MUMBAI — Islam can be the road to significantly curb the number of victims of the deadly habit of smoking, attendants of the world’s largest conference on tobacco control were told.
"Islam is a powerful tool," Lath Yahya Ibrahim Mula Hussain, an Iraqi oncologist, told Indo-Asian news Service (IANS) on Thursday, March 12, on the sidelines of the World Conference on Tobacco OR Health (WCTOH) in Mumbai.
Hussain told the five-day annual event that Islam can be used to curb tobacco consumption across the world, given that Muslim smokers make up a significant majority of the smoking population.
"It is a hard fact that most Muslims have fallen prey to tobacco," he said.
"Islam can be used as an effective tool for tobacco control among Muslims, who constitute 22 percent of the world’s population."
Smoking is embedded in the culture of many Muslim countries.
In Indonesia, the world most populous Muslim country and the world’s 5th largest cigarette market, over a third of the 230 million people smoke, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In Muslim-majority Malaysia 21.5 percent of the adult population smoked in 2006, according to the Third National Health and Morbidity Survey.
An estimated 35 to 40 percent of Saudis above 15 smoke while in Egypt nearly 60 percent of men smoke.
The Iraqi oncologist believes that the teachings of the Noble Qur`an can be used to curb smoking addiction.
"Islam…can be used to guide the lives of Muslims across the globe but it ought tobe used effectively."
Hussain says Muslim scholars as the main weapon in this battle.
"I believe that we can make a beginning by using those scholars who think tobacco should be banned."
Though there is no direct mention of banning smoking in the Qur’an, a habit that was not spread during the early days of Islam, most scholars deem it haram (prohibited).
They rely on a hadith by Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) saying that Muslims must abstain from anything harmful.
Smoking- related diseases kill six million people each year and drain $500 billion from global economy each year, according to the latest edition of "Tobacco Atlas" issued by the WCTOH.
Tobacco use will kill 1 billion people worldwide in the 21st century if current smoking trends continue, WHO warns.
Hussain wants to arrange awareness programs for scholars so that they can help convince more Muslims to quit the deadly habit.
Scholars in many parts of the world have already taken on smoking.
In 2006, Lebanon’s top Shiite scholar Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Fadlallah
issued a fatwa ordering his followers to stop smoking.
Saudi scholars have supported a major crackdown on smoking in the holy city of Makkah.
Last January, about 700 scholars of Indonesia Ulemas Council (MUI) banned smoking in public places and for children and pregnant women.
But they stopped short of issuing an all-out ban on smoking.