In this helpful guide we’ll look at evidence from the Qur’an and Sunnah to answer the question – is seafood halal?
Some scholars of Islam have differed over what type of seafood is halal and haram. So we’ll also discuss what types of seafood are haram (impermissible) for Muslims to eat.
Bismillah (To begin in the name of God).
Is Seafood Halal?
Yes, majority of the scholars of Islam consider almost all food that comes from the sea halal to eat. This includes sea animals and plants whether they are dead or alive.
The evidence for this is the verse of the Holy Qur’an where Allah The Exalted states:
“Lawful to you is what you catch from the sea and (use) it for food as provision for yourselves and for the travelers…” – [Qur’an 5:96]
Fish and Seafood Praised in the Qur’an
Allah praises seafood in the Qur’an like no other meat. Allah refers to seafood as ‘taree’ (something that is fresh, tender, nutritious and juicy).
It is a miracle of Allah and a proof of His Divine Power that He has created animals of all kinds. Those that walk on land and those that swim in the sea and those that fly in the sky. And from them he has made their meat that is nutritious and beneficial for us. Especially seafood that is praised in the Qur’an in a unique manner like no other food. Indeed this is something to be grateful for and say Alhamdulillah.
“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]
So generally speaking all animals and plants from the sea are halal to consume for Muslims.
Though there are always exceptions. The scholars have differed on whether some sea creatures fit this criterion or not.
General Exceptions of Seafood that is Haram
The general exceptions would be any plant or animal from the sea that is poisonous would be haram to eat. So a fish like blowfish would be haram to eat because it is poisonous.
This is based on the verse of the Qur’an where Allah states not to kill oneself.
“And do not kill yourselves [or one another]. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful.” – [Qur’an 4:29]
If you have an allergy or if consuming sea creatures may cause you harm in any way. Then for you eating that seafood or plant would be haram (impermissible).
The evidence for this is the verse from the Qur’an where Allah states not to be the cause of your own destruction.
“…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]
Now let’s look at whether some specific sea animals are halal or haram based on the Qur’an and Sunnah.
Is Dead Fish Halal or Haram?
Dead fish is fish that died of natural causes or was killed by another animal before being caught.
Some scholars hold the opinion that dead fish (like dead animal carrion) is haram to eat. This is because of the verse of the Qur’an where Allah Almighty states:
“He has only forbidden to you dead animals (carrion), blood, the flesh of swine…” – [Quran 2:173]
However, there are many narrations from the Prophet that dead fish are an exception to this rule. This is because unlike animal meat fish do not require slaughtering in the sharia.
In the following sahih (authentic) hadith the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
“Two kinds of dead meat and two kinds of blood have been permitted for us. The two kinds of dead meat are fish and locusts, and the two kinds of blood are the liver and spleen.” – [Collected by Sunan ibn Majah]
This narration from our beloved Prophet is explicit evidence that dead fish are halal. And that dead fish do not hold the same ruling as eating dead land animals (carrion).
Here is another authentic narration from the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him). In this hadith not only fish but all dead animals from the sea are halal and permissible to eat for Muslims.
A man came to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and said. “O Messenger of Allah, we travel by sea and carry a small amount of water with us. If we use it for ablution, we will become thirsty. Can we perform ablution with seawater?’ The Messenger of Allah said: ‘Its water is a means of purification, and its dead meat is permissible.” – [Collected by Sunan ibn Majah]
Is Sushi Halal or Haram?
Sushi is a Japanese inspired seafood dish made from raw fish such as salmon. It is usually prepared with rice, vegetables and a variety of other ingredients.
All fish from the ocean that does not cause harm is halal. So as long as the other ingredients used in the preparation of the sushi are also halal. Then that sushi is halal and permissible to eat in Islam.
Is Whale Halal or Haram?
Whale meat is seafood that is halal and perfectly fine to eat in Islam. All the four Sunni schools of thought (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali) consider whale to be halal.
Though in modern biological classification whales are classified as mammals and not fish. From an Islamic perspective whales are still creatures from the ocean and so are halal to eat.
The evidence for this is an authentic narration in the sahih of Imam al-Bukhari. In this narration we see that the companions ate a giant fish (whale). Later the Prophet (peace be upon him) was informed about this and he approved of it and ate some himself.
We were struck with severe hunger and the sea threw out a dead fish (whale) the like of which we had never seen. It was called Al-`Anbar. We ate of it for half a month. Abu Ubaida took (and fixed) one of its bones and a rider passed underneath it (without touching it). (Jabir added:) Abu ‘Ubaida said (to us), “Eat (of that fish).” When we arrived at Medina, we informed the Prophet (peace be upon him) about that. He said, “Eat, for it is food Allah has brought out for you, and feed us if you have some of it.” So some of them gave him (of that fish) and he ate it. – [Sahih al-Bukhari]
Is Shark Halal or Haram?
Shark meat is seafood that majority of scholars classify as halal to eat for Muslims.
Shark is a fish that comes from the ocean and all fish-like animals from the ocean are permissible to eat. The evidence for this is the verse of the Qur’an:
“Lawful to you is what you catch from the sea and (use) it for food” – [Qur’an 5:96]
The Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali scholars all consider shark meat to be halal. The Hanafi school is the only school in Sunni Islam that consider sharks to be haram.
