7

Given that eel is clearly a water animal, one would think that it would fall under the general ruling of the hadith wherein the sea's water is pure and its dead is permissible. However, I clearly recall reading from various sources that eel is considered haram by at least one of the major schools of jurisprudence.

The internet being what it is, I've had trouble finding reliable references thereof; the best I've learned is that eel is clearly halal according to the Hanafi school (which I find interesting, considering how many other species of seafood they don't deem thus), but I've found little more than vague references that either the Maliki or Hanbali schools consider it haram, but with nothing to back them up.

I've also not found any clear evidences as to why eel is considered thus. A few possibilities I've seen presented, again without any reliable references to back them up, are as follow:

  • Eel is not "fish-shaped" (neither are most shellfish)
  • Eel does not have scales (does this even matter?)
  • Eel is a predator (a lot of fish are)

So the question lies thus: Which school(s), if any, do not consider eel inherently halal (like other seafood), and why not?

1
  • "… scales (does this even matter?)". Note that Judaism and some Christian denominations use this same rule (from their scriptures) for determining what seafood is considered edible. Nov 12 '21 at 13:27
4

According to Shia Fiqh (jurisprudence) it is forbidden to eat Eel, not only Eal but also any other fish that has no scale (and never does during its life):

"Eat any fish that has scales, and do not eat what does not have scales." (Imam Baqir a.s) [al-Kolayni, al-Kaafi, vol.6 p. 219]; See here.

Also see the followings for similar Ahadeeth from Shia book:

عدّة من أصحابنا، عن سهل بن زياد؛ و محمّد بن يحيى، عن أحمد بن محمّد- عن ابن محبوب، و أحمد بن محمّد بن أبي نصر جميعا، عن العلاء، عن محمّد بن مسلم قال: أقرأني أبو جعفر عليه السّلام شيئا من كتاب عليّ عليه السّلام فإذا فيه: أنهاكم عن الجرّيّ و الزّمّير و المار ماهي و الطّافي و الطحال. قال: قلت: يا ابن رسول اللّه يرحمك اللّه إنّا نؤتى بالسّمك ليس له قشر؟ فقال: كل ما له قشر من السمك و ما ليس له قشر فلا تأكله.

عدّة من أصحابنا، عن أحمد بن محمّد، عن عثمان بن عيسى، عن سماعة، عن أبي عبد اللّه عليه السّلام قال: لا تأكل الجرّيث و لا المار ماهي و لا طافيا. و لا طحالا لأنّه بيت الدّم و مضغة الشيطان.

عليّ بن إبراهيم، عن أبيه، عن عبد اللّه بن المغيرة، عن عبد اللّه بن سنان، عن أبي عبد اللّه عليه السّلام قال: كان أمير المؤمنين عليّ بن أبي طالب عليه السّلام بالكوفة يركب بغلة رسول اللّه صلى اللّه عليه و آله ثمّ يمرّ بسوق الحيتان فيقول: لا تأكلوا و لا تبيعوا من السمك ما لم يكن له قشر.

عليّ بن إبراهيم، عن أبيه، عن حنان بن سدير قال: سأل العلاء بن كامل أبا عبد اللّه عليه السّلام و أنا حاضر عن الجرّيّ. فقال: وجدنا في كتاب عليّ عليه السّلام أشياء محرّمة من السمك فلا تقربها. ثمّ قال أبو عبد اللّه عليه السّلام: ما لم يكن له قشر من السمك فلا تقربنّه.

