Contemplating A Future Without Honey

Which Insects Are Permissible to Eat According to the Shafi’i School?

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Ustadh Shuaib Ally
Question: Assalamu’alaikum,
Which (if any) insects are permissible to eat according to the Shafi’i madhhab?
Answer: Assalamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah,

Eating Insects:

It is not permissible in the Shafi’i school to eat insects (such as ants, bees, flies, beetles, roaches, worms). This is because insects are considered distasteful, and permissibility has been tied to what is good, and impermissibility to what is distasteful. This is derived from the Qur’an (7:157), in describing the Messenger “who makes good things permissible for them and bad things impermissible.”
Moreover, a general rule in the absence of a specific ruling is that if those who are dignified, well off and of normal disposition would consider something proper to be eaten in times of abundance (as opposed to times of famine), then it can be eaten. If, on the other hand, they consider it distasteful, then it cannot, for the reason mentioned above.

Noteworthy exceptions:

1. Locusts: It is permissible to eat locusts, by scholarly consensus, as well as the Prophetic report: Two types of dead meat have been made permissible for us: fish and locusts. (Ibn Majah)
2. Negligible Amounts: It is permissible to eat negligible amounts of insects, if they are part of a larger thing that is being consumed. Some examples generally given include an ant that has fallen into honey, or a fly that has fallen into food, and have been cooked in it. Other examples involve an insect that is in fruit or grain. The rationale given for its permissibility involves the difficulty in its removal, or because consuming such a negligible amount is not considered distasteful because the insect has been subsumed in the larger quantity and is no longer akin to eating an insect by itself.
3. Necessity: As a general rule, necessity renders the impermissible permissible. Specifically, if a person does not have access to food that is permissible, it is obligatory for him to eat something that is available and would otherwise be impermissible. This is because having a hand in one’s own destruction is prohibited. Eating something impermissible becomes obligatory if such a person fears that the lack of food will cause him to die, or lead to serious illness, or a worsening or delay in recovery from an existing condition.
Sources: Mughni al-Muhtaj, Tuhfatul Muhtaj
Shuaib Ally