr mentioned above, many of the People of Knowledge said that nutmeg is an intoxicant. So it should not be consumed and put into food.
As for nutmeg found in prepared food, then like other intoxicants, if the amount is small in the food/drink such that the food/drink cannot intoxicate, then it is allowed to consume. You can see fatwa of the Permanent Committee here.
And Allah Knows best
Faisal bin Abdul Qaadir bin Hassan
In regards to Saffron, then the most correct opinion is that it is halal to eat and use in food/drinks. As mentioned previously, Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami (d. 973 H.), may Allah have mercy upon him, categorized Saffron as an intoxicant. This was also the view of some scholars before and after him. However, the scholars have explained this view of Ibn Hajar al-Haytami in one of two ways:
1. That his categorization of saffron as an intoxicant is wrong and without proof. Rather, it is pure and permissible.
Imam al-‘Adheemabaadi (d. 1329 H.), may Allah have mercy upon him, responded to Ibn Hajar al-Haytami’s view extensively writing:
“Verily the statement of Ibn Hajar that Saffron is an intoxicant involves a great amount of exaggeration because amber and saffron are not intoxicants. He made using saffron a major sin, just like alcohol (intoxicants), and this speech is falsehood and rejected by consideration. It was not reported at all from any of the previous imams and scholars of botany that these two herbs intoxicate. And so, from where did the Qurashi scholar (i.e. Ibn Hajar) get the statement that saffron intoxicates by itself? Did he experiment to find out that it intoxicates alone? Nay, rather it was affirmed through experimentation that it does not intoxicate except when used with an intoxicating drink. I asked, on more than one occasion, those whom I met from the expert doctors, those of experimentation and experience, knowledge, and understanding and they all agreed that it does not intoxicate”. End. [‘Awn al-Ma’bood (10/146)]
And so, the claim that saffron is an intoxicant is wrong. Some scholars mention that it is instead categorized as a (المفتر): a substance that causes numbness in the body, particularly at the fingertips/toes. This is if large amounts of saffron are consumed, not just small amounts, which leads me to the next point.
2. Even if saffron is considered an intoxicant, although it is not as mentioned above, small amounts are permitted in food and drinks but not large amounts. This explanation was mentioned by ‘Allamah Ibn ‘Abideen ad-Dimashiqi al-Hanafi (d. 1252 H.), may Allah have mercy upon him, who said after mentioning the speech of al-Haytami on saffron and other intoxicants, “So all of these items and what is similar to them are unlawful to use in the amount that causes intoxication, not in small amounts as we have mentioned before. So understand this”. End. [Hashiyah Ibn ‘Abideen (1/41)]
This was the conclusion of Shaikh Sa’d al-Kathlaan (may Allah preserve him) who wrote a detailed research on saffron saying, “As for saffron, then that which is apparent after verification is that it does not enter into the intoxicants. However, it is from the (المفترات) if used in large amounts. As for if it is used in small amounts suitable for coffee, tea, or the likes, then what is apparent is that there is no harm in that and it is not [in small proportions] considered from the (المفترات)”. End. [Reference]
And other scholars of our time also ruled saffron to be permissible in food and drinks, such as Shaikh Abdul-Muhsin al-‘Abbad (may Allah preserve him) [See: Sharh Sunan at-Tirmidhi (no. 306)].
Thus, using small amounts of saffron in food, drinks, and deserts is permissible while large amounts should be avoided.
And Allah knows best
Faisal bin Abdul Qaadir bin Hassan