In Sarawak, if someone invites you to come get some grub, be careful. They may be intending to serve you these lovely morsels. What you are looking at is a beetle larva that feeds exclusively on sago trees. They are about the size of your finger, though they may shrink a bit when fried up. It’s not widely eaten actually. The Melanau ethnic group are the main consumers of it, and I get the feeling it’s not a staple food for them either, but more of a delicacy. The Melanau are only a few percent of the total population here in Sarawak. They are an interesting tribe because they are pretty evenly split between muslims and christians.


If you’re wondering about the halal-ness of stir-fried sago grubs, I can only say that the muslim melanau I know all say it is halal, and quite delicious besides. I have yet to be offered any, so I can’t speak for the deliciousness. There is a giant grasshopper that is eaten in West Malaysia, and a locust of the desert that is eaten by the Arabs if I’m not mistaken, likely the same one that the Bani Israil ate while lost in the desert. So there are grounds for halal entomophagy. I think the ruling for the permissibility of an insect to be eaten has to do with the diet of the insect; maybe someone can shed more light on the subject?

On the subject of Islamically risque dining, a kind of snail is also for sale in the market. It is presumably entirely aquatic and therefore halal, but I have even less confirmation of that beyond the vigorous head-nodding assurances of the salesman, who is far from impartial.

The last item for your cautious consumption is a variety of crab very popular here. My brother-in-law from West Malaysia refused to eat it, saying that it was a dua-alam creature, that is, inhabiting water and land, rendering it haram. Some time later, I was invited to lunch by a dear friend who is a lawyer in the sharia courts here. He took me to a restaurant, run by a Chinese convert to Islam, that specializes in that very crab. The restaurant had a large full color display showing the natural history of the crab, which appeared to be entirely aquatic. My friend explained to me that the crab was in fact once widely believed to be haram by the two-environments rule, but the crab was later studied in detail and our mufti declared it to be halal. Thus, to demonstrate our obedience to the superior learning of our mufti, we forced ourselves to eat a fantastic crab-in-chili-sauce lunch. Amin, and pass the pineapple steamed rice.

[Update: A detailed explanation of the Shafi’i position on eating crab by Sidi Muhammad Afifi al-Akiti]

Published by bingregory

Official organ of an American Muslim in Malaysian Borneo, featuring plants, pantuns and pictures from the Malay archipelago. Oversharing since 2002.

Join the Conversation


  1. The crabs are considered to be halal because even when they appeared to live in two-worlds, they die when they run out of water or air. As for the grubs, I believe that their diet consits mainly of sagu trunks and nothing fishy.

    Can’t say anything on the snails. But I prefer ambal.

  2. “Man eating Man-Eating Shark” is up. Of particular note is the emphasis on putting our emotion aside when delaing with fiqhi subject.

    I have no problem doing that with the shark’s fin, but when it comes to siput sedut and ulat buah and the likes, I cannot stomach them. I guess it is the same as when the Companion served the Prophet s.a.w dhab (a desert monitor); he s.a.w. said it is not haram to be eaten but he s.a.w. did not eat the dhab because he s.a.w. did not like it.

  3. A friend of my brother-in-law was importing dhabs and selling them at the pasar malam a few years back. I had the impression at the time that the dhab was sunnah to eat. I didn’t eat one but I thought, the Prophet (saws) having eaten one would be the *only* thing that could get me to eat one. Now I learn that isn’t even true, ha!

  4. In the name of the most high.
    We’ll, as we know, Allah, most great mentions, that ALL animals from the sea are halal.

    Insects are Haram? since when. well we know that Pork is Haram. Allah also states, dont make halal haram and haram halal.

    There was once an Indian Scholar,(forgotten his name as am just passing through) RahimahuAllah, who had this idea of crab being haram. It is baseless, but he is still very much respected and his knowledge very well-known.

    Im too lazy to find the facts lol.

