I remember a time when a bottle of brandy was kept in every house to be used as a remedy for colds and nasal congestion. A tea spoon of brandy in a warm cup of water would clear the nose and in a few minutes you were asleep. This was in the early fifties, when very few families had cars and the nearest doctor was four kilometers away and you couldn’t find a cycle-rickshaw to take you there after ten in the night. Later, when mullahs began to shout from their pulpits that even a drop of alcohol was forbidden, almost everyone I know decided not to use any liquid which contained alcohol (like after-shave lotions and perfumes, for instance). But most people continued buying cough syrups and other medicines which contained very small amounts of the stuff. It was widely rumoured that in Saudi Arabia, medicines with alcohol content were banned, but during my two visits to that country I saw such medications on sale in all pharmacies.
So you can imagine what a pleasant surprise it was to read in the newspapers that a cleric in Qatar (Egyptian-born Sheikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi) has decreed that consuming drinks containing small quantities of alcohol that is “constituted naturally through fermentation” did not violate Islamic teachings. Now even a layman like me knows that Islam is very liberal in such matters, since a Muslim is allowed to consume forbidden things if it’s a matter of life and death. Although I’m a teetotaler, and have never drunk the forbidden liquid except the minute quantities found in allopathic medicines, I do think this fatwa is in line with the teachings of Islam, as postulated by Sheikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi. May his tribe increase!