گزيده كافى، ج5، ص: 356-357

In short, all these Ahadeeth announce Eeal as forbidden to eat, Haram. But then what's the reason for that. In a long Hadeeth from the holy prophet --peace be upon him and his household-- many forbidden-to-eat animals and fish are announced to be so as among them are the conversions (Maskh: مسخ):

حَدَّثَنَا جَعْفَرُ بْنُ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ مَسْرُورٍ رَحِمَهُ اللَّهُ قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا الْحُسَيْنُ بْنُ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ عَامِرٍ عَنِ الْمُعَلَّى بْنِ مُحَمَّدٍ الْبَصْرِيِّ عَنْ بِسْطَامَ بْنِ مُرَّةَ عَنْ إِسْحَاقَ بْنِ حَسَّانَ عَنِ الْهَيْثَمِ بْنِ وَاقِدٍ عَنْ عَلِيِّ بْنِ الْحَسَنِ الْعَبْدِيِّ عَنْ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ الْخُدْرِيِ أَنَّهُ سُئِلَ مَا قَوْلُكَ فِي هَذَا السَّمَكِ الَّذِي يَزْعُمُ إِخْوَانُنَا مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكُوفَةِ أَنَّهُ حَرَامٌ فَقَالَ أَبُو سَعِيدٍ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ص يَقُولُ الْكُوفَةُ جُمْجُمَةُ الْعَرَبِ وَ رُمْحُ اللَّهِ تَبَارَكَ وَ تَعَالَى وَ كَنْزُ الْإِيمَانِ فَخُذْ عَنْهُمْ أُخْبِرُكَ [عَنْ] رَسُولِ اللَّهِ ص أَنَّهُ مَكَثَ بِمَكَّةَ يَوْماً وَ لَيْلَةً بِذِي طُوًى ثُمَّ خَرَجَ وَ خَرَجْتُ مَعَهُ فَمَرَرْنَا بِرِفْقَةٍ جُلُوسٍ يَتَغَدَّوْنَ فَقَالُوا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ الْغَدَاءَ فَقَالَ لَهُمْ أَفْرِجُوا لِنَبِيِّكُمْ فَجَلَسَ بَيْنَ رَجُلَيْنِ وَ جَلَسْتُ وَ تَنَاوَلَ رَغِيفاً فَصَدَعَ نِصْفَهُ ثُمَّ نَظَرَ إِلَى أُدْمِهِمْ فَقَالَ مَا أُدْمُكُمْ قَالُوا الْجِرِّيُّ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ فَرَمَى بِالْكِسْرَةِ مِنْ يَدِهِ وَ قَامَ قَالَ أَبُو سَعِيدٍ- وَ تَخَلَّفْتُ بَعْدَهُ لِأَنْظُرَ مَا رَأَى النَّاسُ فَاخْتَلَفَ النَّاسُ فِيمَا بَيْنَهُمْ فَقَالَتْ طَائِفَةٌ حَرَّمَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ص الْجِرِّيَّ وَ قَالَتْ طَائِفَةٌ لَمْ يُحَرِّمْهُ وَ لَكِنْ عَافَهُ وَ لَوْ كَانَ حَرَّمَهُ نَهَانَا عَنْ أَكْلِهِ قَالَ فَحَفِظْتُ مَقَالَةَ الْقَوْمِ وَ تَبِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ص حَتَّى لَحِقْتُهُ ثُمَّ غَشِينَا