The principle pertaining to aquatic animals according to the Hanafi Math-hab is that of the sea animals ONLY fish is halaal. Besides fish ALL sea animals are haraam. There is complete consensus (Ijma’) of all Hanafi authorities on this issue.
Among the Hanafi Ulama there is some difference of opinion regarding the permissibility of consuming shrimps. Some Hanafi Ulama who have opined that shrimps are fish, say that these creatures are halaal. Those who claim that a shrimp is not a fish, aver that it is haraam.
Those who believe that shrimps are not fish have no alternative but to say that these creatures are haraam while the opposite will be true for those who believe that these sea creatures are fish.
This article is a response to the arguments presented by a Maulana who claims that shrimps are fish, hence halaal. We shall now proceed to analyse his arguments and post our response, Insha’Allah.
(1) THE QUR’AANIC AAYAT
The Maulana firstly presents an aayat from Surah Ma’aidah as the basis for his claim. He cites the aayat:
“Said ul Bahr has been made lawful for you…. ”
He proceeds to say that “Said ul Bahr” (Bahr means the ocean) is samak (fish). On the basis of this claim he concludes that all sea animals are samak (fish) irrespective of what type of animal it maybe that is found in the sea. Since all sea animals are fish according to the deduction of the Maulana, he asserts that shrimps are halaal because these creatures too are fish.
For this conclusion there is a need for narrational or Shar’i evidence otherwise the claim has no validity. Since he cannot find any Shar’i evidence for this claim in the Hanafi Math-hab, he cites Imaam Nawawi (rahmatullah alayh) and the view of the Shaafi Math-hab. But from the very outset we should emphasise that our discussion is only in terms of the Hanafi Math-hab. In this article we are not refuting the Shaafi viewpoint, hence there is no need for us to present the basis and proofs of the Hanafi Math-hab in opposition to the Shaafi Math-hab.We are dealing with a Hanafi Maulana, hence the attempt by him to substantiate his view with Shaafi proofs is baseless and untenable.
If according to the Shaafi Fuqaha all sea animals are classified as samak, it is of no significance for the present article since the Maulana being a follower of the Hanafi Math-hab has to necessarily restrict himself to proving his view on the basis of only the evidences of the Hanafi Math-hab.
To make the sweeping statement that ‘Said ul bahr’ bring within its meaning ALL sea animal for consumption, even seadogs and seapigs, is preposterous and rejected outright by the Hanafi Fuqaha. Whatever the definition of samak may be according to the various Hanafi Fuqaha, they do not claim that all sea animals are fish as the Maulana avers. At most, he can say that there are differences in the definition of fish, but it is highly incorrect to assert that all sea animals are fish.The Hanafi Fuqaha do not accept this claim, and we shall later show that this is also the Shaafi view. The statements of Hadhrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thaanvi (rahmatullah alayh) and others among the Hanafis which the Maulana cited only confirm that there is no all-embracing definition for samak. But there is absolutely no evidence for the claim that according tothe Hanafi Math-hab all sea animals are fish.
While the Maulana abortively attempted to prove that, all sea animals are ‘samak‘, he cites the following definition of said ul bahr from Ahkaam ul Qur’aan:
“Saidul Bahr: By this is intended samak, not that which is besides it (samak).”
In other words, there are sea animals “besides samak“. It is there for ridiculous in terms of the Hanafi Math-hab to argue that all sea animals are samak (fish).
It was never contended that there is no difference of opinion regarding the technical definition of samak. The Maulana’s attempt to expand on this issue of difference in definition is therefore a futile exercise. The question under discussion is shrimps–are shrimps halaal or haraam? The question is not about the definition of samak or that there is no difference of opinion among our Fuqaha regarding this definition.The Maulana also cites Ad-Durrul Mukhtaar and Shaami as follows: “Sea animals besides the fish are not halaal…”
(2) THE PRINCIPLE
The Maulana says: “When there is no ‘jaami’–maani’ (all-comprehensive) definition for samak, the best and easiest way to determine what we can eat and what we can’t is to follow the Usool laid down by Shaikhul Islam Hadhrat Maulana Zafar Ahmad Uthmaani (rahmatullah alayh). He writes: “Whatever is of the genus of samak literally and customarily (lughatan wa urfun), is halaal without difference of opinion.”
