Q. Could I get some info pertaining to the eating of shrimp, crab, shark, oysters, etc.
A. Due to the fact that there are no clear and explicit traditions regarding these, there have been differences of opinion among the great Imams of Islamic Jurisprudence. Their opinions are based on their thorough investigation and hence, accepted in the shariah.
According to Imam Malik (A.R.), Imam Shafi (A.R.) and Imam Ahmad (A.R.), all animals that are fully aquatic and can live only in water and not out of water are all lawful and permissible to consume. This includes fish, sea crab, lobster, shrimp, shark, squids etc.
These Imams based their view on the verse of the Holy Quran which states, ‘Hunting of the sea and its food have been made lawful unto you’. (5: 96).
In contrast to this view, Imam Abu Hanifa (A.R.) considers only fish to be permissible and not other marine animals.
This view is based upon the hadith in which the Prophet (S.A.S.) said, ‘Two types of dead (carrion) are lawful for us, they are fish and locust’. (Recorded by Ahmad and Ibn Majah).
The hadith clearly shows that from among all the things which die of its own (which is known as ‘dead’, ‘carrion’) only two are permissible. They are: the fish and the locust.
Hence, anything which can be categorized as a ‘fish’ will be permissible according to Imam Abu Hanifa.
While explaining what a fish is, marine scientists have stated, it is ‘an aquatic, cold blooded, gill breathing vertebrate with a two chambered heart’.
Based upon this definition, shrimp, lobster, sea crab, crayfish, squid, oyster etc. will not be considered as a ‘fish’ and hence, not permissible according to Imam Abu Hanifa.
With respect to the verse of the Holy Quran which was used by the other Imams, that is, ‘Hunting of the sea and its food have been made lawful unto you’ (5: 96). Imam Abu Hanifa states that the verse shows the allowance of the act of hunting and not the eating of all that can be hunted in the sea. As for what can be eaten, Imam Abu Hanifa states that the hadith of the Prophet (S.A.S.) informs us of this when it states, ‘Two types of dead are lawful for us, they are the fish and the locust’. (Ahmad, Ibn Majah).
With respect to the ruling of shrimps, according to the school of thought of Imam Abu Hanifa, some scholars have considered it as a type of fish and have allowed its consumption. Some have not considered it as a fish and have not allowed it.
Based on this difference of opinion, many scholars have mentioned that it is allowed to eat shrimps, but it may be better to avoid it.
Shark is a fish and is permissible to eat.
Land crab has been considered foul and is not permissible according to Imam Shafi (A.R.), Imam Ahmad (A.R.) and Imam Abu Hanifa (A.R.).
And Allah knows best.
Mufti Waseem Khan