Is it permissible to sell cigarettes?

The Details of the Question
Is it permissible to sell cigarettes?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Hasanayn Mahluf, the mufti of Egypt, states in his book called "Fatawa Shar’iyya" that it is not haram to sell cigarettes. However, even if it is halal, it is not tayyib (clean). Some profits are not only halal but also tayyib, which is a degree of acceptance above halal like selling miswaks.

In cigarettes, there is no benefit for human health; on the contrary, it is harmful. There is no holiness in it like selling something that is sunnah. However, selling cigarettes is permitted due to despair called "umum al-balwa" (public affliction). It is not regarded as clean profit.


Balwa means misfortune, affliction, agony, difficulty etc. Umum means general, everybody. Accordingly, umum al-balwa means an affliction and hardship that encompasses everybody.

Terminologically, umum al-balwa means giving a special decree about something that is hard to avoid and that public is addicted to.

Our religion is a religion of ease. The following is stated in the Quran: "Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you to difficulties." (al-Baqara, 2/185) Therefore, umum al-balwa has been a secondary source of fiqh. The difficulties and afflictions that hit the majority of Muslims are relieved based on this rule. We will give some examples about it:

It is permissible to perform prayers with the clothes smeared by drops of water and mud that are difficult to avoid because they are splashed from the street.

It is permissible for excused people to perform prayers with the clothes smeared due to their excuses.

It is permissible for children to hold the Quran without wudu in order to learn the Quran.

It is permissible to turn one’s front or back part toward the qiblah in the toilets in the buildings. (Ibn Nujaym, al-Ashbah wan-Nazair, Cairo 1968, p. 76-77)

It is permissible for doctors and nurses to look at the private parts of women and men for treatment.

However, the decrees about which there are nass (verses and sound hadiths) cannot be relieved due to umum al-balwa. It is not possible to decree that urine is not dirty due to umum al-balwa since urine easily smears man’s clothes because there is nass regarding the issue. (Atıf Bey, Mecelle Kavâid-i Kulliyye Şerhi, İstanbul 1327, p. 25).


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