Q: I tried out marijuana for a couple weeks then I stopped. While I was using it I didn’t know it was against islam. I quit and I was thinking that I might do it once every month but I found out it was against Islam and haven’t done it yet. What can I do to compensate for my sins?
A: Smoking anything is haram [forbidden] according to some scholars and makhruh [reprehensible] according to others. Most consider it a lesser sin than alcohol. The only punishment for getting drunk is if you go out in public and make a drunken display of yourself, your friends are supposed to beat you with their shoes (according to hadith). But for private sins like smoking or drinking there is no Islamic punishment or specific expiation, although in general, a good deed wipes out a bad deed. Healthwise, the best thing you can do is get some exercise to clear that tar out of your lungs. I congratulate you for giving it up; it’s a very expensive habit not to mention bad for your health. But don’t beat yourself up too much because in the middle ages, under Islamic rule, marijuana was used as an herbal medicine for many different ailments, and it was cooked into butter and made into sweets. In many Islamic countries, non-medicinal marijuana (hemp) is used to make rope, paper and cloth. You can even run your car on hemp fuel, it’s much better than corn as a source of fiber to produce ethanol.
During the time that Ali was Caliph, the Islamic empire extended into regions where marijuana was used. There was never any controls or punishment over growing or using marijuana because the Quran does not outlaw any plant. Nowadays people make fatwas right and left but in the old days, if the Quran didn’t specifically outlaw something it was considered a very serious sin to declare it as haram. However, that being said, it is very socially unacceptable among Muslims living in the west and so it is best to avoid it and keep your lungs in good shape. What I’d suggest as a good deed to wipe out your bad deed is, however much money you spent on the herb, donate that much or a bit more to charity. In fact Islamic Relief has a clinic in Afghanistan for rehabilitating drug addicts that you could donate to at irw.org
The Quranic verse usually quoted to justify outlawing marijuana is 5:90.
“O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination of Satan’s handiwork; Eschew such (abomination) that ye may prosper.”
According to medieval scholars, drugs such as coffee or marijuana were considered “corrupting influences” and not “intoxicants.” Khamr is the term in the Quran and it literally means “covering up.” It is universally understood to apply to wine and liquor. Incidentally, both coffee and the act of smoking were introduced into the Islamic world after Columbus “discovered” America and Europeans started shipping tobacco and coffee to Turkey. The Muslims invented the water pipe still used today at that point. Prior to that, Muslims only ate or drank concoctions made with marijuana and other herbs.
Yet, just because something isn’t technically “haram” doesn’t mean an Islamic government can’t outlaw it. The Ottoman Empire used to hang people for smoking tobacco at one time, but people still refused to quit smoking. On the other hand, I heard the King of Jordan has his own private marijuana garden.