Alcohol is a generic name for ethanol or ethyl alcohol. It may be manufactured by means of the fermentation of starch, sugar, and other carbohydrates, or it may be synthesized chemically by various means. The starting materials of the chemical synthesis are usually obtained from petroleum products. In South Africa, the primary source is cane molasses and coal. It is an intoxicating substance if taken in concentrated levels.
The manufacture of ethanol by fermentation is the wine or beer or liquor process. Here the sugars or starches or carbohydrates are converted to ethanol by means of a microorganism (yeast reaction). The end liquor contains a certain percentage of ethanol. The higher the ethanol percentage the more intoxicating is the product. Wines that are left to oxidise eventually become vinegar.
The word alcohol is also used scientifically to mean that group of organic chemicals that possess the O-H (or hydroxyl) group. These chemicals might have some characteristics of ethanol but have nothing to do with liquor. For example methanol (or methyl alcohol) is chemically close to ethanol but is a poison to humans and is not taken internally. It is used widely in the chemical and petroleum industry. Other common examples of these chemical alcohols are butanol (or butyl alcohol), propanol (or propyl alcohol), and iso-propanol (or iso-propyl alcohol).
It would be greatly appreciated if you could shed some light on the issue of Alcohol / Ethanol which is used widely in the food, medicinal and cosmetic industry.
It is used extensively in the flavour industry as a solvent, extraction agent, diluent, carrier etc.
Kindly advise on the Shari` position of the following: (The rulings of all four Mathib would be appreciated, if possible)
1) Is this ethanol regarded the same as wine in terms of prohibition?
2) Is it also regarded as Najis just as wine?
3) If used in flavours and essences etc. in trace quantities would such products be deemed acceptable?
4) Since its application is so widespread, could we consider its use on the basis of Balw?