Fatawa on coke and soft drinks


The Mujlisul Ulama of South Africa has established beyond any doubt that Coca Cola as well as all other soft drinks contain very small quantities of alcohol. In this fact there is no doubt and the manufacturers of these minerals cannot and do not dispute this claim. Attached hereto are papers which testify to the validity of our claim.Some of our bretheren dispute our stand and not only disagree with our findings, but actively, practically and sarcastically advocate and encourage Muslims to consume these minerals.

While they are entitled to their opinions based on Shar’i proofs if indeed they do possess any such proofs, we must stress that they are not discharging their duty as Ulama-e-Haqq on account of their negligent and childish attitude in this matter. Every Aalim of Truth should be aware of Rasulullah’s (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) advice that Muslims should abstain from mushtabah (doubtful) things. A mushtabah thing becomes such not on the basis of one’s personal feeling, likes or dislikes. A thing will become mushtabah where there exists valid Shar’i Dalaa-il . When a group or even a single Aalim acting on the basis of valid Shar’i Dalaa-il proclaims an item unlawful, then a valid doubt has been introduced. The item becomes mushtabah and in terms of Rasulullah’s (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) exhortation the mu’min should abstain therefrom.

Hence, even those Ulama who claim that Coke is absolutely halaal should not step out of their way to encourage people to consume such minerals.

Uprighteousness demands that they advise their followers to abstain and since they do not accept the finding of prohibition they will be acting correctly if they do not proclaim minerals to be unlawful. However, since they have not even bothered to enquire of the basis and the proofs of those who proclaim Coke to be unlawful, they have failed in their duty and we can say that they are regarding these minerals to be lawful purely on the basis of their personal opinion and liking. While they may have written a letter or two to the manufacturers to enquire about the alcohol content of Coke, they have accepted the word of the manufacturers as being the final verdict. While they condemn us behind our backs for our stand, they never, as uprighteous Ulama, bothered to enquire from us the basis of our stand.

It is alleged that we are being unnecessarily hard ( mutashaddid ) in having declared Coke unfit for Muslim consumption. It is claimed that we are imposing difficulties on people by having branded Coke and other soft drinks. A little unbiased thought will dispel these observations.

Firstly, Coke is not a necessary item of diet. No one will suffer any detrimental effect by abstaining from Coke. Secondly, Coke is a luxury drink from which even millions of non-Muslims in this country and other countries abstain. Thirdly, Coke and other minerals are detrimental to the health. Abstention from these minerals is thus a blessing and a favour rendered to oneself. Fourthly, no one will suffer in anyway whatever if he/she abstains from Coke and other soft drinks. Fifthly, a large variety of fresh fruit juices are available on the market which are far better substitutes for the carbonated soft drinks.

In view of the above mentioned facts, there is no substance in the claim that a difficulty is being imposed on Muslims by asking them to abstain from soft drinks.

Some claim that our contention of alcohol in soft drinks is without proof. However, this is the weakest and the most baseless argument since investigations prove conclusively that soft drinks do contain small quantities of alcohol as the annexures hereto confirm. Therefore, those who assert that Coke and other soft drinks do not contain any alcohol are in fact making baseless claims for which they have no proof whatever.

At our inspection of our local Coca Cola plant the bottling process was shown and explained to us. It was emphasised by the management that no alcohol whatever is used in the production. However, we pointed out that the concentrate or the essence the vital and fundamental ingredient, was alcoholic. Surprise was expressed by the plant’s officials who were conducting the tour with us. We asked to be shown the concentrates. These were shown to us at request. We again mentioned that the concentrates contained approximately 20% alcohol by volume. The officials at the plant claimed to be ignorant of this fact I but promised that enquiries will be made. Refer to annexures A1, and A2; .

The concentrates from which soft drinks are produced contain about 20% alcohol by volume. It is from such alcoholic concentrates that Coke and other minerals are made. In the final product, viz. the soft drink, small quantities of alcohol remain. Refer to annextures B and . It is, therefore, unreasonable and utterly baseless to deny the alcohol-content of Coke and other soft drinks. These minerals are made from only alcoholic concentrates and the final product contains minute quantities of the alcohol.

