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Is Crab Halal? | Can Muslims Eat It?

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Crab is a type of seafood that has a hard shell and claws. It is a popular delicacy in many cuisines around the world, but is it permissible to eat in Islam?

This article will explore the different opinions and evidence regarding the halal and haram status of crabs according to various Islamic schools of thought and scholars.

What are Halal and Haram in Islam?

Halal means lawful or permissible in Arabic, while haram means unlawful or forbidden.

Muslims are required to follow the dietary laws of Islam, which are based on the Quran, the Sunnah (the teachings and practices of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him), and the consensus (ijma) and analogy (qiyas) of the Islamic jurists.

The Quran states that Allah has made lawful for Muslims all kinds of good and pure foods, and has prohibited them from eating anything that is impure, harmful, or causes harm to others. Some of the general categories of haram foods are:

  • Carrion (dead animals that are not slaughtered according to Islamic rules)
  • Blood
  • Pork and its products
  • Alcohol and intoxicants
  • Animals that die by strangling, beating, falling, goring, or being partly eaten by another animal
  • Animals that are sacrificed to idols or other than Allah
  • Predatory animals with fangs or claws, such as lions, tigers, bears, etc.
  • Birds of prey with talons, such as eagles, hawks, owls, etc.
  • Reptiles, such as snakes, lizards, crocodiles, etc.
  • Insects, such as flies, bees, ants, etc.

However, there are some exceptions and differences of opinion among Islamic scholars regarding some specific types of animals and foods. One of them is seafood.

What does the Quran say about Seafood?

The Quran mentions seafood in several verses and generally allows Muslims to eat it. For example:

Lawful to you is game from the sea and its food as provision for you and the travelers; but forbidden to you is game from the land as long as you are in the state of ihram. And fear Allah to whom you will be gathered. (Quran 5:96)

And it is He who subjected the sea for you to eat from it tender meat and to extract from it ornaments which you wear. And you see the ships plowing through it, and [He subjected it] that you may seek of His bounty; and perhaps you will be grateful. (Quran 16:14)

And not alike are the two bodies of water. One is fresh and sweet, palatable for drinking, and one is salty and bitter. And from each you eat tender meat and extract ornaments which you wear… (Quran 35:12)

These verses indicate that Allah has created the sea and its creatures for the benefit of humans, and has made them lawful for consumption.

However, some scholars have interpreted these verses to include only fish as seafood, while others have extended them to include all kinds of aquatic animals.

What are the opinions of the four major schools of thought on Crab?

The four major schools of thought in Sunni Islam are Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, and Hanbali.

They differ in their methodologies and sources of deriving Islamic law (fiqh), which leads to some variations in their rulings on various issues. One of them is crab.

Hanafi

The Hanafi school of thought is named after Imam Abu Hanifa (d. 767 CE), who was born in Kufa, Iraq.

He was known for his extensive use of reason (ijtihad) and analogy (qiyas) in deriving legal rulings.

He also relied on the Quran, the Sunnah, and the consensus (ijma) of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him.

The Hanafi school holds that only fish are halal among sea animals, while all other sea animals and insects are haram.

This is based on their interpretation of the Quranic verse 5:96 quoted above, which they understand to refer only to fish as a game from the sea. They also cite some hadiths that support their view:

Abdullah ibn Umar reported: A man said: O Messenger of Allah! We live by the sea coast; we catch fish but we do not find anyone who would sell us anything else; can we use seawater for ablution? He said: Its water is pure; its dead animals are lawful [to eat].

(Sunan Abi Dawud 83)

Jabir ibn Abdullah reported: The Messenger of Allah sent us on an expedition … We were struck with severe hunger … We saw a whale thrown up by the sea … We ate from it for half a month … The Prophet said: Eat it; it is food Allah has brought out for you and provision He has bestowed upon you.

(Sahih Muslim 1934)

The Hanafi scholars argue that these hadiths indicate that only fish are lawful among sea animals because the word used for the whale in Arabic is hoot, which is a type of fish.

They also argue that the Prophet peace be upon him did not mention any other sea animals as lawful, and that he forbade eating predatory animals with fangs or claws, which include crabs.

