DOHA (AFP) – Prominent Qatar-based Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi has sparked controversy by issuing a religious edict allowing Muslims to consume tiny amounts of alcohol, which is banned in Islam.

“The latest fatwa caused confusion among people… We could have done without it,” the editor of the Qatari daily Ash-Sharq, Abdullatif al-Mahmud, wrote on Thursday.

In his fatwa published on Tuesday in the Qatar’s Al-Arab newspaper, the Egyptian-born Qaradawi said that consuming drinks containing small quantities of alcohol that is “constituted naturally through fermentation” did not violate Islamic teachings.

“The presence of alcohol in a proportion of five in a thousand (0.5 percent) is not banned because it is a minimal quantity, especially when it is produced by natural fermentation. Hence there’s nothing wrong in consuming such a drink,” Qaradawi said.

But Ash-Sharq’s editor said “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” that is permitted or banned.

“Fermentation, when natural, is an ongoing process that does not stop at a certain limit and is difficult to measure,” Mahmud said.

Qaradawi, an influential Sunni cleric, told AFP on Thursday that his fatwa sparked controversy because it had not been properly understood.

The fatwa came in response to a question about “an energy drink available on the market” in Qatar, a conservative Muslim state, he said.

A former dean of the sharia (Islamic law) school at Qatar University, Abdul Hamid al-Ansari, told AFP he agreed with the content of Qaradawi’s fatwa.

But Ansari said he objected to the number of fatwas being issued in Muslim societies, saying they are “hampering their progress.”