Friday, February 09, 2007

Seafood - Which seafood is halal?

Assalamu-Alaikum Brother Nasir,
Sorry to bother you.
i have a question regarding which sea food is halal. i have got many references from different sources but they conflict. i am specifically being askedfor these sea food:
- Octopus-

According to quran sea-food is halal (except eel) but then different imams givedifferent reasonings about which ones are halal and which ones are not. can you provideme with any reference or source/information from where i can precisely find which onesare halal?

Thanks for your help



Assalam o allaikum Brother,

May you be in the best of health and imaan.. amiin.

When I was in university a few years ago, I faced a similar problem as to how to know what is halal for me when it came to sea food. It is true that when you look at Quran it is very much simplified ( or so it seems) that seafood in general is made halal but when you look at the opinions of the scholars, you find that there is a difference of opinion.

Now, one should bear in mind that when we talk about Aimma-Mujtahideen, the imams of the 4 madhabs, we should keep in mind that they were all mujtahids ( their opinions are highly revered), and so an opinion coming from them has to have a strong reasoning behind it. I am not an expert on all madahibs, neither do I know the dalaail (reasonings) of the verdicts from all madaahibs however, I have learnt from ulema who follow the hanafi madhab. So I can only give you information based on this school of thought. It is also noteworthy that one should adhere to one school of thought for all the problems since every school of thought has a strong base of principles of jurisprudence that determines the validity and invalidity of certain actions.

I have read that other schools, shafii, maliki and hanbali are laxed on this particular issue where they regard most of the creatures of the ocean to be halal including fish. The view in Hanafi scholarship is very much restricted, so much so that Hanafi school of thought only allows fish to be consumed from the sea. All other creatures like crabs, prawns, etc. are considered non-halal creatures. Now ofcourse there is a daleel (reasoning) for this verdict in Hanafi school of thought.

Let's see the ayah that talks about seafood ( or shall I say, the ayah that is given as a proof that all sea-creatures are allowed for consumption):

أُحِلَّ لَكُمْ صَيْدُ الْبَحْرِ وَطَعَامُهُ مَتَاعًا لَّكُمْ وَلِلسَّيَّارَةِ وَحُرِّمَ عَلَيْكُمْ صَيْدُ الْبَرِّ مَا دُمْتُمْ حُرُمًا وَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ الَّذِيَ إِلَيْهِ تُحْشَرُونَ
Translation: Lawful to you is the pursuit of water-game and its use for food,- for the benefit of yourselves and those who travel; but forbidden is the pursuit of land-game;- as long as ye are in the sacred precincts or in pilgrim garb. And fear Allah, to Whom ye shall be gathered back. (Abdullah Yusuf Ali)

Based on this ayah, it is usually interpreted that Allah SWT has made all creatures in the ocean halal. The words that are used '...Sayd ul Bahr Wa Ta'aamuhu' which means 'Lawful is made unto you hunting in sea and its food...'.

Sayd can be translated in two different forms - Literally meaning hunting or figuratively meaning hunted animal.

So if we try to translate ayah based on these two meanings we will get:
1)Lawful is made for you sea-hunting and its food. (literal)
2) Lawful is made for you sea-animal and sea-food. (figurative)

In the usool of fiqh, one cannot abandon the literal meaning at the expense of a figurative meaning without a valid daleel. In this particular case, scholars of Hanafi school have adhered to the literal meaning, that is 'Lawful is made for you sea-hunting and its food'.

The reason for adhering to the literal meaning is because of the second part of the ayah. The meaning of the complete ayah is:

Translation (5:96):
Lawful to you is (the pursuit of) water game and its use for food – for the benefit of yourselves and those who travel, but forbidden is (the pursuit of) land game as long as you are in a state of Ihrâm (for Hajj or 'Umrah). And fear Allâh to Whom you shall be gathered back.

It should be noted that this ayah is talking about the people who are in Ahraam ( Pilgrimage garb) and Shariah decrees that during the state of ahraam, one is permissible to hunt in the sea while it is unlawful to hunt on the land and therefore we see in the ayah that the context of Saydul Bahr (hunting in sea) flows into the context of Saydul Barr (hunting on land) and the meaning of the ayah becomes:

Hunting of sea animals is halaal for a muhrim (one in ahraam) while hunting of wild animals on land is unlawful for him.

