Eating Fish Without Slaughtering?

Question

Why fish is halal without slaughtering?


Answer

Fish is halal without slaughter. This has been taught by the Prophet (sws). However, when we see that the Holy Qur'an prohibits maytah (flesh of a dead animal/carion) the question arises in our mind isn't fish maytah for it is not slaughtered in the prescribed manner? Some people think that the Prophet (sws) abrogated the divine ruling mentioned in the Qur'an when he declared that we can eat fish. This question has been addressed by Mr Javed Ahmad Ghamidi in his book Meezaan. He writes:

Maytah (meat of dead animals) is one of the things which the Almighty has regarded as forbidden. A person who is conversant with the linguistic features of Arabic knows that this word has a literal meaning and it also has a meaning which emanates from its linguistic usage. In the first case, it means every thing which is dead; however, in the second case, one who is aware of the intricacies of the Arabic language will, for example, never include dead fish or dead locust in its connotation. The Prophet (sws), on these very grounds, is reported to have said:

أُحِلَّتْ لَنَا مَيْتَتَانِ وَدَمَانِ فَأَمَّا الْمَيْتَتَانِ فَالْحُوتُ وَالْجَرَادُ وَأَمَّا الدَّمَانِ فَالْكَبِدُ وَالطِّحَالُ

Two [types of] dead and two [forms of] blood are not forbidden for us: The former being fish and locust and the latter being liver and spleen.[1](Ibn Majah, No: 3314)

Imam Zamakhsharī writes:

فإن قلت في الميتات ما يحل وهو السمك والجراد قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلمأحلت لنا ميتتان ودمان قلتقصد ما يتفاهمه الناس و يتعارفونه في العادة ' ألا تري أن القائل إذا قال : أكل فلان ميتة لم يسبق الوهم إلى السمك والجراد كما لو قال : أكل دماً لم يسبق إلى الكبد والطحال ' ولاعتبار العادة والتعارف قالوا : من حلف لا يأكل لحماً فأكل سمكا لم يحنث وان أكل لحماً في الحقيقة

Then if you ask the question: "Among the dead, there are some things which are allowed to us like the fish and locust and the Prophet (sws) has said: 'two [types of] dead and two [forms of] blood are allowed to us,'" I will say in response: "The word مَيْتَه (maytah) mentioned in the Qur'an must be understood according to its linguistic usage. Is not the case that when someone says that he has eaten maytah, we never include a fish or a locust in its connotation. This is similar to the fact that if a person says that he has drunk blood we never include liver or spleen in its connotation. Precisely because of such usage, jurists say that if a person swears that he will never eat meat and then he consumes fish, this will not break his oath although in reality he has eaten meat."[2]

(Ghamidi, Meezaan, 40-1, Translated by Mr Shehzad Saleem)

[1]. The chain of narration of this narrative is questionable in the opinion of the scholars of Hadith. Similarly, the narrative regarding theft cited in point no. 6 is mursal.

[2]. Zamakhshari, Kashshaf, vol. 1 (Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-'Arabi, n.d.), 215.

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