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Rules on eating Sea Creatures: Shrimp and Prawns are Halal

Question 647: Salaam. Are prawns and shrimp same or different? Which one is halal? I want to know the rules on eating Sea Creatures and made sure if Shrimp and Prawns are Halal?

Answer 647: It is not permissible to eat from marine animals anything except fish that has scale; shrimp is considered from that category [of permissible sea animals]. But other than fish that does not have scale is forbidden.

No marine animal is halal, except fish that has scales, amongst which are prawns. As for other animals, other than fish, like carp as well as other kinds of fish that have no scales, it is not permissible to consume. [1]

When it comes to the general guidelines about halal and haram animal, there are many criteria and standards stated in the narrations of the Infallible Imams (a.s.); for instance, certain rules and guidelines have been explained for terrestrial animals, birds and aquatic animals. The criterion mentioned for halal aquatic animals is that they should have scales. It has reported[2] that Muhammad bin Muslim asked Imam Baqir (a.s.): “They bring us fish without scales (what should we do)?”

Imam Baqir (a.s.) replied: “Eat the fish that has scales and do not eat the fish that does not have scales?” Scales are the small, thin horny or bony plates protecting the skin of fish and reptiles, typically overlapping one another.[3]

It should be noted that the fish should be from the category of scaly fish and there is no objection, if the fish have lost their scales due certain environmental factors or the way the fish live as stated in the narrations.[4]

As for shrimps, we have special narrations according to which “eating shrimps is allowed and that shrimps are a kind fish.”[5]

As for the philosophy of the permissibility of eating shrimps, there are different probabilities which are enumerated as under:

  1. Shrimps are from the category of scaly fish though we do not see the scales with naked eyes.
  2. Shrimps have had scales in the beginning but they have lost their scales over time.
  3. Despite the fact that, essentially shrimp don’t have scales, from the legal perspective it is set within the category of fish that have scales. In other words, for reasons we are not aware of, it has been considered as an exception and consequently halal, although it does not have scales.[6]

In addition, we have a hadith that states the impermissibility of crab: “Eating jerī (type of fish), turtle and crab is haram.”[7] It is clear that crabs are not from the category of scaly fish.

Note: The terms shrimp and prawn are common names, not scientific names. They are vernacular or colloquial terms which lack the formal definition of scientific terms. It seems the both are amongst fish that have scales. If so, there would be no problem to eat them.

For further information on this matter, please read the following answers:

Index: Halal and Haram Meat / The impermissibility of eating rabbit meat, answer 418.

Index: Ruling on foods and drinks containing alcohol / Vanilla Extract, answer 578.

Index: Cheese and Walnuts / Eating cheese in the morning is Makruh, answer 593.

[1] Tawzih al-Masael of Maraja, Vol. 2, Pgs. 590-591, issue 2615; Imam Khomeini, Tahrir al-Wasilah, vol. 2, pg. 137, book of foods and drinks, issue 2; Ibid (translation), Vol. 3, Pg. 274, issue 2; al-Mukhtasar al-Nafi’, pg. 251; Sharayi’ al-Islam, pg. 169; Tawzih al-Masael (annotated by Imam Khomeini), Vol. 2, Pg. 593, special issue according to Ayatollah Makarem, issue 2255; Majma al-Masael, Ayatollah Golpayegani, Vol. 3, Pg. 64.

[2] . Wasail al-Shi’ah, vol.16, pg. 397, and 398, hadith 1, chapt.8.

[3] . Ibid, hadith 3 & 7.

[4] . Ibid, chap.10 (Haram Foodstuffs), pg. 405.

[5] . Wasail al-Shi’ah, pg. 408, hadith 5 & 12 (Haram foodstuffs).

[6] . Footnote of Wasa’il al-Shia, pg. 408.

[7] . Wasa’il al-Shia, vol. 24, pg. 146, book of foods and drinks, chapter 16, hadith 1.

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Cheese and Walnuts / Eating cheese in the morning is Makruh

Question 593: Are there any hadith about not eating cheese or stating its negativities? Also, are there any hadiths or sayings from the 14 Infallibles about not eating bread and cheese in the morning? What about Cheese and Walnuts at night?

Answer 593: Regarding cheese, a person asked Imam Sadiq (as). He said: it is an ailment without remedy. The Person went to the Imam at the time of dinner and saw there is cheese at his table! The man asked: O Imam Sadiq (as), May I be the ransom! I asked about the cheese at the time of Chasht (forenoon) and you replied it is an untreated pain, now I see it at the table! The Imam said: it harms us if it is used for Chasht whereas it is useful at night.[1] Read More

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Haram Meat / The impermissibility of eating rabbit meat

Question 418: Why is the eating on animals with canine teeth such as rabbit haram in Shia Fiqh? I found the ruling just not the explanation. What are the Haram Meats?

