Doha: A religious decree allowing consumption of drinks that contain small quantities of alcohol, which is prohibited in Islam, is sparking controversy among scholars and intellectuals in Qatar.

Qatar-based sunni cleric Yousuf Al Qaradawi issued a religious edict last week sanctioning that an amount of 5/1000 or 0.5% of alcohol in a drink is permissible in Islam.

The Egypt-born scholar, who chairs the International Organisation of Islamic Ulema [legislators], said such small amount of alcohol is allowed because it does not cause intoxication. However he specified the drink should be naturally fermented.

“An alcohol volume of up to 5/1000 or 0,5% in a drink has no significance in making it haram [prohibited]. It is a very small quantity, especially if it results from natural fermentation and is not manufactured,'' said the fatwa, a copy of which was made available to Gulf News by Qaradawi's office.

The 78-year old scholar issued the edict in reply to public queries over the distribution of energetic drinks and food items containing small quantities of alcohol, which are available in the local market.

But other intellectuals and scholars expressed surprise if not strong opposition at Qaradawi's edict.

“It sounds really new and surprising to me. In Islam nobody had ever set a standard for alcohol consumption before,'' a scholar of Qatar University, who asked not to be named, told Gulf News.

Editor in chief of Qatar's leading Arabic daily Al Sharq strongly argued against Al Qaradawi fatwa accusing him of stirring ‘confusion' among Muslims.

“The fatwa will open the door to those who want to consume drinks containing small proportions of alcohol under the pretext that neither the Koran nor the Sunna (Prophet Mohammed's sayings and doings) defined the proportion,'' said Abdullatif Al Mahmoud, from the first page of his newspaper on Thursday.