I used to be a smoker.
My lungs are cleaner now and I don’t cough as much.
It was after Friday prayers when I joined the congregation of smokers outside the mosque, making small talk with fellow Muslims who work in the vicinity of Chinatown.
A familiar face emerged from the mild cloud of grey smoke, smiling and making awkward yet friendly hand gestures.
‘Assalamualaikum,’ he said, extending an arm out toward me.
My hand met with his and I promptly replied, ‘Wa’alaikum’assalam.’
Taufik was an ex-classmate of mine back in secondary school; a guy affectionately known by everyone for being utterly devoted to his religion.
He’d just started working at an advertising agency which is located about five minutes away from where I work.
The guy has a perpetual smile on his face; nothing could ever wipe that stamp of happiness off his face.
Another ex-classmate of mine once joked that he wants to be just like him when her grows up; always upbeat and optimistic, never showing any signs of worry or grief.
I offered him a cigarette and he kindly declined.
He used to be a smoker, he said.
‘Is it because it’s haram?’ I joked.
‘Smoking is not haram, it is makruh,’ he politely corrected me.
The Arabic word ‘Makruh’ means disliked or detestable.
Makruh – A thing or an act which is disliked and refrained by the Prophet. Thought it is not haram, those who abstain from committing such acts will be rewarded. It is highly encouraged for Muslims to avoid engaging in them.
Examples of acts considered to be makruh – smoking, seeking revenge, wasting water while performing ablution, being boastful, belittling others, material yearning, greed, rude conduct, excessive laughter, being overly reliant on others, complaining about life, fanaticism, associating with sinners, excessive sleeping, being unfair.
Taufik quit smoking because it made him feel lethargic, caused him to choose the sofa in front of the television over his running shoes more often than not.
‘I used to run at least three times a week and play football every Sunday but ever since I started smoking, I realized that there’s a gradual loss of interest in physical activities, even things I used to look forward to like football seemed like a chore,’ he said.
He looked at his watch and told me he had to rush back to the office for a meeting.
We shook hands and said goodbye.
I stood there thinking, studying my half smoked cigarette as if some profound message was going to form from the steady flow of smoke.
It made me think about how I used to go to the gym after work but not anymore.
It made me think of my irregular sleep patterns.
It made me think of my poor food choices.
Surely, I could not put all the blame on the tobacco sticks I craved for every few minutes/hours.
But the conspicuous correlation between the two was difficult to ignore.
I took out my pack of cigarettes from my back pocket, looked at it with acute disdain, squeezed it tightly in the palm of my hands and tossed it in the bin.
That was the day I quit smoking.
It wasn’t easy but it was worth it. I used analogical reasoning each time I felt like giving up, each time doubt gnawed on me, urging me to light a stick.
I thought of my body as a place of worship-the mosque I frequent to be exact-and how I wouldn’t want it to be polluted by harmful substances, corroding its interior with every irresponsible behavior.
Smoking might ‘only’ be makruh, but it was evidently detrimental to my well-being.
The same can be said for other things or acts that falls under the category of Makruh.
A young Singaporean whose life revolves around writing, live music, ice-cream, Arsenal Football Club, and sometimes, drifting in and out of existential crisis. He is currently working on a book of short stories titled, ‘Singaporeans Cried When They Found Out Their Hearts Were Made In China.’
Editor’s Note: There has been an increasing shift in fatwas to declare smoking is haram but there is no consensus by the ulama’ currently so the writer is entitled to hold the opinion that he does.