(a) Fish with scales                                       (b) Prawns


In Ahadith presented below, Fish with scales on its skin is Halal (permissible) to eat.  However, if found floating (dead) on the surface of water, it is Harram (forbidden) to eat.

Shellfish is forbidden, as well as all those species belonging to its family, i.e., the prawn/shrimp.  Shellfish contains impure meat fractions and is not from fish and, similarly prawn is other than the fish (hence its hard shell should not be mixed up with the scales of a fish as it is completely different).  Prawns are more closely related with the shellfish and cannot be related to the fish having scales.[1]

However, we will find a few Hadith which allow for eating prawns – but those accounts could be out of dissimulation (Taqeeya), as general Muslims allow for eating all seafood including prawns. There are Ahadith which categorically make prawns harram (forbidden) whereas none of the Hadith encourage us to eat it (to reap any benefits), so we would rather follow those Ahadith which specifically state to only eat from the sea the fish with scales.

And regarding meat, one must be certain that its permissible (Halal) to consume otherwise it is better not to touch it, e.g., the following Hadith:

فقدت من بني إسرائيل أمتان واحدة في البحر و أخرى في البر فلا تأكلوا إلا ما عرفتم

(Amir-ul-Momineenasws said) From the Children of Israel, two nations were lost, one went into the sea whereas the other went missing into the land, so one should not eat (meat) unless after becoming absolutely sure about its origin (Halal species).[2]


Ahadith are presented in this section on what is permissible to eat from the water species and what is not.

Fish with Scales:

عَلِيُّ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ عَنْ أَبِيهِ عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ الْمُغِيرَةِ عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ سِنَانٍ عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ( عليه السلام ) قَالَ كَانَ أَمِيرُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ عَلِيُّ بْنُ أَبِي طَالِبٍ ( عليه السلام ) بِالْكُوفَةِ يَرْكَبُ بَغْلَةَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ ( صلى الله عليه وآله ) ثُمَّ يَمُرُّ بِسُوقِ الْحِيتَانِ فَيَقُولُ لَا تَأْكُلُوا وَ لَا تَبِيعُوا مِنَ السَّمَكِ مَا لَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُ قِشْرٌ .

Ali Bin Ibrahim, from his father, from Abdullah Bin Al Mugheira, from Abdullah Bin Sinan, from;

Abu Abdullah-asws narrates that Amir Al-Momineen Ali-asws Bin Abu Talib-asws was at Al-Kufa, riding a mule of Rasool-Allah-saww. Then he-asws passed by a fish market, so he-asws was saying: ‘Neither eat, nor pursue the fish which do not have scales on it’.[3]

عِدَّةٌ مِنْ أَصْحَابِنَا عَنْ سَهْلِ بْنِ زِيَادٍ وَ مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ يَحْيَى عَنْ أَحْمَدَ بْنِ مُحَمَّدٍ جَمِيعاً عَنِ ابْنِ مَحْبُوبٍ وَ أَحْمَدَ بْنِ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ أَبِي نَصْرٍ جَمِيعاً عَنِ الْعَلَاءِ عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ مُسْلِمٍ قَالَ أَقْرَأَنِي أَبُو جَعْفَرٍ ( عليه السلام ) شَيْئاً مِنْ كِتَابِ عَلِيٍّ ( عليه السلام ) فَإِذَا فِيهِ أَنْهَاكُمْ عَنِ الْجِرِّيِّ وَ الزِّمِّيرِ وَ الْمَارْمَاهِي وَ الطَّافِي وَ الطِّحَالِ قَالَ قُلْتُ يَا ابْنَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ يَرْحَمُكَ اللَّهُ إِنَّا نُؤْتَى بِالسَّمَكِ لَيْسَ لَهُ قِشْرٌ فَقَالَ كُلْ مَا لَهُ قِشْرٌ مِنَ السَّمَكِ وَ مَا لَيْسَ لَهُ قِشْرٌ فَلَا تَأْكُلْهُ .