Firstly, Hadhrat Maulana Zafar Ahmad Uthmaani (rahmatullah alayh) lived some decades ago while Islam is fourteen centuries old. Surely the millions of Hanafis of the past 14 centuries did have the guidance of the Shariah to follow. Surely, it will be ridiculous to assume that the Ummah had to wait for Hadhrat Maulana Zafar (rahmatullah alayh) to lay down the principle to enable us to determine what to eat and what we may not.
The principle in this regard is as old as Islam. The Hanafi Fuqaha had already formulated it on the basis of the Qur’aan and Sunnah almost fourteen centuries ago. It is very childish for the Maulana to expect us and all others to set aside what the innumerable Hanafi Fuqaha have said on this issue and to make taqleed of Hadhrat Maulana Zafar Ahmad (rahmatullah alayh). How can the Maulana expect us to set aside all other opinions and submit only to what Hadhrat Zafar Ahmad (rahmatullah alayh) has laid down. By this we are not implying that what this illustrious Allaamah said is incorrect. We are merely saying that the Maulana has no authority whatsoever to make such a sweeping statement and seek to make the whole world the muqallideen of Hadhrat Maulana Zafar Ahmad Uthmaani (rahmatullah alayh). He should go a bit higher and cite such Fuqaha whose taqleed is incumbent on us.
The Maulana then proceeds to give the literal definitions of the terms al-urbayaan. The several authorities he cites define al-urbayaan as ‘small fish like worms’. Firstly, the definitions appearing in dictionaries are not the final word for Shar’i proof. The Proofs of the Shariah are four as all know.The definitions in dictionaries can assist us in arriving at conclusions. But, acceptance and rejection of the dictionary meanings are not crimes in the Shariah. If there are grounds for rejecting a meaning or definition given in a dictionary, this will be valid. Dictionaries are not in the same categories as the Qur’aan, Sunnah, ljma‘ and Qiyaas. Just one example of a misleading definition given by dictionaries is the meaning of anfahah. The dictionaries describe real anfahah as rennet. In addition they also describe a substance extracted from the stomach linings of animals as anfahah simply because of the common effect of anfahah and the other substance. But the Shar’i hukm for both substances differs.
Then the Maulana says that there are another 18 to 20 dictionaries which say that prawns are fish. Usually a later compiler of a dictionary takes his definition from a former book. In this way, one can find many dictionaries or books giving the same definition/meaning while it may be erroneous. An error committed in the beginning is transmitted by thosewho come afterwards. This gives an erroneous impression of so many authorities sharing the same view while it is a case of many having simply reported the same initial error.
The dictionaries to which the Maulana has referred to do not say that ‘prawns are fish’. They say ‘al-urbayaan’ are small fish. Now what is the categoric and irrefutable proof for claiming in the first place that ‘al urbayaan’ are actually fish. The dictionaries say that are `like worms‘ (dood). Some Arabic dictionaries say “samakun sagheerun” (tiny fish). This could refer to sardines or even smaller fish. There is no proof other than modern day Arabic-English and Urdu-English dictionaries for the view that `urbayaan‘ are prawns. We are under no Shar’i obligation to accept and submit to these dictionary meanings which are clearly and diametrically in conflict with reality of shrimps not being fish.
Just as the definition of ‘samak‘ presented by Imaam Nawawi (rahmatullah alayh) and other Shaafi Ulama, is not binding on us nor can it be imposed on us notwithstanding the accepted stature of greatness of these Shaafi Fuqaha, so too–in fact to a far greater degree, can the views of dictionary compilers not be imposed on usfor the formulation of a Shar’i ruling. If a definition in a dictionary is conspicuously in negation of fact and reality, it will be set aside. It cannot be accepted for a basis for the formulation of a Shar’i hukm.
