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Can one eat Shrimp, crayfish etc.?

Answered as per Hanafi Fiqh by DarulUloomTT.net

Assalamu Alaikum,

For a very long time, I was told that the consumption of crayfish, shrimp, etc. was Makrooh. However, recently, I have heard reports from persons stating it to be Haraam.  So my question is, what is the ruling of the consumption of the aforementioned foods? Lastly, I am being told that if someone is eating these foods, then can continue but if someone isn’t then shouldn’t start. Is this ideology correct and should it be followed?

Wa Alaikum Assalaam,

الجواب و بالله التوفيق

Due to the fact that there are no clear and explicit traditions regarding these, there have been differences of opinion among the great Imams of Islamic Jurisprudence. Their opinions are based on their thorough investigation and hence, accepted in the shariah.

According to Imam Malik (A.R.), Imam Shafi (A.R.) and Imam Ahmad (A.R.), all animals that are fully aquatic and can live only in water and not out of water are all lawful and permissible to consume. This includes fish, sea crab, lobster, crayfish, shrimp, shark, squids etc.

These Imams based their view on the verse of the Holy Quran which states, ‘Hunting of the sea and its food have been made lawful unto you’. (5: 96).

In contrast to this view, Imam Abu Hanifa (A.R.) considers only fish to be permissible and not other marine animals.

This view is based upon the hadith in which the Prophet (S.A.S.) said, ‘Two types of dead (carrion) are lawful for us, they are fish and locust’. (Recorded by Ahmad and Ibn Majah).

The hadith clearly shows that from among all the animals which die on their own (‘dead’, ‘carrion’) only two are permissible. They are: the fish and the locust.

Hence, anything which can be categorized as a ‘fish’ will be permissible according to Imam Abu Hanifa.

While explaining what a fish is, marine biologists have stated, it is ‘an aquatic, cold blooded, gill breathing vertebrate with a two chambered heart’.

Based upon this definition, shrimp, lobster, sea crab, crayfish, squid, oyster etc. will not be considered as a ‘fish’ and hence, not permissible according to Imam Abu Hanifa.

With respect to the verse of the Holy Quran which was used by the other Imams, that is, ‘Hunting of the sea and its food has been made lawful unto you’ (5: 96). Imam Abu Hanifa states that the verse shows the allowance of the act of hunting and not the eating of all that can be hunted in the sea. As for what can be eaten, Imam Abu Hanifa states that the hadith of the Prophet (S.A.S.) informs us of this when it states, ‘Two types of dead are lawful for us, they are the fish and the locust’. (Ahmad, Ibn Majah).

With respect to the ruling of shrimp and crayfish, some scholars of the Madhab of Iman Abu Hanifa have considered it as a type of fish and have allowed its consumption. Some have not considered it as a fish and have not allowed it.

Based on this difference of opinion, many scholars have mentioned that it is allowed to eat shrimps, but it may be better to avoid it.

While giving the ruling on consuming shrimp, the great Hanfi Scholar, Mufti Mahmood Hasan Gangohi (A.R) writes, ‘If shrimp is a type of fish, then it is permissible just as Allama Damiri Shafi (A.R) has mentioned in his book Hayatul Haywan (which states that it is a very small fish which is red) and this is what has been mentioned in ‘Imdadul Fatawa.’ However, if it is not a type of fish, then it will not be permissible, just as it is mentioned in Fatawa Rasheediya.’

‘In ‘Majmoo’atul Fatawa, the two opinions are given about it. It is mentioned that shrimp is unlawful to eat according to some Scholars since it is not like a fish. For us (Hanafis), only the different types of fishes are allowed from the hunt of the sea, and the shrimp is not like that (a fish). Some Scholars however, have stated that it is lawful because it is called a fish.’ (Majmoo’atul Fatawa, Vol. 2, Pg. 297, Saeed H. M. Company, Karachi).’

Mufti Mahmood (A.R) further writes, ‘In ‘Tazkiratul Khaleel’ its ruling is given as not being permissible to consume, and this is the preferred opinion.’

‘Also, when some Scholars have ruled that it is unlawful, then refraining from it is better than consuming it. This is in line with the guidance of the Prophet (S.A.S) in which he said, ‘Leave off that which is doubtful to you for that which is not doubtful.’ (Musnad Ahmad) (Fatawa Mahmoodiya, Vol. 18, Pgs. 212, 213, Idara Al Farooq, Karachi 2009).

The ruling of crayfish is the same as that of shrimp.

With regards to the statement that it is Makrooh to eat shrimp, this is only on account of the conflicting evidence regarding it. Because of this, some Scholars have chosen not to consider it as unlawful like others, but have adopted the view that it is makrooh. They have stated that it cannot be called haram since there is evidence which shows that it is a type of fish.

As for the statement, ‘if you are eating these, then continue and if one is not eating these, then one should not start.’ Then in my humble opinion, this is not the approach that one should adopt in this or any similar matter.

One should instead, look at the research of the most reliable and knowledgeable Hanafi Scholars in this matter and adopt that opinion which corresponds to the most updated and sound investigation done by the experts of this field (who are reliable marine biologists).

Seeing that almost all marine biologists have stated that shrimp is not considered as a type of fish, then this must be accepted.

The difference among the Scholars here, is whether a shrimp is a fish or not. Thus, when this is proven through science by the experts of this field, then their statement should be accepted, and upon this, the Scholars should give their rulings.

Therefore, based on the research of experts done before, many of our past Hanafi Scholars have already issued the fatawa that one should refrain from consuming shrimp based on the fact that it is not a fish. This should be adopted by those who follow the Madhab of Imam Abu Hanifa.

And Allah Knows Best.

Mufti Waseem Khan.


This answer was collected from DarulUloomTT.net, which is operated under the supervision of Mufti Waseem Khan from Darul Uloom Trinidad and Tobago.

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