The only vinegar that is available to a Muslim is that which is sold in the shops, and invariably, these will all have been made by a deliberate process from alcoholic beverages. Applying the ruling that it is unlawful for Muslims to use vinegar manufactured from alcohol by a deliberate process would make it practically impossible for a Muslim to ever have any vinegar. It would also mean that Muslims would have to avoid a considerable amount of the food products on the market, like most tomato ketchups, mayonnaise, and most processed and packaged foods. What are we to do?
There are three matters that we must take into consideration when answering this question.
The first of these is the question of who carried out the manufacture of the wine vinegar. There are two possibilities. It might be carried out by Muslims or by non-Muslims. The ruling differs depending on which is the case.
If the manufacture of wine vinegar is carried out by Muslims, then that vinegar is unlawful. It cannot be bought, sold, or utilized. This is because the Prophet (peace be upon him) forbid us from using wine to make vinegar. Anas relates that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) was asked if it was permissible to take wine for vinegar. He replied in the negative. [Sahîh Muslim (1983)]
If, on the other hand, the vinegar is manufactured by those who believe that it is permissible to do so – like the Jews and Christians – then it is permissible for Muslims to buy it, sell it, and utilize it.
The second point that we must consider is the percentage of vinegar present in the food products in question. If the percentage is so small that it is completely submerged in the other pure substances in which it is found, then it has no effect upon the permissibility of the food product. This applies equally to any small percentage of an unlawful substance that is completely submerged in something lawful – whether the substance in question is a pork derivative, some unlawfully derived animal-based emulsifier, or some small amount of alcohol.
The third point to consider is that vinegar can be manufactured without the original juice going through a stage where it is wine. This is accomplished by introducing certain additives into the vinegar-making process that prevent the formation of wine.
And Allah knows best.
Source: Islam Today
-- Al Arabiya Digital