“Cannabis” refers to any derivative or product derived from the Cannabis plant with the term often being used interchangeably with marijuana or weed. Its usage can be traced back millennia where it has been used for medicinal, recreational, and spiritual purposes in different cultures around the world for thousands of years. The Cannabis plant is thought to contain around a hundred “cannabinoids.”1 The most studied, well-known, and abundant cannabinoid from the cannabis plant is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), followed by cannabidiol (CBD). THC is believed to the main psychoactive and indeed harmful component of cannabis. Crucially, research has shown that over the last few decades the potency of THC in the Cannabis plant has increased markedly.2 Cannabis can be consumed by smoking, vaporising, or ingesting its various forms, such as dried flowers, concentrates, or edibles.
The legal status of cannabis varies across different parts of the world. Some countries and states have legalised cannabis for medical and/or recreational use, while others maintain strict prohibitions. The laws regarding cannabis possession, cultivation, distribution, and use differ significantly from one jurisdiction to another.
Contemporary Muslim scholars generally maintain that recreational usage of cannabis is prohibited. However, they differ on whether it can be used for medical purposes. For instance, it is found that scholars such as Hossein Mazaheri Esfahani and Muḥammad-Riḍā Muḍarrisī Yazdī opine that cannabis cannot be used for medical purposes, whereas scholars such as Shayk Nāṣir Makārim Shīrāzī, Sayyid Mūsā Shubayrī Zanjānī, and Sayyid ʿAlī Sīstānī opine that cannabis is allowed for medical reasons and can be administered through state supervision.3
The use of cannabis today presents a complex set of challenges and benefits. Proponents argue for its benefits in certain medical conditions, such as intractable epilepsy, chronic pain, and multiple sclerosis.4 They further argue for its application in providing mental health support in those with anxiety and depression, possibly functioning as a sleep aid and even categorising it as a safe recreational drug when used responsibly. On the other hand, opponents of cannabis point to the harm associated with its usage, namely cognitive effects with prolonged usage, exacerbation of mental health conditions, respiratory problems, and effects of acute intoxication, such as impaired motor co-ordination and judgement which can have potentially catastrophic effects when operating a vehicle.5 The benefits and potential risks can vary depending on factors such as dosage, strain, method of consumption, and individual sensitivity.
The ‘National Academies Sciences Engineering Medicine (NASEM)’ convened a committee of experts to conduct an evidence review of the short and long-term health effects (harms and benefits) of cannabis and/or its constituents.6 It is important to note that the committee brought together experts in the areas of marijuana, addiction, oncology, cardiology, neurodevelopment, respiratory disease, paediatric and adolescent health, immunology, toxicology, pre-clinical research, epidemiology, systematic review and public health. The committee was able to find substantial7 and moderate8 evidence which indicates the harmful/detrimental effects of cannabis use, including:
1. Development of schizophrenia or other psychoses (highest risk amongst frequent users).
2. Increased symptoms of mania and hypomania in individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorders (regular cannabis use).
3. Increased incidence of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts with a higher incidence among heavy users.
4. Increased incidence of suicide completion.
5. Increased incidence of social anxiety disorder (regular cannabis use).
6. Lower birth weight babies with maternal cannabis use.
7. Increased risk of motor vehicle crashes.
8. Worse respiratory symptoms and more frequent chronic bronchitis episodes (long-term use).
9. A statistical association between cannabis use and the development of substance dependence and/or a substance abuse disorder for substances, including alcohol, tobacco, and other illicit drugs.
10. Major depressive disorder is a risk factor for the development of problem cannabis use.
11. Impairment in the cognitive domains of learning, memory, and attention (acute cannabis use).
12. Increased risk of overdose injuries including respiratory distress among paediatric populations in US states where cannabis is legal.
A particularly vulnerable category is believed to be adolescents, where cannabis use is thought to affect neurocognitive development, the effects of which can even persist into adulthood.9
Considering the benefits and harms/risks associated with the usage of cannabis, the following question arises: Is it permissible in sharīʿa to use cannabis, or more specifically its psychoactive THC component, for medical or recreational purposes?
Explicit guidance on the usage of cannabis per se is not present in sharīʿa scripture. However, its usage becomes prohibited if it leads to severe personal harm or any harm to others. The assessment of whether cannabis usage is harmful or not, and to what degree, is a task delegated to trustworthy health experts and social scientists.