Furthermore, inspite of the Shaafi claim that ‘samak‘ brings within the scope of its meaning all sea animals, they too exclude certain sea animals from permissibility. Sea pigs and crabs are not permissible even according to the Shaafi Math-hab.
The Maulana, citing Hadhrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (rahmatullahalayh) in support of his contention of the permissibility of shrimps, quotes the following statement of Hadhrat Thaanvi:
“At this time, I have with rite (the book) Hayaatul Haiyawaan of Damiri who discusses animal life. It is, stated therein that “ar rubayaan is a very tiny fish“.There is no reason for not accepting it.”
Our comments in this regard are as follows:
a) This book in zoology only says that ‘ar-rubayaan is very tiny fish’. It does not say that shrimps are fish. Furthermore, shrimps are not `very tiny’.
(b) At the time when the question was posed to Hadhrat Thaanvi (rahmatullah alayh), he was unaware of the meaning of shrimps (jheengha in Urdu). Since shrimps are not part of the normal diet of that part of the world, Hadhrat Thaanvi, (rahmatullah alayh) was unaware of what exactly shrimps were. He therefore resorted to the book, Hayaatul Haiyawaan. That was the only source available to him at that time. Since he accepted this version and the dictionary meaning of ur-bayaan, he had no reason to conclude that shrimps were not fish.
(c) Hadhrat Thaanvi (rahmatullah alayh) by his fatwa never intended that his view will be the final word on this question Clarifying this, he comments:
“The basis (for the fatwa) is only on the knowledge of the experts (of zoology). If there will be differences among the experts (regarding the definition of shrimps), then there will be differences in the (Shar’i) hukm.”
As far as ‘experts’ of zoology (animal life) are concerned, this is not restricted to Muslims. A man may be an expert in any mundane branch of knowledge without being a Muslim. Islam is not a condition for being an expert in such branches of knowledge. And all experts of animal life are agreed on the fact that shrimps are members of the group called Crustacean, not fish. Only those who have no awareness of shrimps, and those who have never seen shrimps and those who consume shrimps and desire it to be Halaal introduce arguments and interpretations to confuse shrimps with fish in total conflict with reason and reality.
Regarding Allaamah Damiri, the compiler of Hayaatul Haiyawaan, Hadhrat Mufti Taqi Uthmaani (Daamat Baraakaatuhum) says:
“As far as Allaamah Damiri is concerned, he is not an expert on animal life. He is purely a transmitter of narrations. In Hayaatul Haiyawaan he has compiled all sorts of spurious narrations. His statement which conflicts with other experts is not binding.”
In brief, this much is clear, that there are differences of opinion on this issue. No one has the right to impose his view on others, especially when one is convinced of the correctness of one’s view and the error of the opposite view. Our view is based on not only what experts on animal life say, but also on the popular and customary meaning of shrimps. Furthermore, our view is confirmed by visible ascertainment of the reality of shrimps. No matter which dictionary is cited and no matter whose view is presented, one’s eyes will conform that a crab is not a fish and a shrimp is not a fish. On the contrary, after seeing a shrimp, common sense will convince one that a shrimp is a small crab.
If Allaamah Damiri and other experts had seen a shrimp, they would undoubtedly have said that it is a ‘sartaan sagheer’ or a small crab. Why should a person conclude that a shrimp is a fish and not a crab or similar to a crab when the similarities and characteristics of crabs and shrimps are common? What is the rational argument for separating the shrimp from the crab family with which it shares almost all characteristics, and categorising it with fish with which it differs substantially?
The Maulana summarily dismisses Mufti Taqi Saheb’s view as baseless. This arbitrary rejection of Mufti Taqi’s claim is devoid of any basis. We are sure that this venerable Mufti Saheb does have a firm basis for claiming that Allaamah Damiri was not an expert on animal life. We suggest that the Maulana writes to Mufti Taqi Saheb and query his basis for his claim.
Whatever Mufti Taqi Saheb’s answer may be and whatever the Maulana’s view may be, this much is confirmed that there is difference of opinion regarding the definition of shrimps. But those who study the shrimp objectively, without any bias or prejudice, cannot fail to conclude that shrimps are not fish. They are small ‘crabs’. The difference is restricted to those who are unaware of the reality of shrimps and to those who want to force the ruling of permissibility.
