Khat is a stimulant drug derived from the wild plant Catha edulis that grows in eastern Africa and the southwestern Arabian Peninsula. Chewing the leaves of this plant produces a state of euphoria. Although khat was and still is primarily used by Muslims to enhance prayer, its demand is growing across the globe. The subject of khat usage is heavily debated in Islam because there is no clear statement about it in the Islamic scriptures.
Khat as a Holy Tree
Pro-khat users have referred to it as the "Leaf of Allah," "Flower of Paradise" and the "Sustenance of the Righteous." The author of "Leaf of Allah," Ezekiel Gebissa, states: "Khat is a tree that God loves. It’s a tree blessed by Rabi (God) and given to us. This is a tree that man cannot command. A lot of people with power have tried to control it, especially the price of selling the leaves. None has succeeded so far. This tree is not just another ordinary plant; it is a Leaf of Allah.”
An Aid to Religious Practice
Muslim khat users believe that the chewing and consumption of khat increases concentration during prayer and enhances worship. This is not only evident in traditional Muslim sects, but in the mystical Sufi sect as well. Khat users chew the leaves while reading the Quran, listening to the Quran and while performing rituals. Moreover, it is used during the week-long Yemeni wedding celebrations as well.
Those who support khat state that the Quran does not make any specific reference to it. However, those who push for its prohibition look to the Quran's view on intoxicants. The Quran (5:91) states: "Satan only wants to cause between you animosity and hatred through intoxicants and gambling and to avert you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. So will you not desist?" Although this passage can be interpreted as referring to alcohol, it can also refer to khat. Intoxicants are also prohibited in chapters 5:90 and 2:219 of the Quran.
Although khat is heavily used in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, more governments are beginning to crack down worldwide. Saudi Arabia, for example, has strict regulations on khat, and parts of Somalia have banned it as well. In addition, many first-world nations, such as the United States, Sweden, Canada and France, have prohibited the stimulant. Many believe that although its effects are minor, the chance of abuse is high. However, Yemen has continued to legalize khat because of its use in the country's Muslim culture.
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