If we take the figurative meaning, the meaning of the ayah will become:

Sea-animals are halaal for a muhrim while wild animals on land are unlawful to him.

But this is not true. We know that a person in ahraam is allowed to eat the halal wild animal meat as long as he has not hunted that animal himself or was not involved in hunting or catching the animal. This proves that we ought to stick with the literal meaning in this ayah and not the figurative (or interpreted) meaning.


Wa Ta'aamuhu - meaning its food.

We read and hear that when it is said 'its food' , it means all the creatures in the ocean and not just the fish. To support this argument, often a hadeeth is quoted from Rasulallah SAW that:
'It's (the ocean's) water is pure and its carrion (the dead) are halaal."

Based on this hadeeth it is said that anything that is found in sea is halaal for us. But if one sees the hadeeth of the Rasulallah SAW where he specifically mentions the carrions being halaal for us, one would see that infact here carrion means only fish.

Rasulallah SAW is reported to have said:
"Two carrions are made Halaal for us; Fish and Locust" [ Mishkaat Vol 2: P361]

It means that fish and locust are the only two animals/insects that do not need to be slaughtered. So Rasulallah SAW gave us the explanation of the carrion being halaal restricted only to fish and not the sea animals in general.

Another hadeeth that is often quoted to prove that all animals in sea are halaal is:

"Everything in ocean is Madhbooh (slaughtered)." [Bukhari]

In the book Fathul Bari, we see with strong chains of narrations that Umar RA and Ali RA said:
"All fish are slaughtered already by Allah SWT"

So again it was clarified by the Sahaba that when it came to understanding of lawful from sea, it was only fish that was meant as lawful.


Note: The references for this article are from the fatwas of Mufti Ebrahim Desai , Madrassah Innamiyah, South Africa.


Shariq Imtiaz said...

I would like to ask further regarding this
"Can we figure out the status of the other sea food" should we consider it as Mukrooh or Haram.


ابو حليمة said...

Wa allaikum Assalam Br. Shariq,

Brother, what I understand from the evidences given by Mufti Ebrahim is that only fish is acceptable as Halal and nothing other than fish is allowed for consumption as per the hanafi school of jurisprudence.

However, there are other hanafi scholars who also accept sea food, other than fish, to be makruh.

According to Shafii, maliki and hanbali school of jurisprudence, all sea food is Halal and consumable.

Jazakallahukhair, for visiting my blog.

AbuHajira bin Abdul Hameed said...

Assalamu Alaykum

I just thought this as pertinant to the post.

Wassalamu Alaikum

Q.) I would like to ask whether oyster or oyster extract, shrimp, lobster, and shark are halal, haram, makrooh, or makrooh-e-tahrimi according to all four madhabs.

Can you please specify the view of each of the four Imams regarding each of the sea foods.

A.) According to the Hanbaliy and Shafi'ee scholars, all living creatures that live in the sea are halal, whether they are in the form of a fish or not. (Fiqh alal Madhaahib al-Arbaa). Based on this, oyster, oyster extract, shrimp, lobster and shark are all halal and permissible.

According to the Maliki scholars, every living creature of the sea is halal except eel. (Ibid) Hence, oyster, oyster extract, shrimp, lobster and shark are halal and permissible.

According to the Hanafi scholars, the only living creatures of the sea that are permissible are those that are in the form of a fish with an exception of the hagfish and eel. (Ibid). (these 2 even though they are not in the form of a fish they will be permissible to consume).

Hence, according to the Hanafi scholars, it will not be permissible to eat oyster, oyster extract, shrimp and lobsters. It will be permissible to consume shark as it is in the form of a fish.

And Allah Ta'ala Knows Best
Mufti Ebrahim Desai

AdmiralPrice said...

Assalamu Alaikum,

Thank you so much for this post. My problem is, even after reading your explanation, I don't feel satisfied. Even if we take Mufti Taqi Usmani's position that prawn is halal (but should be avoided), I still don't feel satisfied. Every time I review the ayah, I feel dissatisfied with my madhhab's opinion. Is it lawful under these conditions to take the Maliki opinion, or is this just the whisperings of Shaitaan?