رِفْقَةً أُخْرَى يَتَغَدَّوْنَ فَقَالُوا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ الْغَدَاءَ فَقَالَ نَعَمْ أَفْرِجُوا لِنَبِيِّكُمْ فَجَلَسَ بَيْنَ رَجُلَيْنِ وَ جَلَسْتُ فَلَمَّا تَنَاوَلَ كِسْرَةً نَظَرَ إِلَى أُدْمِهِمْ فَقَالَ مَا أُدْمُكُمْ هَذَا قَالُوا ضَبٌّ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ فَرَمَى الْكِسْرَةَ وَ قَامَ قَالَ أَبُو سَعِيدٍ فَتَخَلَّفْتُ بَعْدَهُ فَإِذَا بِالنَّاسِ فِرْقَتَانِ قَالَتْ فِرْقَةٌ حَرَّمَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ الضَّبَّ فَمِنْ هُنَاكَ لَمْ يَأْكُلْهُ وَ قَالَتْ فِرْقَةٌ أُخْرَى إِنَّمَا عَافَهُ وَ لَوْ حَرَّمَهُ لَنَهَانَا عَنْهُ ثُمَّ قَالَ تَبِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ص حَتَّى لَحِقْتُهُ فَمَرَرْنَا بِأَصْلِ الصَّفَا وَ فِيهَا قُدُورٌ تَغْلِي فَقَالُوا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ لَوْ تَكَرَّمْتَ عَلَيْنَا حَتَّى تُدْرِكَ قُدُورَنَا قَالَ لَهُمْ مَا فِي قُدُورِكُمْ قَالُوا حُمُرٌ لَنَا نَرْكَبُهَا فَقَامَتْ فَذَبَحْنَاهَا فَدَنَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ص مِنَ الْقُدُورِ فَأَكْفَأَهَا بِرِجْلِهِ ثُمَّ انْطَلَقَ جَوَاداً وَ تَخَلَّفْتُ بَعْدَهُ فَقَالَ بَعْضُهُمْ حَرَّمَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ص لَحْمَ الْحَمِيرِ وَ قَالَ بَعْضُهُمْ كَلَّا إِنَّمَا أَفْرَغَ قُدُورَكُمْ حَتَّى لَا تَعُودُوهُ فَتَذْبَحُوا دَوَابَّكُمْ قَالَ أَبُو سَعِيدٍ فتَبِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ص فَقَالَ يَا أَبَا سَعِيدٍ ادْعُ بِلَالًا فَلَمَّا جَاءَهُ بِلَالٌ قَالَ يَا بِلَالُ اصْعَدْ أَبَا قُبَيْسٍ فَنَادِ عَلَيْهِ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ص حَرَّمَ الْجِرِّيَّ وَ الضَّبَّ وَ الْحُمُرَ الْأَهْلِيَّةَ أَلَا فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَ لَا تَأْكُلُوا مِنَ السَّمَكِ إِلَّا مَا كَانَ لَهُ قِشْرٌ وَ مَعَ الْقِشْرِ فُلُوسٌ إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَبَارَكَ وَ تَعَالَى مَسَخَ سَبْعَمِائَةِ أُمَّةٍ عَصَوُا الْأَوْصِيَاءَ بَعْدَ الرُّسُلِ فَأَخَذَ أَرْبَعُمِائَةِ أُمَّةٍ مِنْهُمْ بَرّاً وَ ثَلَاثُمِائَةِ أُمَّةٍ مِنْهُمْ بَحْراً ثُمَّ تَلَا هَذِهِ الْآيَةَ "فَجَعَلْناهُمْ أَحادِيثَ وَ مَزَّقْناهُمْ كُلَّ مُمَزَّق"

