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Seafood: Halal or Haram?

The use of the term ‘seafood’ in this article refers to all non-plant life coming from permanent bodies of water, including rivers, lakes, seas and oceans. There are a number of differing opinions when it comes to the Halal or haram status of seafood. The Quran states:

Lawful to you is the pursuit of water-game and its use for food, for the benefit of yourselves and those who travel; but forbidden is the pursuit of land-game, as long as you are in the state of Ihram (for Hajj or Umrah). And fear ALLAH, to Whom you shall be gathered back. Al-Ma-ida: 96

And it is HE Who has subjected the sea (to you), that you may eat thereof fresh tender meat, and that you may extract out of it ornaments to wear. And you see the ships ploughing through it, that you may seek (thus) of the HIS bounty (by transporting the goods from place to place) and that you may be grateful. An-Nahl: 14

And the two seas (kinds of water) are not alike: this is fresh, sweet and pleasant to drink, and that is salt and bitter. And from them both you eat fresh tender meat, and extract ornaments that you wear. And you see the ships cleaving (the sea water as they sail through it), that you may seek of HIS bounty, and that you may give thanks. Fatir: 12

This ayat state that it is lawful to fish for food. In fact ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta’ala, has subjected the seas to human beings, so they may partake of their Bounty and benefit by what has been provided. In addition, there are a number of Ahadith that also address the subject of seafood.

As to the species of sea creature that is permitted, all have agreed that fish, with scales, are Halal. Some have opined that anything, which can only live in water, is Halal while creatures that can live in and out of the water are haram. The latter would include crabs, turtles, frogs, etc. Another opinion is that only fish with scales are Halal and other creatures are not. This group believes that lobster, shrimp, octopus, eels, etc. are not permitted. Another group believes that creatures resembling Halal land animals are Halal while those resembling haram land animals are haram.

Finally, on the issue of being caught live or found dead, one opinion is that all seafood is Halal while another opines that if the Halal species is found dead in the water or on land, it is haram. A Hadith supports each opinion.

In summary, all scholars are in agreement that fish with scales are Halal. Most also agree that all fish are Halal. While some opinions say everything that can only live in the water is Halal, others conclude that only those sea creatures resembling Halal land creatures are Halal. Most agree that frogs are not permitted. All agree that live fish are Halal no matter how long after they are caught. Some conclude any fish is Halal, whether it is caught live or found dead. Others believe fish found dead are haram. Of course, all this applies to the seafood itself. As far as cooked or processed seafood, any added ingredients, flavors or cooking methods that introduce haram ingredients would make the seafood haram.




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