A native plant of Horn of Africa and part of Arabian Peninsula ‘Catha edulis’ , which is pronounced as Qat or Khat, chat, qaad, miraa , tohat and Kat has historically been chewed as a social custom for thousands of years .In Yemen it is Qat , in Somalia Jaad and in Ethiopia it is called chat.
Its fresh leaves, soft stem and tops are chewed and dried leaves are consumed as tea. Traditionally its usage has been confined to regions where it is cultivated, as only the fresh leaves give the desired stimulating effects. Though it has reportedly been available and used in England, Australia, Israel and Holland and other places. In Yemen it is a treat for family week-end and, a tool for business promotion and decision-making. It is understood that over 40% of Yemeni water supply goes towards irrigation of Khat.
Khat plant takes about eight to grow to its full height needing lots of water, sunshine and little maintenance. It needs heavy water supply few weeks before harvesting to keep leaves and stems soft and green. Good khat plants are harvested nearly four times a year providing the farmers a good yield and source of income. It is well known that ancient Egyptians thought the plant was a divine food capable of releasing humanity’s divinity which could transcend the user into God-like apotheosis. Present day Muslim has to take a note that even a thought of that is bordering to shirk.
Classifying it as a drug capable of being abused the World Health Organisation endeavoured to limit its usage. Khat consumption induces excitement, euphoria and hyperactivity similar to effects that are produced by amphetamines. Amongst these short term effects are long term effects, namely depression, hallucinations, impaired inhibitors, psychosis, loss of sex drive, cancer and it also causes heart attacks. Similar to alcohol and smoking there are known withdrawal symptoms which are lethargy, constipation nightmares, depression, liver function failure etc. The chewer and user could always be recognised by his permanent greenish tinge of his and her darkening of teeth.
Surprisingly the figures show that over 10 million people globally use khat on daily basis. And in some regions people spend more than 17% of their income in chewing this weedy substance in the name of social but surely an “unsocial” habit that like tobacco chewing or smoking does not provide any nourishment or energy required for the human moral and. Body functions. Proof of this plant being without benefit is writing of Malay author Abdullah bin Abdul Kadiri in which he observed that whence he was in Yemen around 1854, he asked users who were spitting green saliva after chewing the leaves, “what benefits they gained chewing and drinking khat leaves and stems”? Reply was, ‘none whatsoever, apart from that it is just another expense for us and we have grown accustomed to it’. Even famous English writer Charles Dickens mocked the Horn region and the adjacent Gulf territories as green tea drinkers of camel loads.
Usage of Khat is legal in Ethiopia, Somalia and Saudi Arabia and some active components of it are legal in Kenya. However, it is illegal in China, Malaysia, Yemen, Finland,France, Iceland and, Ireland . In Norway, Poland and United Kingdom it is classified as narcotic drug. In Israel it is consumed mainly by Yemenite Jews. A while ago a pill called Hagigat extracted from cathinone was being sold in some kiosks and stores in Israel , and because of cathinone some users were hospitalised it and subsequently it was outlawed. Though khat itself is sold and chewed there. In 2008 in Britain a Muslim Conservative politician and a Member of the House of Lords Sayeeda Warsi was campaigning to ban the khat altogether. However, a Commission of Home Office recommended to keep it under close scrutiny. It was recommended in 2012 that there should be a limit of imports of ten tonnes weekly. Giving it the status of class C drug it is now banned, though the users and the protesters of the ban on khat imports plea that Kenyan farmers and traders would be financially ruined.
Alas, ill-effects of usage, ruining people’s family lives, costs of treatment of chewers and users who suffer with different serious sicknesses and loss of man hours at work because of addiction; expense of hard earned monies together with contravention of religious ethos and criteria of permissibility of usage of substances that have adverse effect on health and faculties of normal human senses, members of Muslim community have not thus far refrained from indulgence in khat.
Reasons are manifold. It is imperative to note that at times many a people do overlook and disregard Islamic decree and principles about consumption of substances that could be both injurious to health and result in addiction. Culture and habit play a persuasive part in giving vulnerable to first experiment and then to become addictive without availing a chance to give up for the fears of nasty withdrawal symptoms.
Solution is, firstly not to relish to start the usage of khat leaves or stem and, allure and entice chewers and users to abstain from even thinking to go near it no matter how much tempting and give it up altogether if one has become partial to it. After all have we Muslims not learnt a lesson from what is said about the status, sales and consumption of intoxicants and tobacco chewing and smoking.
MY Allah go with us all,