علل الشرائع شیخ صدوق، ج2، باب 222

And note that the verse in Quran which is related to this issue is stated to be [34:19] in the previous Hadeeth:

فَقَالُوا رَبَّنَا بَاعِدْ بَيْنَ أَسْفَارِنَا وَظَلَمُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ فَجَعَلْنَاهُمْ أَحَادِيثَ وَمَزَّقْنَاهُمْ كُلَّ مُمَزَّقٍ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّكُلِّ صَبَّارٍ شَكُورٍ

But they said: "Our Lord! Place longer distances between our journey-stages": but they wronged themselves (therein). At length We made them as a tale (that is told), and We dispersed them all in scattered fragments. Verily in this are Signs for every (soul that is) patiently constant and grateful.

4
  • Does this prohibition extend to shellfish, such as shrimp and crab? Dec 14 '12 at 20:22
  • 1
    @SystemDown, according to here "In short, the sea food that is allowed to us is as follows: 1. scale fish, 2. shrimp and prawns. Any non-fish sea animal and any fish which has no scales is not allowed. So crab, shell-fish and other animals are haram in the Ja`fari fiqh. (The case of lobster is still undecided because of ambiguity in its classification: is it a shrimp just bigger in size, or is it a different kind of sea animal? Therefore, it is better to refrain from lobster until the issue is settled.)"
    – owari
    Dec 14 '12 at 21:28
  • Your answer doesn't appear to have anything to do with the ayah you quoted.
    – ashes999
    Jan 9 '13 at 0:05
  • 1
    @ashes999, I see, I have only translated a small part of the Hadeeth quoted, I should translate also the rest which contains the verse you are talking about, the bold text in the Arabic version of the last Hadeeth.
    – owari
    Jan 9 '13 at 2:25
3

From the Shafie Madhhab that I follow, eel is considered Halal to eat because in Shafie, all the food in the sea can be eaten.

Meanwhile according to Maliki School, 'sea pig' is considered as Makruh due to the word 'pig' in it.

In Hanafi, only fishes are halal and everything else like crab, prawn etc. are considered Haram.

1
  • Salam and welcome to Islam.SE, we suggest you read the FAQ. Here on Islam.SE, we require answers to contain references/citations from Quran, sunnah, a reliable fatwa from a reliable scholar, and or any other Islamic resource. It would almost seem that you got this out of Bidayatul Mujtahid wa nihayatul Muqtasid, if you have please link it if you haven't than give a source that can back up your answer. Thank You.
    – مجاهد
    Dec 14 '12 at 13:47
1

Mainline Sunni view: The only law concerning sea animals pertains to their blood, if they have flowing blood and a spine it is halal, if they have blood that doesn’t flow or flows very little, it's haram. Lobsters, crabs, shrimp all are haram, prawns aren't related to those animals and have flowing blood thus making them halal. All spineless, no or low flowing blood, insect and reptilian like creatures are haram. Also predatory animals such as sharks and dolphins should be avoided. So if an eel has an active vascular system and a spine it is halal.

1

Eel has been named in jurisprudence texts as الجريث , الجري ,مارماهي and أنقليس [variant spellings of this also exist]. It is described as a fish in an elongated shape like a snake, with a flattish body. However some opinions also hold that one of these names is used for a fish without scales or Silurus.

Eating it is halal according to the basic principles of the four Sunni madhabs. Because the rule of the majority is that all creatures which live in water are halal, based on the general meaning of the text:

أحل لكم صيد البحر

Lawful to you is game from the sea

Quran 5:96

And the criterion of the Hanafis is that only the genus of 'fish' is halal from water creatures, and they accept that eel is a type of fish. Their view is based on the hadith:

أحلت لنا ميتتان ... فالحوت والجراد

Two kinds of dead meat have been permitted to us ... fish and locusts

Ibn Majah

I could not find any reliable indication that any of the mainstream Sunni schools holds eel to be haram. On the contrary, the fiqh manuals imply that there is an extensive agreement that eel is halal:

كالجريث يقال له حية الماء ، وهو على شكل الحية وأكله مباح بالاتفاق

Like the eel, it is called the snake of the water, and its shape is like that of a snake and eating it is permitted with agreement.

Tafsir al-Baghawy

قيل لأبي عبد الله: يكره الجري؟ قال: لا والله، وكيف لنا بالجري؟ ورخص فيه علي والحسن ومالك والشافعي وأبو ثور، وأصحاب الرأي، وسائر أهل العلم. وقال ابن عباس الجري لا تأكله اليهود. ووافقهم الرافضة، ومخالفتهم صواب

Abu Abdullah (Ahmad ibn Hanbal) was asked whether eel was disliked, and he said: No (...). And Ali, Hassan, Malik, Shafi'i, Abu Thawr, the Ashab al-Ra'y (Hanafis) and other scholars allowed it. And Ibn Abbas said: The eel is not eaten by the Jews. And the Shi'as agreed with them and opposing them is correct.