A number of our companions, from Sahl Bin Ziyad, and Muhammad Bin Yahya, from Ahmad Bin Muhammad, altogether from Ibn Mahboub, and Ahmad Bin Muhammad Bin Abu Nasr, altogether from Al A’ala, from Muhammad Bin Muslim who said,

‘Abu Ja’far-asws made me read something from the Book of Ali-asws, so there was in it – you have been forbidden from the catfish, and the glyptothorax (mountain catfish), and the sea horse, and the floating fish (dead), and the spleen. I said, ‘O son-asws of Rasool-Allah-saww! They come to us with fish with no scales on it’. So he-asws said: ‘Eat from the fish what has scales for it, and what does not have scales for it, so do not eat it’.[4]

Additional Ahadith on fish with scale are included in Appendix.

مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ يَحْيَى عَنْ أَحْمَدَ بْنِ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ عِيسَى عَنْ سَعِيدِ بْنِ جَنَاحٍ عَنْ مَوْلًى لِأَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع قَالَ دَعَا بِتَمْرٍ فَأَكَلَهُ ثُمَّ قَالَ مَا بِي شَهْوَةٌ وَ لَكِنِّي أَكَلْتُ سَمَكاً ثُمَّ قَالَ مَنْ بَاتَ وَ فِي جَوْفِهِ سَمَكٌ لَمْ يُتْبِعْهُ بِتَمَرَاتٍ أَوْ عَسَلٍ لَمْ يَزَلْ عِرْقُ الْفَالِجِ يَضْرِبُ عَلَيْهِ حَتَّى يُصْبِحَ

Muhammad ibn Yahya has narrated from Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Isa from Said ibn Janah from a Mawla of Abu Abd Allah, ‘Alavhi al-Salam, who has said:

‘Abu Abd Allahasws once asked for dates and ate it; then said, ‘I have no appetite for it but it is because I just ate fish. The Imamasws then said, ‘If one goes to sleep for the night and there is fish in his stomach after which he has not made a few dates or honey to follow it the vein of paralysis continues to beat on him until the morning.[5]

Eating Fish after cupping gives strength:

مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ يَحْيَى قَالَ كَتَبَ بَعْضُ أَصْحَابِنَا إِلَى أَبِي مُحَمَّدٍ ع يَشْكُو إِلَيْهِ دَماً وَ صَفْرَاءَ فَقَالَ إِذَا احْتَجَمْتُ هَاجَتِ الصَّفْرَاءُ وَ إِذَا أَخَّرْتُ الْحِجَامَةَ أَضَرَّنِي الدَّمُ فَمَا تَرَى فِي ذَلِكَ فَكَتَبَ ع احْتَجِمْ وَ كُلْ عَلَى أَثَرِ الْحِجَامَةِ سَمَكاً طَرِيّاً كَبَاباً قَالَ فَأَعَدْتُ عَلَيْهِ الْمَسْأَلَةَ بِعَيْنِهَا فَكَتَبَ ع احْتَجِمْ وَ كُلْ عَلَى أَثَرِ الْحِجَامَةِ سَمَكاً طَرِيّاً كَبَاباً بِمَاءٍ وَ مِلْحٍ قَالَ فَاسْتَعْمَلْتُ ذَلِكَ فَكُنْتُ فِي عَافِيَةٍ وَ صَارَ غِذَايَ

Muhammad ibn Yahya has narrated:

‘Certain persons of our people once wrote to Abu Muhammadasws complaining about blood and yellowness, saying, ‘If I apply cupping, yellowness stirs up, when I delay it blood harms me, so what would you advise me in such case?’ The Imamasws wrote, ‘Apply cupping and after cupping eat fresh fish as kebab.’ He (the narrator) has said, ‘I repeated exactly the same question to himasws. The Imamasws wrote, ‘Apply cupping and after cupping eat fresh fish as kabab with water and salt.’ He (the narrator) has said, ‘I followed the instruction and I lived in good health and it became my food.[6]


وَ سُئِلَ الصَّادِقُ ع عَنِ الرَّبِيثَا فَقَالَ لَا تَأْكُلْهَا فَإِنَّا لَا نَعْرِفُهَا فِي السَّمَكِ‏.

