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Polemics on smoking among Indonesian Muslims and Islamic organizations


This paper examines various views, ideas, opinions, understandings, and interpretations among Indonesian societies, including Islamic scholars and Muslim social organizations toward tobacco products and smoking practices. It also traces the history and contemporary developments of smoking practice in Indonesia. Historically, as the article shows, smoking for Indonesian societies is not simply inhaling tobacco but also a medium of social interaction and ritual practices. Moreover, this study investigates whether religious pronouncements and fatwas (Islamic edicts) on smoking, issued by some noted Islamic institutions in the country, influence smoking practices and behaviors among Indonesian Muslims. Given the vitality of religion and smoking among Indonesians, it becomes interesting to study the relationship between the two.

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  1. In Islam, fatwa refers to a nonbinding authoritative legal opinion given by a qualified legal scholar (known as mufti) in a response to questions posed by individuals or Islamic courts. Both individual Islamic scholars and Islamic organizations (e.g., the council of ulama) can issue a fatwa.

  2. The Anti-Smoking Law aims at “combating smoking by taking all necessary measures and steps at the state, community and individual levels, to reduce all types of smoking habit among individuals of all ages” as well as protecting “members of the society from health, social, environmental and economic consequences associated with tobacco use and exposure to its smoke” (Article 1).

  3. The law defines “smoking” as “the use of tobacco and its products in any way, including, but not limited to, cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, cigars, hookah, tobacco leaves, electronic hookah, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, snus tobacco, tobacco molasses, or any other product containing raw, manufactured or processed tobacco ingredients or any of their by-products” (Article 2).

  4. Accessed October 14, 2020.

  5. Cigarette, a narrow cylinder containing tobacco (or other psychoactive material) rolled into thin paper for smoking, is generally the most common type of smoked tobacco. Other forms include kreteks (indigenous cheroots containing tobacco, cloves, and cocoa) and bidis (blended tobacco, wrapped in tendu leaves). In addition, chewing tobacco products in the form of ghutka (a mixture of tobacco, betel nut fragments, fennel, and spices) and paan (a leaf in which several products including tobacco and betel nut are wrapped), is also common.

  6. See BaHammam’s comments at Accessed October 14, 2020.

  7. Interview with Elifas Maspaitella, March 5, 2022.

  8. Interview with Rony Helwedery, March 5, 2022.

  9. See Accessed October 19, 2020.

  10. See Accessed October 19, 2020.

  11. As for the male youth, 23 percent for “tobacco smoking” and 21.4 percent for “cigarette smoking”, and for the female youth, 2.4 percent for “tobacco smoking” and 1.5 percent for “cigarette smoking”.

  12. See Accessed October 19, 2020.

  13. Islamic jurists (fuqaha) and scholars (ulama) generally classified human affairs into one of five categories, namely fard (mandatory), mustahib (encouraged), mubah (neutral), mukruh (discouraged), and haram (prohibited). Actions that fall under the first four categories are considered religiously lawful, whereas actions that fall under the fifth category are considered unlawful.

  14. Tar, a black sticky substance, is the common name for the resinous, partially combusted particulate matter made by the burning of tobacco and other plant material in the act of smoking. Some medical practitioners and experts said that tar is toxic and damages the smoker’s lungs over time though various biochemical and mechanical processes (Hornby, 2018).

  15. Ijtihad, literally means “effort,” in Islamic law refers to independent reasoning or original interpretation of problems facing Muslim societies not precisely covered in the Qur’an, Hadith.

  16. Interview with Arif Junaidi, October 12, 2020.

  17. Interview with Abdul Muhayya, October 28, 2020.

  18. Interview with Hasan Asy’ari Ulamai, October 12, 2020.

  19. Interview with Ruslan Dahlar Apolo, October 13, 2020.

  20. Interview with Tafsir, October 14, 2020.

  21. LBM whose members are specialists of Islamic law is Nahdlatul Ulama’s institution whose main task is to discuss pressing contemporary social issues from Islamic legal perspectives to find their legal status, seek wise, fair, comprehensive, and legitimate opinions, as well as issue fatwas.

  22. Interview with Hasyim Muhammad, October 29, 2020.

  23. Interview with Mahsun Mahfudz, October 28, 2020.

  24. Interview with Arja Imroni, October 27, 2020.

  25. Qiyas provided classical Muslim jurists with a method of deducing laws on matters not explicitly covered by the Quran or Sunnah without relying on unsystematic opinion (ray or hawa). Accessed November 18, 2020.

  26. Conversation with Hisyam Zamroni, September 10, 2018.

  27. Kretek (cigarettes made with a blend of tobacco, cloves, and other flavors) are by far the most widely smoked form of cigarettes in Indonesia. Although kretek resembles “clove cigarette,” it differs from other cigarettes due to the sweet and savory flavor profile. The unique fusion of tobacco, cloves, and spices made kretek stands out from more conventional cigarette forms.

  28. Cigarette in general refers to a narrow cylinder containing psychoactive material, usually tobacco, which is rolled into thin paper for smoking.

  29. Conversations with Musa, Semarang, June 10, 2018.

  30. Conversations with Kris Tiyanto and Tyas Annisa, Jakarta, July 12, 2018.


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Correspondence to M. Mukhsin Jamil.

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Jamil, M.M., Al Qurtuby, S. Polemics on smoking among Indonesian Muslims and Islamic organizations. Cont Islam (2022).

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  • Islam
  • Islamic organization
  • Muslim
  • Fatwa
  • Cigarette
  • Smoking
  • Tobacco
  • Islamic law
  • Indonesia