Prawns – Halaal or Haraam?

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Defense of the Hanafi Ruling on the Animals in the Ocean
(Maulana Ahmad Sadeq Desai)


Q. Please view the article which Mufti Taqi wrote on the issue of prawns (shrimps). Are prawns fish, hence halaal?

A. It  appears to us that prawn addiction induces prawn hallucination which constrains the honourable Muftis to view this perennial issue  irrationally in order to fabricate permissibility by hook or crook.

There is absolutely no doubt  in the principle which the Hanafi Math-hab has adopted for the hillat (being halaal)of  sea animals.  There is no ikhtilaaf (difference  of opinion) among the Hanafi Fuqaha  in holding the view that only samak (fish) is halaal..

Whatever samak is, there is unanimity of our Fuqaha that only samak is halaal. To understand the meaning of samak (fish) there is no need for dictionaries nor for zoologists. One only needs to have some  sane brains – brains which have not become corrupted by carrion consumption and addiction to  crabs and prawns.

No person whose brains  are not  deranged  will say  on physical viewing that a crab is a fish. If a prawn is ‘fish’, then a crab too is ‘fish’. There is no difference between a crab and a prawn. The basic difference is only in the size of the two creatures. It is meaningless, in fact, moronic to say that a big crab/lobster is haraam and a small crab/lobster (prawn) is halaal. As long as a person is not physically blind and not mad, he will give a 100% correct fatwa  if he sees a prawn/shrimp.

Confusion has been created by citing from Hayaatul Haiwaan.  Allaamah Dameeri does not say that ‘Al-B(P)rawn samakun’, nor does he say: ‘Al-Jheengha samakun.’ He says:  ‘AR-RUBAYAAN  SAMAKUN SAGHEERUN.’ We fail to unravel the conundrum which says that rubayaan is prawns/shrimps. From whence did they gain the idea that rubayaan is prawns? Rubayaan  is tiny fish which could be sardines or the  even smaller than sardine type of fish which people eat in African countries and in Bangladesh.

We are not interested in the Shaafi’ definition of ‘samak’. We are Hanafis and  we  say that what is not fish to us is haraam. A fish is what our brains and eyes tell us is a fish. The definition of the zoologists while helpful in deciding a  sea animal  which we have never seen nor are aware of, is not of decisive importance. Thus, if the zoologists, for example, say that  whales and dolphins are fish, we shall say that these animals are haraam because our brains and eyes tell us that they are not fish, but are mammals. So what Makhzan  says is of no consideration  if our brains and eyes  issue the ruling  that a crab is a crab and not  fish.

Mufti Taqi Sahib is in error for saying: ‘In Hayaatul hayawaa it is written  that prawns are a type of fish.’ This is not stated in Hayatul Hayawaan as mentioned above.  The word prawns does not appear in the kitaabs, nor the term jheengah, the Urdu equivalent.  What is the daleel for the claim that rubayaan is prawns?  No  one doubts the  reality of prawns simply because of the name. No one says that prawns are not fish on account of the word ‘prawn’ as implied by Mufti Taqi. We don’t say that hake is not fish because of the word hake nor  do we negate  Red Roman and Marlin being fish on the basis of the terms Red Roman and Marlin,  nor do we say that shark is not a fish because  of the term shark.

We say prawns are not fish because prawns are a kind of crabs (sartaan). Those who say that prawns are not crabs, should devote some time, not to studying the books of zoology, but to physically put a crab alongside a prawn, then  compare the two and seek a fatwa from their brains and  eyes. That is what Hadhrat Khalil Ahmed Sahaaranpuri (rahmatullah alayh) did.

If we see and examine an eel, our brains and eyes will be able to determine whether it is a fish or any other sea animal. Regardless of what has been said about it,  our brains and eyes  are sufficient to determine what exactly the animal is. We are not in need of the fatwas of the zoologists for this determination. 

We do not agree with the view that a fish  does not have specific characteristics. It simply must have specific characteristics. Some of its characteristics are common to all sea animals, and  some are specific  to it (i.e.  fish). Whatever the characteristics may be, our brains and eyes are sufficient adjudicators to make a determination without the  opinions of the zoologists and the guesswork of our Ulama who have issued  the fatwa of permissibility without having seen with their naked eyes what a prawn/shrimp is.

As for the urf ( custom in vogue) argument, it is a deception. Those communities addicted to consumingprawns, e.g. the Bangladeshi and Gujerati Muslims, have been eating prawns since time immemorial. They consume prawns because they were born into the world of  prawns. They simply followed the  dietery  practices of their forefathers. From birth they discovered every person eating prawns. They eat prawns not because they say that these creatures are fish, but because they grew up eating prawns fully understanding the difference between prawns and fish. Thus, they don’t say that prawns are fish. They say that prawns are jheengha and fish is machli. It is only in very recent times that it has  been dinned into the ears of people that  prawns are consumed because they are fish.

If in an urf consuming rats has become an accepted practice or consuming dogs, then such urf will not render rats and dogs halaal on the basis of the argument that dogs are like sheep because  a number of characteristics in sheep are to be found in dogs as well. Thus, such consumption of dog meat will not render the canine ‘beef’ and ‘mutton’ halaal.