And Al-Sadiq-asws was asked about the shrimps. He-asws said: ‘Do not eat it, for we-asws do not recognise it as being among the fish’’.[7]

Imam-asws forbids all creatures of the Sea except for the ones with scales:

وَ عَنْ جَعْفَرِ بْنِ مُحَمَّدٍ ع أَنَّهُ قَالَ: لَا يُؤْكَلُ مِنْ دَوَابِّ الْبَحْرِ إِلَّا مَا كَانَ لَهُ قِشْرٌ وَ كَرِهَ السُّلَحْفَاةَ وَ السَّرَطَانَ وَ الْجِرِّيَّ وَ مَا كَانَ فِي الْأَصْدَافِ وَ مَا جَانَسَ ذَلِكَ‏.

And from Ja’far-asws Bin Muhammad-asws having said: ‘Do not eat from the creatures of the sea except what has scales for it’, and he-asws disliked the turtle, and the crab, and the eel, and whatever was in the shell, and what was the species of that’’.[8]

قُرْبُ الْإِسْنَادِ، وَ كِتَابُ الْمَسَائِلِ، بِإِسْنَادِهِمَا عَنْ عَلِيِّ بْنِ جَعْفَرٍ عَنْ أَخِيهِ مُوسَى ع قَالَ: سَأَلْتُهُ عَنْ أَكْلِ السُّلَحْفَاةِ وَ السَّرَطَانِ وَ الْجِرِّيِّ أَ يَحِلُّ أَكْلُهُ قَالَ لَا يَحِلُّ أَكْلُ السُّلَحْفَاةِ وَ السَّرَطَانِ وَ الْجِرِّيِ‏.

(The books) ‘Qurb Al Asnaad’, and ‘Kitab Al Masaail’ – By their chains,

‘From Ali son of Ja’far-asws, from his brother-asws Musa-asws, he said, ‘I asked him-asws about eating the turtle, and the crab, and the eel, ‘Is it Permissible to eat it?’’ He-asws said: ‘No, it is not Permissible to eat the turtle, and the crab, and the eel’’.[9]

The floating fish (Dead fish even with scales) is forbidden to eat:

فِقْهُ الرِّضَا، قَالَ ع‏ إِنْ وَجَدْتَ سَمَكَةً وَ لَمْ تَدْرِ أَ ذَكِيٌّ هُوَ أَمْ غَيْرُ ذَكِيٍّ وَ ذَكَاتُهُ أَنْ يُخْرَجَ مِنَ الْمَاءِ حَيّاً فَخُذْ مِنْهُ وَ اطْرَحْهُ فِي الْمَاءِ فَإِنْ طَفَا عَلَى رَأْسِ الْمَاءِ مُسْتَلْقِياً عَلَى ظَهْرِهِ فَهُوَ غَيْرُ ذَكِيٍّ وَ إِنْ كَانَ عَلَى وَجْهِهِ فَهُوَ ذَكِيٌ‏.

(The book) ‘Fiqh Al-Reza-asws’ – He-asws said: ‘If you find a fish and you do not know whether it is pure or impure, and its purity is being extracted from the water alive, so take from it and drop it in the water. If it floats upon the surface of the water, lying upon its back, it is impure, and if it was upon its face, it is pure’’.[10]

الْعِلَلُ، عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ الْحَسَنِ بْنِ الْوَلِيدِ عَنِ الصَّفَّارِ عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ الصَّلْتِ عَنْ عُثْمَانَ بْنِ عِيسَى عَنْ سَمَاعَةَ عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع قَالَ: لَا تَأْكُلْ جِرِّيثاً وَ لَا مَارْمَاهِيجاً وَ لَا إِرْبِيَانَ وَ لَا طِحَالًا لِأَنَّهُ بَيْتُ الدَّمِ وَ مُضْغَةُ الشَّيْطَانِ‏.

