Assalamualaikum ustaz. What is the ruling of eating fox?
Waalaikumussalam wrt. 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 begin with the statement 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,” 
The above verse shows that food that we wanted to eat should fulfil these two criteria, halal and good.
Syeikh al-Sa’di commented on this verse saying that it is for everyone, regardless of whether they are from amongst the believers or disbelievers, to eat from anything on this earth, which consists of grains, fruits and animals that are made permissible for them (to eat and benefit from), not by confiscating, stealing or a result of prohibited muamalat (trade) or prohibited matters. While toyyiban is not from bad (filthy or disgusting) matters such as carcass, blood, swine and others. This verse is evidence of the original ruling for something (to be eaten or benefitted from) is permissible. 
Choosing halal and good food is among the factors that one’s supplication is accepted by Allah SWT. As stated by the Prophet Muhammad PBUH:
الرَّجُلَ يُطِيلُ السَّفَرَ أَشْعَثَ أَغْبَرَ، يَمُدُّ يَدَيْهِ إِلَى السَّمَاءِ، يَا رَبِّ، يَا رَبِّ، وَمَطْعَمُهُ حَرَامٌ، وَمَشْرَبُهُ حَرَامٌ، وَمَلْبَسُهُ حَرَامٌ، وَغُذِيَ بِالْحَرَامِ، فَأَنَّى يُسْتَجَابُ لِذَلِكَ؟
“There was a man who, having journeyed far, is dishevelled and dusty, and who spreads out his hands to the sky saying “O Lord! O Lord!” while his food is haram (unlawful), his drink is haram, his clothing is haram, and he has been nourished with haram, so how can [his supplication] be answered?” 
Definition of fox
Fox is an omnivorous mammal that lives on land, largely from the family Viverridae. It is a kind of animal that lives wild but is not ferocious, is very cunning and loves to hide. It looks like a cat but its body is slightly bigger, has a long tail and is active at night. Foxes are warm-blooded animals, give birth, care for their offspring, and have fur on their bodies.
Foxes live in the forest and sometimes enter small villages looking for chickens to prey on. There are some types of foxes that live on trees and make nests in the crevices of tree branches. A fox will be active at night to hunt its prey such as chickens, ducks, and smaller animals. Palm civet are active during the day in the forest looking for fruit. This type of animal is very clever and is good at climbing trees. Its body size is between 65cm to 80cm (not including its tail) while it weighs between 3kg to 7kg each. The color of this fox depends on the type, it is usually dark brown and some are striped. 
While we’re still learning about foxes, not many people know about this species. Common Palm Civet species are often found around oil palm plantations and bushes or on the outskirts of villages. Common Palm Civet is one of the protected animals found across India and Sri Lanka to the whole of southern China and the mainland of Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, Sumatra, Java, Borneo, Sulawesi and the Philippines. Hunting this species requires a hunting license. Its scientific name is Paradoxurus hermaphroditus. 
Common Palm Civet can be found in secondary (new) forests, fruit farms, near villages, and sometimes even on the roofs of houses in rural areas. Usually, they nest in tree holes where they keep two or three young. This species is active at night completely. This fox is active at night eating fruit, small animals and they have thick brownish grey fur with blackish fur on their face.
Other species that are often found are Musang Jebat (Viverra zibetha) and also the species Musang Akar (Arctogalidia trivirgata). The root fox is often found because it often hunts chickens in coops and has overall black skin. Other fox species are the Faded Black Weasel (Hose’s Palm Civet) and also the Taste Weasel (Viverricula indica). There are several other species, namely Musang Tenggalung (Viverricula malaccensis), Musang Luwak (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), Musang Galing (Paguma larvata), Musang Linsang (Prionodon linsang), Musang Binturong (Arctictis binturong), Musang Belang (Hemigalus derbyanus) and finally Musang Lamri (Paguma larvata).
A fox is actually a wild animal but is categorized as not ferocious. It is also a very cunning animal and is even said to be a cowardly animal. Usually, foxes sleep only during the day (Passive) but they will be active at night. It has large eyes, allowing it to see at night clearly in search of food. Foxes are warm-blooded animals that will give birth, take care of their young, and have fur on their body. Some species of fox have a very bad smell and some smell fragrant like Musang Pandan.
The ruling of eating fox
Allah SWT states:
وَيُحِلُّ لَهُمُ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَيُحَرِّمُ عَلَيْهِمُ الْخَبَائِثَ
“And makes lawful for them the good things and prohibits for them the evil,” 
Imam al-Qurtubi stated in his commentary: The word al-Khabaith in the above verse is a general statement that refers to everything prohibited by syarak and filthy things. Hence, it is prohibited to eat scorpions, bats, lizards and others. 
Most fiqh books stated that the terminology fox is tha’lab. According to Fiqh al-Manhaji , all wild animals that have strong incisors to catch their prey are prohibited. Such animals are dogs, swine, wolves, bears, cats, ibn awi (ابن آوي), a type of an animal slightly larger than a fox but smaller than a dog with long nails. Furthermore, elephants, lions, tigers, monkeys and others are also prohibited to be eaten.
If its incisors are weak and couldn’t catch prey, the animal is permissible to be eaten, such as a type of wolf (الضبع) and a type of fox. This is based on a hadith from Ibn Abi Ammar who asked Jabir RA regarding dhubu’:
الضَّبُعُ صَيْدٌ هِىَ؟ قَالَ: نَعَمْ. قَالَ: قُلْتُ آكَلَهُ؟ قَالَ: نَعَمْ. قَالَ قُلْتُ لَهُ: أَقَالَهُ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ؟ قَالَ: نَعَمْ
‘Is badger kind of game animal?’ He said: ‘Yes.'” He said: “I said: ‘Should I eat it?’ He said: ‘Yes.'” He said: ‘I said: ‘Did the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say that?’ He said: ‘Yes.'” 