Therefore, according to the Hanafi school, crab is haram and not permissible to eat.

crab in Islam

Maliki

The Maliki school of thought is named after Imam Malik ibn Anas (d. 795 CE), who was born in Medina, Saudi Arabia.

He was known for his reliance on the Quran, the Sunnah, and the practice (Amal) of the people of Medina, who were considered to be the most knowledgeable and closest to the Prophet peace be upon him and his companions.

The Maliki school holds that all sea animals are halal, except those that are harmful or poisonous.

This is based on their interpretation of the Quranic verse 5:96 quoted above, which they understand to include all kinds of aquatic animals as a game from the sea. They also cite some hadiths that support their view:

Hadith Number 1:

Ibn Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah said: Gabriel led me in prayer at the House (i.e. the Ka’bah). He prayed the noon prayer with me when the sun had passed the meridian to the extent of the thong of a sandal;
he prayed the afternoon prayer with me when the shadow of everything was as long as itself; he prayed the sunset prayer with me when one who is fasting breaks the fast; he prayed the night prayer with me when the twilight had ended; and he prayed the dawn prayer with me when food and drink become forbidden to one who is keeping the fast.

On the following day he prayed the noon prayer with me when his shadow was as long as himself; he prayed the afternoon prayer with me when his shadow was twice as long as himself; he prayed the sunset prayer at the time when one who is fasting breaks the fast;
he prayed the night prayer with me when about the third of the night had passed; and he prayed the dawn prayer with me when there was a fair amount of light. Then turning to me he said: Muhammad, this is the time observed by the Prophets before you, and the time is anywhere between two times.

(Sunan al-Tirmidhi 173)

Hadith Number 2:

Ibn Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah said: Two types of dead animals and two types of blood have been made lawful for us. The types of dead animals are fish and locusts. The types of blood are liver and spleen.

(Sunan al-Tirmidhi 181)

The Maliki scholars argue that these hadiths indicate that all sea animals are lawful because fish are mentioned as an example of dead animals that are lawful, not as an exclusive category.

They also argue that locusts are mentioned as another example of dead animals that are lawful, which shows that insects are not haram by default.

They also argue that predatory animals with fangs or claws are not haram if they live in water, because water purifies them.

Therefore, according to the Maliki school, eating crab is halal and permissible to eat.

Shafi’i

The Shafi’i school of thought is named after Imam Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafi’i (d. 820 CE), who was born in Gaza, Palestine. He was known for his systematic and comprehensive approach to Islamic law, which combined the Quran, the Sunnah, consensus (ijma), analogy (qiyas), and reasoning (ijtihad).

The Shafi’i school holds that all sea animals are halal, except those that resemble land animals or have external ears.

This is based on their interpretation of the Quranic verse 5:96 quoted above, which they understand to include all kinds of aquatic animals as game from the sea. They also cite some hadiths that support their view:

#1

Jabir ibn Abdullah reported: We went out on an expedition … We were struck with severe hunger … We saw a whale thrown up by the sea … We ate from it for half a month … The Prophet said: Eat it; it is food Allah has brought out for you and provision He has bestowed upon you.

(Sahih Muslim 1934)

#2

Ibn Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah said: Two types of dead animals and two types of blood have been made lawful for us. The types of dead animals are fish and locusts. The types of blood are liver and spleen.

(Sunan al-Tirmidhi 181)

The Shafi’i scholars argue that these hadiths indicate that all sea animals are lawful because fish are mentioned as an example of dead animals that are lawful, not as an exclusive category.

They also argue that locusts are mentioned as another example of dead animals that are lawful, which shows that insects are not haram by default.

They also argue that predatory animals with fangs or claws are not haram if they live in water, because water purifies them.

However, the Shafi’i school makes an exception for sea animals that resemble land animals or have external ears, such as frogs, turtles, crocodiles, seals, etc. They consider them haram based on the following hadith:

Abdullah ibn Umar reported: The Messenger of Allah prohibited eating the flesh of domesticated donkeys, and he prohibited killing frogs.