(The book) ‘Al Ilal’ – from Muhammad Bin Al-Hassan Bin Al Waleed, from Al Saffar, from Abdullah Bin Al Salt, from Usman Bin Isa, from Sama’at,

‘From Abu Abdullah-asws having said: ‘Neither eat an eel, nor a seahorse, nor shrimps, nor spleen because it is a house of blood and a lump (morsel) of Satan-la’’.[11]

There are Ahadith which are general:

There are few general Ahadith or ascribed to Masomeen-asws under dissimulation (Taqeeya) which allow for eating all types of fish as well as prawns:

وَ مِنْهُ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ عَنْ عَوْنِ بْنِ جَرِيرٍ عَنْ عَمْرِو بْنِ هَارُونَ الثَّقَفِيِّ عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع قَالَ قَالَ أَمِيرُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ ع‏ الْجَرَادُ ذَكِيٌّ كُلُّهُ وَ الْحِيتَانُ ذَكِيٌّ كُلُّهُ وَ أَمَّا مَا هَلَكَ فِي الْبَحْرِ فَلَا تَأْكُلْهُ‏.

And from him, from his father, from Awn Bin Jareer, from Amro Bin Haroun Al Saqafy,

‘From Abu Abdullah-asws having said: ‘Amir Al-Momineen-asws said: ‘The locusts are pure, all of them, and the fishes are pure, all of them, and as for what dies in the sea, do not eat it’’.[12]

وَ مِنْهُ، عَنْ أَحْمَدَ بْنِ مُحَمَّدٍ عَنْ جَعْفَرِ بْنِ يَحْيَى الْأَحْوَلِ عَنْ بَعْضِ أَصْحَابِهِ قَالَ: شَهِدْتُ أَبَا الْحَسَنِ مُوسَى ع يَأْكُلُ مَعَ جَمَاعَةٍ فَأُتِيَ بِسُكُرُّجَاتٍ فَمَدَّ يَدَهُ إِلَى سُكُرُّجَةٍ فِيهَا رَبِيثَا فَأَكَلَ مِنْهَا فَقَالَ بَعْضُهُمْ جُعِلْتُ فِدَاكَ أَرَدْتُ أَنْ أَسْأَلَكَ عَنْهَا وَ قَدْ رَأَيْتُكَ أَكَلْتَهَا فَقَالَ لَا بَأْسَ بِأَكْلِهَا.

And from him, from Ahmad Bin Muhammad, from Ja’far Bin Yahya Al Ahowl, from one of his companions who said,

‘I witnessed Abu Al-Hassan Musa-asws eating with a group. He-asws was brought some platters. He-asws extended his-asws towards a platter wherein were shrimps. He-asws ate from it. One of them said, ‘May I be sacrificed for you-asws! I wanted to ask you-asws about it, and I-asws have seen you-asws eating it’. He-asws said: ‘There is no problem with eating it’’.[13]

وَ مِنْهُ، عَنْ هَارُونَ بْنِ مُسْلِمٍ عَنْ مَسْعَدَةَ بْنِ صَدَقَةَ قَالَ: سُئِلَ أَبُو عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع عَنِ الرَّبِيثَا فَقَالَ لَا بَأْسَ بِأَكْلِهَا وَ لَوَدِدْتُ أَنَّ عِنْدَنَا مِنْهَا.

And from him, from Haroun Bin Muslim, from Mas’ada Bin Sadaqa who said,

‘Abu Abdullah-asws was asked about the shrimps. He-asws said: ’There is no problem with eating it, and I-asws wish we had some of it.’’.[14]

وَ مِنْهُ، عَنِ السَّيَّارِيِّ عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ جُمْهُورٍ بِإِسْنَادٍ لَهُ قَالَ حَمَلَ رَجُلٌ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْبَصْرَةِ الْإِرْبِيَانَ إِلَى أَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع وَ قَالَ: إِنَّ هَذَا نَتَّخِذُ مِنْهُ عِنْدَنَا شَيْ‏ءٌ يُقَالُ لَهُ الرَّبِيثَا يُسْتَطَابُ أَكْلُهُ وَ يُؤْكَلُ رَطْباً وَ يَابِساً وَ طَبِيخاً وَ إِنَّ أَصْحَابَنَا يَخْتَلِفُونَ مِنْهُ فَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ يَقُولُ إِنَّ أَكْلَهُ لَا يَجُوزُ وَ مِنْهُمْ مَنْ يَأْكُلُهُ