This follows the hadith from Abu Tha’labah al-Khusyani RA:
أَنَّ رَسُولَ الله صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ نَهَى عَنْ كُلِّ ذِى نَابٍ مِنَ السِّبَاعِ
“Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) prohibited the eating of all fanged beasts of prey, and all the birds having talons.” 
All of these animals are prohibited because they are included as wild animals, while birds with talons usually eat a carcass, catching and hunting prey. Hence, they are categorized as filthy animals.
While scholars from madhhab Hanbali and Hanbali include foxes as prohibited animals to be eaten. Syeikh Wahbah al-Zuhaili said:
وَأَبَاح الشَّافِعِيَّة وَالْحَنَابِلَة أَكْل الضَّب والضَّبُع. وَعِندَ الشَّافِعِيَّة: والثَعْلَب، وَحَرمه الحَنَابِلَة. وَحَرم الْحَنَفِية أَكْل ذَلِكَ كُلّه.
Syafi’iyyah and Hanabilah scholars ruled eating Dhob (desert lizard) and hyenas permissible, and it is also permissible according to Syafi’iyyah scholars to eat fox, but Hanabilah scholars prohibit eating fox. Whereas, Hanafiyyah scholars prohibit all of them. 
Lajnah al-Ifta’ Jordan stated that it is permissible to eat fox meat. This is as stated in their fatwa:
There isn’t any issue in our madhhab to eat porcupine, fox and hyena meat. The reason is all of these animals are included as toyyibat and good animals to be eaten and it is also considered good by the Arabs. This is as stated by Allah SWT:
يَسْأَلُونَكَ مَاذَا أُحِلَّ لَهُمْ قُلْ أُحِلَّ لَكُمُ الطَّيِّبَاتُ
“They ask you, [O Muhammad], what has been made lawful for them. Say, “Lawful for you are [all] good foods,” 
What is considered good usually by the Arabs is halal and what is considered filthy is prohibited. The reason is al-Quran was revealed in their language and hence, their definition in interpreting Allah’s statement of ‘al-Toyyibat’ is the ruling. 
Thus, there is a possibility that fox meant by the jurists who permit eating it are foxes that mainly eat fruits and don’t spread disease to the person who eats them. Furthermore, the fact that state the fox known in our society is different from fox (tha’lab) known by the Arabs. Foxes in Malaysia are known to be from the type Qit al-Zabad (قط الزباد). It is known to be a carnivorous mammal that is closely related to cats, and it has glands under the tail that secrete fatty substances that are used to produce strong odours. It is also known as the sweat fox. 
It is also believed that this type of fox contributed to the transmission of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus in 2002-2003 which was infected by a fox (civet) which led to 774 deaths for people infected with it. 
According to the above question, we state that the type of fox that can be eaten is the one where the main diet is fruits and doesn’t carry any diseases. If the type of fox doesn’t fulfil the stated characteristics, then, we are inclined to state that fox meat is prohibited to be eaten because it is categorized as a filthy animal to be eaten.
Fakhruddin al-Razi stated that anything that is considered filthy normally by people and considered disgusting is prohibited, for it may cause disease, while anything that is harmful is prohibited. Thus, anything that is considered filthy by people is originally prohibited unless other evidences stated otherwise. 
Fox is a Fully Protected Wild Animal
Based on Malaysian Law, Act 716, Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, is a Fully Protected Wildlife. Therefore, it is not allowed to arbitrarily hunt, capture or hold snares against the animals. If convicted of an offence can be subject to action and punishment as stipulated in the act.
After analyzing the evidences and opinions of scholars as well as considering the reality and waqi’ in Malaysia, we conclude the following matters:
- Although there is an opinion from madhhab Syafie that ruled it permissible to eat certain types of foxes, however, we are inclined to the opinion that prohibits eating fox meat which is a safer opinion avoiding any khilaf.
- Furthermore, these types of foxes are protected under Act 716. Moreover, anyone who is deemed guilty will be sentenced according to the law and punished.
- Rulers have the right to decide on a ruling in order to protect a more important maslahah. This is in line with a famous Islamic legal maxim:
تَصَرُّفُ الْإِمَامِ عَلَى الرَّعِيَّةِ مَنُوطٌ بِالْمَصْلَحَةِ
“A government’s policy must be based on the maslahah of the people.”
- Thus, it is the responsibility of the people to obey the support ulil amri (ruler) in makruf (good) matters.
May Allah SWT grant us a clear understanding in religion. Amin.
 Surah al-Baqarah: 168
 See Tafsir al-Sa’di, 1/80
 Narrated by Muslim (1015)
 Surah al-A‘raf: 157
 See Tafsir al-Qurtubi, 7/300
 See al-Fiqh al-Manhaji ‘ala Mazdhab al-Syafi’ie, 3/70
 Narrated by Abu Dawud (3801), al-Tirmizi (1792), al-Nasaie (2836), Ibn Majah (3236), Ibn Hibban (1068), Imam Ahmad (2/318) and Syeikh al-Albani stated it is sahih in al-Irwa’ (1050)
 Narrated by al-Bukhari (5210) and Muslim (1932)
 Narrated by Muslim (1934)
 See al-Fiqh al-Islami Wa Adillatuhu, 4/595
 Surah al-Maidah: 4
 See Hayah al-Hayawan al-Kubra, 1/579 and Mausu’ah Hayawanat al-‘Alam, pg. 284
 See Mafatih al-Ghaib, 15/381.