Khat affects physical health, as it destroys molars, causes hemorrhoids, harms the stomach, decreases the appetite, and affects the kidneys. It is also a big waste of money and for these reasons and many others, Muslim scholars prohibited taking it.
The eminent Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi states the following: As for smoking, there is no doubt that modern scientific and medical facts, by revealing the bad effects of smoking on the body, have emphasized the opinions I have adopted in my fatwas concerning the prohibition of smoking. Passive smoking is one of the dangers of smoking we have recently come to know. It means the involuntary inhalation of tobacco smoke by a person, especially a non-smoker, who may be near one or more smokers. This kind of smoking has proved dangerous, and its effects may exceed the effects on the smoker himself.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “One should not harm others nor should one seek benefit by causing harm to others.” This hadith has become a legal ruling that is applicable when dealing with smoking.
The basic objective of the Shari`ah is the preservation of necessary human interests that are determined by Islamic scholars to be five: religion, soul, mind, progeny, and property. Smoking causes damage to all of them.
As for khat, it was included in the prohibited materials during the International Conference for Combating Intoxicants, Narcotics, and Smoking held in Madinah years ago under the sponsorship of the Islamic University there, where khat was categorized under narcotics and smoking.
However, many of our brothers in Yemen, sheikhs and judges, protested against the consensus decision of the conference saying that the conferees were unfamiliar with the nature of khat, that they exaggerated in their judgment, and that they were strict in a matter not prohibited in either the Qur’an or the Sunnah. Many of the Yemenis have been taking it for centuries, including scholars, jurists, and pious people.
What I personally saw in my visit to Yemen in the late 70s was that khat has the following effects:
1. It is too expensive. This was a surprise for me because I thought it costs like cigarettes, but I found that it costs many times as much. I think that this can very well go under extravagance if not under prodigality and wasting money on that which is neither useful in this world nor in the hereafter. If many people consider smoking cigarettes an example of the prohibited squandering money, eating khat should be included in the same category a fortiori.
2. It wastes the time of its eaters or chewers, who spend a period of time that begins at noon until sunset everyday, and which they call “the period of storing.” The chewer of khat stores it in his mouth, enjoys it, and neglects everything else at this time, which is not insignificant. Time is man’s capital, so when he wastes it in this manner, he has wronged himself and has not invested his life in the way a Muslim should. As regards society, taking khat is considered a general grave loss, as it certainly harms production and development. No doubt, this kind of harm is tangible and apparent in Yemen.
3. I have known from the brothers interested in this issue in Yemen that 30% of the Yemeni land, which is one of the most fertile soils, is planted by khat while Yemen imports wheat and other foods and vegetables. Thus, it is a huge economic loss for the Yemeni people, which I do not think that any person interested in the welfare and future of the country would deny.
4. The people of Yemen differ in opinion as regards the effects, the physical and psychological harms of khat. Many of them say that it is perfectly harmless, while some claim that its harm is minuscule as compared to its benefits. Those who are afflicted with it cannot but say so; they cannot be fair in their judgment or testimony. However, there are many impartial people who confirm khat’s various harms and that it has no benefit as compared to its harms. Some doctors even say that it is a way of spreading diseases and that it has bad health effects.
One of the Yemeni scholars who declared the truth in this issue and directed attention to the harms of khat is the prominent scholar and reformist Sheikh Muhammad Salim Al-Baihani. In his book IslahAl-Mujtama` (Reforming Society), Sheikh Al-Baihani mentions the following in the context of explaining a Prophetic hadith about intoxicants:
“I find this to be a suitable opportunity to talk about khat and tobacco with which many are afflicted in our societies. Although they do not belong to intoxicants, they are counted among the destructive social diseases. Their damage is so close to that of intoxicants and gambling, for they also involve wasting time, money, and health as well as being distracted from the performance of prayer and other important duties. Some may say, ‘This is something Allah has not mentioned, there is no proof of its prohibition. The halal is what Allah has allowed and the haram is what Allah has prohibited. Allah says [He it is Who created for you all that is in the earth] (Al-Baqarah 2:29), and He Almighty also says [Say: I find not in that which is revealed unto me aught prohibited to an eater that he eat thereof, except it be carrion, or blood poured forth, or swine flesh] (Al-An`aam 6:145).’
“Such defender of khat and tobacco has chosen the wrong proofs to support his argument and has further neglected general rules such as preservation of interests and the prohibition of harmful foods. It is well known that khat affects physical health: It destroys molars, causes hemorrhoids, harms the stomach, weakens appetite, affects the kidneys, and may even affect the future generations. …
“As for tobacco, it causes harms that are more dangerous than khat. It may very well go under the harmful foods from which Allah has forbidden. It is enough to know what doctors say about its harms for one to avoid it completely. Some Muslim groups exaggerate in the judgment pertaining to tobacco and give it the same ruling of intoxicants, so they fight it in every way and consider its takers as immoral, while others exaggerate so much in using it. … I do not draw an analogy between khat and tobacco on the one hand and intoxicants on the other as regards prohibition, and the punishment they entail in the Hereafter, but I am saying that they are close. Anything that harms physical health, mental health, or one’s money is haram.
“To conclude, it is sufficient here to quote the Prophet’s hadith stating that ‘Righteousness is that about which the soul feels tranquil and the heart feels tranquil, and wrongdoing is that which wavers in the soul and moves to and from in the breast even though people again and again have given you their legal opinion [in its favor]’” (406-408).
May Allah be merciful to Sheikh Al-Baihani for his excellent and beneficial explanation.