(3) THE VIEW OF THE SCIENTISTS
The Maulana in his article states:
“Some respected muftis of our era have followed the scientists and say that we should follow them in determining what is a fish.”
Even Hadhrat Thaanvi (rahmatullah alayh) said that on such matters the views of the experts should be taken into consideration. In regard to shrimps in particular, we are not aware of any Muftis of our era who have said that we should determine the fatwa of shrimps on the basis of what the ‘scientists’ say. If the Maulana’s reference to ‘muftis’ in this regard is to the MujlisuI Ulama, then he should present the basis for his claim. At no stage did we claim that for a Shari ruling on shrimps, the views of the ‘scientists’ should be accepted.
If the view of the scientists and the experts is in conflict with reality, their views will be rejected, not used as a basis for formulating a Shar’i hukm. However, if a mufti has no access to reality and he is unaware of something, then he will be acting correctly by ascertaining what the experts on that topic have to say. But if an expert says that sartaan (crab) is (samak) as Imaam Nawawi (rahmatullah alayh) claims, then we shall refute this contention and ever, our Maulana who argues in favour of shrimp-consumption, will not accept the claim of sartaan (crab) or of a sea pig being halaal not notwithstanding that the definition of ‘samak’ according to some authorities applies to such aquatic animals as well. In terms of the definition of Imaam Nawawi (rahmatullah alayh), even sea-turtle is ‘samak’, hence halaal. What does the Maulana say about sea-turtle? If he is a Hanafi, then obviously he will say that it is not halaal. If he is or has become a ghair muqallid, then we have no argument with him and any discussion with him on the subject will be futile.
The views of the ‘mubassireen’ (experts) can be cited in support of reality. Since the views of the experts of zoology confirm our own observation regarding shrimps, we can cite what they have to say. At the same time we are entitled to dismiss the opposite view which is in stark conflict with reality. Dictionaries and encyclopaedias also contain errors. The definitions and meanings in dictionaries are not the final words in reliability and authenticity. Only those who have no knowledge of a subject and have no practical means of ascertainment, will be under some obligation to accept even an error presented in a dictionary because they lack any other evidence.
(4) SHAYKH MAULANA MUHAMMAD ISHAAQ
The Maulana whose article we are refuting, lays much emphasis on what Hadhrat Maulana Muhammad Ishaq (Daamat baraakatuhum) says in refutation of Mufti Taqi Uthmaani (Daamat barakaatuhum), but his view is not binding on us. Just as we do not accept the claim of anyone who irrationally says that shrimps are fish, so too do we not accept Maulana Ishaaq’s view.
Also, it has yet to be proved that Allaamah Damiri and other zoologists of bygone times claimed that urbayaan are in fact shrimps. They only said that urbayaan are tiny fish. Even if it is confirmed that urbayaan are shrimps, we are under no obligation to accept this definition when we can see as clear as day light that shrimps are not fish. On the contrary, they are small crabs.
(5) THE ARGUMENT OF URF
The Maulana citing Hadhrat Maulana, Zafar Ahmad Uthmaani (rahmatullah alayh), avers that any aquatic animal which is customarily (urfan) known as samak (fish) is halaal. On the basis of this principle, the Maulana claims that shrimps are ‘urfan’ known as fish.
He further seeks to support his view in this regard by citing Maulana Muhammad Ishaaq Saheb who rejects Mufti Taqi Saheb’s view. Mufti Taqi Saheb says that urfan, shrimps are shrimps, not fish. He says that no one classifies shrimps as fish. If you order shrimps at a restaurant, you don’t say ‘fish’. You will state unambiguously shrimps or prawns or jheengha.
