What is the ruling of growing kratom (ketum) for commercial purposes (to be sold to medicine and pharmaceutical industry)?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
Regarding the above issue, we will start our discussion with a brief introduction about kratom.
Kratom or the scientific name Mitragyna speciose is an evergreen tropical tree native to the Southeast Asia, specifically found in Thailand and Malaysia. It is traditionally used in treating fatigue, back pains and flatulence problems by the ingestion of raw leaves or consumption of teas made from the leaves of kratom trees.
Kratom tree is popular in the early 2003 as the cause of addiction. It contains a compound known as mitraginin. Mitraginin is a compound listed in Third Schedule of Poisons (Psychotrapic Substance) Regulation 1989, Poison Ordinance 1952. Thus, it is banned in January 2003. 
Legal Status of Kratom
- Malaysia: The usage of Kratom is banned. This is stated in section 30 (3) of the Poisons Act 1952 and users of kratom leaf can be charged a maximum of RM 10,000 and imprisonment not exceeding 4 years.
- Thailand: Possession of kratom leaves in Thailand is also banned. The Thai government has approved Kratom Act 2486 which takes effect on 3 August 1943 which makes the planting of kratom trees illegal and existing trees should be cut off. However, its enforcement is ineffective because the use of kratom leaves is supported by the Thai community for it has been used extensively for medical purposes. Therefore, there is a movement to make kratom as 'halal' (permissible) and not listed as a type of narcotic drug that falls under category 5, Thailand’s Narcotics Drug Law 1979.
- United States of America (USA): US Drug Enforcement Administration issued a statement regarding kratom stating that while it is not included as a Federal Controlled Substances Act, several states in America have banned the possession and usage of kratom. For example, Alabama has banned kratom and asks all shops to withdraw all products which contains any elements of kratom.
The Ruling of Growing Kratom
Originally, growing kratom is permissible, the same as growing other types of plants. There are no specific evidences that prohibit planting kratom trees, thus, it is included as mubahat (permissible) matters. However, the permissibility could change into a prohibition if there are other factors that proves it brings a greater harm.
For example, a grape tree is permissible for humans for its benefits. However, growing grape trees for the purpose of commercial planting for the production of alcoholic beverages is prohibited. Other than the fact that alcoholic beverages is prohibited in syarak, its harm to health and socio-economy of society also contributes to its prohibition.
Mafsadah (Harm) vs Benefit (Manfa’ah)
The same could be said regarding kratom trees. Undeniably, kratom leaves have been used as a traditional remedy to treat several ailments, however, despite its benefits, there is a greater harm (addiction problem) that has been reported in Malaysia. This is in accordance with Allah SWT’s statement:
يَسَۡٔلُونَكَ عَنِ ٱلۡخَمۡرِ وَٱلۡمَيۡسِرِۖ قُلۡ فِيهِمَآ إِثۡم كَبِير وَمَنَٰفِعُ لِلنَّاسِ وَإِثۡمُهُمَآ أَكۡبَرُ مِن نَّفۡعِهِمَاۗ
“They ask you about wine and gambling. Say, "In them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people. But their sin is greater than their benefit."
Surah al-Baqarah (219)
Al-Imam Ibn Jarir al-Tabari stated in his commentaries; even though there is benefit from them (gambling and wine), however the sin is greater than the benefit. For example, wine is a delicious drink but results in intoxication that would lead to other harm (such as insulting and hurting others or damaging property), that could ultimately lead to murder or accidental killing. The same goes for gambling, for it is a game filled with anticipation and entertainment that promises (uncertain) great wealth, however, it is also the very reason for deception and callousness in humans. There is benefit, but the mafsadat (harms) are greater.
Although kratom is a great alternative for prescribed drugs due to its cheap price and availability, the abuse of kratom will lead to addiction problems in our country. Our country already has a serious drug addiction problem, we do not need kratom to add to the addiction problem in our society.