Based on current scientific research, it is highly recommended that individuals avoid using cannabis unless it is medically prescribed. This recommendation is based on the recognition of numerous societal and medical risks and detriments linked with cannabis consumption.10 Furthermore, the usage of cannabis is prohibited for adolescents or individuals with mental health disorders, except under the prescription of a qualified medical practitioner.11
1. The Qurʾān does not explicitly mention anything regarding the usage of cannabis per se. However, some may infer the impermissibility of its usage through the analogy (qiyās) with alcohol. For instance, there are several verses in the Qurʾān prohibiting the use of alcohol:
"They ask you about wine and gambling. Say, 'In them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people. But their sin is greater than their benefit."12
"Oh, you who have faith, indeed, wine, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone alters [to other than Allah], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful."13
"Satan only wants to cause between you animosity and hatred through wine and gambling and to avert you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. So will you not desist?"14
Although cannabis has intoxicating properties, it is not appropriate to conclude that the nature of intoxication of cannabis is completely analogous to that of alcohol. The reason for this is because there is scientific research that elucidates that the intoxicating effects of alcohol differ to the intoxicating effects of cannabis.15 As such, it can be said that modern science, as well as ordinary people (ʿurf) makes a clear distinction between the intoxication of alcohol and the intoxication of cannabis. It is important to know that if further research elucidates that the intoxicating properties and effects of cannabis are completely analogous with that of alcohol, then the usage of cannabis would be considered as being prohibited in sharīʿa.
2. It is found that during the time of the Prophet and Imams, apart from alcohol, other intoxicating substances, including opium, were easily accessible.16 In spite of this, there are no specific narrations that indicate on their permissibility or impermissibility per se. Rather, narrations from the Prophet and Imams only explicitly prohibit wine.
3. However, there are some general narrations that apparently prohibit every intoxicant substance. For instance:
“The Prophet stated: “Every intoxicant is wine (khamr) and (therefore) every intoxicant is impermissible (ḥarām). 17
The Prophet stated: “What intoxicates in large amounts, a small amount of it is (also) unlawful” 18
Some jurists use these narrations to infer the impermissibility of all intoxicants, including cannabis. However, as mentioned, this line of argument is problematic, because it can be argued that what is prohibited by these traditions is not all types of intoxicants, but only a specific type of it that is in common between wine and similar alcoholic drinks. Therefore, there is no clear/explicit scriptural prohibition of cannabis from the Qurʾān or Sunna.
Therefore, in the absence of anygeneral or specific reason for the prohibition, the juristic maxim (qāʿidat al-fiqhiyya) known as the primacy of permissibility (aṣālat al-ḥill) that is derived from the Qurʾān and the traditions of the Prophet and the Imams is applicable to the case at hand. In accordance with this juristic maxim everything is deemed as being (ḥalāl) unless proven otherwise.
4. Although, there is no explicit prohibition of using cannabis, there is a juristic maxim known as nafī al-ḍarar (‘eliminating harm’). In accordance with this maxim, causing any severe harm to oneself or any harm to others is prohibited. This maxim is derived from the Qurʾān and Sunna. The Qurʾān mentions:
"And do not throw yourselves into destruction by your own hands. And do good; indeed, Allah loves the doers of good."19
In accordance with theunrestricted apparent indication of this verse, an individual is encouraged to
avoid actions that bring sever harm or destruction upon themselves. Similarly, the prohibition of causing sever harm or self-destruction can also be found in the narrations of the Prophet and Imams. For instance:
Imam Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq reports in a lengthy tradition that the Prophet stated: “…There should be neither harming nor reciprocating harm” 20
Muḥammad b. al-Ḥusayn reports in a lengthy tradition from Imam Ḥasan al-Askarī who stated: “… [a believer] must not cause harm to his believing brother” 21
ʿAbd Allāh ibn Yaḥyā al-Kāhilī reports that Imam Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq stated: “…Refrain from causing harm to others. 22
In light of this, it can be said that if cannabis is severely harmful to oneself or causes any harm to others; or if further research is to deem that its intoxication is similar to that of alcohol, then it is forbidden. However, according to credible scientific and medical research, outlined in the introduction, cannabis may affect individuals differently, considering the plethora of scientific and medical evidence, it is highly recommended that individuals refrain from using it. It is specifically inadvisable, or even prohibited, for adolescents or individuals with mental health disorders to use cannabis, as it is certainly severely harmful and detrimental for their well-being. The only time when it may be permissible for adolescents or individuals with mental health conditions to use cannabis is when it is prescribed by a qualified medical practitioner.
1. Julie Gould, “The Cannabis Crop,” Nature,2015; 525: S2–S3.
2. Tom PFreeman, Sam Craft, Jack Wilson, Stephan Stylianou, Mahmoud ElSohly, Marta Di Forti and Michael T. Lynskey, “Changes in delta-9-terahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) concentrations in cannabis over time: systematic review and meta-analysis,” Addiction 2021; 116: 1000-10.
3. MaziyarGhiabi, Masoomeh Maarefvand, Hamed Bahari, and Zohreh Alavi. 2018. "Islam and Cannabis: Legalisation and Religious Debate in Iran." International Journal of Drug Policy 56 (June): 121-27. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2018.03.009.
