#464: Eating Turtle Egg

Question:

Assalamualaikum w.b.t. Is turtle egg halal? Hope for an explanation. Thank you.

 

Answer:

Waalaikumussalam w.b.t.,

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 Last Day.

We start with the statement of Allah SWT:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تُحَرِّمُوا طَيِّبَاتِ مَا أَحَلَّ اللَّـهُ لَكُمْ وَلَا تَعْتَدُوا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُعْتَدِينَ

“O you who have believed, do not prohibit the good things which Allah has made lawful to you and do not transgress. Indeed, Allah does not like transgressors.” [1]

The above verse contains reminders for believers to not prohibit anything that is good, which Allah SWT permits for them which includes food, drink and marrying women that constricts what Allah SWT has widened for them. Furthermore, this verse also reminds them to not transgress the limitations that Allah SWT has prohibited, for indeed, Allah SWT dislikes transgressors. [2]

Mukadimah

Generally, eggs are a favorite food of the people and are an important ingredient in cooking. In addition, eggs are one of the healthiest foods and can be a good source of protein.

Turtles are from the subfamily Chelonioidea, a reptile of the order Testudines. There are seven species of turtles, namely green turtles, jar turtles, loggerhead turtles, flat turtles, starfish turtles, cockroach turtles and campy turtles. Turtles are classified as vertebrate (vertebrate) animals, a class of reptiles similar to snakes, lizards, tortoises, spiders and tuntung. Turtles also have scaly skin (in the unshelled part), breathe through the lungs, have a body temperature that follows the ambient temperature, lay eggs and are marine animals.

All turtle species are in danger of extinction due to experiencing many natural and human threats throughout their lives. Every year, the population of turtles that land to lay eggs is declining. The IUCN places this animal as an endangered species. Among the threats faced by turtles is the illegal hunting of their meat and eggs, especially in China, the Philippines, India, Indonesia and some countries in America. An estimated 35,000 turtles are killed a year in Mexico and Nicaragua until some conservationists in Mexico and the United States launched a “Don’t Eat Sea Turtle” campaign to reduce trade in these animal products. [3]

Eating turtle eggs

First and foremost, we should know that turtles are included as an animal that is prohibited to be eaten according to scholars of madhhab Syafi’i. [4] The reason is as stated by al-Khatib al-Syirbini, turtles are prohibited because they are considered filthy and disgusting. [5] Likewise, ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Jaziri stated that it is prohibited to eat both land and sea turtles because they can live on land and in water. [6]

Next, regarding the ruling of eating turtles, Imam al-Nawawi stated that the eggs of halal animals are permissible to be eaten according to the ijmak of scholars. While for eggs of non-halal animals, there are two opinions. The strong opinion in this matter states that they are considered pure. [7] Likewise, al-Khatib al-Syirbini explained that there is khilaf among scholars regarding the halal status of eggs from animals that are not halal. As stated in the book al-Majmu’, if we say that these eggs are pure – then this is the rajih opinion – and it is halal to eat them without any khilaf because eggs aren’t considered disgusting and are pure. [8]

Furthermore, al-Qalyubi also stated that all types of eggs are pure, even if it originates from an animal whose flesh is not halal. This is so, even when it has changed into the blood that coagulates and if incubated, it will hatch. However, if they are harmful then they are prohibited such as snake eggs. [9] Moreover, Syeikh Nawawi al-Jawi also said that if an egg is spoiled, then it is considered najis. The same applies to animal eggs that are from their carcass – they are also considered najis. As for other than that, eggs are considered pure and are permissible to be eaten, even if the animal’s flesh isn’t eaten such as hida’ah bird (a type of eagle), crow, eagle/hawks, owls, crocodiles, turtles and others except for snake eggs. [10]

The reason for this is that snake eggs are harmful to those who consume them. Al-Dimyati said in his book that according to the strong opinion in madhhab Syafi’I, animal eggs are considered pure just like semen is pure, even if it originates from non-halal animals to be eaten but are pure, as long as they aren’t harmful. [11] Likewise, Syeikh al-Jamal in his hasyiah also said the eggs of hida’ bird (a type of eagle), eagle/hawk, crow, owl, turtle, and crocodile eggs are all halal to be eaten. [12]

Hence, we conclude that all types of eggs are halal and permissible to be eaten, including turtle eggs, except if there is evidence stating their harmful effects on those who eat them and others. This follows the Islamic legal maxim:

الْأَصْلُ فِي الْأَشْيَاءِ الْإِبَاحَةُ حَتَّى يَدُلُّ الدَّلِيلُ عَلَى التَّحْرِيمِ

“The original ruling for something is its permissibility until there is evidence that states its prohibition (of the matter).” [13]

Turtle eggs are banned from being sold

Sinar Harian, dated 18 November 2021, it was reported that Terengganu has completely banned the sale of turtle eggs and sea urchins in the state starting 1 June 2022 to conserve the endangered marine reptiles. The new law will be enforced following amendments to the Turtle Enactment 1951 were passed at the Second Meeting of the Fourth Term of the 14th State Legislative Assembly.

According to the Terengganu Exco for Agriculture, Agro-based Industry and Rural Development, Dr Azman Ibrahim, a string of that, turtle eggs not from the starfruit species that were previously sold openly are no longer allowed. He also mentioned that Terengganu is the only state that allows the sale of turtle eggs. The ban only involves the sale of starfish turtle eggs but in fact, this species has not been seen landing on the Terengganu coast for six years. Therefore, the previous enactment is no longer relevant because the turtle eggs that are banned from sale actually no longer exist in Terengganu.

Apart from the ban on the sale of turtle eggs, the amendment to the new enactment also tightens the punishment for those who disturb or kill turtles, which is a fine of between RM50,000 to RM200,000 and imprisonment for one year. According to Dr Azman, the amount is much higher than the fine of RM3,000 imposed previously. Later, he also stated that the stricter law was not intended to punish but was preventive on the basis of protecting turtles which are an icon for the state of Terengganu. [14]

Conclusion

Thus, according to the above discussion, in our opinion, basically, it is halal and permissible to eat turtle eggs for they are ruled pure. However, we’d like to take this opportunity to advise against it in following the order sanctioned by the rulers who banned this. The reason is that the ruler reserves a right to decide on matters in order to protect the greater maslahah. This is in line with the famous maxim:

تَصَرُّفُ الْإِمَامِ عَلَى الرَّعِيَّةِ مَنُوطٌ بِالْمَصْلَحَةِ

“The policy of a ruler must be based on the maslahah of the people.”

Furthermore, as we know, turtles are endangered species. Hence, it is our shared responsibility in ensuring they are not extinct for our future generations so that they are able to see and know them. This matter is in accordance with the Islam legal maxim Sadd al-Zarai’ which is to close the roads that could lead to greater harm and that is the extinction of turtles. Thus, it is the responsibility of the citizens to obey and support the ulil amri (ruler) in makruf matters – good.

May Allah SWT grant us all a clear understanding in religion. Amin.

Wallahu a’lam.

[1] Surah al-Maidah: 87

[2] See al-Tafsir al-Muyassar, pg. 122

[3] See https://ms.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penyu. Accessed on 10th February 2022.

[4] See al-Mausu‘ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, 5/130.

[5] See Mughni al-Muhtaj, 6/146.

[6] See al-Fiqh ‘ala al-Mazahib al-Arba‘ah, 2/7.

[7] See al-Majmu‘ Syarh al-Muhazzab, 2/555.

[8] See Mughni al-Muhtaj, 6/158.

[9] See Hasyiata Qalyubi wa ‘Umairah, 1/82.

[10] See Nihayah al-Zain, pg. 39.

[11] See I‘anah al-Talibin, 1/104.

[12] See Hasyiah al-Jamal, 1/176.

[13] See al-Asybah wa al-Naza’ir by al-Suyuti, pg. 60.

[14] See https://www.sinarharian.com.my/article/173119/BERITA/Terengganu-haramkan-jual-telur-penyu-tuntung. Accessed 10th February 2022.

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