The argument that the view of Aimmah Thalaathah (Imaam Maalik, Imaam Shaafi’ and Imaam Ahmad Bin Hambal – rahmatullah alayhim) has introduced takhfeef (mitigation/extenuation/relaxation in rigidity) on this issue is not valid. Is there takhfeef for Hanafis in bush-rat meat because this is the ‘urf’ of Maalikis? Is fox-meat tolerable for Hanafis because it is permissible for Shaafis? In short, to understand whether a prawn is a fish or some other species of  aquatic animals, simply utilize the bounty of your eyes. You need not sap any energy from your sensorium to understand that prawns, crabs and lobsters are not fish. Was-salaam.
Close Answer


Q. What should I do if a Shaafi’ invites me and serves prawns?

A. You will better understand the answer from the following question: If a Maaliki invites you to a meal, will you eat the meat if you know that the meat is of a bush rat or of a lizard or of a snake? These animals are halaal for Maalikis. Also, if you know that the Shaafi’ is serving hyena or fox meat, will you eat it? In short, it is not permissible for a Hanafi’ to eat anything which is Haraam in the Hanafi Math-hab.


Q. A prominent Mufti says that according to Hadhrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (rahmatullah alayh) prawns are halaal. Please comment.

A. If we assume that Hadhrat Thanvi (rahmatullah alayh) did say that prawns are permissible, it will not be the final word of the Shariah. Hadhrat had also erred and issued numerous retractions of earlier fatwas. In fact, Hadhrat Thanvi (rahmatullah alayh) was in doubt. He did not categorically say that prawns are halaal. He said that if the experts (the zoologists) say that it is fish, then it will be halaal. He was not aware of the precise species to which prawns belong. The prominent Mufti is peddling baatil.


Q. In places like Bangladesh where prawns are almost a staple food, it is said that they are halaal on the basis of Urf. Is this reason valid?

A. Urf (Customary Practice) can never make halaal what the Shariah has made haraam. The Urf here in South Africa is to consume halaalized carrion chickens and halaalized carrion meat. Obviously the Urf does not make it halaal. There are many haraam deeds which have become customary. However, these acts remain haraam regardless of how prevalent they become. Since the hurmat (prohibition/being haraam) of ghair-samak (that which is not fish) is Mansoos for the Ahnaaf, the Urf cannot halaalize it. In Bangladesh and elsewhere they consume shrimps/prawns by self-deception. They do not say that it is halaal because of urf. They say that prawns are fish, hence halaal. For eating prawns, they select to become temporary morons, hence they argue abortively that prawns are fish.


Q. A senior Mufti says that prawns/shrimps can not be labelled haraam because there is no Qat’i Daleel to substantiate the prohibition. At most it will be Makrooh Tahrimi. Please comment.

A. Makrooh Tahrimi is also called haraam. If the honourable Mufti does not know this fact, then ask him to check the kutub of the Fuqaha and he will find innumerable prohibitions for which there is no Qat’i Daleel, but which the Fuqaha proclaimed Haraam. This is such a simple issue that it will be a waste of time for us to cite examples. The honourable senior Mufti will have access to the kutub. He only needs to expand his mutaa-la -ah (research) a bit. For Hanafis, prawns, shrimps, lobsters, crayfish and all sea animals besides fish are Haraam.


Q. Is it necessary to prohibit Makrooh Tahrimi acts in the same way as Haraam acts are prohibited? The Mufti Sahib says that there is a big difference.

A. By virtue of both categories of misdeeds producing the same consequence, viz., the punishment of the Fire of Jahannum, it is necessary to prohibit Makruh Tahrimi just as one would prohibit Haraam. The Mufti Sahib is way off the track for regarding Makrooh Tahrimi to be insignificant. And, how  can one view MakroohTahrimi lighter than Haraam when the consequences of both acts are the Fire of Jahannum?


Q. Is it permissible to buy fish and chips from a restaurant that sells also prawns?

A. Since the restaurant will fry its prawns, fish and chips in the same oil, it is not permissible to buy even fish and chips from a place which also deals in prawns, crabs, lobster, etc.


Q. Is it permissible to eat shark?

A. Shark is a fish, hence permissible for Hanafis. It is permissible unanimously according to all Math -habs.


Q. Are prawns permissible? I am hearing conflicting views.

A. For Hanafis prawns and all non-fish sea animals are haraam. We have explained this issue in detail in a booklet which is available.


Q. Some Muftis say that prawns are halaal.

A. Those who contend that prawn/shrimps are fish fail to apply their minds. They have absolutely no Shar’I daleel for the ludicrous view of prawns being fish. According to the Hanafi Math-hab prawns are Haraam. And Allah knows best.


Q. Is it permissible to purchase fish from a market which also sells crabs, crayfish and other kinds of sea-animals? Will there not be cross-contamination?

A. It is permissible to purchase fish from a market which also sells other kinds of sea animals. All sea animals despite being haraam for Hanafis, are taahir (paak/clean). Thus there is no contamination.


Q. Is Rey fish permissible?

A. As long as Rey Fish is fish, and not another species of sea animal, it will be halaal. All types of fish are halaal.

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