It is also alleged that since non-khamr alcohol is used in soft-drink manufacturer soft drinks should not be branded unlawful on account of the fact that according to Imaam Abu Hanifah (rahmatullah alayh) and Imaam Abu Yusuf (rahmatullah alayh) non-khamr alcohol is taahir and if taken in non-intoxicating quantities remains halaal. This argument is not acceptable for several reasons.

(1) It is accepted that the alcohol (ethanol) used in soft drink manufacture is not khamr. However, since the past 14 centuries the Fatwa of the Hanafi Math-hab has been on the view of Imaam Muhammad (rahmatullah alayh), viz. all alcohol, be it non-khamr, is haraam and najis . The Hanafi Fuqaha have for the past 14 centuries issued the Fatwa on this view of prohibition. Today there exists no pressing need to reverse this Muftabihi view of the Hanafi Math-hab. There is no valid reason for the desire to cancel the official and standing Fatwa of the Hanafi Math-hab in regard to alcohol and issue a new Fatwa in so far as minerals are concerned. Yes, it is conceded that there is such a need in regard to medicines since it is almost impossible to find any alcohol-free medicine. On account of the real need in regard to medicine, the Fatwa of permissibility based on the viewpoint of Shaikhain (rahmatullah alayh), issued by our senior Ulama is understandable and acceptable. But, there is no such need in regard to minerals.

(2) By declaring soft drinks made from alcoholic concentrates halaal, a door to future fitnah is being opened up. In fact the stage is being prepared for future legalization of liquor as has been predicted by Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam).

(3) The Ruling (Fatwa) of the Hanafi Math-hab being on the view of Imaam Muhammad (rahmatullah alayh) is based on the principle of blocking the avenue for future fitnah. Ignoring this ruling and principle in regard to the unnecessary luxury of Coke, etc., the door for fitnah is being opened in that other drinks which are generally regarded as unlawful by all our Ulama, will also come within the scope of permissibility which has been accorded to soft drinks. Barbican Beer and similar other supposedly alcohol-free beers too contain the non-khamr ethanol. Although Barbican Beer, etc., are advertised ?alcohol-free’ they do contain ethanol-alcohol in small quantities. In view of the alcohol in very small quantities, the authorities permit such beverages to be advertised ?alcohol free’. See Annexure ‘D ‘. To the best of our knowledge none of our Ulama has ventured to proclaim these ?alcohol-free’ beers halaal. Yet, these beers contain ethanol in the same quantities as do the soft drinks. In fact, Barbican Beer contains a lesser quantity of alcohol than some soft drinks. Annexure ‘D1 and Annexure ‘D2 ‘ states that Barbican Beer contains .03% alcohol. According to Annexure C Sparletta Lemonade contain .04% alcohol; Raspberry contains .033%; Pineapple contains .04% and Cream Soda 05%. Thus, all these flavours have more alcohol than some of the beers which our Ulama regard to be haraam.

Therefore, those who claim that Coke, etc., are halaal, have no logic and no reason for maintaining that Barbican Beer and other similar beers are haraam since the soft drinks (some or most of them) contain a greater quantity of the non-khamr ethanol-alcohol than these haraam beers. Hence, in proclaiming soft drinks halaal,the door has already been opened for declaring Barbican, etc. halaal.

(4) Let us take this argument a step further. Laager and Castle Beer are unanimously regarded as haraam by our Ulama. However these beers too contain the non-khamr ethanol. While Laager beer contains about 3.6% ethanol, soft drinks contain .058 ethanol. The difference is only in quantity. But, both contain the non-khamr ethanol. Laager and Castle beer taken on the basis of the principle employed by the legalizers of soft drinks, can also be declared ?halaal’. Thus, the avenue for fitnah has been expanded to bring Laager, Castle and similar beers within the scope of the permissibility which has been applied to soft drinks.

(5) Let us progress further with this argument. Gin and Whiskey are unanimously proclaimed haraam by our Ulama. No Aalim so far has said that a small quantity of Gin and Whiskey is halaal. Yet, these liquors contain the self-same non-khamr ethanol which soft drinks contain. Gin and Whiskey taken in small quantities do not intoxicate. On the basis of the principle employed by the legalizers of soft drinks, Gin and Whiskey too should be ?halaal’. Thus, the door for fitnah has been opened even wider to accommodate even Gin and Whiskey. The same argument will extend to Vodka and many other liquors which contain non-khamr ethanol and which do not intoxicate if taken in small quantities.