However, it is indeed extremely surprising that an Aalim of Hadhrat Maulana Muhammad Ishaaq’s stature refuting this reality and trying to force the belief that urfan shrimps are known as fish. The Maulana quotes Hadhrat Maulana Ishaaq as follows:
“Then, the author of Dars-e-Tirmizi says: ‘In Urf-e-Aam (i.e.customary language of the public), it (prawns/shrimps) are not regarded as fish.’, is a forced ruling (i.e.baselessly assumed). I do not know about which place ‘surf-e-aam he (i.e. Mufti Taqi Uthmaani Saheb) is speaking. For fixing the urf of fish and non-fish, the urf of the region of fish is necessary, i.e. where fish is found in abundance and consumed in abundance. The urf of Karachi and Hindustan is not reliable in this regard. Here by us where fish is available in abundance and is consumed in abundance, if someone is sent to bring fulfilled the but he brings shrimps, he will be r order in the best manner …”
This reasoning is most surprising to say the least . Bangladesh is a land of fish. We do not think there is a nation of people than Bangladeshis who consumes more fish. But the distinction between fish and shrimps is clear and unambiguous. The attitude of the particular people referred to by Maulana Ishaaq Saheb is quite peculiar. No where in the world do people consider fish and shrimps to be the same.
This reasoning is most surprising to say the least. Bangladesh is a land of fish. We do not think there is a nation of people who consumes more fish than Bangladeshis. But the distinction between fish and shrimps is clear and unambiguous. The attitude of the particular people referred to by Maulana Ishaaq Saheb is quite peculiar. No where in the world do people consider fish and shrimps to be the same.
Step into any restaurant anywhere on earth and ask for shrimps. You will not get fish. Ask for fish and you will NEVER be served shrimps. Perhaps someone who loves shrimps, but cannot afford the price, will be delighted if shrimps are served after he requested fish. But a person who specifically requests shrimps will not be satisfied with fish. If you order shrimp curry, you will not be served with fish curry. But if you order fish curry, you will be served with any of the thousand available, but not shrimps.
Maulana Ishaaq’s contention that according to urf e aam shrimps are fish, has to be necessarily rejected as devoid of any substance. In fact it is in conflict with reason and reality. No one, but those who wish shrimps to be halaal, will venture such a preposterous supposition as Maulana Ishaaq Saheb has tendered.
In the urf e aam of all people, Muslims and non-Muslims, shrimps are not fish. The shrimp is a separate aquatic animal distinct from fish. The claim that in the urf of the general public shrimps are fish is baseless and an attempt to forcibly hoist it on others.
When Hadhrat Mufti Mahmudul Hasan Gangohi (rahmatullah alayh) was in South Africa, he was asked in our presence about shrimps. The venerable Mufti Saheb replied:
“Jheenga (shrimps) are trot among the kinds of fish. Therefore, shrimps are haraam.”
In his explanation on shrimps, Hadhrat Mufti Mahmudul Hasan (rahmatullah alayh) further commented:
“When this very same question was posed to Hadhrat Maulana Khaleel Ahmad (Rahmatullah alayh), he sent for a fish and shrimps. He put both
infront of him and pointed out to the many differences between the fish and the shrimp. Then he said: “Therefore it is not permissible.”
Any particular community’s urf does not alter the reality. Let us assume that what Maulana Mohammed Ishaaq Saheb says is correct, namely, in the urf of fish-consumers, shrimps are fish, then too this urf will be unacceptable because it is in diametric opposition to reality. One does not have to be a scientist or an expert in zoology to understand that shrimps are not fish. A physical examination of a shrimp and a crab will convince any unbiased examiner that shrimps are in fact small crabs, not tiny fish. Only those who have absolutely no knowledge of shrimps nor have they seen these aquatic creatures may resort to what dictionaries and others feed them with. But their claims are no argument to negate what is claimed by one who fully knows what shrimps are.
(6) THE VIEWS OF THE LEGALIZERS
The Maulana Saheb who argues in favour of the permissibility of shrimps presents the views of some Ulama who have opined that shrimps are fish.Then he seeks to hoist their opinion on all and sundry as if there is qat’iyat (absolute certainty) in this. But, the reality is that many great Ulama claimed the contrary and negated the claim of shrimps being fish.