And from him, from Al Sayyari, from Muhammad Bin Jamhour, by a chain of his, said,

‘A man carried the prawns to Abu Abdullah-asws said: ‘This, we have taken from it. There is something from it with us called ‘Al-Rabeesa’. Is it recommended to eat it, can it be eaten wet, and dry, and cooked, and that our companions are differing from it. From them is one saying, ‘Eating it is not allowed, and from them is one eating it’.

فَقَالَ لِي كُلْهُ فَإِنَّهُ جِنْسٌ مِنَ السَّمَكِ أَ مَا تَرَاهَا تَقَلْقَلُ فِي قِشْرِهَا.

He-asws said to me: ‘Eat it, for it is a species from the fish. Are you not seeing them crackling in their scales?’’[15]

Shell fish:

مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ يَحْيَى عَنِ الْعَمْرَكِيِّ بْنِ عَلِيٍّ عَنْ عَلِيِّ بْنِ جَعْفَرٍ عَنْ أَخِيهِ أَبِي الْحَسَنِ الْأَوَّلِ ( عليه السلام ) قَالَ لَا يَحِلُّ أَكْلُ الْجِرِّيِّ وَ لَا السُّلَحْفَاةِ وَ لَا السَّرَطَانِ قَالَ وَ سَأَلْتُهُ عَنِ اللَّحْمِ الَّذِي يَكُونُ فِي أَصْدَافِ الْبَحْرِ وَ الْفُرَاتِ أَ يُؤْكَلُ فَقَالَ ذَاكَ لَحْمُ الضَّفَادِعِ لَا يَحِلُّ أَكْلُهُ .

Muhammad Bin Yahya, from Al Amraky Bin Ali, from;

Ali son of Ja’far-asws, from his brother-asws Abu Al-Hassan-asws having said: ‘It is not Permissible to eat the catfish, nor the tortoise, nor the crab’. And I asked him-asws about the flesh which happens to be in the sea shells of the sea, and the Euphrates, can one eat?’ So he-asws said: ‘That is a flesh of the frogs, it is not Permissible to eat it’.[16]

Caviar (eggs of fish) is also Harram

Caviar, the roe of sturgeon, was once unanimously declared Harram by the twelve Imami Shias, as the consumption of sturgeon was considered forbidden (haram) under Shiite law because under that law only fishes with scales (and their roe) can be eaten, whereas the sturgeon lacked scales. However, later on, due to its attractive commercial value it was accepted a Halal by the Iranian government in 80s.[17]

Appendix: Fish with scales

أَبُو عَلِيٍّ الْأَشْعَرِيُّ عَنِ الْحَسَنِ بْنِ عَلِيٍّ عَنْ عَمِّهِ مُحَمَّدٍ عَنْ سُلَيْمَانَ بْنِ جَعْفَرٍ قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي إِسْحَاقُ صَاحِبُ الْحِيتَانِ قَالَ خَرَجْنَا بِسَمَكٍ نَتَلَقَّى بِهِ أَبَا الْحَسَنِ الرِّضَا ( عليه السلام ) وَ قَدْ خَرَجْنَا مِنَ الْمَدِينَةِ وَ قَدْ قَدِمَ هُوَ مِنْ سَفَرٍ لَهُ فَقَالَ وَيْحَكَ يَا فُلَانُ لَعَلَّ مَعَكَ سَمَكاً فَقُلْتُ نَعَمْ يَا سَيِّدِي جُعِلْتُ فِدَاكَ فَقَالَ انْزِلُوا ثُمَّ قَالَ وَيْحَكَ لَعَلَّهُ زَهْوٌ قَالَ قُلْتُ نَعَمْ فَأَرَيْتُهُ فَقَالَ ارْكَبُوا لَا حَاجَةَ لَنَا فِيهِ وَ الزَّهْوُ سَمَكٌ لَيْسَ لَهُ قِشْرٌ .

