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Bio-ethics

Commentary

A fatwa is a formal legal opinion or interpretation given by a jurisconsult (mufti) in response to a request from a judge (qadi) or an individual. Some modern Muslim governments have obtained fatwas to legitimate their reforms.

Organ Donation

Date: 4/Aug/2002

Question: What does Islam say about organ donation during life or after death? Is this allowed in Islam?

Mufti: Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi

In his response to the question, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, former president of the Islamic Society of North America, states the following:

This question is very much debated by the jurists in past two decades. The Supreme Council of ‘Ulama in Riyadh (in their resolution no. 99 dated 6 Dhul Qi’dah 1402) has allowed both organ donation and organ transplantation in the case of necessity. The organ can be taken from the body of a living person with his/her consent and approval and also from the body of a dead person. In the case of a living person, the jurists have stipulated that this donation should not deprive him/her of vital organs. It should also not cause risk to his/her normal life. The Fiqh Academy of the Muslim World League, Makkah also allowed organ donation and transplantation in its 8th session held between 28 Rabi’ul Thani and 7 Jumadal Ula, 1405. The Fiqh Academy of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Jeddah, during the year 1408, and the Mufti of Egypt Dr. Sayyed At-Tantawi also allowed the use of the body organs of a person who has died in an accident, if the necessity requires the use of any organ to cure a patient, provided that a competent and trustworthy Muslim physician makes this decision. It is important to note that most of the jurists have only allowed the donation of the organs. They do not allow the sale of human organs. Their position is that the sale of human organs violates the rules of the dignity and honor of the human being, and so it would be haram in that case. Some jurists suggest that because people have become too material-istic and it may not be possible to find a free organ, under necessity one can purchase the organs, but a Muslim should never sell his/her organs.

Blood Donation

Answered by Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam, Darul Iftaa (Leicester, UK)

Question: We are a local newspaper based in Blackburn targeting the Asian communities in Lancashire and Greater Manchester. We have worked with the National Blood Service in promoting the donating of blood and as you will be aware there are misgivings within the Muslim community on this particular action. We would like you to provide us the Islamic view on this issue so we can try to tackle this topic through editorial and informative articles.

Answer: In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

It is a well known principle of Shariah that all the organs and parts of a human body whether one is a Muslim or a non-Muslim are sacred and must not be tampered with. To take benefit from any part of a human without a need is unlawful (haram).

This also includes blood, for it is an integral part of a human. There are two reasons for the impermissibility of taking benefit from another person's blood. Firstly, it is sacred like all other parts of a human. Allah Most High says: “And verily we have honoured the children of Adam” (Surah al-Isra, V.70).

However, Islam is a religion of mercy and caters to all the problems faced by humanity. It acknowledges the needs of people, thus gives concessions and dispensations wherever needed. Allah Most High says: “On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear” (al-Baqarah, 286). The famous principle of Fiqh states: “Necessity makes prohibition lawful” (See: Ibn Nujaym, al-Ashbah wa al-Naza’ir, p. 85).

Hence, it can be said that blood transfusion is lawful as a necessity just as Islamic law has permitted women's milk for infants out of necessity, despite it being part of a human body.

The second reason was the impurity of blood. This has been discussed earlier in that impure and unlawful things become permissible in cases of need and necessity.

In light of the foregoing, it would be permitted to donate and transfuse blood under the following conditions:

a) The donor is mature and sane.

b) The donor willingly donates his blood. If he is compelled to do so, it will not be permissible.

c) There is no apparent risk to the life or health of the donor.

d) There is absolute necessity in donating blood in that there is a definite risk to the life of a patient, and in the opinion of the medical expert, there is no other way in saving his/her life.

e) There is a need for it, that is, there is no risk to the life, but in the opinion of the experts, restoration of health may not be possible without it.

f) There is no reasonable alternative.

g) It is not for the sake of beautification or any other additional benefit.

h) Transfusion of blood must not be carried out by way of buying and selling, for trading in human parts is never permissible. However, if one is in need of blood desperately and the only means to obtain the blood is to purchase it, then only will it be permissible to pay for the blood. This is discussed further in the following section.

Genetic Engineering

Final Statement & Recommendations of The Islamic Organisation for Medical Sciences

In pursuance of the Islamic Organisation for Medical Sciences’ efforts in dealing with medical and health issues through an Islamic perspective, as shown in the numerous seminars it has regularly organised.

