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What Is the Ruling of Carmine Cochineal Insects?

Answered by: Maulana Mohammed Haroon Hussain


What Is the Ruling of Carmine Cochineal Insects

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful


Carmine is the name of the dye that is made from the Cochineal beetle. A large number of the beetles are boiled, dried and crushed and this red dye (called carmine) is extracted from that mixture of crushed beetles.

According to the majority of scholars, consuming insects is not permissible. 

Allah (swt) mentions in the Quran:

ويحل لهم الطيبات ويحرم عليهم الخبائث

“…permits for them what is lawful and forbids to them what is impure”[1]

The word خبائث has been translated as a number of different words to give you an idea of what it means: “foul, filthy, impure, evil, corrupt” etc. This word basically encompasses all things that the sound, human disposition naturally feels disgusted or dislike towards. The human disposition is not normally pleased with the idea of eating insects. This is something that the vast majority of people would find to be nauseating even as a concept let alone as a meal.

Taking rulings from other schools of jurisprudence is only done when there is an urgent need and the answers from one’s own madhab cannot address the urgent need. An example of this is when the Maliki view is taken for having Shariah councils in non-Muslims countries. The remaining madhabs consider it impermissible, but due to an urgent need, it is adopted from the Maliki school. In this example, eating insects is not an urgent need. At the most, people just want to eat certain confectionary or use lipstick in which it is found. Therefore, the urgent need has not been found and consequently, the views of other schools will not be explored as there is no need.

Having said that:

  • According to the Hanafi school, eating insects is not permissible[2].
  • According to the Shafii school, eating insects is not permissible.
  • According to the Hanbali school, eating insects is not permissible[3].
  • According to the Maliki school, eating insects would only be permissible if they are killed in such a way that makes them fit to eat (e.g. locusts). In the case of carmine, they are being used purely as a colouring, with all their body parts put into it, including the intestines and what is in them etc, and they are not being made fit to eat; therefore the Maliki scholars have also said it is not permissible[4].

The only exceptions to this rule (of not eating insects) are 1) locusts (which are allowed by hadith), 2) extreme need (i.e. due to famine and extreme hunger, there is nothing else to eat so one is forced to eat insects) and 3) a negligible amount which would be very difficult to take out (e.g. if a fly fell into a pot of food and disintegrated). We cannot do qiyas upon the third example and say that carmine is a negligible amount because in the fly example the addition was accidental and the removal almost impossible. In the carmine example, the addition is deliberate and it could have been left out altogether.

From the nature of your question, it appears that you are waiting for such a time when the ruling on this changes (i.e. groundbreaking research) or are looking for someone who can say that it is permissible. I have explained in depth why it is not allowed and what circumstances would have made it permissible (i.e. extreme need or accidental addition to a degree where removal would be impossible.) So, whatever future research is done on the topic, it will remain bound to the same principles and points. It is not something that will be called halal in 10 years time, because the essence of it is the same. It should be kept in mind that most of what we are upon today were finalised and defined over a thousand years ago, and new research is subservient to the principles of jurisprudence.

Exceptions and extreme circumstances are always being considered by the senior scholars of the schools, even before the public starts asking about them. I have given more detail than usual so that you can understand some of the thinking and processes that go into giving answers in these circumstances. It is not a random or thoughtless process; rather it has principles and systems of determining answers. The answers are taken from a wide-reaching range of sources also i.e. the Quran, the Sunnah, the Ijma and the Qiyas.

You can find more information in the following fatwas on the Darul Ifta Birmingham website:

Changing madhab for convenience – Darul Ifta Birmingham

Is it necessary to follow any one of the four imams – Darul Ifta Birmingham

Only Allah knows best

Written by Maulana Mohammed Haroon Hussain

Checked and approved by Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah

Darul Ifta Birmingham

[1] سورة الأعراف: 157

[2] فالظاهر أن مراد المصنف هو أنه إنما تكره الحشرات كلها لأن الضب منها، وقد ورد في كراهة أكله النص فيستدل بكراهة أكله على كراهة أكل سائر الحشرات أيضا بطريق القياس لاشتراك كلها في علة الكراهة. ثم أقول: ليت شعري لم وقع المصنف في هذا المضيق ولم يتشبث في إثبات كراهة أكل الحشرات كلها بقوله تعالى {ويحرم عليهم الخبائث} [الأعراف: 157] والظاهر أن

ص501 – فتح القدير – فصل فيما يحل أكله وما لا يحل

[3] الاتجاه الأول: هو حرمة أكل جميع الحشرات، لاستخباثها ونفور الطباع السليمة منها، وفي التنزيل في صفة النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم: {ويحرم عليهم الخبائث} (2) وهذا مذهب الحنفية والشافعية والحنابلة. واستثنوا من ذلك الجراد فإنه مما أجمعت الأمة على حل أكله، لقول النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم: أحلت لنا ميتتان ودمان، فأما الميتتان: فالحوت والجراد، وأما الدمان: فالكبد والطحال (3) وزاد

ص279 – الموسوعة الفقهية الكويتية – أكل الحشرات

[4] وقد ذهب بعض المالكية إلى حرمة الحشرات والهوام، كابن عرفة والقرافي، ولعلهم أخذوا بالرواية الأخرى في المذهب.

ص280 – الموسوعة الفقهية الكويتية – أكل الحشرات

This answer was collected from DarulIftaBirmingham.co.uk, which is run under the supervision of Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah from the United Kingdom.

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