Are Sharks and Whales Halal?

Are Sharks and Whales Halal?

Considering Sharks are obviously predatory, this is an interesting question!

You may wish to read our post on the Fiqh of Seafood first.

There is a hadith where:

Sayyiduna Jabir ibn Abd Allah (Allah be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) sent troops to the sea-coast and appointed Abu Ubayda ibn al-Jarrah (Allah be pleased with him) as their commander, and they were 300 (men).

We set out, and we had covered some distance on the way when our journey-food and provision ran short. So Abu Ubayda ordered that all the food present with the troops be collected, and it was collected. Our journey-food was dates, and Abu Ubayda kept on giving us our daily share from it little by little until it decreased to such an extent that we did not receive except a date each.

I (Jabir) asked: “How did you survive on one date?” He said: “We came to know its value when even that finished.”

Jabir added: “Then we reached the sea (coast) where we found a fish like a small mountain. The people (i.e. troops) ate from it for 18 nights (i.e. days). Then Abu Ubayda ordered that two of its ribs be fixed on the ground (in the form of an arch) and that a she-camel be ridden and passed under them. So it passed under them without touching them.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no: 4102, Kitab al-Maghazi)

The fish in question is said to be a whale. Eating the fish/whale was not contested by anyone. However, we now know that a whale is a mammal and not a fish, so if only Fish is halal according to the Hanafis, is the Whale halal?

But as Ibn Abideen confirms, if the seafood was understood as fish by the Arabs, then we also understand it as fish. Therefore Whale will be halal.

On the other hand, Sharks are fish so will be considered halal as per the Hanafi undertading.

We can also conclude that:

  1. If a non-fish sea creature was considered as a fish by the early Arabs, then we will consider it as a fish, e.g. a Whale
  2. If a non-fish sea creature was unknown or never mentioned by the early Arab community then we will either use Analogy or we will use a modern biologically definition, i.e. we will say it is not a fish biologically therefore haram.
  3. If the sea creature is a fish, regardless of size or predatory nature, it will be halal.

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