Can a person wear perfume/aftershave that contains alcohol? If so can they pray with that on?
Answer by Shaykh Salim Ghiza
In the name of Allah the Most Beneficent and Merciful.
Alcohol as a form of intoxicant is not only Haram to drink but is also impure (Najis). This means that when it contacts something pure then the pure item will absorb the impurity and all will become impure. However, the question remains as to whether the alcohol that is used in perfumes is the same alcohol that is used in liquor.
The simple answer after research is that the alcohol used in perfumes and deodorants is namely Phenylethyl (Benzyl) and is manufactured by synthesis from benzene and ethylene oxide and therefore it is not the product which is used in liquids so it would be permissible to use and the clothing or body would not become impure so it could be worn whilst praying Salaah.
The alcohol used in intoxicants is generally Ethanol based and is fermented in the process. The Prophet of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) forbade any form of alcohol fermented using grapes, wheat, barley or dates so if the perfume contained ethanol or fermented alcohol using the above sources then it would be impure and would also make the clothing and body impure. However, in general terms the alcohol used in Benzyl is a by-product not gone through the fermented process and is therefore clean and allowed to be used.
To clarify, the chemical structure of ethanol is C2 H5-OH. The entire alcohol family have one or more Hydroxyl OH group. Benzyl alcohol despite being part of this group is used as a preservative in baby products and can never be used to ferment liquors. There is a clear distinction between ethanol and other types of chemical alcohol, hence it would be permissible to use deodorants, perfumes and shampoos containing alcohol except ethanol and the alcohol derived from grapes or dates, which is in itself Najis (impure) making the body as well as clothing impure!
Therefore based on the above information it is permissible to use aftershaves, perfumes, body sprays etc that contain benzyl alcohol as this is not the same alcohol used in liquors. However, the scholars do state that as far as piety and Taqwa are concerned then one should avoid it unless sure of the contents.
Of course Allah knows best.