(Sunan al-Nasa’i 4340)

The Shafi’i scholars argue that this hadith indicates that frogs are haram because they resemble land animals, and by analogy, other sea animals that resemble land animals are also haram.

They also argue that sea animals that have external ears are haram because they are similar to land animals that have ears, such as dogs and pigs.

Therefore, according to the Shafi’i school, crab is halal and permissible to eat, unless it resembles a land animal or has external ears.

Hanbali

The Hanbali school of thought is named after Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 855 CE), who was born in Baghdad, Iraq. He was known for his strict adherence to the Quran and the Sunnah, and his rejection of analogy (qiyas) and reasoning (ijtihad) in deriving legal rulings.

He also relied on the consensus (ijma) of the companions of the Prophet peace be upon him and their successors.

The Hanbali school holds that all sea animals are halal, except those that have a harmful effect on humans or are forbidden by a clear text.

This is based on their interpretation of the Quranic verse 5:96 quoted above, which they understand to include all kinds of aquatic animals as game from the sea. They also cite some hadiths that support their view:

#1

Jabir ibn Abdullah reported: We went out on an expedition … We were struck with severe hunger … We saw a whale thrown up by the sea … We ate from it for half a month … The Prophet said: Eat it; it is food Allah has brought out for you and provision He has bestowed upon you.

(Sahih Muslim 1934)

#2

Ibn Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah said: Two types of dead animals and two types of blood have been made lawful for us. The types of dead animals are fish and locusts. The types of blood are liver and spleen.

(Sunan al-Tirmidhi 181)

The Hanbali scholars argue that these hadiths indicate that all sea animals are lawful because fish are mentioned as an example of dead animals that are lawful, not as an exclusive category.

They also argue that locusts are mentioned as another example of dead animals that are lawful, which shows that insects are not haram by default.

They also argue that predatory animals with fangs or claws are not haram if they live in water, because water purifies them.

However, the Hanbali school makes an exception for sea animals that hurt humans or are forbidden by a clear text.

For example, they consider eels haram because they can cause electric shocks to humans.

They also consider sharks haram because they can attack and kill humans. They also consider sea pigs haram because they resemble pigs, which are forbidden in the Quran.

Therefore, according to the Hanbali school, eating crab is halal and permissible to eat, unless it harms humans or is forbidden by a clear text.

What are the opinions of some contemporary scholars on Crabs?

Some contemporary scholars have given their opinions on crab based on their research and analysis of the Quran, the Sunnah, and the views of classical scholars. Some of them are:

1. Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi

Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi is a prominent Egyptian scholar who is known for his moderate and progressive approach to Islamic law.

He holds that all sea animals are halal, including crabs, based on the general principle of permissibility in Islam and the Quranic verse 5:96 quoted above. He also cites some hadiths that support his view:

Jabir ibn Abdullah reported: We went out on an expedition … We were struck with severe hunger … We saw a whale thrown up by the sea … We ate from it for half a month … The Prophet said: Eat it; it is food Allah has brought out for you and provision He has bestowed upon you. (Sahih Muslim 1934)

Ibn Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah said: Two types of dead animals and two types of blood have been made lawful for us. The types of dead animals are fish and locusts. The types of blood are liver and spleen.

(Sunan al-Tirmidhi 181)

Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi argues that these hadiths indicate that all sea animals are lawful because fish are mentioned as an example of dead animals that are lawful, not as an exclusive category.

He also argues that locusts are mentioned as another example of dead animals that are lawful, which shows that insects are not haram by default.

He also argues that predatory animals with fangs or claws are not haram if they live in water, because water purifies them.

He also refutes the arguments of the Hanafi school, which holds that only fish are halal among sea animals, while all other sea animals and insects are haram.

Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi says that their interpretation of the Quranic verse 5:96 is too narrow and restrictive and that their evidence from the hadiths is weak and inconclusive.

He says that the word used for the whale in Arabic is hoot, which is a general term for any large fish, not a specific type of fish.

He also says that the Prophet peace be upon him did not mention any other sea animals as haram, and that he did not forbid eating predatory animals with fangs or claws, but only killing them.

Therefore, according to Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, eating crab is halal and permissible to eat.

