As Salaamu Alaikum.
Are prawns and shrimps halal, haraam or makrooh? If it is makrooh, what should I do if someone offers me to eat those?
As Salaamu Alaikum Wa Rahamatullah,
With respect to the ruling on Shrimp, the three Imams of Fiqh, Imam Malik, Shafi and Ahmad (AR) have considered it to be permissible to eat since they have allowed the eating of all the dead of the sea. As for the ruling according to the Madhhab of Imam Abu Hanifa (AR), this is based upon whether Shrimp is considered to be a fish or not, since according to the Hanafi Madhhab only fish is allowed to be consumed from the dead of sea. (Dead of the sea refers to those things which die on its own in the sea).
With respect to this issue, some scholars from the ‘Ahl Al Lughah’ (experts on language) have considered the Shrimp to be a type of fish. (This is mentioned by Ibn Duraid in Jamharah Al Lughah; Al Firozabadi in Al Qamoos and by Az Zubaidi in Taj Al Arous). The great Egyptian Scholar, Allamah Kamal ud Din Al Damiri (742-808 AH), in his famous Hayaat Al Haiwaan (Encyclopedia on the life of Animals), has written. ‘The Shrimp, is a very small fish which is reddish’. (Hayaat Al Haiwaan (Urdu) vol.2 pg. 137 Islami Kutub Lahore). Based upon this definition, some scholars of the Hanafi Madhhab have considered Shrimp to be permissible to consume. However, it is also evident from research and investigations done by marine biologists and zoologists that Shrimp is not classified as a fish. Instead, it is classified as a crustacean.
Those scholars of the Hanafi Madhhab who accept this definition given by marine biologists and Zoologists (who are experts in the field of animal life) have stated that since Shrimp is not classified as a fish, it will not be permissible to consume, based on the Usool (Maxim) of the Hanafi Madhhab which states that from the dead of the sea, only the fish is permissible to consume.
From this, we see that there are differences among the Scholars of the Hanafi Madhhab based on the definition given for the Shrimp. Those who accept the definition which states that it is a type of fish, allow its consumption, and those who accept the statement which mentions that it is not a fish, do not allow its consumption.
While discussing this matter of differences among the scholars, the great scholar Mufti Taqi Usmani (DB) has written in his famous Takmilah Fath Al Mulhim, ‘the question here is whether scientific investigation/examination should be considered in classifying it as a fish, or should ‘the understanding custom (norm) among people’ ( Al Urf Al Mutafahim Baina An Nas) be considered? There is no doubt that at the time of differences in custom (norm), the custom (norm) of the Arabs is considered. It is so because the exemption of ‘As Samak’ (the fish) from among the ‘dead of the sea’ has been mentioned in the Arabic language, and we have already mentioned that the experts of language (Ahl Al Lughah) like Ibn Duraid, Al Firozabadi, Az Zubaidi and Ad Damiri have all stated that the Shrimp is a type of fish’.
‘So those who consider and examine the reality and true nature of the Shrimp based on scientific research and investigation, have prohibited the consumption of Shrimp, and those who have looked at the custom (norm) of the Arabs in the understanding of the word, have allowed its consumption’. ‘Sometimes, that which is understood from the Shariah in matters like these, go back to ‘the understanding custom/norm among the people’, and not that of scientific investigation/examination in theoretical research’.
Mufti Taqi Sahab (DB) further stated that this is not a matter in which there should be severity, rigidity or inflexibility, since it is one in which there are differences among the expert Jurists (Fuqaha) of the Hanafi Madhhab, which in itself brings about lightening (Takhfeef) in the matter. However, refraining from consuming it is more cautious, better and more proper/correct. (Takmilah Fath Al Mulhim- Kitaab As Said Wa Adh Dhaba’ih (Baab Maitaat Al Bahr)- Kitab An Nawazil Vol.14 pgs 410-413. Darul Ishaat Karachi 2016).
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.