Though shark is a carnivorous fish whose main diet is meat this does not make it is haram (impermissible) to eat. The ruling that forbids consumption of carnivorous animals such as tigers and lions is only for land animals.
Generally speaking, many halal fish eat other small fish and invertebrates in the ocean. Bluefin tuna eat squids and shrimps as part of their diet. And salmon eat herrings, amphipods and krill. This does not make them haram (impermissible) to consume for Muslims.
All fish from the ocean whether tuna, salmon, shark or whale are halal to eat. Whether they eat other small fish as part of their diet or whether they are fish with or without scales. They are all considered halal by majority of the scholars of Islam.
How can Sharks be Halal when they eat Human Flesh?
Despite the bad reputation Hollywood monster movies have given to sharks. Sharks do not eat humans as part of their normal diet. According to the National Ocean Service, sharks only attack humans when they are confused or curious. They do not feed or prey on humans. The normal diet of a shark is smaller fish and invertebrates found in the ocean, not human beings. Source: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/sharkseat.html
If a shark happened to take a bite off a wandering human in the ocean this would still not make the shark haram to eat. It is impossible to monitor what a shark consumes throughout it’s life. Such rare anomalies do not have any impact on sharia rulings.
There is not a single ayah (verse) of the Qur’an or hadith in the Sunnah that makes sharks haram in Islam. For something to be haram we need evidence from the Qur’an and Sunnah.
Allah is Al-Khaliq (the Creator of everything). He created sharks and they have been around for millions of years. If they were haram Allah would have mentioned it in His eternal revelation – the glorious Qur’an. But Allah remains silent on this issue. The default ruling on anything which Allah remains silent about is that it is halal. This is based on the words of the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself.
The Messenger of Allah (peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Verily Allah has laid down religious obligations (fara’id), so do not neglect them. And He has set limits, so do not overstep them. And He has forbidden some things, so do not violate them. And He has remained silent about some things, out of compassion for you, not forgetfulness — so do not seek after them.” – [Sunan Al-Daraqutani]
Is Shellfish Halal or Haram? (Prawns, Crabs, Shrimps, Lobsters, Oysters)
Shellfish are aquatic shelled fish often categorized as mollusc or crustaceans. Prawns, Crabs, Shrimps, Lobsters and Oysters are all examples of shellfish.
Majority of the scholars of Islam consider all types of shellfish to be halal. So Prawns, Shrimps, Lobsters, Crabs and Oysters are all seafood that are halal to eat in Islam.
Three out of the four schools of thought in Sunni Islam consider shellfish to be halal. The Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbalis all state that all non-harmful shellfish are halal to eat.
The Hanafi school of thought is the only exception. They consider all shellfish to be Makruh (detestable).
Is Squid and Octopus Halal or Haram?
Majority of the scholars of Islam consider squid and octopus to be halal (Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali). The Hanafi scholars say it is Makruh.
Squid and Octopus are sea creatures and Allah has made everything from the sea that is not harmful halal. Besides the exceptions named. Octopus and squid are not named in this exception. So majority of the scholars are of the opinion that both octopus and squid are halal seafood.
Octopus and squids, like fish, can be eaten without slaughtering (Zabiha).
Are Crocodiles and Alligators Halal or Haram?
Majority of the scholars of Islam consider crocodiles and alligators to be haram. This is because crocodiles and alligators are predators with fangs. And they also spend time on land not only water.
The Maliki school of thought is the only school that considers crocodiles to be halal. The former Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia Shaykh Bin Baz, also agreed with the Maliki opinion. According to him crocodiles are halal.
Are Sea Turtles Halal or Haram?
Majority of the scholars of Islam consider sea turtles as a seafood that is halal.
The Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali scholars all consider sea turtles to be halal.
However, the Shafi’i and Hanbali scholars put in an extra clause. They state that the turtle must be slaughtered in an Islamic manner (Zabiha) for it to be halal. This is because unlike fish and crab; turtles have blood flowing through their bodies. Turtles also come on land to lay eggs. So because turtles spend time on land and have blood the ruling of land animals would apply to them.
So sea turtles are halal but one would need to slaughter them for it to be halal.
The standard Hanafi position is that sea turtles are a seafood that is haram.
Are Frogs Halal or Haram?
Majority of the scholars of Islam consider frogs to be haram.
The Malaiki school of thought is the only exception to this. They consider frogs to be halal.
The evidence for frogs being haram is that the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) commanded us not to kill them. So because they are forbidden for us to kill they are also haram for us to eat them.
Narrated by AbdurRahman ibn Uthman:
When a physician consulted the Prophet (peace be upon him) about putting frogs in medicine, he forbade him to kill them. – [Collected bu Sunan Abu Dawud]
The wisdom behind the Prophet (peace be upon him) forbidding us to kill frogs is unknown. But with the advancement in modern biology we learn that frogs are an integral species in keeping a balanced ecosystem.
According to Phys.org frogs play an important role in keeping insect population at bay. They are also an important source food for birds and fish. The disappearance of frogs can disturb an intricate food web. This can have cascading effects felt throughout an entire ecosystem.
Allah in His Divine Wisdom has made certain animals halal and others haram. Obeying the commands of Allah in halal and haram is a central part of a Muslim’s daily life.
Majority of the scholars of Islam consider most seafood to be halal. So we should enjoy these blessings and show thanks and gratitude to Allah for providing nutritious seafood for us.
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And Allah The Most High knows best.