Botox – An Islamic Ruling
  • Mon, 01/14/2008
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Botox is used to remove the signs of aging, the effects that aging has upon the skin. The treatment is widely used around the world – including the Muslim world – to remove wrinkles from the skin.

Muslims have expressed reservations about using Botox, because an enzyme derived from pig's milk is used in its manufacture. This brings up the concern of whether Botox is a pre or impure substance. If it proves to be an impure substance, then its medicinal use would be restricted to cases of medical need, and it would not be allowed for mere cosmetic treatments.

Botox is a trade name for a protein called botulinum toxin which is produced naturally by the baterium Clostridium. It is not, therefore of porcine origin. It is not a pork bi-product. It is not derived from pig's milk.

However, an enzyme taken from pig's milk is introduced a culture of Clostridium in order to stimulate the production of the protein.

Janet Kettels, a spokesman for Allergan, which manufactures the product, describes the process as follows:
The manufacturing process includes growing of bacterium using a culture containing an enzyme derived from pig's milk. A specialized purification process removes the pig-derived enzyme and produces a purified medical protein called botulinum toxin, which is an active ingredient in Botox.
She asserts that the final version of the product does not contain any pig-derived enzymes.

There are two aspects of Islamic purity law that we should like to consider. One is that of transformation and the other is that of the ruling of an otherwise lawful animal or plant that is fed on impure substances.


Transformation of a substance (istihâlah) can affect the substance's ruling with respect to purity.

Transformation of an impure substance occurs when it loses its physical properties or its namesake is removed. Such transformation can be achieved by increasing quantity of other substances, or by exposure to the sun or air, or by chemical processes, which is the most effective factor these days.

Scholars give a number of examples for this: impurity can be removed and impure items could be transformed into pure ones just as alcohol becomes pure when it is changed into vinegar, or just as impure substances become pure when they are incinerated and turn into ashes, or just as the body of a dog or pig becomes pure if it falls into a salt spring and become as salt itself.

If we consider what takes place between the enzyme taken from the pig's milk and the botulinum toxin that results from a complex biochemical process using bacteria, we can see that the divergence is far more radical that what the scholars were talking about when they discussed the process of transformation.

This conclusion is even more emphatic when we consider that the enzyme is completely removed once the desired chemical is produced. The botulinum toxin is not merely a transformed substance. It is a completely independent substance that does not incorporate in itself anything of the enzyme that was used to stimulate its production.

Jallâlah (what is fed on impurities)

Animals that are fed on impure substances – referred to in Islamic Law as jallâlah – are a matter of disagreement among Islamic scholars. Some scholars consider such animals and their milk to be unlawful for human consumption if the majority of their fodder is impure. According to this opinion, if more than 50 % of an animal’s fodder is from dead meat, blood, or other impure substances, then its meat and milk is prohibited. If 50 % or less of its feed comes from impure substances, then its meat and milk will be lawful.

Other scholars hold the view that the meat and milk of such animals will not be prohibited unless the impurity noticeably affects the taste or smell of the animal’s meat or its milk.

There is also the question of using impure substances as fertilizer to grow crops. The position of the majority of scholars is that the produce does not become unlawful or impure on account of that. The produce only becomes impure if the effects of the impurity are discernable in the fruit and grain itself. This is based on the principle that the impurities have been transformed and the produce should not be considered impure.

The Hanbalî school of thought differs on this matter, though Sheikh al-`Uthaymîn, a leading Hanbalî scholar of our times, is of the view that the opinion of the majority should be adopted. He writes:
The well-known position in the Hanbalî school of law is that fruits and produce that had been watered or fertilized with impurities are unlawful until they are watered with pure water and the essence of the impurities are removed. On this basis, it would impermissible to use such water or fertilizer at the time when the fruits are present, since it would lead to the produce becoming impure and unlawful.

However, the position of the majority of scholars is that the produce does not become unlawful or impure on account of that. The produce only becomes impure if the effects of the impurity are discernable in the fruit and grain itself. This is the correct view. Generally, the impurities are transformed and no effects of them are to be found in the fruit and grain.
Furthermore, what we are dealing with in the process of manufacturing Botox is far less serious than proper nourishment, since the bacterium is not being nourished on pig's milk at all. The process merely introduces an enzyme derived from pig's milk to stimulate the production of the botulinum toxin.

An enzyme is a chemical that catalyses a biochemical reaction. It is not incorporated into the resulting substance. It is not absorbed by it in the way that food is constituted into a living body. In the making of Botox, once the bacteria produce the desired chemical, the enzyme – as well as the bacteria culture itself – is completely removed.

Therefore, we conclude that Botox should not be regarded as an impure substance. The impurities that are possibly introduced into the process of manufacturing Botox are not present in the final product. Moreover, that product in no way resembles the possibly impure substance that was used in its manufacture.

We see no reason for prohibiting the use of Botox to remove the signs of aging as long as using the substance is safe and poses no threats to a person's health.

And Allah knows best.