Are all products and animals from the sea edible? Are products such as squid, shrimp, octopus, crab, mussels, crawfish and, lobster edible?

The Details of the Question

Which sea plants and animals are permissible and which are forbidden to eat? I heard that Imam Shafi said, “I can eat whatever comes out of the sea.” Is there a hadith about what you can and what you cannot eat regarding the issue?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

“It is He (Allah) Who has made the sea subject, that ye may eat thereof flesh that is fresh and tender...” (an-Nahl, 16/14)

“Lawful to you is the pursuit of water-game and its use for food,- for the benefit of yourselves and those who travel.” (al-Maida, 5/96)

The verses above state that the seas are a storehouse of divine blessings and that people can benefit from them.

In the verses, God Almighty declares that all sea animals are halal (permissible) without forbidding a certain part of them and without stipulating that they must be slaughtered like other animals, providing ease to His servants. He even allows man to use anything to catch them provided that he avoids tormenting the animals as much as possible.

As it is well known, animals are divided into land and sea animals in terms of where they live. The types of land animals that can and cannot be eaten are specified in the books of fiqh. There are different opinions among madhhabs about which of the animals living in the sea are halal and which are haram to eat.

According to the scholars of the Shafii, Maliki and Hanbali madhhabs, who act based on the verses above, all sea animals, i.e., animals that cannot live anywhere other than in the water, are halal and can be eaten wherever they are found, whether they are in the form of fish or any other type or shape. According to the same madhhabs, the fact that those animals have different names, whether they are alive or dead, and whether their hunters are Muslims or non-Muslims does not change the decree.

While Maliki madhhab does not regard any sea animal as an exception, Hanbali madhhab considers eel to be dirty, and Shafii madhhab considers it haram to eat the meat of animals that can live both in the sea and on land, such as frogs, crabs and crocodiles.

According to Hanafi madhhab, it is haram to eat the meat of sea animals that do not look like fish. Accordingly, all kinds of fish meat from animals that always live in water and shelter in water can be eaten. Turbot, carp, dolphin and eel are such animals. However, other aquatic animals are not permissible. Mussels, oysters, lobsters and crabs are not permissible to eat; they are considered haram. (al-Madhahibul-Arba’a, 2/5)

According to those principles, sea animals such as mussels, clams and squid can be eaten according to Shafii, Maliki and Hanbali madhhabs, but not according to Hanafi madhhab. The reason why Hanafi madhhab considers such animals haram is that they are considered unpleasant, ugly and dirty, both in terms of their appearance and the parts that are eaten.

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