Seafood comes from edible sea plants as well as aquatic animals which live only in water for most or all of their lives.
The term seafood also applies to any freshwater life eaten by humans; therefore, all edible aquatic life can be referred to as seafood.
All types of sea plants as well as aquatic animals are permissible to be used for food, whether they are caught or found dead, unless they are hazardous to life or health. As the Qur’an states, “Anything you catch in the sea is lawful for you, and so is all food from it.” (Soorat Al-Maa’idah, 5:96)
The phrase ‘anything you catch’ in the above verse refers to aquatic animals that are caught alive, while the word ‘food’ refers to dead aquatic animals that are washed ashore.
For land animals to be lawful, two conditions must be met:
They must be considered lawful for their flesh to be used for food.
They must be hunted or slaughtered according to Islamic law (Sharee‛ah).
What are the lawful animals?
The general rule in Islamic Law is that all animals are allowed to be used for food except for those that are expressly forbidden in the Qur’an or the Prophet’s traditions.
Forbidden animals are as follows:
- Pigs: Pigs, indeed any of their body parts and by-products, are considered ‘filthy’ in Islam and thus forbidden for human consumption. As the Qur’an states, “Forbidden to you for food are dead animals, blood and the flesh of swine.” (Soorat Al-Maa’idah, 5:3)
> Any animal that is not specifically forbidden in the Qur’an and the Prophet’s traditions is considered lawful for Muslims to eat.
- All meat eating animals, whether they are large, such as lions and tigers, or small, such as cats. and dogs are also included in this category.
- All predatory birds, such as falcons and eagles.
- Insects: All land insects are not lawful because they cannot be slaughtered, with the exception of locusts, as the Prophet said, “Made lawful for you are the flesh of two dead animals: locusts and fish.” (Sunan Ibn Maajah: 3218)
- Snakes and Mice: These are also considered unlawful and Islam even goes as far as to command us to kill them. The Prophet said, “There are five animals for which there is no blame on the one who kills them even if he is in a state of consecration for the pilgrimage (ihraam): crows, kites (hawk-like birds), mice/rats, scorpions and mad dogs.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaare: 3136; Saheeh Muslim: 1198)
- Domestic donkeys, which are generally used in the countryside for riding and carrying loads.
Types of Lawful Animals
Animals which Allah has made lawful for Muslims are of two types:
- Wild animals, which live in natural conditions (that is, not kept in a house or on a farm), and which tend to run away from humans and cannot be easily caught in order to slaughter them: These can become lawful only by hunting them according to Islamic guidelines in this respect.
- Domesticated animals which can be easily caught: These can become lawful only by slaughtering them according to Islamic law.
This means slaughtering animals in a manner which satisfies the conditions of slaughtering stipulated by Islamic law.
Conditions for slaughtering animals in Islam
Allah has made the food of the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) lawful for us as long as they observe the legal method of slaughtering animals.
- The person undertaking the slaughtering process must be Muslim or a member of the People of the Book (that is, Jews or Christians). In addition, he must have reached the age of discretion and carries out this act for the intended purpose.
- The tool used for slaughtering the animal must be suitable for the intended purpose and sharp, such as a knife. It is forbidden to use anything that may kill the animal due to its heavy weight, hit its head to death or shock it and render it unconscious by resorting to electric stunning, for instance.
- The name of Allah must be pronounced by saying Bismillaah (in the name of Allah) at the time of slaughtering the animal.
- The cut must sever at least three of the following: the trachea, the oesophagus and the two blood vessels on either side of the throat.
If these conditions are met, the meat of the slaughtered animal will be lawful; however, if one single condition is not met, its meat will not be lawful.
Types of Meat Served in Restaurants and Shops
- Meat from animals that are slaughtered by other than a Muslim or a member of the People of the Book (a Christian or a Jew), such as a Buddhist or a Hindu, is strictly forbidden. This includes meat served in restaurants in countries where Muslims or People of the Book constitute a minority.
- Meat from animals killed by a Muslim or a member of the People of the Book is lawful. Muslim scholars’ opinions on this point is unanimous.
- Meat from animals killed by a Muslim or a member of the People of the Book but not according to Islamic law, such as by electric stunning or drowning, is strictly forbidden.
- Meat from animals killed by a member of the People of the Book while the manner of such slaughter is not known, or meat of animals generally found in their restaurants and shops: The preponderant view is that it is permissible to eat such meat, making sure, however, to invoke Allah’s name at the time of eating (that is, saying Bismillaah), but it is better to look for halaal meat elsewhere.