Question: What is the ruling of eating shrimp?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate,
It is the soundest position of the Hanafi school that shrimp/prawns were customarily considered fish by the Arabs at the time of revelation. [Uthmani, Takmila Fath al-Mulhim]
Some Hanafi scholars have taken a more strict opinion, as explained below.
The Basis of the Difference: Fish
In the Hanafi school, the only sea creatures that are permissible to eat are those considered fish. What the Arabs deemed to be fish at the time of revelation is the criteria in this matter. [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar; Kasani, Bada’i al-Sana’i]
Allah Most High says, “Made lawful for you is the game of the sea and eating thereof, as a benefit for you and for travelers.” [Qur’an, 5:96]
The game of the sea here is understood by the Hanafi scholars and imams of Qur’anic exegesis to mean fish. [Jassas, Ahkam al-Qur’an; Zamakhsari, Kashaf]
What is Considered Fish?
However, the scholars differed regarding the classification of certain sea creatures as fish or not. Amongst such sea creatures are shrimp/prawns.
According to the Arabs of the time of revelation up until the advent of oceanic biology, shrimp were considered in the classification of fish (samak). This is evident in the early Arabic linguist such as al-Dimiri and others who defined shrimp as ‘a very small redfish.’ [al-Dimiri, Kitab Hayat al-Hayawan al-Kubra]
However, scientists disagreed and considered shrimp to be of a different genus than fish.
For this reason, Mufti Taqi Uthmani (Allah preserve him), one of the foremost Hanafi jurists alive, opined that the underlying question in this issue is: Is consideration given to scientific classification or to what was customarily known by the people (i.e. the Arabs)? [Uthmani, Takmila Fath al-Mulhim]
He continues to explain that those who took the scientific approach have considered shrimp prohibited, and those who took what the people customarily understood to be fish allowed it. [Ibid.]
“Due to this,” he says, “there should not be such staunchness in the issue of shrimp when dispensing legal judgments, especially since the issue is fundamentally debated. Likewise, there is no doubt that it (shrimp) is permissible according to the (other) three Imams.” [Ibid.]
It is permissible to eat shrimp without any dislike. However, due to the presence of a valid difference of opinion, it is recommended (not obligatory) to take a more cautious approach and remove one’s self from the difference of opinion.
See the following link for more details:
Hope this helps
Allah knows best
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a graduate from Tarim; a student of Habib Umar and other luminaries; and authorized teachers of the Qur’an and the Islamic sciences