(6) It should be understood that Rasulullah’s (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) prediction about the ?legalizing of liquor’ will not take place overnight. It will be a gradual process ? a process which has already been initiated by those who regard soft drinks to be halaal. The modernists and the ulama-e-soo’ will sooner or later set into motion the technicalities of Fiqhi principles to legalize all liquor on the basis of the non-khamr alcohol content and on the principle of small quantities which do not intoxicate. It is only short-sighted persons and those who are not concerned much with the morals of the Ummah who will venture to be so careless and proclaim soft drinks permissible without even having properly investigated the matter and without thinking of the future and of Rasulullah’s (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) prediction.

Of importance regarding this issue is the fact that the view of even the Shaafi, Maliki and Hambali Math-habs conforms with the verdict of the Hanafi Math-hab, namely, all types of alcohol are najis and haraam.

Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:

“Whatever intoxicates in a large quantity, even its little quantity is forbidden.”

“Every intoxicant is haraam.”

It does not behove the Ulama to issue such verdicts which are of neither worldly nor spiritual benefit to the Ummah and serve only the purpose of boosting the monetary interests of the kuffaar.

Annexure ?E’ is extracts from an article, GOING TO HELL IN A SHOPPING BASKET which appeared in a book BIG SECRETS.

These pages present some interesting facts in the history of Coca Cola. The facts came to light during a supreme court trial regarding the ingredients of Coca Cola. It is conclusively proven in this article that Coca Cola contains alcohol.

We trust that we have sufficiently explained our stand in regard to soft drinks.



Majlisul Ulama of South Africa

Annexure ?E’

The Pemberton product did not have an altogether agreeable taste, it was unstable, it contained too many things, too much of some ingredients and too little of others.Father’s pharmaceutical knowledge convinced him that the formula had to be changed in certain particulars to improve the taste of the product, to insure its uniformity and its stability. Some of the ingredients were incompatible with others in the formula; the bouquet of several of the volatile essential oils previously used was adversely affected by some ingredients. Several needed materials, one notable for its preservation virtue, were added. The first thing he did was to discontinue the use of tin can containers for shipping. On account of the inclusion of a very desirable constituent in the formula, the use of tin cans was dangerous.

Here the “people to whom he had paid hard-earned cash” would include Walker, Dozier, and also the Pempertons, who retained an interest in Coca-Cola for several years. The second ingredient Candler hints at, the one that doesn’t go with tin cans, is easy to guess. It’s phosphoric acid. Phosphoric acid eats through tin, forming poisonous tin phosphate. (Currently, Coke uses stainless-steel containers.)

That means that the phosphoric acid was Candler’s innovation and wasn’t in the original formula. But Charles Candler says in the same book that the Pemberton formula included “an acid for zest.” Perhaps this acid was one of the ingredients Candler took out of the formula. Or it could have been lime juice.

Lime juice is one of the ingredients that has been reported in chemical analyses of Coke. Several analyses of Coke were offered as evidence in the United States v. Forty Barrels and Twenty Kegs of Coca-Cola trial. In 1909 the federal government seized the latter quantity of Coca-Cola syrup en route from Atlanta to a bottling plant in Chattanooga and charged Coca-Cola with violation of the Pure Food Act. Trial and appeals ran about a decade. One analysis of the syrup claimed:

Caffein (grains per fluid ounce) 0.92?1.30Phosphoric acid (H 3 PO 4 ) (percent) 0.26?0.30

Sugar, total (percent) 48.86?58.00

Alcohol (percent by volume) 0.90?1.27

Caramel, glycerin, lime juice, essential oils,and plant extractives Present

Water (percent) 34.00?41.00

Another analysis from the trial ran:

Caffeine 0.20 per cent or 1.19 grains per ounce.Phos. Acid 0.19 per cent.

Sugar 48.86 per cent.

Alcohol 1.27 per cent.

Caramel, glycerine,

Lime Juice, oil of cassia

Water about 41 per cent.

There seems little doubt that Coca-Cola contained lime juice circa 1909. To confirm its presence in Coke today, Big Secrets wrote to the Coca-Cola Company asking about lime juice. Bonita Holder of Coca-Cola replied: “While we are unable to comment specifically on the various flavors utilized in Coca-Cola, I can nonetheless confirm for you that Coca-Cola contains no lime juice, or any fruit juice.”

