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['Aalim Network QR] Sea Food

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|       In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the All-Merciful       |\
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Salaamun alaykum,

	The reply to the following question on the 'Prohibition of certain 
type of seafood in the Ja`fari School of thought' was kindly provided by 
Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi.  In his reply, Moulana Rizvi discusses the basis 
of this prohibition from the Qur'an and Ahadith, and how this differs 
from the other sects in Islam.


Mustafa Rawji
Acting Moderator, 'Aalim Network



	I have been corresponding with a sunni sister regarding dietary
laws that the Sunni do not recognize.  Specifically, the restriction on
seafood with the exception of fish with scales and shrimp.  She has asked
in the following message, for a (Shia) scholar's interpretation, of why
others are considered haram.  I would like, if possible, to address the
answer in terms of hadith that are available, Qur'anic verses, etc.  So
that I may show her the sources.  Thank you in advance. 

---------- Forwarded message -------------------------------------------

>	I am curious as to the reasoning for declaring the shellfish
>haraam. As I said in a previous message, I know there is an ayah which
>talks about the sea creatures being ok to eat; I don't know the Arabic and
>haven't even got an exact quote from a translation, so I hope somebody
>finds this ayah. But anyway,I had thought that all but Shafi'i madhhab in
>Sunni Islam said the shell fish was ok, and not even all Shafi'i agree
>that its not. So, I'm interested in the Shi'ah interpretation to the
>contrary and what is the evidence or reasoning and how is the ayah
>interpreted to allow for such reasoning? I'm not trying to begin an
>argument; rather, I'm trying to understand the other point of view.

>	My question would be, concerning the animals you mentioned which
>aren't specifically listed as haraam in the Qur'an, is there a Qur'anic
>ayah which while not specifically mentioning those animals, mentions a
>type or class which includes them? Or do we have very clear authentic
>well-known evidence hadith that indicates the prophet (saw) did not eat
>such and forbade or discouraged it etc? ON the other hand, the phrase you
>quoted in Arabic, catch of the sea would seem, as you said to be a general
>and all encompassing term for those things you get from the sea. As I
>understand the root sayd, refers to hunting and/or fishing for live food.
>Never heard of its use in terms of gathering, which would be implied when
>speaking of things like seaweed or pearls etc, but I'm also not an Arabic
>scholar. What I'm trying to get at here is that it seems to me that Allah
>(swt) is being pretty general and at the same time specific in allowing us
>to use whatever we get from the sea, at least in terms of live creatures
>by using that word sayd. But like I said, I am no scholar, so I'd be
>interested in hearing other lines of reasoning from scholars. 


1. The Sources of Islamic Laws:

We must first of all define the sources of Islamic laws. According to all
Muslims, Shi`as and Sunnis alike, the laws of Islam are not only derived
from the Qur'an. The Qur'an, being the word of Allah, is the foundation; but
one cannot, under any circumstances, ignore the sunnah of the Prophet and
Imams. Not only that; many times, the Qur'anic verses themselves have to be
understood in the light of the explanation given by the Prophet and the Imams.

2. Verse 5:99

Most of the Sunni schools of fiqh allow most of the sea food. The Shi`a
school, on the other hand, allows only the scale-fish, prawns and shrimps.

Many people like to quote verse no. 5:99 about sea food. It says:
"Allowed for you is the GAME OF THE SEA AND ITS FOOD, as a provision for you
and for the travellers." They conclude that based on this verse all sea food
should be allowed.

First of all, you have to look at the context of the verse. It was revealed
as part of the rules explaining the restrictions on a person who is in ihram
(the pilgrim's garment) during the pilgrimage. The whole passages reads as

"O you who believe!
"Do not kill the game while you are in the pilgrim garb. And whosoever among
you kills it intentionally, then the compensation of it is that the like of
what he killed from the cattle as adjudged by two just men from among you.
[This compensation is] an offering to be brought to the Ka`ba, or the
expiation of it is the feeding of the poor or the equivalent of it in
fasting so that he may taste the heinousness of his deed.
God has pardoned what is gone by; and whoever returns to it, then God will
exact penalty from him, and God is Mighty, Lord of Retribution."

After this prohibition about killing the game, the next verse says:

"ALLOWED for you is the GAME OF THE SEA AND ITS FOOD, as a provision for you
and for the travellers; and FORBIDDEN for you is the GAME OF THE LAND so
long as you are in the pilgrim garb; and fear God unto whom you shall be

What this verse is saying is that
        "the game of the sea and its food" is allowed to the pilgrims
        even when they are in the state of ihram;
        whereas the "game of the land" is haram
        as long as they are in the state of ihram.

This verse is not defining what is the permissible "food" from the game of
sea. It is just saying that whatever was allowed (in case of sea food) is
also allowed in ihram, and that whatever was allowed (in case of the game of
land) is not permissible in ihram.

If the verse is saying that all kinds of the "game of sea and its food" is
permissible, then what would one say about the next sentence---Would all
kind of land animals be allowed after the pilgrim is out of ihram?! No one
takes the expression in the second sentence "the game of the land" as a
blanket approval for all land animals. Similarly, no one should take the
expression in the first sentence "the game of sea and its food" as a blanket
approval for all sea animals.

Moreover, the words "the game of sea and ITS FOOD" show that not every
"game/catch of sea" is food; otherwise, there was no need to add the words
"and its food" in this sentence. It would mean that you are allowed to catch
many things from the sea but only "its food" is permissible for you to eat.

3. Halal Sea Food

So how do we find out what is the permissible "food" from the sea?

The second source of the shari`ah, i.e., the sunnah of the Prophet and the
Imams, has clarified for us the sea food which is halal for us. It says that
the scale-fish, prawns and shrimps are allowed; and everything else is
haram. (This is not the place to prove that the sunnah of the Imams of Ahlul
Bayt is an extension of the sunnah of the Prophet. Those who like to read on

Shaykh Hurr al-`Amili, for example, quotes ahadith which indicate that Imam
`Ali (a.s.) used to go around the fish market of Kufa and announce that "do
not eat or sell the fish that does not have scales". (Wasailu 'sh-Shi`ah,
vol. 16, 329-330) Other statements from the fifth and sixth Shi`a Imams
clearly forbid the eating of a fish which does not have scales. (Ibid) On
the issue of shrimps and prawns, there are quite a few ahadith in Wasa'ilu
'sh-Shi`a, vol. 16 pp. 337 to 339. For example, Imam Musa al-Kazim (a.s.)
was asked about eating shrimps, he said: "There is no problem in it; and
shrimp is a kind of fish." Similar ahadith have been narrated from Imam Riza
(a.s.) also.

In short, the sea food that is allowed to us is as follows:
        1. scale fish;
        2. shrimp and prawns.

Any non-fish sea animal and any fish which has no scales is not allowed. So
crab, shell-fish and other animals are haram in the Ja`fari fiqh.
(The case of lobster is still undecided because of ambiguity in its
classification: is it a shrimp just bigger in size, or is it a different kind
of sea animal? Therefore, it is better to refrain from lobster until the
issue is settled.)

It might be of interest to note that the Shi`as are not unique or alone on
the ruling about scale fish and skin fish. Even the dietery laws in the
present version of Torah (Old Testament) says the same about non-scale fish.
It says: "Whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in
the rivers, them shall ye eat. And all that have no fins and scales in the
seas, and in the rivers, of all that moves in the waters, and of any living
thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you...ye
shall not eat of their flesh..." (Lev. 11:9-12)

I hope this clarifies the Shi`a Ja`fari point of view on sea food as well as
the verse mentioned in the question.

Sayyid M. Rizvi

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