Assalamualaikum SS Dato’ Seri Mufti. What is the ruling of eating hairy crabs (Chinese Mitten Crab)?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
We start the issue with the definition and habitat of this hairy crabs so that our understanding will be clear upon this. This is in accordance with the maxim:
الحُكْمُ عَلَى الشَّيْءِ فَرْعٌ عَن تَصَوُّرِهِ
“Deciding a ruling upon something is the branch of its whole depiction”
Description and Ecology of Hairy Crabs
Hairy crab or Chinese Mitten Crab is a medium-sized burrowing crab that is named for its furry claws, which resemble mittens. It is native to rivers, estuaries and other coastal habitats of eastern Asia from Korea in the north to the Fujian province of China in the south. It has also been introduced to Europe and North America where it is considered as an invasive species
Mitten crabs spend most of their life in freshwater and return to the sea to breed. During their fourth or fifth year in late summer, the crustaceans migrate downstream and attain sexual maturity in the tidal estuaries. After mating, the females continue seaward, overwintering in deeper waters. They return to brackish water in the spring to hatch their eggs. After development as larvae, the juvenile crabs gradually move upstream into freshwater, thus completing their life cycle.
It moves from freshwater habitats to saltwater habitats once it has reached reproduction maturity. The types of estuaries suitable for the mitten crab is large brackish waters for the larva to develop in, and large shallow waters for the growth of juvenile crabs. 
It is said that the price of this crab may reach 90 dollars for a kilogram (approximately RM370).
The Ruling of Eating Hairy Crabs
After analyzing its attributes and ecology, in our opinion, it is almost similar to mud crab (ketam nipah). Hence, it is permissible and can be eaten. Some dhawabit (guidelines) in determining which food is permissible to be eaten are:
- There is no prohibition in the Quran like swine
- There is no prohibition in the hadith like beasts and predators like hawk
- Do not cause harm or poisonous
- Do not cause intoxication
- Not among the mustakhbath or considered as disgusting by the Arabs
Hence, referring to the above statement, we would like to state that the ruling of eating Hairy Crabs is permissible. This is also in congruent with the maxim which says:
الْأَصْلُ فِي الْأَشْيَاءِ الْإِبَاحَةُ حَتَّى يَدُلُّ الدَّلِيلُ عَلَى التَّحْرِيمِ
“The original rule of something is its permissibility, unless there is dalil (evidence) which indicates its prohibition” (Refer: al-Asybah wa al-Nazair by al-Suyuti, 1/60)
Besides, mai’e (مائي) animals (animals which live in the sea) – whether in the sea or in lakes – are mentioned by the Prophet PBUH through his saying:
هُوَ الطَّهُورُ مَاؤُهُ الْحِلُّ مَيْتَتُهُ
“Its water is pure, and its dead are lawful."
This hadith is narrated by Imam al-Tirmizi (no. 69). He stated: “This hadith is Hassan Sahih. I asked Imam Bukhari on this, he clearly answered that it is Sahih”. This hadith also is said as sahih by various scholars like al-Bukhari, al-Hakim, Ibn Hibban, Ibn al-Munzir, al-Tahawi, al-Baghawi, al-Khattabi, Ibn Khuzaimah, al-Daraqutni, Ibn Hazm, Ibn Taimiyyah, Ibn Daqiq al-‘Id, Ibn Kathir, Ibn Hajar and others which exceed 36 scholars. (Refer: Taudhih al-Ahkam, 1/115)
Specifically, the scholars differed into three opinions regarding the ruling on the permissibility of animals in sea or lakes as follow:
- Madhab Hanafi rule it permissible to eat all types of fish and prohibit other than that like seal, sea urchins and snakes because they resemble land animals. So, they prohibit them.
- Madhab Hanbali according to their chosen opinion rule it permissible to eat all sea animals except frogs, snakes and crocodiles. Frogs and snakes because they are considered disgusting, while crocodiles because they have fangs and are wild.
- Madhab Malik and Syafie rule it permissible to eat every water animal without exception. This is in accordance with the saying of Allah SWT in the Quran:
أُحِلَّ لَكُمْ صَيْدُ الْبَحْرِ
“Lawful to you is game from the sea”
Surah al-Maidah (96)
Hence, we would like to state again that hairy crabs are permissible to be eaten as they are analogically deduced (qiyas) to other crabs as well as according to the judgements presented. Wallahua’lam.
We close with the du’a:
اللَّهُمَّ أَرِنَا الْحَقَّ حَقًّا، وَارْزُقْنَا اتِّبَاعَهُ، وَأَرِنَا الْبَاطِلَ بَاطِلًا، وَارْزُقْنَا اجْتنِاَبَهُ، وَلَا تَجْعَلْهُ مُلْتَبِسًا عَلَيْنَا فَنَضِلَّ، وَاجْعَلْنَا لِلْمُتَّقِينَ إِمَامًا
“O Allah! show us the truth as true, and inspire us to follow it. Show us falsehood as falsehood, and inspire us to abstain from it and protect us from being led astray. And make our leaders from among those who have taqwa.”
 Refer "Chinese mitten crab" in The Washington Sea Grant Program [https://web.archive.org/web/20100928002933/http://www.wsg.washington.edu/mas/ecohealth/invasive_crabs/mitten_crab.html] and "Ecology of Eriocheir sinensis" di Global Invasive Species Database [http://www.iucngisd.org/gisd/species.php?sc=38]. Cited from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_mitten_crab