#170: Shrimp is Not Sea Cockroach


Assalamualaikum wbt.

I have a question about shrimps. Recently, it was viral on social media stating that shrimps are sea cockroaches. They eat trash in the oceans the same as cockroaches which eat wastes on land. Thus, if this claim stating shrimp is sea cockroach is true, is it prohibited for us to eat it? Hope for an explanation.


Waalaikumussalam wbt.,

Alhamdulillah, praise and gratitude to Allah SWT for His countless blessings for us all. Praise and salutations to our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions, and all those who follow his footsteps until the Final day.

We start with the statemen of Allah SWT:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ كُلُوا مِمَّا فِي الْأَرْضِ حَلَالًا طَيِّبًا

“O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth [that is] lawful and good,” [1]

This verse is dedicated to all mankind, regardless of whether they are believers or not, to eat whatever that is on this earth from grains, fruits and animals that is halal for them to take (which means food that is eaten and benefitted from), not taken through force, stealing, prohibited muamalat (trade) or other prohibited matters. While the word ‘tayyiban’ means not from something bad (dirty and disgusting) such as carcass, blood, pork and others. Thus, the verse is evidence that the original ruling for anything (to be eaten and benefitted from) is permissible. [2]

Shrimp and Eating It

Shrimp are aquatic animals, hard-skinned, has ten legs and have a tail. [3] It originates from the Crustacean class. Crustaceans are among a large and diverse group, consisting of invertebrates of the phylum Arthropoda, whose classification also includes spiders, scorpions and insects. [4] In English, it is called a shrimp or prawn. If it is observed closely, there is a difference between these two animal terms used, [5] yet generally, in our language, it is referred to as shrimp. In terms of diet, shrimp are omnivorous animals. It feeds on plants, worms, fish, snails, algae, small shellfish, carrion, plankton and others. [6] In addition, there are types of shrimp that are filter feeders that adopt a diet by filtering food and only eat certain microbes. [7] There are even types of shrimp that help “clean” fish by eating parasites from the gills, mouth and scales of fish. [8] It also plays an important role in the food chain system as a scavenger that digests carcass fragments present in ocean ecosystems. [9] Scavengers will keep the ecosystem free of dead animal carcasses or carrion. It will decompose or break down this organic matter, and recycle it back into the ecosystem as nutrients. [10]

There are various types of shrimps found in the ocean, among them are:

  • Freshwater Kara Shrimp
  • Lobster
  • Tiger prawn
  • Giant freshwater prawn
  • Flathead lobster
  • And others.

Aquatic life

Aquatic animals are animals that cannot live except in water. When it is out of the water, its life is like a slaughtered animal or it cannot live for a long time (on land). [14]

Generally, it is cited in al-Mu‘tamad fi al-Fiqh al-Syafi‘i[15], aquatic animals are divided into two categories:

  1. The fish species have the same shape as it is generally known. It is permissible to be eaten no matter how it is killed and it doesn’t need to be slaughtered. This is based on the statement of Allah SWT:

أُحِلَّ لَكُمْ صَيْدُ الْبَحْرِ وَطَعَامُهُ مَتَاعًا لَّكُمْ وَلِلسَّيَّارَةِ

“Lawful to you is game from the sea and its food as provision for you and the travellers,” [16]

Likewise, there is a narration from Ibn Umar R.Anhuma, he said:

أُحِلَّت لَنا مَيتَتانِ ودَمانِ؛ الجَرادُ والحيتانُ، والكَبدُ والطِّحالُ

“Two types of animals which have died a natural death and two types of blood have been made allowable to us, the two which die a natural death being the fish and the locust, and the two types of blood being the liver and the spleen.” [17]

  1. Aquatic life that doesn’t have the same usual physical characteristic of a fish. Scholars have differing opinions in this category.

For the second category, al-Nawawi cited three famous opinions regarding this matter in his book and stated the sahih opinion according to madhhab al-Syafi’i is that everything is permissible to be eaten for the word al-Samak “السَّمَك” – as stated in the hadith – referred to all aquatic life. [18] This includes the statement of Allah SWT:

أُحِلَّ لَكُمْ صَيْدُ الْبَحْرِ وَطَعَامُهُ

“Lawful to you is game from the sea and its food,” [19]

The same is stated in a narration from Abu Hurairah RA, where Rasullullah PBUH said:

هُوَ الطَّهُورُ مَاؤُهُ، الحِلُّ مَيْتَتُهُ

“Its (the sea) water is purifying and its dead (animals) are lawful (to eat).” [20]

According to the above discussion, shrimp is included as a permissible aquatic life to be eaten. Its name as sea cockroach (if it is true), doesn’t affect the permissibility of its meat which is halal. This is the same as the naming of dolphin as water swine (خنزير الماء) in Arabic, which is one of the animals ruled permissible and don’t need to be slaughtered the same as other fishes. [21] An Islamic legal maxim stated:

العِبْرَةُ بِحَقَائِقِ الأَشْيَاءِ لاَ بِأَسْمَائِهَا

The ruling of something is considered according to the reality of the matter and not based on its name.

