Using alcohol in making vinegar

Q 3: Many of us have become confused about the issue of using vinegar especially here in Algeria where vinegar contains several degrees of alcohol. We do not know how it is being manufactured. Does it become prohibited, if the percent of alcohol is high? (Part No. 22; Page No. 122) If vinegar is not intended for drinking, but is used with food, such as lettuce, is it permissible to use?

A: Firstly, If the vinegar is generated from khamr (intoxicant), which turns into vinegar by human interference, it becomes impermissible for use. The basic ruling depends on what is related by Muslim in Book of Al-Ashribah (drinks) in his Sahih (authentic book of Hadith), Al-Tirmidhi in Book of Al-Buyu` (sales) in his Al-Jami` (compiled book), and Abu-Dawud in Book of Al-Ashribah in his Sunan (Hadith compilations classified by jurisprudential themes) that Abu Talhah (may Allah be pleased with him) asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) about some orphans who inherited Khamr, and he replied, "'Spill it.' He (Abu-Talhah) then said, 'Should I turn it into vinegar?' The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, 'No.'" Ibn Al-Qayyim (may Allah be merciful to him) said, "This (Hadith) includes a clear declaration that treating alcohol to become vinegar is not permissible. If it was permissible in any way, the orphan would be more entitled to its money, as this money is more deserving to be kept and grown. In addition, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) prohibited wasting money, while spilling the khamr is an excessive waste of money. Accordingly, it becomes known that treating it (Khamr) does not purify or render its gains lawful by any means." This is the opinion of `Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him), and that which was adopted by Al-Shafi`y and Ahmad ibn Hanbal. Secondly, If Khamr turns into vinegar on its own, it becomes permissible to use. The basic ruling in this regard depends on what was related by Muslim in Book of Al-Ashribah in his Sahih, Chapter on (Part No. 22; Page No. 123) the Merits of Vinegar, Al-Tirmidhi in his Al-Jami` in Book of Al-At`imah (foods), Chapter on Vinegar, Al-Nasa'y in Book of Al-Iman (Faith) and Ibn Majah in Book of Al-At`imah, that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "The best food is vinegar." The general meaning of this Hadith is specified in the previous Hadith. Imam Malik (may Allah be merciful to him) said, "I do not recommend a Muslim who inherits Khamr to keep it until it turns into vinegar, but if it sours into vinegar by itself, I do not see any harm in using it."Thirdly, If the vinegar is not generated from Khamr, there is no doubt in its lawfulness, for any acidified juice is to be called vinegar.May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.