Can Muslims Eat Shellfish?

The answer to whether or not Muslims can eat shellfish is a bit complicated.

Can Muslims eat shellfish? There are different schools of thought on the matter and different interpretations of Islamic law. Some say it is allowed, while others say it is not.

In this blog post, we will explore the topic in-depth and provide a clear answer. Stay tuned!

What are Shellfish?

fried shrimp tartar sauce
Fried shrimp and tartare sauce. Credit:canva

A shellfish is any marine animal that lives in the water. Shellfish is a general term for mollusks, crustaceans, and echinoderms with shells or hard parts.

There are over 500 species of shellfish around the world. They include snails, clams, oysters, scallops, cockles, crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, squid, octopus, and sea urchins.

Shellfish are eaten in many countries worldwide, but they are most popular in Asia, Europe, Latin America, North Africa, South Africa, and Oceania. In some areas of the United States, it is illegal to sell live shellfish without a permit from the state.

The most significant number of people who eat shellfish come from China, Japan, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Bangladesh.

Shellfish are also used as food by birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and other animals.

The word “shell” comes from the Latin word “sella,” which means “seat.” This refers to the fact that these creatures sit on their shells when not swimming.

In some cultures, eating shellfish is taboo because of its association with death. For example, the practice was considered impious in ancient Greece, and the Athenian law forbade anyone to eat them. The Romans had similar laws, and the Etruscans were even more strict.

In modern times, however, this has changed dramatically. Many people now consider shellfish delicious, especially if they are adequately cooked.

Why eat shellfish?

balmain bugs
Balmain bugs. Credit:canva

There are many reasons why you should eat shellfish.

  • First, they are high in protein. A single serving of crab meat contains almost 20 grams of protein.
  • Second, they are low in fat. One cup of cooked shrimp only contains 4 grams of fat.
  • Third, they have lots of vitamins and minerals. For example, one serving of shrimp contains over 100% of your daily vitamin B12 requirement.
  • Fourth, they contain omega-3 fatty acids. These fats are suitable for your brain and eyes.
  • Fifth, they are very affordable. A pound of shrimp costs less than $10.
  • Sixth, they are delicious. Crab cakes, lobster rolls, and other seafood dishes taste great when served with a side of steamed vegetables.
  • Seventh, they are easy to prepare. Just boil, steam, bake, grill, broil, or sauté.
  • And lastly, they are environmentally friendly. Many of these animals live in areas where pollution is a problem.

What Does Halal Mean?

What is Halal?

Halal (Arabic: حلال‎) literally means lawful. It is an Arabic word meaning permissible, acceptable, legal, permitted, or allowed.

In Islam, halal means that something is permissible according to Islamic Law.

Halal food or (non-Halal) food?

Muslims have strict rules of what they can and cannot eat:

  • Animals need to be killed in a particular way. (Before they can consume the animal, it must be killed by hand to allow all of the blood to escape from the dead animal. It is called “Zabihah Halal” in Arabic, which means “Halal Slaughter.”)
  • Muslims are forbidden to consume carcass animals, including those killed by a knife in the neck, even if it is called Mari’ and Wajadan. Animals may be hunted and eaten in certain circumstances.
  • Is pork halal? Pork is forbidden to Muslims. Pork is prohibited in the Qur’an and Sunnah. There is no evidence that any prophet ever ate pork.
  • According to the Shafi’i, Maliki, and Hanbali schools of Islam, all fish and shellfish are permissible. All types of seafood are permitted to Muslims.
  • They should not drink alcohol or misuse other intoxicating substances (for example, narcotics). All unlawful medicines that take away the intellects without a medical purpose are prohibited.

Can Muslims Eat Shellfish?

Can Muslims Eat Shellfish?
Oysters. Credit: canva

It depends on which group or school of Islam you follow. Some scholars of Islam have differed over what type of seafood is halal and haram. 

Is Seafood Halal?

Animals are classified into sea animals and land animals, depending on where they dwell.

The dead land animals that can be eaten and those that cannot be eaten are listed in Islamic legal texts.

