13th July 2018
السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته
Question: Is it permissible to drink cough medicine containing ethanol alcohol? Is the ruling the same if found in other products like cosmetic products and so on?
الجواب حامداً و مصلياً
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
The key issue to your query is the legal status of using ethanol alcohol. Ethanol (or Ethyl) is produced from the process of fermentation, which is the chemical breakdown of sugar by yeast. Its derivative sources are mostly fruits and vegetation products, commonly used for recreational purposes. Ethanol can be found in variety of sources such as medicinal applications, chemical solvents, anti-septic, household cleaning and cosmetic products and potentially in certain foods and drinks. It is the key ingredient for all alcohol beverages, giving all alcohols its intoxicating effect. Ethanol is an intoxicating agent and albeit it is present in certain food (such as vanilla extract) and drinks as an additive and medicine such as cough medicine relatively in small quantity, it still holds its intoxicating properties. Its purpose as a food additive is to enhance the flavour of food extracts whilst in medicine, it is there to preserve the product. When ethanol is denatured – adding substances such as gasoline after it is separated from water – it loses its intoxicating properties and no longer fit for consumption due to its toxic nature. It is this denatured ethanol that is used in fuel, antiseptic, solvents and cosmetic products.
From the Islamic Shar’ee perspective, ethanol is not impure so long as it isn’t derived from grapes, dates and raisins. It is however intoxicating in nature (this is before it is denatured) and to consume anything intoxicating is prohibited due to the prophetic tradition, all intoxicating products are harām. On the basis of this, any food, drink, or medicine containing ethanol as an additive will not be permissible to consume. If it is known that source of ethanol is from grapes, dates or raisins then it is rendered impure and hence, not permissible. Consuming it for medicinal purpose is only permitted if the illness is unbearable, no alternative medicine exists and as advised by a reliable doctor; a Muslim or the one who respects Muslim values at the least. All non-consumable products such as antiseptic, solvents and cosmetic ones that contain denatured ethanol are permissible to use as they are not considered impure due to the chemical process and non-derivatives of grapes, dates and raisins.
[Allãh Knows Best]
Written by (Mufti) Abdul Waheed
Answer Attested by Shaykh Mufti Saiful Islam
JKN Fatawa Department
 Some useful links for further information on ethanol