And in view of the tremendous importance of the science of genetics and the scientific avenues it has opened up and their potential applications, with respect to the shaping of the present and future of mankind, the Islamic Organisation for Medical Sciences undertook to hold a special seminar to deal with this issue in depth, and to discuss all the facts and ramifications and possibilities associated with it, from the perspective of lslamic law.

With the grace of God, and under the kind care of His Highness, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah, the Emir of the State of Kuwait, the Eleventh Seminar was held in the State of Kuwait, to deal with the subject of “Genetics, Genetic Engineering, the Human Genes, and Genetic Treatment—An Islamic Perspective.”

The Seminar was organised in association with the Islamic Fiqh Academy, Jeddah, the World Health Organisation Regional Office, Alexandria, and the Islamic Education, Science and Culture Organisation (ISESCO), during the period from 23 to 25 Jumada al-Akhirah 1419 AH, corresponding to 13 to 15 October 1998.

Recommendations

 1. God has created man in the best form and elevated him above all other creatures. Any tampering with man's basic constituents or subjecting his body to aimless genetic engineering experimentation would be in violation of man's God-given dignity, as asserted by the Quran (al-Isra 17:70).

 2. Islam is a religion of knowledge and science, as confirmed in the Quran (al-Zumour 39:9), which imposes no restrictions on constructive scientific research. The outcome and the conclusion from such research should not, however, find their way into implementation before having considered in the light of Islamic legal principles and so long as they do not violate these principles they should be permitted. Genetic science and all its ramifications are, like any other field of knowledge, encouraged and supported by Islam, and Muslim scientists should be at the forefront of research and inquiry in this field.

 3. Islam recommends the safe-guarding of human health, as stated in the Quran (al- Baqarah 2:195), and the avoidance of harm. Furthermore, treatment is specifically urged by Islam for hereditary as well as acquired diseases and ailments. This in no way conflicts with the Islamic teachings of perseverance and acceptance of God's will.

 4. Every man, regardless of his genetic features, has the right to have his dignity and rights respected.

 5. Nobody's genes should be the subject of research, treatment or diagnosis without having first carried out thorough and rigorous evaluation of the possible risks and benefits associated with such activity, while respecting the precepts of Islamic law in this regard and obtaining prior, conscious and free agreement of the person concerned. If the person concerned is not qualified to give such approval, it must be obtained from his guardian, putting the person's own interest first and foremost. If the person concerned is not in a position to grant his consent, no research on his genes must be carried out, unless this has an immediate and clear benefit for the person's own health.

 6. The right of everyone to decide whether to be informed of the results of any genetic diagnosis or its effects must be fully respected.

 7. All diagnosis of preserved genes or genes obtained for research purposes, or any other purpose, must be treated with full confidentiality. No such information must be divulged except in those cases indicated at the Third Seminar of the Islamic Organisation for Medical Sciences on professional confidentiality, held on 18 April 1987.

 8. No one must be subjected to discrimination of any kind on the basis of his genetic identity, which might be intended to infringe on any of his rights or basic freedoms, or undermine his integrity.

 9. No research on human genes or the applications of any such research, especially in the fields of biology, genetics or medicine, should take precedence over the rulings of Islamic law and the respect of human rights, basic liberties and human dignity of any individual or group of individuals.

10. Muslim countries are urged to venture into the area of genetic engi-neering by establishing research centres, working within the directives of Islamic law, to complement one another as much as possible, and grant qualifications to people to work in this field.

11. The Islamic Organisation of Medical Sciences is urged to form committees to study and monitor ethics of medical practice in every Muslim country as a step towards the formation of an Islamic federation for medical ethics in bio-technology.

12. Muslim ulema must prepare and publish research, in a simplified and accessible form, on scientific facts relating to genetics and genetic engineering and educate and enlighten the public.

13. Muslim countries are urged to include genetic engineering as part of the educational curricula at all levels of education, and give it more prominence at university and higher levels.

14. Muslim countries are urged to give more attention to genetics and genetic engineering in the national public media and give full and adequate coverage of the Islamic view of these sciences.

15. To ask the Islamic Organisation for Medical Sciences to monitor scientific progress in this field and to organise similar seminars to prepare and issue the required recommendations, if necessary.