Answer 418: In general, haram meat creatures are divided into several categories:

  1. Sea Creatures: Fish that have scales are the only type of halal sea creatures. Other sea creatures and fish are haram.[1]
  2. Land creatures are divided into two categories, wild and domestic:

Domestic Land Creatures:

Among all domestic land creatures; sheep, cow and camel are halal, but eating horse and donkey meat is makruh and the makruhness of horsemeat is less than other makruh meat. The rest of domestic land creatures such as dogs, cats, etc. are haram.

Wild Land Creatures:

Deer, cow and mountain goat and wild donkey are all halal and eating the meat of wild predatory animals that are predatory in essence, have strong and sharp nails, claws and fangs such as, lions, leopards, cheetahs, wolves, or animals with less sharper fangs such as, foxes and hyenas as well as rabbits, even though they are not part of the predatory category, are considered haram. Also insects and reptiles, such as snakes, mice, lizards, hedgehogs, fleas, lice, etc.; the examples for which are uncountable, are all haram. Animals who have undergone maskh (metamorphosis) such as, elephants, monkeys, bears, etc.[2] are haram as well and the reason why is a tradition narrated from the Prophet (A.S.).[3]

  1. Birds: Halal meat birds have two indications, making anything else other than that haram:
  2. Birds that flap their wings more than they glide while flying are halal; but birds that glide and spread their wings more while flying in the air instead of flapping their wings are haram.
  3. Birds with a corp, gizzards and spurs at the back of their feet are halal. (Note: Birds with sharp claws such as eagles, hawks, falcons, etc. are haram.)[4]
  4. Insects: All insects are haram.[5] (Note: If a locust is caught by hand or any other means, it is halal after dying.)[6]

Eating halal meat creatures is sometimes haram:

  1. If a creature has fed on a najis substance: An animal that has fed on human feces.[7] However, eating najis substances other than human feces does not make it haram.[8] An animal is considered haram for feeding on human feces when the sole thing it has fed on has been human feces and nothing else.[9] (Note: An animal that feeds on a najis substance will be pure and halal to eat once it undergoes istibra’.)[10]
  2. Being the object of intercourse by a human.[11] In a tradition Imam Ali (A.S.) says: “Eating the meat of an animal that has been penetrated by a person is haram.”[12]
  3. An animal that suckles the milk of a female pig to such an extent that its flesh and bones grow from it and gain strength is haram.[13]

The impermissibility of eating rabbit meat

All divine rules are legislated because of the wisdom and important reasons that back them; some of those reasons being mentioned in hadiths while others being left to be comprehended and discovered by man himself.  Of course, there are some cases that the mind has no way in, just like there are also cases that can’t be figured out today because man still hasn’t reached the necessary level of knowledge to do so, while there are chances that in the future he will be able to do so.  Therefore we can conclude that the reasons to many rulings still aren’t clear to us, yet since we know that the entity legislating these rulings is all-wise, we are to abide by all of them.

As you know, the highest form of worship is to obey Allah (swt) because He is the lord, even if the reasons behind a specific ruling might not be clear to us.  This is where our servitude to Him becomes completely manifest, because even those who don’t believe in Allah (swt) will certainly act according to rulings if they are aware of its reasons and how it is completely to their benefit, so acting according to rulings that one knows the reasons for isn’t a big deal, what is important is to act according to all of Allah’s (swt) rulings, regardless of the reasons behind them, or else one can dare say that there is no difference between the believer who observes rulings because of the reasons behind them and the disbelievers who do the same.

Rabbit meat is haram because of the hadiths that have reached us from the imams (as).  In these hadiths it has been stated that eating rabbit meat is forbidden, and this is the reason why Islamic scholars have issued fatwas on its impermissibility.  Three things can be concluded from these hadiths:

1- The rabbit is one of the animals that have undergone metamorphosis and that is why their meat is haram.  The holy prophet of Islam (pbuh) has said: “The monkey, pig, dog, elephant, wolf, mouse, rabbit…are all animals that have undergone metamorphosis and eating them isn’t permissible.”[14]

There are other hadiths from the imams with the same theme.  It has been said by one of the great Shia scholars, the “Shahid Thani”(the Second Martyr): “What is meant by these hadith is that the people who underwent metamorphosis and transformed, took the shape of these animals, [not that all of these animals today are actually people who have transformed into them], because people who undergo metamorphosis [as a punishment by Allah (swt)] last no longer than three days, dying afterwards.”[15]

The fact that the abovementioned were transformed into these animals, could be a signification that these animals have an inner impurity, or else what other reason could there be for choosing these animals?  There are great chances that the reason for the meat of these animals being haram is their physical and/or spiritual impurities.

2- In other hadiths, it has been said that rabbit meat is haram because as with cats, rabbits have claws, and the meat of animals of prey [animals with claws] is haram.[16]

3- In another hadith, Imam Ridha (as) says: “Since the rabbit has blood similar to that of women [which is discharged during menstruation], its meat is haram.”[17]

In any case, the complete reasoning behind every ruling isn’t clear to us, and what has been mentioned in hadiths are only some of the reasons that might contribute to a ruling, yet since we know that Allah (swt) is the All-Wise and All-Knowing, we are sure that anything He orders us to do is to our benefit, and anything He prohibits us from doing is truly to our disadvantage and we must refrain from it.

