#259: Cooking Seafood Alive


Assalamualaikum ustaz. I have a question. I sometimes see chefs who cook seafood, especially octopus, when the animal is still alive. They’d heat the wok and oil, sauteed some ingredients and then grab the octopus which is still alive into the wok. I can clearly see the octopus is still alive as it moves and slithers as it was cooked. Which brings me to my question, what is the ruling of cooking a sea animal alive?


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.

The commandment to do good to all creatures including animals

The Muslim ummah is commanded to do good to every creation, regardless of whether it is to other Muslims or non-Muslims, including towards animals and plants. Allah SWT states:

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَيَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ ۚ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ

“Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.” [1]

According to al-Sa’di, doing good is the same as a person being beneficial towards others through his wealth, body, knowledge and other beneficial matters that in the commandment of doing good include doing good towards animals whether they are edible or otherwise – which means animals that aren’t eaten. [2]

Furthermore, doing good towards animals is included in showcasing good character and kindness towards them. There is a hadith narrated from Abu Hurairah RA, where Rasullullah PBUH said:

مَنْ لاَ يَرْحَمُ لاَ يُرْحَمُ

“Anyone who does not show mercy will not be shown mercy.” [3]

This hadith shows that being merciful – which means kindness – between people and even animals. It is undeniable that it is one of the commendable and good characters. Indeed, Allah SWT praises His Messenger who behave as such through His statement:

لَقَدْ جَاءَكُمْ رَسُولٌ مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ عَزِيزٌ عَلَيْهِ مَا عَنِتُّمْ حَرِيصٌ عَلَيْكُم بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ رَءُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ

“There has certainly come to you a Messenger from among yourselves. Grievous to him is what you suffer; [he is] concerned over you and to the believers is kind and merciful.” [4]

While the antonym is hard-hearted which is one of the forms of punishments of Allah SWT on the Jews who violated the peace treaty, this is stated by Allah SWT:

فَبِمَا نَقْضِهِم مِّيثَاقَهُمْ لَعَنَّاهُمْ وَجَعَلْنَا قُلُوبَهُمْ قَاسِيَةً

“So, for their breaking of the covenant, We cursed them and made their hearts hard.” [5]

Thus, it is a blessing – to be kind and loving – and an advantageous trait while a hard heart is a bad trait. Hence, showing kindness and mercy towards animals, among others is by providing food and drinks, treating its wounds and not burdening the animal for more than it can bear. [6]

Likewise, we aren’t permitted to recklessly kill any animals except with the purpose of benefitting from them such as to eat them. Rasullullah PBUH once said:

ما من إنسانٍ قتلَ عُصفورًا فما فوقَها بغيرِ حقِّها إلّا سألَهُ اللَّهُ عزَّ وجلَّ عَنها قيلَ: يا رسولَ اللَّهِ ! وما حقُّها؟ قالَ : يذبحُها فيأكُلُها ولا يقطعُ رأسَها يرمي بِها

“There is no person who kills a small bird or anything larger for no just reason, but Allah, the Mighty and Sublime, will ask him about it.” It was said: “O Messenger of Allah, what does just reason;’ mean?” He said: “That you slaughter it and eat it, and do not cut off its head and throw it aside.” [7]

Not only that, even when we are slaughtering an animal, we’re asked to do good, by killing it in the best way possible by using a sharp knife and not showing it being slaughtered in front of other animals. Rasullullah PBUH said the following regarding this matter:

إنَّ اللَّهَ كَتَبَ الإحْسانَ على كُلِّ شيءٍ، فَإِذا قَتَلْتُمْ فأحْسِنُوا القِتْلَةَ، وإذا ذَبَحْتُمْ فأحْسِنُوا الذَّبْحَ، وَلْيُحِدَّ أَحَدُكُمْ شَفْرَتَهُ، فَلْيُرِحْ ذَبِيحَتَهُ

“Verily, Allah has prescribed proficiency in all things. Thus, if you kill, kill in the least painful manner you can; and when you slaughter an animal, do it in the best possible way; and any of you should sharpen his blade so that the animal may be spared from the suffering of the slaughtering.” [8]

This hadith clearly shows the obligation of ihsan (proficiency and kindness) on every creature, which include animals, for even at the time of slaughter, we are instructed to be good towards the animal. [9]