We have these Ulama to back up our own view regarding the nature of shrimps. We cannot be expected to believe that the sun shines during the night time. Such a claim is irrational and absurd. While Ulama who are unaware of the nature of shrimps are excused for their erroneous view based on errors in dictionaries, those who have no doubt regarding the nature of shrimps will be inexcusable for their error if they have to say that shrimps are fish simply because Damiri and some other zoologists of bygone times have made this claim.
(7) THE CHARACTERISTICS OF SHRIMPS
The Maulana then attempts to pass off shrimps as fish by engaging in an extremely dubious and weak discussion on the definition and characteristics of fish. In this abortive attempt to bring shrimps within the scope of the defective definitions of fish, the Maulana completely ignores or is blissfully unaware of the many similarities and common characteristics of shrimps and crabs–crabs which are unanimously haraam according to the Hanafi Math-hab.
The following explanation of the crab, lobster and shrimp will or should convince an unprejudiced person that shrimps are small crabs, not fish.
The word “arthropoda” means “jointed legs”.
All arthropods have an outer shell which they shed as they grow, and allhave jointed limbs. According to biology books over 35,000 kinds of arthropods live in the sea, and over 880,000 kinds (mostly insects) live onland. The main distinctive characteristics of the Phylum Arthropods are:
1. An EXOSKELETON. The ability of the epidermis to secrete a tough cuticle which acts as an exoskeleton.
2. JOINTED LIMBS. The presence of jointed limbs or appendages which are serially repeated along the body, some of them modified for dealing with food.
3. HAEMOCOEL. The main organs of the body lie in blood filled cavities.
Crustacea is a class of the phylum Arthropoda whose members include such well-known animals as lobsters, crabs, shrimps and barnacles.
The body of a crustacean is covered with an external skeleton, or exoskeleton, of chitin….. The body is typically divided into a series of segments, each with a jointed pair of appendages. The appendages are variously modified to serve for biting and grasping, as walking or swimming legs.
The class crustacea is divided into several major sub-classes: among the more important are …… ; and MALA-COSTRACA, the lobsters, crayfish, crabs, shrimps, sowbugs and wood lice. Some of the larger crustaceans are used as food by man.
“Crustacea, large class of athropods, including crabs, lobsters, shrimps, etc., mostly aquatic, many with hard shell and many legs.”
“Crab: Various desapod crustaceans ….. The edible species found on or near sea-coasts.”
“Crayfish: Small lobster-like freshwater crustacean….” “Crawfish:–Crayfish.”
“Lobster: large marine crustacean, a decapod having a pair of heavy pincer-like claws and stalked eyes, which is eaten as a delicacy.
(THE READER’S DIGEST GREAT ENCYCLOPAEDIA DICTIONARY)
“CRAB: ten-legged (decapod) crustacean.”
“CRAYFISH: A freshwater crustacean of the order DECAPOD (i.e. ten-legged), also called crawfish or crawdad…Their tender flesh is considered a great delicacy, especially in Scandinavian countries.”
(ENCYCLOPAEDIA INTERNATIONAL) LOCOMOTION AND MOVEMENTS OF THE CRAYFISH
“The crayfish has two types of locomotion: WALKING and DARTING.When walking the body is held with the abdomen extended with the four pairs of walking legs in contact with the substratum. …..
“In darting, the animal violently flexes its abdomen…”
(ANIMAL BIOLOGY-BY PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF ZOOLOGY in the university of London).
This same book (Animal Biology) also assigns the CRAYFISH too the class, CRUSTACEA.
1.) External skeleton formed of a hard substance known as chitin;
2.) jointed legs;
3.) segmented body. They live in the sea, air and on the land. In the sea they are represented by the familiar crabs and barnacles, lobsters and shrimps…”
(THE SEA-LEONARD ENGEL)
SHRIMP: Any of the small, marine decapod (ten legged) crustaceans…
(READER’S DIGEST GREAT ENCYCLOPAEDIC DICTIONARY)
SHRIMPS: Crustaceans in the order Decapoda. All have ten legs,very long antennae, and a long segmented body with swimmerets.