Lime juice is perishable and somewhat cloudy; it varies with each season’s crop. Coke therefore might have wanted to replace it with a more stable substitute. A mixture of citric acid and some of the flavouring principles of lime juice (which are distinct from those found in the oil of lime peel) might have been substituted for the original lime juice without anyone noticing much of a change in the taste of Coca-Cola. Citrus juices are easy to fake. Coca-Cola produces such soft drinks as Hi-C Orange, Hi-C Lemonade, Hi-C Punch, and Hi-C Grape, which don’t contain any fruit juice either.

The analyses mention three other ingredients: alcohol, glycerin, and oil of cassia. Evidently glycerin is the preservative Candler described. It is a customary ingredient in soft-drink syrups. It is believed to prevent separation of essential oils on standing.

Coke syrup is about 2 proof. The alcohol probably only enters in as a solvent for the “plant extractives.” Oil of cassia seems to be one of the essential oils that provide Coke’s flavoring. Cassia is a form of cinnamon, sometimes called Chinese cinnamon to distinguish it from true or Ceylon cinnamon. Most of the stick cinnamon sold in supermarkets is Ceylon cinnamon. Most of the cinnamon used in commercial baked goods such as coffee cakes is cassia.

Conspicuously absent from the above analyses is any mention of coca or kola. This was one of the main issues of the United States v. Forty Barrels and Twenty Kegs of Coca-Cola trial. Coca leaves contain cocaine; ergo, it was claimed that Coca-Cola must either contain that recently outlawed drug, or the coca must have been dropped from the formula. In the latter case, the government charged, it was mislabeling to use “Coca” in the name. Further, it was charged the kola in Coca-Cola was an imposition?a trace ingredient added only so that the company could claim it was there. Thus the “Cola” part of the name was misleading, too.

Indeed, there is precious little coca or kola in Coca-Cola. None of the chemical analysts consulted at the trial were able to detect coca or kola. But there are traces of coca and kola present, in what Coca-Cola calls merchandise no. 5. At the time of the trial, merchandise no. 5 was manufactured by a contractor, the Schaeffer Alkaloid Works of Maywood, New Jersey. Its president, Dr. L. Schaeffer, described the manufacture of Coke’s fifth ingredient:

Q. Now, Doctor, do you make Merchandise No. 5 for the Coca-Cola Co.?A. Yes, sir.

Q. From what substance do you make that Merchandise No. 5?

A. Of the Coca leaf and the Cola nut, and of dilute alcohol sir.

Q. What do you use the alcohol for, what is the purpose of putting in the alcohol ?

A. To extract from the bodies mentioned the extractive matter.

Q. Do you use anything else in that compound except the extracts from the coca leaves and cola nuts and dilute alcohol ?

A. No, I do not use anything to speak of, or essentially.

Q. Now just state the process, Dr. Schaeffer, by which you manufacture this Merchandise No. 5?

A. The process consists of two parts. The first part is to decocanize the coca leaf, the second part is to use the decocanized coca leaf and cola nut, both of which are in powdered form, to make the infusion, that is, the same extract made by percolation with dilute alcohol …. The proportions which are used in the process as follows: 380 lbs. of coca leaf, 125 lbs. of cola nuts and 900 gallons of dilute alcohol of about twenty per cent strength …

The cocaine was removed from the coca leaves by rinsing with toluol, a solvent. Cocaine dissolves in toluol repeated rinsing leaches away the cocaine.

According to Dr. Schaeffer’s testimony, there was wine in Coca-Cola. The alcohol used in making merchandise no. 5 was usually a mixture of California white wine and 95 percent commercial alcohol. But Dr. Schaeffer sometimes used an alcohol-water mixture “if California wine is too high in price. It is altogether a matter of price of the wine or of the alcohol. 

Merchandise no. 5, according to testimony, was a dark, winey liquid. Several of the witnesses were given samples of merchandise no. 5. One thought it tasted and smelled no different from the wine it was made from. One Coca-Cola witness claimed it had the characteristic odor of coca but proved unable to describe the odor. Another witness said it smelled like toluol, the toxic solvent that isn’t supposed to be present in the final product at all.

An experiment was performed for the benefit of the court. Coca-Cola made up a special batch of syrup containing no merchandise no. 5. Witnesses thought it tasted the same as the regular syrup.

