Biofuels sinful, Muslim cleric says

by Michael Smith

And the learned cleric did not make this statement because the growing of the crops whence biofuels are made from and the fact that the growing of such crops could cause hunger around the world. Nay, but because many biofuels are alcohol and alcohol is prohibited by the Koran.

The adaptation of biofuels could therefore be limited in Muslim communities after an Islamic scholar called for religious groups to study whether biofuels might violate the ban on alcohol in Islam.

Sheik Mohamed al-Najimi of the Saudi Islamic Jurisprudence Academy told the the Saudi newspaper Shams that the Prophet Mohammed prohibited all dealings with alcohol – which would include buying, selling, transporting, drinking, serving and manufacturing.

Ethanol is derived from ethyl alcohol, which al-Najimi said would fall into the prohibited category. In the process to make ethanol, sugar or starch from plants is converted into ethyl alcohol through yeast fermentation.

Biofuel "is basically made up of alcohol," he said.

Al-Najimi said his opinion on biofuels should not be considered a fatwa, or a legal pronouncement in Islam, but should prompt Islamic leaders to study the issue.

Al-Najimi said he thinks a ban on biofuels should extend beyond predominately Muslim countries to include Saudi and Muslim youth studying abroad who ride in vehicles using biofuel. Many Western and Eastern governments have established mandates for biofuel to be blended in petroleum based fuel in increasing percentages.

What the learned Sheik does not seem to understand is that the Prophet was speaking of alcoholl for the purpose of drinking when he prohibited all dealings with alcohol – which apparently includes the buying, selling, transporting, serving and manufacturing.

Personally I doubt the Prophet was referring to the use in fuel or as, for instance, a medical disinfectant.

However, I have my own reservations as to biofuels, as the reader will know from previous articles and this has nothing to do with the fact that some biofuels are alcohol. It has, on the other hand, everything to do with the fact that the growing of those plants for biofuels occupies lands that are better used for food production.

We must, as I have said before, get away from the notion of biofuels for the running of cars and trucks and find better and cleaner ways and ways that do not put an additional strain on the environment.

© M Smith (Veshengro), February 2009