Can Fish be Halal? A Complete Guide to Halal Fish
As halal foods continue to dominate massive ground in the culinary world due to their health benefits, one of the frequent questions is whether fish can be halal.
As a Muslim, or as an Islamic community, understanding the halal status surrounding a particular meal is crucial and this is not only about the promotion of healthy consumption but also showing commitment to the religious tradition and obedience to Allah.
In this post, we will decipher the conundrums surrounding fish status in Islam.
- Surah Al Maida 5:96 affirms that all sea games are halal (permissible) as a provision for you and travelers. This means fish is halal and Muslims can eat it.
- While fish is said to be halal, certain types of fish may not be permissible depending on your interpretation of the Quran, and the Islamic community you belong to.
- Cross-contamination may ruin the status of a fish.
Fish being an aquatic animal is one of the greatest sources of minerals, such as zinc, iodine, iron, magnesium, and potassium, and also rich in calcium and phosphorus. Without any doubt, fish is essential to the health of the body.
What is Halal Fish?
In a comprehensive term, the Arabic word “halal” refers to something being permissible or lawful. Halal fish in the Islamic dietary context refers to a fish that adheres to the Islamic dietary standard; this involves the fish being prepared ethically, in a way that nothing hinders the halal status of a fish.
Let’s move on to the main purpose of this post.
Can fish be halal?
Yes. However, deciphering the conundrum surrounding all fishes is not so straightforward as it depends on individual belief as a Muslim and your interpretation of the Holy Quran. This blog will only be based on the facts from the Holy Quran.
According to a Quran verse [Surah Al Maida (5:96)] which quotes:
أُحِلَّ لَكُمْ صَيْدُ ٱلْبَحْرِ وَطَعَامُهُۥ مَتَـٰعًۭا لَّكُمْ وَلِلسَّيَّارَةِ ۖ وَحُرِّمَ عَلَيْكُمْ صَيْدُ ٱلْبَرِّ مَا دُمْتُمْ حُرُمًۭا ۗ وَٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ ٱلَّذِىٓ إِلَيْهِ تُحْشَرُونَ ٩٦
To you, it is lawful to hunt and to eat the game (fish) of the sea as a provision for you and seafarers; but to hunt on land is forbidden you so long as ye are on the pilgrimage. Be mindful of your duty to Allah, unto Whom ye will be gathered.
This affirms the permissibility of hunting, consuming, and enjoying fish with your friends and family. However, not everyone interprets this verse of the Qur’an in this way, some believe not all sea games are permissible due to some basic facts best known to them, this will be deeply discussed in the next section.
Different Interpretations of Muslim Scholars/Schools of Thought
While many believe that all sea games are permissible for consumption, some scholars and Islamic schools of thought explore way beyond the verse. In the idea of separating “facts from fiction,” they were able to differentiate between fish and aquatic life, which includes all the creatures of the sea such as crustaceans or certain species of marine animals, with differing opinions on their halal status.
Below are the opinions of different Islamic schools of thought on the halal status of fishes:
According to the Hanafi, sea creatures such as mussels, calamari, crabs, lobsters, and shrimp is haram, this is because they believe they are all shellfishes and do not possess the characteristics of a fish.
For Maliki only fishes with scales, gills, and fins on their body are permissible, they also forbid eating creatures like crab, shrimp, lobster, and others.
The Shafi’i also believe fish is halal but do not eat sea animals such as prawns, shrimps, and crabs.
The Hanbali is akin to Shafi’i and Maliki. They hold the same cardinal rule, eating fishes that have a scale but do not eat other sea creatures, especially the exo-skeleton sea animals.
Only Sunni Islam follows verse 5:96 of the Qur’an which teaches about all creatures of the sea being permissible. They believe that fish is halal and therefore permissible for Muslims to consume.
Factors that May Inflict the Halal Status of Fish
Allah (God) has indeed made fish halal for the provision of food for everyone. Concerns about the halal status of fish arise based on handling and culinary practices. First, let’s look at industrial handling.
Contemporary Industry Practices
As the modern food industry continues to evolve, concerns often arise around the practices associated with fishing, sourcing, and preparation. Proper handling when fishing is important as this also contributes to the halal status of the fish.
This may be due to the style of fishing; it is strictly unacceptable to farm fish by poisoning their habitat in response to fishing on a large scale.
Culinary Tradition and Identity
Beyond the legalistic debate, the halal status of fish resonates with the broader conversation about culinary tradition and religious identity. Fish holds cultural significance in many Muslim-majority regions, where dishes enriched with local flavors and customs celebrate the diversity of the Islamic world.
When preparing a fish meal for consumption, it is important to be mindful of the environment, and utensils used. It is also important to avoid cross-contamination as this may happen in various form, It could be in contact with alcoholic content or ingredients that does not adhere to halal principle.
Examples of Halal Fish
As a Muslim who is cautious about the type of fish to eat, below are the types of fish you can enjoy:
- Croaker: Learn more about why Croaker is halal
- Salmon: Learn more about why salmon is halal.
- Trout, and more.
Freshwater Fish Consideration
The jurisprudence of eating fish is not only limited to saltwater fish, it encompasses all aqua habitats. Freshwater fishes such as Sardines, Catla, Rohu, Common carp, Mackerel, and Pomfret, can be enjoyed by Muslims.
They are all healthy for consumption and do not contain any form of toxins that can conflict with the Islamic dietary standard.
Why is Halal Important to Muslims
The best practice to demonstrate obedience and commitment to a religion or tradition is to abide by the laws and principles. For Muslims, it is important to consume only what is confirmed to follow the Islamic dietary standard as it serves as an act of worship, and it is believed to bring them closer to Allah (God).
So there is this saying that is common in Islam which reads: Why will Almighty God – a supreme being, instruct you to abstain from a practice but you neglect? Muslims and Islam generally do believe that the fear of God starts from obeying the commandments one of which is eating only what has been made permissible.
Halal foods are also seen as a way of maintaining purity, physically and spiritually and avoiding sin. Also, the importance of halal food to Muslims includes helping them to fulfill their religious obligations.
Is it Halal to Eat Caviar?
It is permissible to eat fish but how about fish products like caviar? Caviar is made from the roe of sturgeon; a common name for the 28 species of fish belonging to the family Acipenseridae. Since fishes are halal, their byproduct is also halal as far as it is not blood, toxic, or poisonous, therefore, eating caviar is permissible in Islam.
Is it necessary to kill fish in Zabiha?
Unlike terrestrial animals, which must undergo a specific slaughtering process known as Dhabihah/Zabiha, fish do not require any ritualistic slaughtering.
This distinction arises from the fact that fish are not blood-bearing creatures in the same manner as land animals, and therefore, the process of slaughter for fish differs significantly.
Can Muslims eat dead fish?
If dead and well preserved but not rotten, it is permissible to eat.
In the expansive landscape of halal dietary considerations, the status of fish emerges as an affirmation of the Quran’s guidance and a reflection of the interplay between theology and the natural world. While varying interpretations exist among Muslims, the undoubted mention of fish as permissible in Islamic scripture [Quran 5:96] provides a foundation for its halal classification.
Are you a Shia Muslim, Hanbali, or Hanafi? Which of the Islamic school of thought opinions would you agree with after reading this blog? Share your thoughts in the comment box.
PS: Note that this blog only reflects the fact from the Holy Quran which is the book that guides the life of all Muslims.