Abu Ali Al Ashary, from Al Hassan Bin Ali, from his uncle Muhammad, from Suleyman Bin Ja’far, from Is’haq, owner of the fish, who said,

‘We went out with fish to meet Abu Al-Hassan Al-Reza-asws with it, and we had exited from Al-Medina, and he-asws had proceeded from a journey of his-asws. So he-asws said: ‘Woe be unto you, O so and so! Perhaps there are fishes with you?’ So I said, ‘Yes, O my master-asws, may I be sacrificed for you-asws!’ So he-asws said: ‘Descend you all!’ Then he-asws said: ‘Woe be unto you, perhaps it is Siganus?’ I said, ‘Yes’. So I showed it to him-asws. So he-asws said: ‘Ride! There is no need for us-asws with regards to it, and the Siganus is a fish which has no scales on it’.[18]

عَلِيُّ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ عَنْ هَارُونَ بْنِ مُسْلِمٍ عَنْ مَسْعَدَةَ بْنِ صَدَقَةَ عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ( عليه السلام ) قَالَ سَمِعْتُ أَبِي ( عليه السلام ) يَقُولُ إِذَا ضَرَبَ صَاحِبُ الشَّبَكَةِ بِالشَّبَكَةِ فَمَا أَصَابَ فِيهَا مِنْ حَيٍّ أَوْ مَيِّتٍ فَهُوَ حَلَالٌ مَا خَلَا مَا لَيْسَ لَهُ قِشْرٌ وَ لَا يُؤْكَلُ الطَّافِي مِنَ السَّمَكِ .

Ali Bin Ibrahim, from haroun Bin Muslim, from Mas’ada Bin Sadaqa, from;

Abu Abdullah-asws (6th Imam) having said, ‘I heard my-asws father-asws saying: ‘When the owner of the netting strikes with the netting, so whatever is caught in it, from live ones or dead, so it is Permissible, apart from what does not have scales for it, and he cannot eat the floating (dead ones which after dying start floating) from the fishes’.[19]

[1] Shellfish, which is also known as aquatic shelled fish, are the crustaceans. A few of the basic examples are the prawns, oysters, shrimps, lobsters, and crabs (

[2] Imam Aliasws Teaches 400 Golden Rules for the World and the Hereafter, الخصال ج : 2 ص : 611

[3] Al Kafi – V 6 – The Book of Hunting Ch 12 H 6

[4] Al Kafi – V 6 – The Book of Hunting Ch 12 H 1

[5] الكافي ج : 6 ص : 323, H.1.

[6] الكافي ج : 6 ص : 324, H.10.

[7] Bihar Al-Anwaar – V 62 The book of animals – Ch 4 H 5

[8] Bihar Al-Anwaar – V 62 The book of animals – Ch 4 H 16

[9] Bihar Al-Anwaar – V 62 The book of animals – Ch 4 H 18

[10] Bihar Al-Anwaar – V 62 The book of animals – Ch 4 H 21

[11] Bihar Al-Anwaar – V 62 The book of animals – Ch 4 H 31

[12] Bihar Al-Anwaar – V 62 The book of animals – Ch 4 H 63

[13] Bihar Al-Anwaar – V 62 The book of animals – Ch 4 H 54

[14] Bihar Al-Anwaar – V 62 The book of animals – Ch 4 H 56

[15] Bihar Al-Anwaar – V 62 The book of animals – Ch 4 H 57

[16] Al Kafi – V 6 – The Book of Hunting Ch 12 H 11

[17] How Caviar Turned Out to Be Halal | Gastronomica | University of California Press (

[18] Al Kafi – V 6 – The Book of Hunting Ch 12 H 10

[19] Al Kafi – V 6 – The Book of Hunting Ch 11 H 15