The English-Arabic Dictionary, Al-Mawrid (Beirut) defines the word, “ARTHROPODA” as follows:
The same Dictionary defines the term, “CRUSTACEAN” as follows:
The same Dictionary defines the term “CRAYFISH” as:
The English-Arabic Dictionary, AL-QAMOOSUL ASRI defines the term, “CRUSTACEA AS FOLLOWS:
N.B. It must be noted that the authorities on the subject–the Biologists and the Zoologists–say that another name for the CRAYFISH is SPINY LOBSTER. This could be ascertained from the Chambers, Concise Oxford and Webster’s Dictionaries.
The aforegoing explanation as well as a physical examination of shrimps will convince one that these creatures are not fish, but are small crabs (sartaan). The characteristics common to shrimps and crab are as follows:
a) A body divided into 19 ring-like segments.
b) Stalked compound eyes, i.e. the eyes are not inside the body like the eyes of fish, but are borne on antennae or stalks outside the body. Unlike fish which have simple eyes, shrimps and crabs have compound eyes, that is, each eye consists of numerous tiny eyes.
c) To each body segment is attached a pair of appendages (leg like protuberances).
d) The 19 pairs of appendages of both the crab and shrimp are distributed on the body in exactly the same manner.
e) Both, the crab and shrimp, walk, crawl and swim backwards. They do not swim forward like fish.
f) Shrimps and crabs have exoskeletons which are discarded from time to time
g) Shrimps and crabs have ten legs.
Anyone who has the least respect for reality and the truth, can never aver after having examined crabs and shrimps, that the latter are fish while the former are not. An unbiased person in search of the truth will not behave in a bigoted way and claim obstinately that a shrimp is a fish and a crab is not a fish, and that crabs are haraam and shrimps are halaal, after he has made a thorough physical examination of crabs, shrimps and fish regardless of any differences there are on the theoretical definitions of shrimps
If on the basis of Imaam Nawawi’s (rahmatullah alayh) definition, a crab and a sea-turtle are defined as `samak‘, will anyone among the Hanafis accept this definition and proclaim that these sea creatures are halaal? Obviously not.
That dictionaries and encyclopaedia are not the last word nor the most reliable basis for a Shar’i hukm, should be known to Ulama. Arabic dictionaries describe even crabs, lobsters and crayfish as al-urbayaan which Damiri said are tiny fish. And, the dictionaries also define crabs, lobsters and crayfish (i.e. all crustacea) as jaraadul-bahr (ocean-locusts). Both terms, al-urbayaan and ar-rubayaan, are used by Arabic dictionaries to define lobsters, crabs, crayfish, shrimps and all members of the crustacea class of aquatic creatures.
THE SHAAFI DEFINITION
It is important to understand that when Imaam Nawawi (rahmatullah alayh) and other Shaafi Fuqaha and even the Shaafi zoologist, Damiri, say ‘samak’, they mean thereby all sea animals, whether halaal or haraam. It has a different meaning from the ‘samak’ as understood in the Hanafi Math-hab. Whereas according to the Hanafi Math-hab ALL samak is halaal, according to the Shaafi Math-hab ALL samak are not halaal. This is clear from the fact that according to some Shaafi Fuqaha even sartaan (crab) and sea dog and sea pig, inspite of coming within the scope of the definition of ‘samak’, are haraam. Thus samak according to the Shaafi Fuqaha is simply a word for ‘said ul bahr’ mentioned in the Qur’aan Majeed. It simply refers to all aquatic creatures.
It is therefore, highly erroneous to hoist the Shaafi meaning of samak on Hanafis and proclaim shrimps halaal when there is a difference in the meaning of the term according to the two Math-habs.
We can therefore conclude from the wide and comprehensive meaning given to samak by the Shaafis, that when Damiri defined ar-rubayaan as tiny samak he meant thereby tiny aquatic creatures, not tiny fish in the sense the Hanafis define the term samak. If a Shaafi on the basis of his understanding says that a sea-turtle is samak and a seal is samak, we cannot then rule that these aquatic animals are halaal simply because a Shaafi authority said that these animals are samak.