    Interesting to note that dog is NOT mentioned in the Quraan, and that (not the other three well known mathhabs) Imam Malik HafathahuAllah, that dog may be eaten, although the dalil is stronger supporting that dog may not be eaten, but they do have there sound knowledge.. well,

    I love this website, its really cool somebody is ranting about something worthwhile and kewl, I think this is a simply Fab website (excuse my slang)

    If its halal just eat it, just as i eat frog.

  5. Morroccan muslims eat escargo, i believe from French influence. some muslims in china eat squirrels, and fox, … and what about tapai? a japanese friend of mine said it taste exactly like ‘sake’. i know Jakim says it’s halal. but i don’t eat it coz i have doubt about it. i also have stopped eating siput sedut coz i don’t like the look and texture. ewww… i try to live my life simple, if there is something else i am sure is halal besides the ulat, why would i eat the ulat?

  6. I does surprise me to know that there are Muslims who do not know what is halal and what is haram. That is pretty fundamental. I concede that there are a few tricky exceptions such as fox, hyena, grasshoppers, but others, and especially if you are from Southeast Asia, are regular features in our basic book of fiqh.

    I will put the Man eating Man-eating Shark on my blog soon since it seems not to go up at Living Islam. [Or perhaps I can send it to you, Abang Zayn and you can post it here?] There are answers not only on the permissibility of eating shark, but also of fox and hyena. As for the rest, please ask from local scholars.

  7. John the Baptist is siad to have retreated to the desert where he subsisted on lucust and honey, but that has been interpreted to mean the edible pod of the carob tree, a middle eastern native also called locust tree, rather than the insect.

  8. Ulat mulong [sago grubs – Ed.] is haram, there’s already a fatwa on that, based on our mazhab asy-Syafi`i. Only those who eat it say it’s halal or at least makruh. Perhaps, the Malikis will consider it as halal.

  9. Salam,
    Life is simple. Islam is a simple religion. Men (read human beings) complicate both. I agree with Yusuf, the Qur’an forbids the haram by name, and gives examples of the halal.

    I remember the Prophet having said what is not mentioned/forbidden is a blessing for men. More precise friends can provide the string of narration to that. Thank you.

    Jordan, if adventurous means scorpion kebabs, Bin Gregory, if it also includes things which moves using mussles and without bones, like this buttery grub, I’ll pass the platter on.

  10. Being the pedant that I am, I am obliged to point out that the term “aquatic” has been wrongly used your blog as the term refers to things freshwater. “Marine” is the correct term to use for matters pertaining to seawater. Hence, the crabs are marine crabs and so are the moluscs (siput sedut) and not “aquatic.”

    I have eaten these mud crabs and siput sedut all my life and have no intention of stopping; to me they have always been halal beyond the shadow of a doubt. However, to say that the crab and sidup sedut are “marine” would also be, strictly speaking, misleading as they manisfest in the estuary (mud flats) and not in the sea proper. Referring to them as “estuarine” would be most accurate, biologically speaking. Definitely referring to them as aquatic is inaccurate.

    As an aside, there is another estuarine creature called the “hei koh” in Chinese that I do not know the English name for. Some have referred to it as “crayfish” and oftens as “mud lobster,” but I cannot attest to the veracity of these terminology. The Malays, who are Muslim, do not seem to consume the hei koh and the Chinese have just one way of cooking it ~ deep fried with dried chillis, shallots and cashew nuts. It is usually eaten with fried rice together with a condiment of chopped garlic and chilli padi in light soy sauce. As to whether this creature is “halal,” I regret to say it may not be as the Malays do not eat it and I know of no recipe for cooking it that the Malays have. And even the Chinese have only one way of preparing it, as I have summarily described above.

  11. LOL @

    {“Thus, to demonstrate our obedience to the superior learning of our mufti, we forced ourselves to eat a fantastic crab-in-chili-sauce lunch. Amin, and pass the pineapple steamed rice.”}

    Haven’t we ALL used that excuse at one time or another? Ha ha ha…..

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply