What is the ruling on eating insects?
What is the ruling on eating insects?
Scholars have differed on the ruling on eating insects. A group of scholars such as the Hanafis maintained their prohibition, Malikis deemed them permissible and other scholars deemed them disliked. Shaf’i and Hanbali scholars prohibited the consumption of certain insects and permitted the consumption of others.
Ibn Rushd wrote in Bidayat Al-Mujtahid (vol.3, p.22) that the reason for this controversy is the scholarly difference over the definition of the word ‘khaba`ith’ [what is bad and impure]. The Quran says: “And prohibits for them what is bad (and impure)” [7: 157]. The scholars who maintained that the impermissibility is restricted to only those matters which are explicitly cited in primary texts do not prohibit what human nature finds repulsive or impure because they are not prohibited by a legal text. The scholars who classify khaba`ith under what humans find repulsive consider insects prohibited.
Maliki scholars permit the consumption of insects provided they are slaughtered. According to them, an insect is slaughtered by any means that leads to its death.
Ibn Rushd said in Al-Bayan wa At-Tahseel (vol.3, p.306) that scholars debated over eating locusts. According to him, some maintained that it is not necessary to slaughter them and it is permissible to eat them if they are found dead while others said that it is obligatory to slaughter locusts before eating them. Locusts are slaughtered by any means that causes their immediate death such as cutting off their heads, striking them with needles or thorns, throwing them in fire or hot water and the like. However they differed over methods that do not cause their immediate death such as cutting off their legs, wings, throwing them into cold water and so forth. Sahnun, the Maliki scholar, and others did not maintain the necessity of their ritual slaughter and Ibn Habib said that capturing locusts is tantamount to slaughtering them. They may be eaten even if they die without being slaughtered in any manner.
The Maliki scholar, Ibn Hajib said in Jami’ Al-Umahat: “Vermin are edible and are slaughtered in the same manner as locusts. And if they fall into a pot, it would be permissible to eat from it. It is [likewise] permissible to eat worms found in food.”
In Ash-Sharh Al-Kabeer (vol.2, p.115), the luminary Abu Al-Barakat Ahmed Al-Dardir gave examples of insects that are permissible for human consumption. He said: "It is permissible to eat scorpions, beetles, cockroaches, grasshoppers, ants, worms, mites and ticks. All of these are burrowing insects which find their way to the surface of the earth and return to it by digging their way back. Also permissible for human consumption are geckos, lizards, and sandfish which are considered filth when dead and only become pure when they slaughtered.”
From their medical heritage, past Muslim jurists realized the curative benefits of some insects such as ants. They therefore permitted their sale and use for medicinal purposes. Imam Al-Rafi’i wrote in Fat-h Al-Azeez (vol.8, p.119) and imam Al-Nawawy in Al-Rawda (vol.3, p.353) that Abu Al-Hassan Al-‘Abady maintained the permissibility of selling ants in Askar Makram, the famous city in Khurasan, because they were used to treat diabetes. They were also permissible in Nasibeen for treating the bite of flying scorpions. After citing some of the benefits of ants found in the classical books of medicine, the Shafi’i scholar, Al-Isnawy, wrote in Al-Muhamat (vol. 5, p. 42): “Certain drinks to which [a preparation] made from flying ants has been added are used to treat the bites of yellow scorpions. Ants are therefore permissible for sale in the two afore mentioned cities because of the large number of scorpions found in them.”
Based on the above, the matter is contingent upon scientific, medical, and pharmaceutical studies which prove the benefit of these insects or their lack thereof. It is permissible to use the insects and consume the substances manufactured from them for medicinal purposes if it is proved that they treat diseases or malnutrition without producing any harmful side effects. Otherwise, they are forbidden.
And God the Almighty knows best.