In his explanation of the hadith (on sea food and sea water):

"lts water is pure, and its dead creatures are halal."
(Sources: al-Muwatta' 1 & 2, sunan ibn Majah 1, 2, 3, 4, sunan abi Dawod, Jami' at-Tirmdihi, sunan an-Nasa'i 1, 2 and 3)

Imam ibn 'Abd-Al-Barr ابن عبد البر quotes in his at-Tamhid التمهيد لما في الموطأ من المعاني والأسانيد a statement of imam Malik and his student Abdurrhamn ibn al-Qassim about an "animal?" which literally translated from Arabic is called the pig of water or water pig:

وكره مالك خنزير الماء من جهة اسمه ، ولم يحرمه ، وقال : أنتم تقولون خنزير ، قال ابن القاسم : أنا أتقيه ولا أراه حراما . (source)

Malik considers (eating) it as makruh, but not haram just because of the meaning of it's "name"! While ibn al-Qassim just says I avoid (eating) it but don't consider it haram!

Wikipedia presents a Capybara when looking for خنزير الماء. And this doesn't seem an animal known in the gulf area at the time!

So I ask myself whether the (Arabic) etymology has changed over time and they are referring to an other animal and if so which one they might mean?


1 Answer 1


From what I can gather, خنزير الماء is meant to be a hypothetical or mythical creature and it isn't defined exactly what it is.

Similar examples which can be found in Fiqh books include إنسان الماء (mermen) كلب الماء (water dogs) and حمار الماء (water donkeys) etc.

There is a view that it means dolphins or porpoise: mereswine.

From Hayatul Haywan حياة الحيوان

الخنزير البحري: سئل مالك عنه فقال: أنتم تسمونه خنزيرا يعني أن العرب لا تسميه بذلك لأنها لا تعرف في البحر خنزيرا والمشهور أنه الدلفين. وسيأتي إن شاء الله في باب الدال المهملة قال الربيع: سئل الشافعي رضي الله تعالى عنه عن خنزير الماء فقال: يؤكل. وروي أنه لما دخل العراق قال فيه: حرمه أبو حنيفة وأحله ابن أبي ليلى. وروي هذا القول عن عمرو عثمان وابن عباس وأبي أيوب الأنصاري وأبي هريرة رضي الله تعالى عنهم، والحسن البصري والأوزاعي والليث وأبى مالك أن يقول فيه شيئا وأبقاه مرة أخرى على جهة الورع. وحكى ابن أبي هريرة عن ابن خيران أن اكارا صاد له خنزير ماء، وحمله إليه فأكله وقال: كان طعمه موافقا لطعم الحوت سواء. وقال ابن وهب: سألت الليث بن سعد عنه، فقال: إن سماه الناس خنزيرا لم يؤكل لأن الله حرم الخنزير.

[ partial paraphrased translation ]

The pig of the sea: This is the name of the pig of the seas. It is said someone asked Imam Malik about the pig of the sea. Imam Malik said: "You call an (aquatic) animal by the name of swine?" Because near the people of Arabia, there is no aquatic animal with the name of swine. Although near them there is an animal named "Dolphin" which shall be mentioned later Inshallah.

Rabiah says: When Shafi migrated to Iraq, he gave the verdict that the sea pig is halal. Abu Hanifa declared it haram. Near Ibn Abi Laila it is halal, hence the same is ascribed to Umar, Uthman, Ibn Abbasm Abu Aybub Ansari and Abu Hurairah ...

Ibn Abu Hurairah narrated from Ibn Khairan that Akar hunted a pig of the sea, cooked it and ate it and said: It tastes like fish.

Ibn Wahab said that he asked Laith bin Saad about it. He said that whatever the people call by the name of 'swine', then its meat will not be eaten because Allah has declared swine haram.


الدلفين: الدخس وضبطه الجوهري في باب السين المهملة بضم الدال فقال: الدخس مثال الصرد دابة في البحر تنجي الغريق تمكنه من ظهرها ليستعين به على السباحة. ويسمى الدلفين وقال غيره: إنه خنزير البحر.

Dolphin: This is an aquatic animal that looks like a fish. It helps the person who is about to drown and saves them, picks them on its back and helps them swim. Its called Dolphin. Some called it the pig of the sea.

Also relevant: https://islamqa.info/ar/221528

  • I was looking for a backup for your eel statement on the other post, and was wondering what was meant by pig of the sea.
    – Medi1Saif
    Jul 14, 2017 at 8:00

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