Prawn “Halaalizing” Obsession

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

Answer by Maulana Ahmad Sadeq Desai: 

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  la  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 hayawaan 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  consuming prawns, 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.

We have also put up more detailed articles regarding the Hanafi view on Aquatic foods in the following link:

1. Shrimps–Halaal Or Haraam? (Hanafi View)

2. The Animals of the Ocean and the Hanafi Dalaa’il (Proofs)


2 thoughts on “Prawn “Halaalizing” Obsession”

  1. Relevant part mentioned

    According to many linguistic specialists prawns are a type of fish, as stated in the ‘Qamoos’ and ‘Taajul Uroos’.

    Also, Allama Dameeri has written in his book ‘Hayyatul Hayawaan’

    الروبيان هو سمك صغير جدا أحمر

    Translation: “Prawns are very small red fish”

    On this basis, many of the Hanafi Scholars have said prawns are halal.

    However the modern day animal classification experts do not count prawns as a type of fish. They say the definition of fish is:

    هو حيوان ذو عمود فقري يعيش في الماء و يسبح بعواماته و يتنفس بغلصمته

    Translation: A fish is that creature which has a backbone, lives in water, swims with its fins and breathes through its gills.

    Prawns do not come under the category of fish, because they do not have a backbone nor do they breathe through gills. So they fall under the category of insects, and would not be allowed.

    Since many Ulama still regard prawns as a fish and eating them is common amongst them so eating prawns cannot be classed as haram.

    However, due to the conflicting evidence, they could be classed as Makrooh. It would be better to avoid them. But, if someone does eat them, we shouldn’t say anything to them. Allah knows best.

    ( from Fiqhi Maqaalat- Mufti Taqi Saheb pg. 217 vol.3)


    1. As salaam Alaykum brother, I had send your Query to Maulana Saheb, the following is his reply:

      1) The one who has commented lacks understanding of the  meaning of Haraam and Makrooh, hence he speaks drivel. He should refer to the
      Kutub of our Fuqaha to see the hundreds of  acts which are  labelled HARAAM despite the lack of Qat’iyyat.

      (2) For practical purposes and for the understanding and guidance of the masses, the two classifications – Haraam and Makrooh – are used
      synonymously by all the Fuqaha because the consequence of both Haraam
      and Makrooh is Naar-e-Jahannam (the Fire of Jahannam).

      The objector by  using the term ‘makrooh’ seeks to minimize the severe
      consequence of the Fire of Jahannam because he lacks understanding of
      the meanings of Makrooh and Haraam as utilized in general by the Fuqaha. In innumerable masaa-il of prohibition, the Fuqaha use the term HARAAM as it applies practically, not in the technical sense. In
      the technical sense, the consequence of denial of Haraam is kufr/irtidaad. But it is plain ignorance and stupidity to deny that
      HARAAM and MAKROOH in practise means the same thing.

      (3) Allaamah Dameeri did not say in his kitaab: “Prawns are very small red fish.”

      He said: “Ar-Roobayaan are very small red fish.” There is no basis for claiming that Ar-Roobayaan are prawns. What is the evidence for
      translating Ar-Roobayaan  to mean ‘prawns’?  “Very small fish” could be small sardines or any of the hundreds of species of small fish in
      the oceans. Translating it as  prawns is whimsical and baseless.

      (4) If it is assumed – though baselessly – that Allaamah Dameeri did mean that prawns are fish, then it does not affect the Hanafi position
      because Allaamah Dameeri was a Shaafi’. All  sea animals are halaal for Shaafis, except the sea pig.

      (5) Who are the “many linguistic specialists” according to whom prawns
      are fish?  This has been left ambiguous. If they  name them,  and quote their exact statements, we shall then, Insha-Allah, comment.

      (6) If it is mentioned in the Qamoos and Taajul Uroos that “prawns are fish”, then we comment as follows:

      *  What is the word which has been translated in English as ‘prawns’?

      The two kitaabs are not English texts.  These texts do not mention the
      word ‘prawns’.

      *  We are under no obligation to make taqleed of what Qamoos and
      Taajul Uroos say. We base our case on Shar’i dalaa-il.

      *  Taajul Uroos and Qamoos are not  kitaabs of Fiqh. If indeed it is mentioned in these books that ‘prawns’ (the very English term, prawns)
      are fish, then we shall reject it as baseless. But it is quite obvious that the word, ‘prawns’ is not to be found in these books. The
      halaalizers of prawns are interpreting the  words to mean ‘prawns’ as
      they have interpreted  Allaamah Dameeri’s term of Ar-Roobayaan.

      (7)  The objector says that on the basis of Qamoos and Taajul Uroos,
      “many of the Hanafi  Scholars have said prawns are halal.” Who are the many ‘Hanafi Scholars’? Mention their names, then we shall comment,

      And, if there are ‘many’ such scholars, we do not follow them.
      Furthermore, there are numerous Hanafi Ulama/Fuqaha who regard prawns
      to be Haraam in view of the fact that  prawns are NOT fish, and the unanimous principle of the Ahnaaf is that besides fish all sea animals are HARAAM.

      (8) The objector speaking drivel, attributes  the non-fish
      classification of prawns to “modern day  animal classification experts”. The ruling of hurmat is not based on  the classification of
      “modern day experts”. Their classification is cited as a corroboratory factor. To understand what prawns are, one only requires  eyes and
      brains, nothing more.

      (9) Innumerable Ulama of  this age  eat  carrion, indulge in riba, appear on television and  indulge in many haraam activities which they
      satanically halaalize. The indulgences  of many Ulama  do not constitute a basis  for halaalization. What is Haraam will remain Haraam. The indulgences of the Ulama of this era  are not any guidance
      for the Ummah. They have become Mudhilleen.

      (10) Regardless of conflicting evidence, those who believe  something to be Haraam are fully justified to proclaim it to be Haraam. Those
      who  claim on the basis of  Shar’i daleel that something is Haraam are entitled to  proclaim it to be Haraam. The view of the opposition
      does not water down their stance.  The classification of ‘makrooh’ cannot be shoved down the throats of the Ulama who say that prawns are Haraam.

      (11)  Those who say that prawns are ‘makrooh’ should not resort to chicanery and tricks. They should be honest and define the meaning of
      ‘makrooh’ in the context of  prawn classification. What exactly do they mean by makrooh? If they say that ‘makrooh’ is permissible, then
      we say that they are devils. If they say what the Fuqaha say, viz. that the consequence of Makrooh is the Fire of Jahannam, then we are
      on the same wave-length. The difference will be merely in a misunderstanding
      of the meanings of the terms. But both mean the same thing.

      (12)  The issue is not whether we should say or not say anything to someone who eats prawns. The simple issue is: Are prawns  permissible
      or not. We say that prawns are HARAAM.



      Mujlisul Ulama of S.A.


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