4. Francesco Patti, Selena Messina, Christian Solaro, Maria Pia Amato, Roberto Bergamaschi, Simona Bonavita, et al. “Efficacy and Safety of Cannabinoid Oromucosal Spray for Multiple Sclerosis Spasticity.” Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 87,no. 9 (September 2016): 944–51. https://doi.org/10.1136/jnnp-2015-312376;Orrin Devinsky, J. Helen Cross, Linda Laux, Eric Marsh, Ian Miller, Rima Nabbout, Ingrid E. Scheffer, Elizabeth A. Thiele, and Steven Wright, “Trial of
Cannabidiol for Drug-Resistant Seizures in the Dravet Syndrome,” New England Journal of Medicine 376, no. 21 (May 25,2017): 2011–20, https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa1611618;Kevin P. Hill, Marianne D. Palastro, Brooke Johnson, and Joseph W. Ditre, “Cannabis and Pain: A Clinical Review,” Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research2, no. 1 (May 2017): 96–104, https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2017.0008;
5. Jeanette Tetrault, Kristina Crothers, Brent A. Moore, Rishi Mehra, John Concato, and David A. Fiellin. “Effects of Marijuana Smoking on Pulmonary Function and Respiratory Complications: A Systematic Review.” Archives of Internal Medicine 167, no. 3 (February 12, 2007): 221–28. https://doi.org/10.1001/archinte.167.3.221 ; Rebecca Hartman, and Marilyn A. Huestis. “Cannabis Effects on Driving Skills.” Clinical Chemistry 59, no. 3 (March 2013): 478–92. https://doi.org/10.1373/clinchem.2012.194381; J. Cobb Scott, Caden, Samantha T. Slomiak, Jadwiga D. Jones, Alexandra F. Rosen, Taylor M. Moore, and Raquel E. Gur. “Association of Cannabis with Cognitive Functioning in Adolescents and Young Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.” JAMA Psychiatry 75, no. 6 (June 2018): 585–95. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.0335
6. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. The Health Effects of Cannabis and annabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
7. “Substantial evidence” is defined as several supportive findings from good quality studies with very few or no credible opposing findings. A firm conclusion can be made but there are minor limitations.
8. “Moderate evidence” is defined as several supportive findings from good to fair quality studies with very few or no credible opposing findings. A general conclusion can be made, but limitations cannot be excluded.
9. Blest-Hopley, G., Colizzi, M., Giampietro, V., & Bhattcharyya, S. (2020, August). Is the adolescent brain at greatervulnerability to the effects of cannabis? A narrative review of the evidence. Frontiers in Psychiatry.
10. The ICCI opinion on cannabis usage was informed through consultations with Dr Munzela Raza and Dr Abbas Ramji, both of whom conducted comprehensive scientific research on the subject. You can access their research findings here.
11. Please be aware that this statement is solely focused on elucidating Islamic teachings pertaining to cannabis and does not pertain to the legal regulations of any specific country or state.
12. Quran 2:212
13. Quran 5:90
14. Quran 5:91
15. For instance, see EB De Sousa Fernandes Perna, EL Theunissen, KP Kuypers, SW Toennes, and JG Ramaekers, "Subjective aggression during alcohol and cannabis intoxication before and after aggression exposure," Psychopharmacology 233, no.18 (2016): 3331-40, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-016-4371-1,accessed September 5, 2023, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4988999/.
16. MaziyarGhiabi, Masoomeh Maarefvand, Hamed Bahari, and Zohreh Alavi. 2018. "Islam
and Cannabis: Legalisation and Religious Debate in Iran." International
Journal of Drug Policy 56 (June): 121-27. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2018.03.009.
17. Aḥmadibn Shuʿayb al-Nasāʾī, al-Sunan al-kubrā, Vol. 5, (Beirut: Dār al-Kutubal-ʿIlmiyya, 1991) https://sunnah.com/nasai:5699.Accessed 5 September 2023. Similar reports are also reported in al-Kāfī.For instance, see Muḥammad ibn Yaʿqūb al-Kulaynī, al-Kāfī,Vol. 1, (Qom: Dār al-Ḥadīth, 2007), https://thaqalayn.net/hadith/28/1/223/1.Accessed 5 September 2023; Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī ibn Bābawayh al-Qummī al-Ṣadūq, Manlā yaḥḍuruhu al-faqīh, Vol. 2, (Qom: Muʾassasat al-Nashr al-Islāmī, 1992) https://thaqalayn.net/hadith/31/2/2/21.Accessed 5 September 2023
18. Muḥammadibn Yazīd Ibn Mājah, Sunan Ibn Mājah, Vol. 4, Edited by Muḥammad FuʾādʿAbd al-Bāqī, (Cairo: Dār Iḥyāʾ al-Kutub al-ʿArabīyah, 1952), https://sunnah.com/ibnmajah:3393.Accessed 5 September 2023. Similar reports are also reportedin Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad. Al-Maḥāsin al-Barqī, Vol. 1. (Qom: Dār al-Kutubal-Islāmīyah, 1982), https://thaqalayn.net/hadith/6/6/35/6.Accessed 5 September 2023.
19. Qurʾān 2:195.
22. Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan al-Ḥurr al-ʿĀmilī, Wasāʾil al-Shīʿa, (Qom:Muʾassasat Āl al-Bayt li-Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth, n.d.), 17:249.