Q. If a minute quantity of alcohol in a drink makes it haraam, then what will be the ruling of over-ripe fruit which also contains a minute amount of alcohol? Even vinegar retains a minute amount of alcohol.
Where do we draw the line?
A. When alcohol is added as an ingredient, the product becomes haraam regardless of the small quantity. In fruit, alcohol is not added from outside as an ingredient. The fruit is in its natural state. As long as it has not deteriorated to the degree of an intoxicant, it will remain permissible regardless if chemical testing determine a presence of traces of alcohol. It will suffice that it is not an intoxicant, and alcohol was not added to it. If alcohol is added to the vinegar during production, then such vinegar will be haraam. We do not know of the process by which vinegar is made nowadays. If the minute amount of alcohol in vinegar is not due to alcohol added as an ingredient, but is the remnant after the natural process of transformation, then the vinegar will be halaal.
However, as far as the Shaafi’ Math-hab is concerned, all vinegar made nowadays and all soap are haraam.