In the verses, Allah, the Supreme, informs us that all sea creatures are permissible to eat and do not need to be killed in the same manner as other animals, and He provides His people with ease and breadth.

Additionally, he allows for any device to capture them only if the person does not torture the animal as much as possible.

In general, all sea animals and plants are permissible for Muslims to eat.

Here is the translation of the verses:

“And not alike are the two bodies of water. One is fresh and sweet, palatable for drinking, and one is salty and bitter. And from each you eat tender meat and extract ornaments which you wear” – [Qur’an 35:12]

“It is He Who has made the sea subject, that ye may eat thereof flesh that is fresh and tender”

“Lawful to you is the pursuit of water-game and its use for food,- for the benefit of yourselves and those who travel”

However, there are always exceptions. Some marine creatures have been the subject of debate among scholars as to whether or not they adhere to this rule.

Is Shellfish Halal?

Shellfish are aquatic shelled fish that live in the sea and are usually classified as mollusks or crustaceans. Prawns, crabs, lobsters, and oysters are all examples of shellfish.

According to most Islamic scholars, all kinds of shellfish are permissible in Islam. Seafood that is halal to eat in Islam includes prawns, shrimps, lobsters, crabs, and oysters.

Shellfish are considered halal by three out of four schools of Sunni Islam. The Maliki, Shafi’i, and Hanbal schools of thought agree that all non-harmful shellfish are permissible to consume.

Land crabs, however, have been considered foul and are not permissible, according to Imam Shafi’i, Imam Ahmad, and Imam Abu Hanifa.

The Hanafi school of thought is the only exception. They consider all shellfish to be Makruh (detestable).

Conclusion

Except for the Hanafi branch of Islam, Shellfish are permitted in Islam. Shrimps, prawns, lobsters, crabs, and oysters are all halal to eat in Islam because most Islamic scholars approve of all sorts of shellfish.

However, land crabs have not been considered halal because they are not seafood and are considered foul.

To confirm what that means to you, you might want to check with your Marja or research the relevant hadiths. 

Other Seafood that is Halal or Haram

Poisonous

Any sea-dwelling plant or animal that is harmful to consume would be forbidden under the broad exceptions.

Such a fish like a blowfish would be Haram to eat because it is poisonous.

This is based on the verse:

“And do not kill yourselves [or one another]. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful.” – [Qur’an 4:29]

Allergy

If you have an allergy or sea creatures might harm you in any manner, it is against the law for you to eat that fish or plant.

This is based on the verse:

“…and do not throw (yourselves) with your (own) hands into destruction. And do good; indeed, Allah loves the doers of good.” – [Qur’an 2:195]

Is Sushi Halal or Haram?

Sushi is a Japanese dish made from rice cooked in a vinegar solution, combined with other items, such as fish. Sushi typically includes raw fish and shellfish.

All fish from the sea that does not cause harm to others is permissible. It’s the correct conclusion as long as the rest of the ingredients are permissible in sushi-making.

Then sushi is halal and permissible to eat in Islam.

You should, however, double-check the accompanying sauce (soy sauce, for example), as it may not be halal.

Is Squid, Octopus, and Calamari Halal or Haram?

The majority of the scholars of Islam consider squid, octopus, and calamari to be halal (Maliki, Shafi’i, and Hanbali). The Hanafi scholars say it is Makruh.

Sea creatures such as squid, octopus, and calamari are permissible because they do not contain prohibited ingredients, aside from the exceptions mentioned. The fact that calamari, octopus, and squid are not mentioned in this exemption implies that most jurists believe they are all halal seafood.

Octopus, squids, and calamari are like fish that can be eaten without slaughtering (Zabiha).

Are Frogs Halal or Haram?

The majority of the scholars of Islam consider frogs to be Haram.

The Maliki school of thought is the only exception to this. They consider frogs to be halal.

Narrated by AbdurRahman ibn Uthman:

When a physician consulted the Prophet (peace be upon him) about putting frogs in medicine, he forbade killing them. – [Collected bu Sunan Abu Dawud]

The fact that frogs are unlawful is indicated by the Prophet of God (peace be upon him) telling us not to kill them. As a result, because we are not permitted to murder them, they become Haram for us to consume.

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