In short, neither coca nor kola has much, if anything, to do with the taste of Coca-Cola. Both substances, in fact, have unpleasant, bitter flavors wholly unlike that of Coca-Cola.

Pemberton, remember, was concocting a medicinal syrup. Because his two active ingredients had unpleasant flavors, he masked them with other flavors?the way a codeine cough syrup might be cherry-flavored.

As it happened, Coca-Cola became successful for its flavor rather than for any medicinal value. Dozens of imitations sprang up, most with “Cola” in their name. Thus “cola” became the generic term for soft drinks similar to Coca-Cola. Most?though not all?of these imitations contained kola nuts. But as with Coke, the kola really didn’t contribute to the flavor.

Cherry cough syrup tastes like cherries. The “cola” flavor tastes like…nothing familiar. That raises two possibilities. Cola flavor may come from an exotic substance, otherwise unknown to Western taste buds. Or it may be what the soft-drink industry calls a “fantasia” flavor, a new flavor created by the artful combination of other flavors.

The basics of cola flavor are no mystery.

Caramel (32 fluid ounces)Lime juice (32 fluid ounces)

Glycerin (16 fluid ounces)

Alcohol 95 percent (12 fluid ounces)

Cola flavor base (12 fluid ounces)

Kola nut extract (12 fluid ounces)

Caffeine solution (2 ounces of caffeine in 10 fluid ounces of water)

Vanilla extract (2 fluid ounces)

These are mixed to produce 128 ounces (1 gallon) of cola flavor. Four ounces of this cola flavor, plus .5 fluid ounce of diluted phosphoric acid (one part 85 percent phosphoric acid to seven parts water), are used to flavor a gallon of sugar syrup. The composition of the cola flavor base and the kola nut extract are given in accompanying recipes.

This recipe suggests the identities of the unknown merchandise. Merchandise no. 1, sugar, is the syrup to which the cola flavor is added. Nos. 2 and 3, caramel and caffeine, are in the recipe, caffeine in a water solution. No. 4, phosphoric acid, is added to the sugar syrup. No. 5, in Coca-Cola’s recipe, is coca and kola extract in an alcohol-water solution. This corresponds to two ingredients in the Merory recipe: the kola nut extract and the 95 percent alcohol. The kola nut extract is to be prepared according to another Merory recipe, MF 237. This requires that kola nuts be extracted with a solvent, propylene glycol, most of which is then distilled off. Water is added, so the result is a water-based extract of kola. Were alcohol added to this extract, you’d have a sort of merchandise no. 5 (without the coca, though). Of course, the alcohol and kola extract can be treated as separate ingredients?which is how Merory lists them.

There are four remaining ingredients in Merory’s list?and four remaining merchandises of the nine Candler claimed. Merory’s four are lime juice, glycerin, a cola flavor base, and vanilla extract. Of these, the first two were reported in lab analyses of Coke (though Coke now denies lime juice). The last, vanilla extract, is a generally acknowledged component of the cola flavor.

It is tempting if not compelling to identify these four with merchandise nos. 6 through 9. We can’t be sure that Coca-Cola doesn’t mix together glycerin and vanilla extract.

According to the Merory recipe for flavor base, the above mixture of oils (100 grams) is mixed with 22 fluid ounces of 95 percent alcohol and shaken. Five ounces of water are added, and the mixture is left to stand for twenty-four hours. A cloudy layer of terpenes will develop; only the clear part of the mixture is taken off and used in recipe MF 241.

There may be other ingredients in the Coca-Cola oil mixture. In The Big Drink , E. J. Kahn, Jr., mentions the possibility of lavender as an ingredient. The alternate Merory cola recipe, which uses citric acid and less orange oil, suggesting a Pepsi-like product, includes coriander in lieu of nutmeg. (Coriander is a spice found in Danish pastries.) Perhaps there is a trace of coriander in Coca-Cola. In another of the occasional breaches of industry closemouthedness, flavorist, A. W. Noling published a pamphlet on colas in 1952. The Hurty Peck Pamphlet on Cola attributed the secret of cola flavor to extracts of decocanized coca leaves and kola nuts, oils of lime, lemon, orange, cassia, nutmeg, neroli, cinnamon, and coriander, and lime juice and vanilla. Noling’s analysis seems to have been directed specifically at Coca-Cola. Among modern cola drinks, only Coca-Cola is known to use the coca leaves.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s