[1] Imam Khomeini, Tahrir al-Wasilah, vol. 2, pg. 137, book of foods and drinks, issue 2; al-Mukhtasar al-Nafi’, pg. 251; Sharayi’ al-Islam, pg. 169.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Jawahir al-Kalām , vol. 36, 294.

[4] Tawdih al-Masa’il (annotated by Imam Khomeini), vol. 2, pg. 594, the rulings on foods and drinks; Tahrir al-Wasilah, vol. 2, pg. 139, issue 8.

[5] Tawdih al-Masa’il (annotated by Imam Khomeini), vol. 2, pg. 603.

[6] Tawdih al-Masa’il (annotated by Imam Khomeini), vol. 2, pg. 593, issue 2622.

[7] Tahrir al-Wasilah, vol. 2, pg. 140, issue 15.

[8] Jawahir al-Kalām , vol. 36, pg. 271.

[9] Wasa’il al-Shiah, vol. 24, chapter 24 of the chapters on haram foods and drinks, hadith 2, pg. 160.

[10] Tawdih al-Masa’il (annotated by Imam Khomeini), vol. 2, pg. 568, issue 2583.

[11] Tawdih al-Masa’il (annotated by Imam Khomeini), vol. 2, pg. 601, issue 2632.

[12] Wasa’il al-Shiah, vol. 24, pg. 170, hadith 3.

[13] Tawdih al-Masa’il (annotated by Imam Khomeini), vol. 2, pg. 69, issue 86.

[14] Sheikh Saduq, Man La Yahdhuruhul-Faqih, vol.3, pg.336.

[15] Shahid Thani, Al-Rawthatul-Bahiyyah, vol.5, pg.24.

[16] Sheikh Hurr Ameli, Wasailul-Shia, vol.24, pg.109.

[17] Ibid.

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Ruling on foods and drinks containing alcohol / Vanilla Extract

Question 578: Salaam, I would like to ask regarding the alcohol contain in vanilla essence or medicine. I read once that the pharmacy alcohol is Pak. So it is safe to use vanilla essence or medicine with pharmaceutical alcohol, right? Please confirm. Jazakallah khair

Answer 578: A similar question has sent to the office of grand jurists and the answers that have been received are as follows:

Ayatollah Khamenei:

Generally speaking, the alcohol which is not determined whether or not it is originally intoxicating or not, is ritually clean and is treated as such. There is no problem in using the liquids which contain alcohol and if one doubts whether the alcohol is intoxicating or not, it is treated as clean. So, if the alcohol is not intoxicating and it is not in a liquid form either, it is halal.[1]

Ayatollah Sistani:

All kinds of alcohol whether derived from wood or other sources are pure (tãhir). Therefore, the food in whose preparation alcohol was used is tãhir except for when it causes drunkenness, in which case, the ruling which will apply to it would be different; it would be haram to use it. God knows best.

Considering that vanilla extract contains 35% alcohol, it is not permissible to use its extract![2] But, if the alcohol used in it is so minute that it dissolves in it, there would be no problem to use it.[3]

Q: Alcohol is used in the production of many drugs and medications: Is it permissible to take them? Are they considered pure (tãhir)?

A: They are pure; and since the alcohol used in them is so minute that it dissolves in them, it is therefore permissible to take them also.[4]

Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi:

Considering the high quantity of alcohol in it, it is necessary to avoid it.

Alcohols are divided into two groups: Alcohol that is produced through chemical processes and the one produced through distillation and fermentation. Since ethanol is an industrial alcohol, we will take a look at some facts about industrial alcohol:

The truth of the matter is that industrial alcohol shares the same formula fermented alcohol has (C2H5OH). The difference between the two though, is that industrial alcohol isn’t considered khamr, while distilled alcohol, since it comes from the distillation of khamr, might be considered khamr itself.

The common viewpoint among the ulema is that any intoxicating substance that is originally liquid is najis. The question is, does industrial alcohol fall under this category or not?

According to the common viewpoint here, it seems that industrial alcohol can’t be considered an intoxicant although it is used in intoxicating drinks. The reason that it isn’t considered an intoxicant isn’t that they add poisonous and foul-smelling substances such as methanol to it, but because it is so dense and concentrated that if no additives are added to it, drinking even a little is poisonous, this is why this substance (industrial alcohol) isn’t considered as an intoxicant by the people (urf).[5]

Other Translation:

نمایه: حکم ترکیبات الکل یا ژلاتین در مواد غذایی، سوال شماره 32.

[1] . Tawdzīh al-Masā’il of Marāja‘, Vol.1, Pg.145; Istiftā’āt by Ayatollah Khamenei, q.  302,304,305,306,307(Published by Jameh Mudarrasin).

[2] . For further information in this regards, please refer to IslamQuest Website.

[3] .  The official website of the office of Sayyid Sistani (ha), Question & Answer » Eating & Drinking.

[4] . Ibid.

[5] The Hawza website, the page of the E-library on Alcohol and its products.