Everything That Is Harmful is Prohibited to be Consumed
Syeikh Dr Yusuf al-Qaradhawi Hafizahullah state in his book al-Halal wa al-Haram fi al-Islam: “It is impermissible for a Muslim to eat or drink from anything, even if it is in a small portion, that could harm him, whether immediately or slowly, such as poison or anything that can harm or trouble him. The same goes for eating or drinking excessively, for excessive drinking or eating is harmful for him.”
A Muslim individual does not own himself, but he is owned by his religion and the ummah in terms of his life, health and property. Everything that a person has, in truth are blessings of Allah SWT for him and it his responsibility to take care of His blessings. Allah SWT states:
وَلَا تُلۡقُواْ بِأَيۡدِيكُمۡ إِلَى ٱلتَّهۡلُكَةِ
“And do not throw [yourselves] with your [own] hands into destruction [by refraining].”
Surah al-Baqarah (195)
The same as wine (alcoholic beverages - intoxicating), drug is an intoxicant that hinder one’s ability to think rationally, and kratom leaves have the same effects. Thus, regarding this issue the prohibition of drugs and kratom leaves is concluded through qiyas (analogical deduction).
This is supported by Hujjatul Islam al-Imam al-Ghazali Rahimahullah in his book al-Mustasfa where he said, anything that is an intoxicant, whether it is a type of food or drink is prohibited through qiyas with the ruling for alcoholic beverages. It is prohibited as a protection of the intellect (hifz al-‘aql), taking into consideration of the benefit of the prohibition for every Muslim. (See al-Mustasfa, 1/174).
The Prophet PBUH said:
لاَ ضَرَرَ وَلاَ ضِرَارَ
“There should be neither harming nor reciprocating harm.”
Musnad Ahmad (22778) and Sunan Ibnu Majah (2340)
Kratom leaves may have benefits, but the mafsadah is greater, hence, Malaysia’s government also banned it through the Poisons Act 1952, Section 30 (3) by including it as a psychotropic substance. Indirectly employing sad al-Zari’ah (closing the doors of harm); for addiction or abuse of kratom leaves.
Fatwa of the National Council for Islamic Religious Affairs Malaysia
Here we include the fatwa from the National Council on the ruling of drugs such as syabu and new designer drugs, where kratom leaves falls under the same category for the same ‘illah (reason of a ruling) they all share in common; which is as an intoxicant and harmful.
The 76th discussion of Fatwa Committee of the National Council for Islamic Religious Affairs Malaysia convened on 21 - 23 Nov 2006 discussed the Ruling on Substance Abuse of Syabu and Other New Drug Types. The discussion has decided that syabu and other types of drugs have the same harmful effects as ecstasy, katamine and Gamma Hyroxybutyric Acid (GHB).
Therefore, drug abuse of syabu and other new drugs are prohibited and all activities related to the abuse of this drug, such as planting, processing, possession, selling, distributing, buying or allowing the premises to be used for or participate in any activities of the above-mentioned substances are also prohibited.
DISCUSSION OF THE ISLAMIC LEGAL CONSULTATIVE COMMITTEE OF FEDERAL TERRITORIES
On August 1, 2016 equivalent to 27 Syawal 1437H, Islamic Legal Consultative Committee of Federal Territories has decided that the proposed planting or growing of kratom tree is prohibited. This is based on the greater mafsadah (damage) and harm than its benefits.
THE STATEMENT OF MUFTI OF FEDERAL TERRITORIES
After analysing various views and opinions regarding planting or growing kratom trees, we are inclined towards the opinion to avoid planting the said trees for the following reasons:
- First: Mafsadah (damages) and harms are greater than the benefits
- Second: Even if the intention is good and it is clearly for pharmaceutical/medicinal purposes, but the control and regulation against the misuse or abuse of kratom leaves is a huge challenge for any individual or society.
- Third: To avoid irresponsible people from taking advantage of growing kratom leaves for the wrong reasons.
- Fourth: In our country’s current situation where it is difficult to handle drug issues and others, this will increase the difficulty to finally eradicate the drug problems in our country, as though we are asking for more harm or disasters.
Furthermore, in our opinion there are many more types of trees that could be commercialized to increase our income other than growing kratom leaves. Lastly, may Allah SWT protect Malaysians from any disasters and give us understanding in religion. Wassalam.