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Is vanilla essence Haram?

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Author Topic: Is vanilla essence Haram?  (Read 835 times)
TEAM MUSLIM VILLA The Avid Reader | Mom of 3 cute rascals
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« on: August 18, 2019, 12:57:39 am »

Walaykum Salam again. 

Yes brother TS and Sis Heba.  Those two points are the most relevant.

Let me now share some detailed explanations that made a lot of sense to us and answered all our queries in regard to consumption of vanilla as Halal, not Haram.

The following are some quotes from Abdul Rehman Lomax, a learned revert who embraced Islam in 1971.

The extract contains alcohol.  If one could manage to drink it, it would be intoxicating.  I have never heard of anyone drinking vanilla extract.   Alcohol is considered naajis, "filth." However, this looks to me like a hedge around the law. The actual prohibition is of "khamr," which was date-palm wine produced for consumption, for its intoxicating effect, and the sequence of the prohibition shows that it is intoxication that is being prohibited, and specifically the kind of intoxication that alcohol can induce.

Looking this up in the 'Reliance of the Traveller' by  Nuh Keller, naajis includes wine or  any liquid intoxicant.   (Nuh Keller is an American Sufi Sheikh, became Muslim in 1977 and moved to Jordan where he currently resides).

Now, this is obvious to me: the sharia is revealed, the way, and al a’malu binniyah, actions are [judged] by intention.   And then those who want rules, apply what they have from the sharia and create rules, which get more and more complicated, because life is complicated, and these rules never cover all contingencies, and often are based on weak analogies, even misunderstanding of the situations being covered. 

And, again, we can notice what happened with those who came before, who took the law and created hedges around it and hedges around those hedges, thus forbidding for themselves what God permitted, which is not approved!

Once one considers alcohol as naajis, then, of course, putting filth into food is crazy!   But there is no risk of intoxication, neither from the vanilla extract nor from vanilla flavoring, even if alcohol was used in the production of that extract.  Further, if the item is baked, whatever alcohol might be left will be removed, no discernible trace will be left, unless, say, you use a mass spectrograph, which can find almost anything in almost anything.     It would be obsessive to track down and avoid all products that include an alcoholic base.  As has been pointed out, yeast, fermenting dough, generates alcohol in yeasted bread.   This is then almost entirely burned away when the bread is baked. I have never seen any Muslim claim that yeasted bread was prohibited.

Opinions that claim that the tiniest quantity of naajis makes a thing impure are obviously out of touch with reality.   The actual classical rule requires that the thing not be sensibly altered in some way or, I would add, expected to be dangerous.  For example, water contaminated by Shigella from feces may seem pure, but is not, and is dangerous. But if that water is boiled, it would be harmless, even if the bacteria were still there, they would be dead.

So, the real issue.  Intention.   Intention is wrapped up with perception. Suppose you are cooking for someone who would react to the very idea of there being a tiny amount of alcohol.  It would be *rude* to use an alcohol based extract.  This has nothing to do with "actual naajis," and looking at the rulings described, there is no "actual naajis" in an issue.  It is all about intention and perception and relationship with God.

There may be some value produced, worth approaching the "hedge" around the law, but never forget that the hedge is just that, a hedge, not the law. Nevertheless, one who ignores the hedge and loiters near the clear boundary risks crossing it, hence the advice to avoid the doubtful.    But clearly again, in this case, the intention of making vanilla flavoring this way is not to make an intoxicant.   Products made with vanilla extract will not generally contain any noticeable alcohol, so worrying about the alcohol within them may create hardship and unnecessarily divide people.   What damages human community and creates separation actually furthers the purposes of Satan, and this is ironically behind the prohibition of khamr, because it makes people fight. 

That was precisely in conformity with Quranic values, and logically informative.     Hope everyone got it.

Now, I quote another excerpt.  This is from Islam Q&A where all works are supervised by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid.

With regard to the ruling on consuming/eating vanilla, it is permissible even though it was mixed with alcohol during preparation, for two reasons:

1.  Alcohol is not najis (impure) in a physical sense; rather it is taahir or pure  (if the aspect of intoxication is excluded).

2.  The alcohol does not have any effect on vanilla; the one who consumes it does not become intoxicated and no effect or taste of alcohol is felt when eating it.   Rather whatever may have been attached to the seeds during preparation disappears and leaves no trace in the seed after cooking.  Such a thing is not haram to consume.

(According to late Shaykh Ibn ‘Usaymeen) :  Do not think that any ratio of alcohol that there may be in a thing makes it haram; rather if the ratio is such that it will have an effect, in the sense that if a person drinks this liquid that is mixed with alcohol he will become intoxicated, then it is haram.  But if the ratio is very small and has diminished and left no trace, and it does not have any effect, then it is halal.

The Islamic Organization for Medical Sciences has researched the topic of haram substances in food and drink; among the conclusions they reached were the following:

Alcohol is not impure (najis) according to sharee‘ah.   That means, alcohol and other intoxicants are not physically impure, rather they are metaphorically impure because they are an abomination of the Shaytaan, is more correct. (This refers to the intoxication or state of drunkenness that comes from drinking regular alcohol .. and with the intention of drinking / enjoying an intoxicant).

With regard to food substances that use a small amount of alcohol in their manufacture in order to dilute some substances that are not soluble in water, such as colorings, preservatives, flavorings and so on, it is permissible to consume them because almost all of the added alcohol evaporates during the process of cooking.  (Also, the quantity of vanilla used for flavoring is very small, therefore quantity of alcohol very, very little.  No question of intoxication).

And Allah knows best.

Alhumdulilah.   I hope this piece was clear to everyone.

Summarizing all of the above
To begin with, I would like to mention that a 120 ml bottle of vanilla extract would approximately contain 35% alcohol.    If you're baking a one-pound cake, you'll need around 1 teaspoon of vanilla.  That's a very small quantity of vanilla and a one-pound cake will have to bake in a hot preheated oven for at least 30 minutes, usually 35 minutes until sizzling hot.  No question of any bit of alcohol remaining in it.  Everything evaporates during baking.

Alcohol is simply the agent for extracting the flavor from the vanilla beans.    The alcohol burns off during the process of cooking while the flavor remains intact.  Alcohol only acts as the carrier for the flavor.    Just for readers' information, the alcohol found in most brands of vanilla is from sugar cane a.k.a. ethyl alcohol.

Ya Allah Jan, never leave us without Your Guidance.  Ameen.

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