Moreover, al-Nawawi when commenting on the above hadith stated the animal of slaughter should be relaxed by sharpening the knife and hastening the process of slaughter. It is also sunnah to not sharpen the knife in front of the animal which is going to be slaughtered and does not slaughter the animal in from of other animals. [10]

Cooking animals alive

Generally, cooking an animal alive is impossible for other than seafood because for any land animal, for their meat to be permissible, it must first be slaughtered or killed according to the syarak. If not, then it is considered a carcass and it is prohibited for us – which means Muslims – from eating it. Likewise, any parts of the animals that are cut or separated from a living animal are considered as carcass. This is as narrated from Abu Waqid al-Laithi, where Rasullullah PBUH said:

ما قُطِعَ منَ البَهيمةِ وَهيَ حيَّةٌ فَهوَ ميتَةٌ

“Whatever is cut from an animal while it is alive, then it is dead flesh.” [11]

Moreover, al-Khatib al-Syirbini explained this matter saying the parts separated from an animal that is still alive is ruled as carcass. In other words, if the animal’s carcass is pure, then the parts separated from it is considered as pure such as fish, grasshopper and humans. However, if its carcass is considered as najis, then the separated parts are also considered as najis. Whereas, for a separated part from a dead animal, the ruling follows how the animal died – which means whether it is slaughtered according to syarak or otherwise. [12]

However, it is different for sea animals for all sea creatures are generally permissible and halal and doesn’t need for slaughter for its carcass to be considered pure. This is as stated in the statement of Allah SWT:

أُحِلَّ لَكُمْ صَيْدُ الْبَحْرِ

“Lawful to you is game from the sea,” [13]

The same is described in a hadith from Abu Hurairah RA, the Prophet PBUH said:

هُوَ الطَّهُورُ مَاؤُهُ، الحِلُّ مَيْتَتُهُ

“Its water is purifying and its dead (animals) are lawful (to eat).” [14]

Coming back to the presented question, this matter is stated in the book al-Mausu‘ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah where when a person catches a fish that is still alive – he has to wait until the fish dies first before he can eat it. Likewise, it is makruh to roast the fish alive because it will hurt it unnecessarily. The reason is a fish is an animal that dies easily, hence, one can wait until it dies first – before cooking it. [15]

Furthermore, al-Nawawi also said that if the fish is swallowed when it is still alive or the fish that is still alive is cut and some of it is eaten. Then, in this case, there are two opinions. The most sahih opinion is that it is makruh and not haram. While the second opinion is that it is prohibited and this is the opinion of al-Ghazali. [16] Thus, this includes all other sea animal or creatures which follows the rulings of fish.


According to the above discussion, we conclude that the ruling of cooking seafood alive such as fish, octopus or others – which means animals that live in water – is makruh. However, it is best if it is killed with the best way or waits until it dies before cooking it because usually sea animals wouldn’t live for a long time on land (after being separated from the water).

Especially when we are commanded to be merciful and kind towards animals. Hence, being merciful and kind doesn’t mean cooking it alive. The same since the act of cooking animals alive doesn’t show the character of a Muslim who is kind and merciful – being sympathetic, loving and kind – towards other creations as commanded in Islam. The reason is the act of cooking an animal alive is a part of hurting and torturing the animal. We end with a hadith for all of us to reflect on, where the Prophet PBUH said:

مَنْ لاَ يَرْحَمُ لاَ يُرْحَمُ

“Anyone who does not show mercy will not be shown mercy.” [17]

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

Wallahu a’lam.


[1] Surah al-Nahl: 90

[2] See Tafsir al-Sa’di, 1/447

[3] Narrated by al-Bukhari (5997)

[4] Surah al-Taubah: 128

[5] Surah al-Ma’idah: 13

[6] See al-Adab al-Nabawi, pg. 122-123.

[7] Narrated by al-Nasa’i (4349)

[8] Narrated by Muslim (1955)

[9] See Bahjah Qulub al-Abrar, 1/127.

[10] See al-Minhaj Syarh Sahih Muslim, 13/92

[11] Narrated by al-Tirmizi (1480)

[12] See Mughni al-Muhtaj,1/235.

[13] Surah al-Ma’idah: 96

[14] Narrated by al-Tirmizi (68); Abu Daud (83); al-Nasa’i (59)

[15] See al-Mausu‘ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, 5/131.

[16] See al-Majmu‘ Syarh al-Muhazzab, 9/73.

[17] Narrated by al-Bukhari (5997)