Answered by Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam
Question: Is it Permissible to eat sharks? Aren’t man-eating animals Haram?
Answer: In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
All the four major Sunni Madhabs are in agreement that consuming all types of fish is without doubt Halal, due to the explicit mention of this in the Qur’an and Sunnah.
The permissibility of eating all types of fish without the need of carrying out the Islamic method of slaughter is a special dispensation given to us by Allah Most High, the All-Wise and All-Knowing. Fish has been exempted from the general ruling of the impermissibility of eating dead animals, and it can be consumed even if it was a man-eater.
Allah Most High says:
“Lawful to you is the pursuit of water-game (fishing) and its use for food, for the benefit of yourselves and those who travel…” (Surah al-Ma’ida, V: 96)
This verse, according to the understanding of the Hanafi Mujtahids, refers to fish only, and not other animals.
Moreover, Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him eternal peace) said: “Two types of dead meat and two types of blood have been made lawful for our consumption: The two dead meats are: fish and locust, and the two types of blood are: liver and spleen.” (Sunan Abu Dawud, Musnad Ahmad, 2/97 and Sunan Ibn Majah, no: 3314)
Thus, there is complete consensus with regards to the permissibility of eating fishes of all kind, including sharks and whales, due to the above-mentioned and many other evidences found in the Sunnah. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) and his blessed Companions (Allah be pleased with them all) have been reported in many narrations to have consumed fish. In fact, there is a renowned Hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari and elsewhere that alludes to the permissibility of eating large fishes such as the shark and whale.
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)
In another version of this narration, Sayyiduna Jabir (Allah be pleased with him) says:
“We set out in the army of al-Khabt and Abu Ubayda (Allah be pleased with him) was the commander of the troops. We were struck with severe hunger and the sea threw out a dead fish the like of which we had never seen, and it was called al-Anbar. We ate of it for half a month. Abu Ubayda took (and fixed) one of its bones and a rider passed underneath it (without touching it). Abu Ubayda said (to us): “Eat (of that fish).”
When we arrived at Madina, we informed the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) about what had happened, and he said: “Eat, for it is food Allah has brought out for you, and feed us if you have some of it.” So some of them gave him (of that fish) and he ate it.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no: 4104)
The above narration clearly shows that the Anbar fish which the sea had thrown out for the consumption of the Companions (Allah be pleased with them all) was a huge and gigantic fish. Sayyiduna Jabir (Allah be pleased with him) resembled it to a small mountain and Sayyiduna Abu Ubayda (Allah be pleased with him) made an arch with its ribs and a camel-rider passed under it without his head touching the ribs.
In another narration, it is mentioned that Abu Ubayda (Allah be pleased with him) had chosen the tallest man out of them to ride the camel, in order to show the enormity of the fish. Thus, it can be said (and Allah knows best) that this fish may be some kind of a whale or shark.
In conclusion, all the Fuqaha of the four Sunni Schools of Islamic law are in agreement that all types of fish are Halal for consumption. This also includes sharks, for they are also considered to be from the fish family.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam