Is Seafood Halal?

15 February, 2020
Q I have heard many things about the status of seafood in Islam. One person told me that we could only eat the fish that have scales, so that means no shark, whales, crawfish, etc. Another person told me that we could eat it all. Can you please tell me what is right?


Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh

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

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

In this fatwa:

Islam encourages Muslims to consume what is lawful and pure. According to the majority of scholars, seafood, including whales, crawfish, and other sea creatures are lawful to eat. When Prophet Muhammad was asked about the sea, he replied, “Its water is pure and its dead are halal.” (Ahmad)

In responding to the question about seafood, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, former president of the Fiqh Council of North America, states:

In the Quran, Allah Almighty says, {Lawful to you is (the pursuit of) water game and its use for food – for the benefit of yourselves and those who travel, but forbidden is (the pursuit of) land game as long as you are in a state of Ihram (for Hajj or Umrah). And fear Allah to whom you shall be gathered back.} (Al-Ma’idah 5:96)

Some jurists interpret the word “ta’amuhu” (meaning food that comes from the water) as being fish only. But other jurists take it to mean anything that lives in the water and is edible. The latter is the majority opinion and it is closer to the language of the Quran.

I am inclined to take the majority opinion. Majority of the jurists consider shrimps, shark, whale, and all other types of seafood permissible to eat.

Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) once sent some of his Companions on an expedition. They found a dead whale by the sea and subsisted on it for more than twenty days. On their return to Madinah, they told the Prophet about this and he said, “Eat the food which Allah has brought forth for you and feed us from it if you have any left.” They then brought him some whale meat and he ate it (Al-Bukhari)

Almighty Allah knows best.

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