Mughni - Ibn Qudamah

ويستوي في حل الأكل جميع أنواع السمك من الجريث والمارماهي وغيرهما ; لأن ما ذكرنا من الدلائل في إباحة السمك لا يفصل بين سمك وسمك إلا ما خص بدليل ، وقد روي عن سيدنا علي وابن عباس رضي الله عنهما إباحة الجريث والسمك الذكر ولم ينقل عن غيرهما خلاف ذلك فيكون إجماعا

And this ruling is equal for all the categories of fish, such as eel. That is because the evidence that has been presented above about the permissibility of fish, does not differentiate between the types of fish, unless there is a specific evidence which makes an exception to it. And it is narrated from Ali and Ibn Abbas that eel is permissible, and opposition to this is not reported from any other sahaba, hence it is a matter of consensus.

Badaa’i’ al-Sanaa’i’

There are however outlier opinions of individual scholars, for example:

  • Some have considered eating eel to be makruh because of the story that eels are the remnants of those who were punished through transformation of their physical bodies. This is the reason cited in owari's answer. Ibn ‘Arafah and Ibn Hajar etc. have said that Ibn Habib - the Maliki scholar - held this opinion.

    عن علي أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم سئل عن المسوخ فقال: هم ثلاثة عشر: الفيل والدب والخنزير والقرد والجريث والضب والوطواط والعقرب والدعموص والعنكبوت والأرنب وسهيل والزهرة ... وأما الجريث فكان ديوثا يدعو الرجال إلى امرأته حليلته

    Ali narrated that the Prophet ﷺ was asked about those whose bodies were transformed, and he said: They are thirteen:

    elephant, bear, pig, monkey, eel, mastigure, bat, scorpion, da’moos, spider, rabbit, Canopus and Venus.

    ... As for the eel it was a dishonorable (cuckold) man who invited other men to have relations with his own wife

    Kanz al-‘Ummaal (Note: This hadith has been classed as fabricated, see الموضوعات لابن الجوزي )

  • There is a weak report that Muhammad bin Hassan from the Hanafis considered it impermissible. The basis for this is either disputing whether eels are from the genus of fish, or based on the report that they are the remnants of transformed people (see المغرب في ترتيب المعرب and رد المحتار)

  • There are weak reports that Ali ibn Abi Talib disliked or did not eat eels (see Musannaf Abdur Razzaq and Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah). They do not clearly mention a reason, although one suggests that it was because the People of the Book do not eat it. On the contrary there are also reports that Ali praised it and approved of eating it, or did not see anything wrong in eating it.


You have mentioned seeing vague claims that Maliki or Hanbali schools consider eel to be haram. Indeed there are some websites which claim this, for example https://questionsonislam.com/question/seafood-haram-or-halal says this about the Hanbalis. And a few Hanafi fatwa sites says this about Imam Malik like https://daruliftabirmingham.co.uk/seafood-in-the-four-madhab/.

  • I could not find any evidence that Imam Malik or the Malikis at large consider eels to be Haram. My guess is that this could be a confusion caused because the fact that according to a report Imam Malik considered خنزير الماء (sea pig) to be makruh (tanzihi). Some scholars hold that those sea animals are haram or makruh whose land counterparts are haram. That is because the wording of the texts which forbids the land animals can also extend to the sea animals because of their similar names. Hence, for example these scholars hold that the animals which are called sea pigs, sea dogs, sea donkeys should not be eaten. I could not find any source which says that Imam Malik extended this to eels. The Hanafi books that daruliftabirmingham.co.uk cites after making this claim do not say this at all, rather Hidayah states that Imam Malik considered all water creatures to be Halal.

  • I could not find any evidence that the Hanbalis consider eels to be Haram, indeed the quote from Ibn Qudamah that is cited above says explicitly the opposite. However there are other sea 'snakes' (not eels) which can survive in both land and water. These are the ones who are considered haram by the Hanbalis (and for that matter also the Hanafis and one opinion of the Shafi'is). This might have confused the authors of the website. See Kashshaaf al-Qinaa’.

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