Permissibility of Oysters and Mussels

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick 

Question Summary

Considering that Oysters and Mussels may live in intertidal areas and can last a while outside water, are they considered sea animals that are permissible to eat and use their shell?

Question Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate.

May Allah guide us to that which pleases Him, Amin.

It is permissible to eat any aquatic game (including oysters and mussels) except frogs and crocodiles, and Allah knows best.

Aquatic Game

It is permissible to eat any aquatic game (sayd al-bahr) except frogs and crocodiles. [Keller Reliance of the Traveler]

Sea creatures are permissible to consume, whether plants or animals, alive or dead (without slaughtering).
Allah says: “Lawful to you is (the pursuit of) water-game and its use for food – for the benefit of yourselves and those who travel…” [Quran 5:96].

According to the most excellent interpreter of the Quran, ‘Abdulla Ibn ‘Abbas, the word, ‘sayd,’ in the above verse refers to that which is taken from the sea alive, and the word, ‘ta’am’ refers to what is taken dead. [Ibn Kathir]

Crocodiles and Frogs

Crocodiles and frogs are categorized as amphibious creatures as they can live in the sea and on land. Unlike oysters and mussels, amphibious creatures can move, at will, to either land or sea and survive.

It is not permitted to eat frogs because the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) forbade killing them, and we are allowed to kill what we may eat. It is reported in the hadith of ‘Abd Al-Rahman Ibn ‘Uthman, who said that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) forbade the killing of frogs. [Ahmad, Ibn Maja]

Oysters and Mussels

Oysters and Mussels may live out of water for a long time. However, they eventually need the water to survive and are, therefore, still considered aquatic animals which are permissible to eat. Allah knows best.

Crabs, Lobster, Crayfish, and Other Shell-fish

According to the Shafi’i School, all aquatic animals, even if they’re not strictly viewed as fish, are lawful to consume. In his Majmu’, Imam Al-Nawawi clearly expresses that everything in the seas is lawful to consume [including shellfish], whether they are dead or alive, but not frogs. [Nawawi, Majmu’ Sharh Al-Muhadhdhab]

It is important to note that other aquatic animals may also be excluded from the above rule if there is a ratio legus (‘illa) [legal underpinning] that prohibits them, such as they are found to be poisonous. Therefore, as long as the crabs, lobster, crayfish, and other shellfish cannot permanently survive and feed on land, they are lawful according to the Shafi’i School.

There have been many fatawa issued by contemporary Shafi’i jurists (especially from the Hijaz and Hadramawt) in the last two centuries that allow the eating of marine crabs. Including the fatwa by Habib ‘Abdullah Al-Jifri, one of our classically trained Shafi’i Muftis from Singapore.

Please see this answer for further details:

I pray this is of benefit.

[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar, Shaykh Taha Karaan.

Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.

He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.

Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and pursuing his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.