Furthermore, al-Mawardi also rejected their argument that prohibits water swine likening it to swine on land. [22] He stated the differences in regards to the habitat although they may have the same name and similar physical characteristics greatly affect the ruling of the animal because a wild donkey and farmed donkey (domesticated), both have the same name and physical characteristics. However, both differed in their rulings where the wild donkey is permissible to be eaten, while domesticated donkey is prohibited to be eaten for both live in different places although both are land animals. Thus, any animal with different habitats, where one in the sea and the other on land are prioritized to have different rulings, although they share the same name and physical characteristics. [23]

Especially, when Kamaluddin al-Damiri cited in his book stating an animal eaten by the general public [24] and from the statement it can be understood that shrimp from long before has never been considered disgusting.


Shrimps are considered aquatic life that is permissible to be eaten and don’t need to be slaughtered as mentioned in the evidences. It’s naming as sea cockroach (if this is true), doesn’t affect the reality of its meat being permissible, for the ruling of something is considered according to the reality of something and not based on its name.

May Allah SWT give us a clear understanding in religion and protect us from prohibited matters. Amee.

Wallahu a’lam.


[1] Surah al-Baqarah: 168.

[2] See Tafsir al-Sa‘di, 1/80.

[3] 4th Edition Kamus Dewanhttps://prpm.dbp.gov.my/Cari1?keyword=udang. Accessed on 25th October 2021.

[4] See https://a-z-animals.com/animals/crustaceans/. Accessed on 25th October 2021.

[5] See https://a-z-animals.com/blog/prawns-vs-shrimp-main-differences-explained/. Accessed on 25th October 2021.

[6] See https://a-z-animals.com/animals/prawn/ and https://a-z-animals.com/animals/shrimp/. Accessed on 25th October 2021.

[7] See https://www.thepatriots.asia/udang-adalah-lipas-laut/. Accessed on 25th October 2021.

[8] Book translated by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, World Encyclopedia, (Malaysia: DBP, First print, 2005), 22/5.

[9] See https://www.thepatriots.asia/udang-adalah-lipas-laut/. Accessed on 25th October 2021.

[10] See https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/scavenger/#:~:text=Scavengers%20play%20an%20important%20role,Some%20birds%20are%20scavengers. Accessed on 25th October 2021.

[11] See https://ms.wikipedia.org/wiki/Udang. Accessed on 4th January 2022.

[12] See https://agromalaysia.my/2020/07/20/kenali-spesies-udang-kara-air-tawar/. Accessed on 4th January 2022.

[13] See https://www.umpan.com.my/info-spesies-profil-udang-galah/. Accessed on 4th January 2022.

[14] See Nihayah al-Muhtaj, 8/150.

[15] See al-Mu‘tamad fi al-Fiqh al-Syafi‘i, 2/547-548.

[16] Surah al-Ma’idah: 96.

[17] Narrated by al-Baihaqi (1211), he stated in al-Sunan al-Kabir, the sanad of this hadith is sahih.

[18] See al-Majmu‘ Syarh al-Muhazzab, 9/33-34.

[19] Surah al-Ma’idah: 96

[20] Narrated by Abu Daud (83); al-Tirmizi (69) and al-Nasa’i (59)

[21] See Hayah al-Hayawan al-Kubra, 2/263; al-Mu‘tamad fi al-Fiqh al-Syafi‘i, 2/548.

[22] This is the same as the third opinion cited by al-Nawawi in his book which is by observing similar animals on land; such as cows and goats, then it is also permissible to be eaten. If similar animals like it on land isn’t eaten, then it is also prohibited to be eaten such as water swine and seal. Next, if the animal has no other animals comparable to it on land, then it is permissible. (See al-Majmu‘ Syarh al-Muhazzab, 9/34).

[23] See al-Hawi al-Kabir, 15/62.

[24] See Hayah al-Hayawan al-Kubra, 1/621-622.


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