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What Is Halal Seafood?

By B. Koch
Updated May 16, 2024
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Halal seafood is considered permissible for Muslims to consume, as stated by the Qur’an. It is widely agreed that any fish that has scales and that is caught live from the sea is considered halal. Yet there are points of debate over other types of seafood and whether or not they are halal or haram.

Members of the Muslim religion adhere to a halal diet that is outlined in the Qur’an. The Qur’an states what foods are lawful, or halal, for Muslims to eat, and what foods are unlawful, or haram. In general, the Qur’an says that pork products, meat from animals that were found dead, amphibians, alcoholic drinks, and birds of prey are all haram and, therefore, prohibited. Any food that does not fall under these categories, and that has not been not soiled by any of these products, is considered halal. Halal meat must also be slaughtered according to strict criteria.

There is some debate, however, over halal seafood. In general, seafood is considered a lawful food. The Qur’an does not prohibit its consumption and, in some cases, encourages it. The debate is over over what type of seafood is permitted.

In general, it is agreed that fish that are caught live from the sea are halal seafood, but some believe that fish found already dead are also permissible. A story found in the Qur’an tells of lost travelers who discovered a beached whale. The travelers were starving, so they decided to eat the meat even though it was already dead, which typically makes a food haram. When the travelers consulted the Prophet, he stated that this food was a gift from Allah and was halal. Others disagree, as the Qur’an states elsewhere that consuming meat that has not been slaughtered correctly is haram.

While some scholars believe that all seafood is permissible, some hold that only fish with scales are considered halal seafood. Since it is agreed that amphibians are not a permitted food, some interpret this as meaning that any creature that can live both in and out of the water is also not permitted. For example, crabs and turtles might be considered haram. True amphibians, such as frogs and salamanders, are almost always considered haram.

Another point of debate involves fish without scales. It is generally agreed that all fish with scales are halal seafood. Yet some scholars believe that fish that do not have scales are haram. This includes eels, shrimp, and lobster.

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Discussion Comments

By fBoyle — On Oct 06, 2014

@turquoise-- Seafood really is a gift from God because God has made an exception to the rules of slaughter when it comes to fish. No special care has to be taken and the fish doesn't have to be slaughtered in a certain way like other animals have to be.

And the story about travelers (they were actually troops) eating a large fish is true, but it is not in the Qur'an. It is a hadith which has been ruled sahih. In fact, the Prophet ate some of that fish that the troops had returned with.

By literally45 — On Oct 05, 2014

@turquoise-- There is not clarity about other sea creatures but both the Qur'an and hadith clearly state that all fish are halal for man. It doesn't matter what type of fish it is and it is also halal if it is found dead. Surah al-Maida, verse 96 says: "Lawful to you is the pursuit of water-game (fishing) and its use for food, for the benefit of yourselves and those who travel…” So you can certainly eat all fish without any concern.

As for other sea creatures, we are not 100% sure about it. Different schools of thought have different opinions on the matter. Some say that all game from the sea are halal. Others say that it is not. But I think that when it comes to crabs and lobsters, we should also think about how these animals are treated. For example, a lobster that is boiled alive, might not be halal because the animal has been tortured. But I'm not an expert on this topic and Allah knows best. So yes, definitely ask your local imam about it.

By turquoise — On Oct 05, 2014

There is a story in the Qur'an about people eating a whale? I can't seem to recollect it. The only whale story I remember is the story of Jonah who was swallowed by a whale and God saved him.

I've always considered most seafood to be halal. I don't think that octopus are halal for example, but things like mussels and crab seem like they would be halal. But the article says that crabs may be haram so I'm not sure.

The best thing to do is to ask a local imam. I'm going to ask my imam on Friday about this. I certainly don't want to eat something that is haram. I wish what is halal and haram of seafood was made more clear in the Qur'an and hadith. It seems like the topic is up for discussion and it's confusing.

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