What is the ruling on the gelatin in medicine or vitamins?
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Wa alaykum salam wa rahmatuLlahi wa barakatuHu,
The source of gelatin is the collagen found in the skin and bones of animals like cattle, pigs, poultry, and fish. Cellulose from plants may also be used. If one is unsure of the source of a tablet or capsule, then it is considered pure by default.
أما المشكوك فيحكم عليه بالطهارة عملا بالأصل
Medicine or vitamins that include gelatin may either be in a capsule or tablet form. In tablet form, besides for coating, the gelatin may have also been used as a processing agent (even if not mentioned on the label). During production, the gelatin may have been mixed with something else until its qualities were obliterated [istihlak].
The fuqaha discussed cases of istihlak. For example:
1) A pilgrim eating food with perfume in it. (Sharh al-Muhadhdhab v. 7, p. 273)
2) A small piece of flesh falling into meat, not making eating the entirety unlawful. (Nihayat al-Muhtaj v. 8, p. 158; Tuhfat al-Muhtaj v. 9, p. 388) Reason being:
لأنه لما استهلك فيه صار كالعدم
“Because once its own qualities were obliterated, then it became as if non-existent.” (Ibid)
Medicine Made from an Impurity
Capsules and coatings may also be made from gelatin.
The fuqaha addressed the issue of medicine made from an impurity. Ibn Hajar al-Haytami stated, “It is permissible to use medicine made from a dead animal’s hoof or bones (sic), pure or mixed…” (Fatawa v. 1, p. 28. Also, see: Ibn ‘Abd al-Salam’s al-Qawa’id al-Kubra v. 1, p. 132; Ibn Hajar’s Tuhfat al-Muhtaj v. 9, p. 170; Khatib Shirbini’s Mughni al-Muhtaj v. 5, p. 518)
The principle is:
المشقة تجلب التيسير
“Difficulty brings about ease.”
Difficult circumstance permits dispensation. Various reasons allow relaxation in a given ruling. One such reason is: public affliction or ‘umum al-balwa. (See: Ibn al-Subki in al-Ashbah wa al-Naza’ir v. 1, p. 48; Suyuti in al-Ashbah wa al-Naza’ir p. 160-80; Zarkashi in al-Manthur fi al-Qawa’id v. 1, p. 120; v. 2, p. 24, 317; v. 3, p. 169)
The presence of gelatin in some medications and vitamins may be regarded as istihlak. The fuqaha discussed using impurities medicinally. The widespread use of gelatin in pharmaceuticals and vitamins could make avoiding it a public affliction [‘umum al-balwa]; and therefore excusable. If equivalent alternatives exist, then one should opt for them instead.
And Allah knows best.
Answered by Yaqub Abdurrahman