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: