This article is a translation of a jurisprudential opinion published by Shaykh Hobbollah, it can be found in Arabic: here

The term sea animal (and seafood) refers to every animal that lives in the water, which is more general than being a fish or not, and more general than having scales or not, just as the sea here is more general than the known sea, whatever its size, or a river. It includes seas, oceans, lakes, rivers, streams, water swamps, and the like.

Muslims have agreed on the permissibility of fish that has scales, whether its scale remains on it or if its scale is removed from it by contact with things or the earth, and this is the extent agreed upon among Muslims. However, the research and the discussion occurred in two matters:

1 – Non-fish from among the sea animals, and there has been a difference of opinion regarding it. What is known among the Imāmīs and the Ḥanafīs is to say that non-fish from the sea animals is forbidden, such as crabs, sea snakes, seals, porpoise, seahorses, starfish, jellyfish, octopuses, and oysters, and so on. As for the jurists of the other schools, they went for the permissibility of non-fish sea animals.

2 – Fish that has no scales, which is famous for its prohibition according to the Imāmīs, and the majority of Muslims disagreed with them in that, so they did not stipulate that fish should have scales.

Thus, the Mālikīs, Ḥanbalīs, and Shāfiʿīs say that every animal in the sea is absolutely permissible, except for what is mentioned explicitly in a religious text [as being prohibited], while the Ḥanafīs say that every animal in the sea that is categorized specifically as fish is permissible, with no difference between whether it has scales or not. As for the Imāmīs – according to popular opinion – they consider that every sea animal is forbidden except for fish that have scales, with the exception of rabitha and shrimp, as they ruled in their permissibility, with a discussion regarding the meaning of the first of them.

This is the well-known common practice among the schools of jurisprudence, but there have appeared some who differed from these views and the popular opinion:

A – On the issue of sea animals other than fish, the ruling on its permissibility was attributed to a group of Imāmī jurists such as Shaykh al-Ṣaduq (d. 381 AH) and Sayyid al-Murtaḍā (d. 436 AH), and the validity of the attribution to them should be investigated. Those who leaned towards its permissibility include; Muḥaqqiq al-Ardabīlī (d. 993 AH), Muḥaqqiq al-Sabziwārī (d. 1090 AH), al-Fayḍ al-Kāshānī (d. 1091 AH), and Muḥaqqiq al-Narāqī (d. 1245 AH). In my historical research, I came to the conclusion that the 10th century after hijri witnessed the beginning of an internal Shīʿī discussion about the permissibility of sea animals other than fish, after the prevailing view was its prohibition. In the present era, some jurists have gone towards the permissibility of sea animals other than fish. Such as Sayyid Muḥammad Jawād al-Gharawī al-Mūsawī al-Iṣfahānī, Sheikh Muḥammad al-Ṣādiqī al-Ṭihrānī, and Sayyid Muḥammad Ḥusayn Faḍlullāh. Also, Sayyid Muḥammad Ṣādiq al-Roḥānī disputed the evidence of its prohibition, but in the end he considered that violating consensus is problematic, for precaution is the way to salvation, and therefore he based his fatwa on obligatory precaution. Shaykh Yusuf al-Ṣaniʿī was of the view that everything in the sea is permissible to eat, except for that which cannot be eaten on land. Also, Sheikh Muḥammad ʿAlī al-Garamī took obligatory precaution regarding sea animals other than fish except amphibians.

B – As for the issue of fish that does not have scales, a group also disagreed with it, including Shaykh al-Ṭūsī (d. 460 AH), as he did not mention the prohibition of fish that does not have scales in the book al-Nihāya, however in his books al-Tahdhīb and al-Istibṣār, he has compiled the contradicting narrations regarding the view of the prohibition of eel in specific, as for other than it, it is disliked as recommendation as he put it, but in the book al-Mabsūṭ he agreed with the popular opinion. Muḥaqqiq al-Ḥillī (d. 676 AH) did not confirm the issue in his al-Sharāʾiʿ, but Muḥaqqiq al-Ardabīlī had a kind of hesitation here, as he concluded the research after scrutinisation by saying: “..contemplate, for this issue is one of the problems.” As Muḥaqqiq al-Sabziwārī settled the position of its permissibility, and al-Fayḍ al-Kāshānī also leaned towards its permissibility, concluding his words with [the ruling of] precaution. And after criticizing the evidence of prohibition, Sayyid Muḥammad Ṣādiq al-Roḥānī took it as obligatory preacaution. At the end of his life, Sayyid Muḥammad Ḥusayn Faḍlullāh issued a fatwa regarding the permisibility, with a recommended precaution to leave it, and Sayyid Muḥammad Jawād al-Gharawī al-Mūsawī al-Iṣfahānī, and Shaykh Muḥammad al-Ṣādiqī al-Ṭihrānī, and others also ruled its permissibility.

And the conclusion I have reached – and the knowledge [of the truth] is with Allah – is that every sea animal that does not fall under the title of fish – as primary ruling – is absolutely permissible, as for the fish that has scales it is permissible with certainty, however for that which does not have scales, I was very precautious about it, and I built on this precaution in my book on the jurisprudence of foods and drinks, but I updated my consideration after that, and I saw that the view of permissibility is the most correct, and that precaution is desirable and nothing more. Yes, precaution is obligatory in the matter of eel (al-Jirri / Marmahi).

And Sayyid Muḥammad Saʿīd al-Ḥakīm has a special view on sea animals that overlaps with other opinions, and I have objected to it in detail and the discussion is also in its place, and I did not agree with it.

For more information on the study of the sea animal issue, you can review my modest book (Fiqh al-Atʿimah wal-Ashribah, volume 2, p. 97 – 186, first edition, 2020 AD).

Ḥaidar Ḥobbollāh

Thursday, March 10, 2022 AD

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