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  • A leading Islamic preacher has begun the new year with a warning about prawns.
  • Prawns are technically arthropods, like spiders, and therefore not halal.
  • Other scholars disagree with the new ruling.

A revered Islamic cleric has issued a fatwa against prawns

Mohammad Azeemuddin, head of India's oldest Sunni Muslim seminary, Jamia Nizamia, announced on New Year's Day that Muslims should not eat prawns.

His ruling was based on the fact that prawns are not fish but arthropods, which are regarded as 'makruh tahrim' in Islamic jurisprudence – strictly abominable.

Azeemuddin's verdict could have huge ramifications for fish sellers in Hyderabad, where Jamia Nizamia is based, and other parts of south Asian.

Previous fatwas have permitted the consumption of prawns, which is a popular dish in the city, Times of India reports.

In Islam, food is divided into three categories – halal (lawful) haram (unlawful and prohibited) and makruh (abominable). Foods falling under makruh are sub-divided into makruh (abominable but can be eaten) and makruh tahrim (strictly abominable and thus should be avoided).

Azeemuddin declared that prawns were 'makruh tahrim' in response to a question from a follower.

However, prawns are technically arthropods – exoskeleton invertebrates that make up 80% of all creatures on Earth. Other arthropods such as spiders are regarded as being wrong to eat under many interpretations of Islamic scripture.

Jamia Nizamia, which is almost a century and a half old, later issued a statement clarifying that the fatwa is only applicable to the adherents of the Hanafi school of Muslim thought and not other schools of Sunni Islam.

Darul Uloom Deoband
The Darul Uloom Deoband is a conservative Islamic school in India Wiki Commons

IBTimes India reported that Azeemuddin issued a fatwa banning singing, music and orchestral performance at wedding in 2015.

"A ban on [these practices] by the police department is not akin to interfering in Islamic sharia law. The police department can enforce this ban," he said at the time.

In October 2017, another leading Indian Islamic seminary, The Darul Uloom Deoband, banned selfies.

The part of the school charged with instructing worshippers about ethical behaviour – the Darul Ifta – was asked about uploading photos to social media in a written question from a follower.

The Darul Ifta said such behaviour was not Islamic, thereby effectively banning all adherents from posting their selfies and other snaps on any of the world's many social platforms.