Sheikh Muhammad ibn Uthaymeen

Sheikh Muhammad ibn Uthaymeen was a renowned Saudi scholar who was known for his conservative and traditional approach to Islamic law.

He holds that only fish are halal among sea animals, while all other sea animals and insects are haram, based on the Quranic verse 5:96 quoted above and the hadiths cited by the Hanafi school. He also cites some other hadiths that support his view:

Abdullah ibn Umar reported: A man said: O Messenger of Allah! We live by the sea coast; we catch fish but we do not find anyone who would sell us anything else; can we use seawater for ablution? He said: Its water is pure; its dead animals are lawful [to eat].

(Sunan Abi Dawud 83)

Jabir ibn Abdullah reported: The Messenger of Allah sent us on an expedition … We were struck with severe hunger … We saw a whale thrown up by the sea … We ate from it for half a month … The Prophet said: Eat it; it is food Allah has brought out for you and provision He has bestowed upon you.

(Sahih Muslim 1934)

Sheikh Muhammad ibn Uthaymeen argues that these hadiths indicate that only fish are lawful among sea animals. Because the word used for the whale in Arabic is a hoot, which is a type of fish.

He also argues that the Prophet peace be upon him did not mention any other sea animals as lawful.

And that he forbade eating predatory animals with fangs or claws, which include crabs. He also refutes the arguments of the other schools of thought.

This holds that all sea animals are halal, except those that resemble land animals or have external ears, or those that hurt humans or are forbidden by a clear text.

He says that their interpretation of the Quranic verse 5:96 is too broad and general and that their evidence from the hadiths is weak and contradictory.

Sheikh Muhammad says that the word used for locusts in Arabic is Jarad, which is a specific type of insect, not a general term for all insects.

He also says that predatory animals with fangs or claws are haram whether they live in water or on land, because they are impure and harmful.

Therefore, according to Sheikh Muhammad ibn Uthaymeen, crab is haram and not permissible to eat.

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Conclusion

Crab is a type of seafood that has different opinions regarding its halal and haram status in Islam.

The four major schools of thought in Sunni Islam differ in their methodologies and sources of deriving Islamic law (fiqh), which leads to some variations in their rulings on various issues. One of them is crab.

The Hanafi school holds that only fish are halal among sea animals, while all other sea animals and insects are haram.

The Maliki school holds that all sea animals are halal, except those that are harmful or poisonous.

The Shafi’i school holds that all sea animals are halal, except those that resemble land animals or have external ears.

The Hanbali school holds that all sea animals are halal, except those that harm humans or are forbidden by a clear text.

Some contemporary scholars have given their opinions on crab based on their research and analysis of the Quran, the Sunnah, and the views of classical scholars.

Some of them agree with one of the four schools of thought, while others have their views.

Therefore, there is no definitive answer to whether eating crab is halal or haram in Islam.

It depends on which school of thought or scholar one follows, and what evidence one finds convincing and acceptable.

However, it is advisable to respect the differences of opinion among Muslims and to avoid eating doubtful things that may cause harm to one’s faith or health. Allah knows best.

FAQs

1. Is crab considered halal or haram in Islam?

Crab is generally considered haram (forbidden) in Islamic dietary laws due to differing opinions among Islamic scholars about its classification as seafood.

2. Why is crab considered haram?

The classification of crab as haram is rooted in the fact that it doesn’t fulfill the criteria of halal seafood consumption according to some interpretations of Islamic dietary laws.

3. Are there any exceptions where crab might be considered halal?

There is no consensus among Islamic scholars regarding the halal status of crab. While some scholars consider it permissible, the majority lean towards categorizing it as haram due to its physical characteristics that don’t conform to the criteria set for permissible seafood.

4. What are the criteria for seafood to be considered halal?

Seafood is generally considered halal if it meets certain criteria, such as having scales and fins. Some Islamic scholars argue that crabs lack these characteristics, making them ineligible for halal consumption.

5. Are there any alternatives to the crab that are universally accepted as halal seafood?

Fish with scales and fins are generally accepted as halal seafood. Examples include salmon, tuna, and cod. These types of seafood conform to the criteria set by Islamic dietary laws.

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