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Can Muslims Eat Fish Fed on Pork Fats?

04 September, 2022
Q As-salamu `alaykum. Dear scholars, some years ago the European Union took a decision to approve the use of reconstituted animal and pork protein in fish feed. This is a major dilemma facing and alarming Muslim minorities across Europe. Large numbers of Muslims in Europe eat fish to avoid eating unknown meat and avoid any suspicion of eating pork in restaurants or products in the markets. The question is: is it allowed for Muslims in Europe to eat fish fed on pork fats or any other impermissible ingredients? Also, what can the Muslim minorities in such countries do? Please, help. Thank you.

Answer

Wa `alaykum as-salamu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

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All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.


In this fatwa:

  • The position of the majority is not the emphatic prohibition but karahah (disliking) to eat fish fed on pork fats
  • If we add to this the difficulty and hardship that may befall millions of Muslims if we decree the consumption of all main-stream market fish haram, then we would certainly refrain from saying that. We believe that Muslims may consume this fish.
  • However, the Muslim community should support alternative food industry. We would also encourage them to lobby the law-makers in Europe to avoid legislations that are offensive to large minorities and to human health and well-being.

In responding to your question about eating fish fed on pork fats, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:

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The issue of eating fish fed on pork fats is a serious issue. It is an issue every Muslim, especially those in power or responsibility, should take as an urgent challenge to address. A final solution is possible when we look at the Shariah for what it is: ethics; ethical treatment of animals and the environment cannot be detached from the Shariah.

Since neither fish nor animals are intended to be raised on such a feed, doing so is akin to interference with the natural order of things as decreed by Allah. This is the pet project of Satan, who vowed to God that he would tempt humans to distort and disfigure God’s creation.

Therefore, Muslims who raise fish or animals are not allowed to provide animal bits or pig fat to them. As Imam Shah Waliullah has pointed out that each of these creatures is governed by their own laws; as such, they are not meant to be raised on such a feed.

Thus, it behooves us as Muslims, imbued with the Quranic vision of life and nature, to consider raising animals and fish for our consumption. Alternatively, we should import them from countries where they do not resort to such measures.

This is an area Muslim countries should pay attention to; by raising animals and fish organically without upsetting the natural order of things we can set an example for the whole world.

That is a challenge for us to undertake if we do care for the spirit and ethics of Shariah. However, I am afraid we are mostly concerned with legalism and tend to pay no attention to the ethics, which is the quintessence of the Shariah.

Having said this, I must also add: If we have no alternative, it is not considered haram to eat these animals or fish according to the rules of fiqh. For even though these feeds are considered haram for us to consume, once they are fed to the animals and fish they have undergone chemical transformation. Thus, according to jurists, because of istihalah or chemical transformation they cannot be ruled as strictly haram.

Dr. Hatem Al-Hajj, Dean of the College of Islamic Studies at Mishkah University and a member of the Permanent Fatwa Committee for the Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America (AMJA), adds:

The question is raised, in the first place, due to the prohibition of the consumption of jallalah (filth-eating animals).

The answer to this question requires considering the following points:

  • The definition of jallalah (filth-eating animals).
  • The ruling of consuming jallalah.
  • The ruling regarding transformation (istihalah) of filthy substances into new ones.
  • The fatwa concerning this particular matter, taking the context and all relevant external factors in consideration.

1- The Definition of Jallalah (Filth-Eating Animals):

It is certainly the cattle and sheep that feed on najasat (filth as defined by Shariah). There is controversy over chickens and whether the ruling of jallalah applies to them or not.

Ibn Hazm argued they don’t because they are known for eating filth and they were not prohibited.

The majority of scholars indicated that the ruling is general and applicable to all edible meat, as Ibn Hajar indicated in Fath al-Bari.

There is also another matter worth noting; which is that the animal is considered jallalah only if the majority of its food is najis (impure), as Ibn Qudamah reported from the Hanbalis in al-Mughni, and it is also the Hanafi position. According to some, it becomes jallalah only if the animal’s odor changes and that position was ascribed to the majority by Imam an-Nawawi.

2- The Ruling of Consuming Jallalah (Filth-Eating Animals)

The majority considered the consumption of jallalah to be makruh (disliked) not haram. This position is held by the Hanafis, most Shafi`is, and some Hanbalis.

The Malikis don’t even dislike it. Some, including some Shafi`is and Hanbalis, consider it haram.

The proof is on the side of this latter group because of a report by Ahmad and Abi Dawud, from Ibn Umar, that Prophet (peace be upon him) forbade eating jallaalah and [drinking] its milk. There are other reports from other companions as well.

What would make the animal permissible to eat?

According to the companions, feeding the animal pure food for three days removes the prohibition.

3- The Ruling Regarding Transformation (Istihalah)

Many scholars believe that transformation of the najis substance into another one changes its ruling; this is in fact the position of the majority.

In my view, the transformation must be complete and the removal of the harm must be assured. If there is the possibility of harm, then it is prohibited; Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “There should be no harm or reciprocation of harm.” (Malik and Ibn Majah)

According to Mayo Clinic’s Website, the most likely explanation [of how cattle develop BSE (Mad Cow)] is that cattle developed the disease from eating feed containing the ground-up parts of infected animals. That’s why most countries now ban the use of mammalian protein in feed intended for cows.

I would not be able to tell at this point whether or not the transformation of this fodder given to fish is complete, and the final product is safe.

4- The fatwa concerning eating fish fed on pork fats

As for the fatwa concerning this particular matter, taking the context and all relevant external factors in consideration, we have a controversial matter.

The position of the majority is not the emphatic prohibition but karahah (disliking). If we add to this the difficulty and hardship that may befall millions of Muslims if we decree the consumption of all main-stream market fish haram, then I would certainly refrain from saying that. I believe that Muslims may consume this fish.

However, I would advise the Muslim community to support alternative food industry. I would also encourage them to lobby the law-makers in Europe to avoid legislations that are offensive to large minorities and to human health and well-being.

Allah Almighty knows best.

Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.