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IslamQA: Islam and the legalization of recreational drugs

I really love your blog, keep up the amazing work! I have been researching about the dealings of the mafia in various countries, and came to the conclusion (after thorough research) that legalizing all kinds of drugs is the best way to eradicate a big part of the mafias (to remove one of their main sources of income and letting the govt take care of it). I really support legalization (I have nothing to do with drugs myself) but I was wondering, is my support considered haram?

Thank you! Regarding your question, if the data conclusively show that the societal harms of banning drugs are greater than the harms of legalizing them, then Muslims can support legalizing drugs as a way of choosing the lesser evil. Here we are talking about legalizing them when it come to law enforcement, meaning that the police will stop going after people who make, sell or use drugs. The religious position against the use of drugs will remain the same (that it is forbidden), but the society leaves it to people’s own choice to avoid it rather than trying to force it.

In Islam, when we are faced with two evils, we are required to choose the lesser one (see Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s 1995 book Fiqh al-Awlawīyāt [The Fiqh of Priorities]), so we have to compare the harms of banning them (which empowers drug gangs and leads to much murder and other serious crimes) with the harms of legalizing them (more people using them). Since I have not studied the matter deeply, I cannot state what is the right choice. I do not think this is something for one person or one expert to decide. If most of those who study the matter come to the conclusion that banning drugs does more harm than legalizing them, then Islamic law supports “legalization”, meaning that law-enforcement will stop involving themselves with the issue.

“Legalization”, however, is not an appropriate term when speaking of Islamic law’s stance, since it suggests that Islamic law will have a positive or neutral view of it, which is not the case. We can instead call it “non-enforcement”. Islamic law bans eating food during the daylight hours of Ramadan, but most Islamic societies do not have a police force that forces people to avoid food. Similarly, an Islamic society can refrain from using the police to fight drugs because the prohibition on drugs creates the extremely lucrative black market that attracts criminals (and many policemen too) and leads to widespread crime and corruption, while if the matter is left alone by the police most people will avoid it on their own.

So like I said, we have to compare the harms of enforcing a drug ban with not enforcing a drug ban and choose the lesser evil.

And God knows best.
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