Regardless of what the scientists, the experts and the dictionaries say and how they define shrimps, etc., we are not interested in their view for the formulation of the Shar’i hukm pertaining to shrimps. The definitions and views of these experts of mundane sciences are required by only those who are unaware of the reality and nature of shrimps and have no means of ascertaining what exactly shrimps are, other than referring to the experts of animal life. But those who have the knowledge of the reality of shrimps by having made a physical examination of these creatures are to issue a hukm. There is no doubt and ambiguity in their hukm because their view is not based on the theories presented by scientists and experts of animal life.
In view of Hadhrat Thaanvi’s (rahmatullah alayh) unawareness of shrimps, he left the matter on the opinion to the mubassireen (experts). He clearly did not intend his view to be the last word to be dogmatically clung to.
THE VIEWS OF OTHER ULAMA
While the Maulana who seeks to make shrimps halaal has cited the views of some Ulama, he has overlooked what other great Ulama and Fuqaha have to say on this question. We shall cite some of them here.
i) Hadhrat Maulana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi (rahmatullah alayh) says in his Fataawa Rasheediyyah:
“Shrimps among the aquatic creatures are not fish. Besides fish, all sea animals according to the Hanafi Math-hab are not permissible.”
ii) Fataawa Abdul Hayy states:
“The worms called jheenga (shrimps) are haraam according to some Ulama because they do not resemble fish…”
iii) Mufti Kifaayatullah Dehlwi (rahmatullah alayh) states in his Fataawa:
“In my opinion it (shrimps) are not fish…”
iv) Hadhrat Maulana Khaleel Ahmad Ambhetwi (rahmatullah alayh) and Hadhrat Maulana Mufti Mahmudul Hasan Gangohi (rahmatullah alayh) proclaimed shrimps haraam.
v) Hadhrat Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani (rahmatullahi alayh) when he went to Gujarat, refused to eat shrimps which the Ulama of Gujarat, in general, believed to be halaal.
vi) Hadhrat Maulana Muhammad Yusuf Ludhyanwi
(rahmatullah alayh) very emphatically proclaimed shrimps haraam. He states in his Fataawa:
“Are shrimps fish or not? There is difference of opinion in this mas’alah. Those who have understood shrimps to be fish, inspite of saying it is permissible, have said that caution requires abstention from consuming shrimps. Now the latest investigation confirms that shrimps are not fish. Since shrimps are not fish, their consumption according to Imaam Abu Hanifah (rahmatullah alayh) is not permissible.”
“The experts of animal life are unanimous that shrimps have no relationship with fish. In fact it is totally apart from fish. Moreover, in Jawaahir e Akhlaati it is clearly stated that all small fish are Makrooh Tahrimi“.
This is the most correct view When even tiny fish are Makrooh Tahrimi (sinful and not permissible), then to a greater extent will shrimps be Makrooh Tahrimi. Tiny fish are after all, samak. Notwithstanding this, the following appears in Jawaahir Akhlaati: “All tiny fish are Makrooh Tahrimi,”
In conclusion, Ulama should understand that in a question of ikhtilaaf (difference), they should always advise abstention since this is the Command of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). Furthermore, the ikhtilaaf on the question of shrimps is extremely weak and baseless as those who went in favour of permissibility had no knowledge of the reality and nature of shrimps. They had to content themselves with brief statements such as made by Damiri: “Ar-rubayaan are tiny fish“. Their stand is further weakened by the fact that Damiri was a Shaafi and according to Shaafi authorities all sea animals are `samak‘ as the Maulana has presented.
In Imdaadul Muftiyeen, in the discussion on the ikhtilaaf pertaining to the aquatic creature, jirreeth, it is said:
“…Therefore caution in regard to all these types of fish (in which there is difference of opinion) is the ta’leem of the Nabi, namely, ‘Abstain from that which casts you into doubt and take that which does not cast you into doubt.‘ Practise on this (ta’leem). Abstain from eating these creatures….”
If after having examined the shrimp physically and after having understood what we have discussed in this article, someone still cannot understand the hurmat of shrimps, then we have no further comment. Everyone is free to act according to his own opinion. And hidaayat is only from Allah Ta’ala.