The Seminar agreed that genetic engineering may be used in the prevention, treatment or alleviation of diseases, whether in the form of genetic surgery in which genes are replaced by other genes or genes are implanted in the patient's cells, or when genes are planted in another body to obtain larger amounts of the same gene to be used in the treatment of certain diseases. Genetic engineering should not be used on germ cells, due to certain reservations from the Islamic legal point of view.

The Seminar finds no Islamic legal objection to the use of genetic engi-neering in the fields of agriculture and livestock, without ignoring, however, those voices that have recently warned of possible harmful long-term effects on man, animals, crop or the environment. The Seminar agreed that companies and factories producing animal or plant foods should make it clear to the public what is being offered for sale of those items that are genetically manufactured. The Seminar also recommends that countries should be fully vigilant in monitoring such products and complying with the relevant recommendations and decisions of the American Food and Medicine Association, the World Health Organisation, and the International Food Agency.

The Seminar recommends that institutions be established to protect and educate the consumer in Muslim countries.

Cloning

With the grace and blessings of God, the 9th Fiqh-Medical Seminar was successfully convened at Casablanca, Morocco, during 8–11 Safar 1418, corresponding to 14–17 June 1997, under the eminent auspices of the Commander of the Faithful, His Majesty King Hassan II. The theme of the seminar was “An Islamic View of Certain Contemporary Medical Issues,” and it was held jointly with the Hassan II Institute for Scientific and Medical Research on Ramadhan, the ISESCO, the Islamic Fiqh Academy, and the World Health Organisation Regional Office. The Seminar discussed at length the medical aspects of this matter, and arrived at the following main conclusions relating to cloning:

1. In 1993, human twins were produced by the splitting method, which stimulates the fertilised egg to follow its natural course towards producing identical twins. Each of the initial two daughter cells would then behave as a new fertilised egg in its own right and would grow by dividing itself to form a separate foetus. If the two foetuses were planted in the womb, the result would be identical twins. The debate was not completed since the two scientists in charge of the experiment refrained from planting the eggs in the womb. In fact, they chose to experiment with a defective cell that would divide only until an early stage, due to the sensitivity and seriousness of experimenting with human foetuses. More time is, therefore, required to establish a proper ethical and legal framework for this type of work. The Seminar had no objections, in principle, to this method of fertilisation, but deemed it too early to evaluate its advantages and disadvantages. Of its immediate benefits is the application of diagnostic methods on either twin or some of its cells to establish their normalcy before introduction into the womb. It could also be useful in treating certain infertility cases, subject to all the controls governing test-tube baby procedures. The Seminar discussed thoroughly the new techniques of cloning, in the light of the case of Dolly the sheep, and looked at some of the consequences of producing a foetus (later to be born), which is an exact genetic copy of the original, except for the presence of a very few cytoplasmic genes in the cytoplasm of the recipient egg.

2. It emerged that cloning would be fraught with risk, if ever its application is approved. The risks include the infringement on the individuality and identity of the person, undermining the stability of the social order, and the destruction of the bases of blood relationships and established age-old family ties, recognised by the Islamic Shari’ah and all other religions as the foundation of the family and of social order. This would have serious repercussions on the principles governing blood ties, marriage and inheritance, as well as on civil, criminal and other laws. Numerous hypotheses and possibilities were cited in this connection. . . .

4. The Seminar emphasised that Islam imposes no restrictions on scientific research, but considers it a religious duty and encourages it as a means of understanding God's traditions in His creation. However, Islam advocates that the doors of scientific study should not be left wide open for the application of the results of research in the public domain without proper examination by Shari’ah experts. Not everything that is practicable is necessarily applicable, but should be free of any harmful effects and in line with the rules of Shari’ah.

Since some of the untoward effects do not become apparent until some time later, it is important to give full consideration and adequate time to the issues involved and take all possible precautions.

5. Based on these unanimously agreed on considerations, some participants were of the view that human cloning was not permissible in any way, shape or form. Others, however, thought that certain, present and future, exceptions may be made, if their benefits are proved and they could be accommodated by the Shari’ah, provided each case is con-sidered on its own merits. . . .

8. The Seminar sees no objection to the application of cloning and genetic engineering techniques on plants and animals within the considered restrictions.

Recommendations

The Seminar passed the following recommendations:

I. All cases introducing third parties into a marriage, whether a womb, an egg, a sperm or a cloning cell, are not permissible.

II. Ordinary human cloning, in which the nucleus of a living somatic cell from an individual is placed into the cytoplasm of an egg devoid of its nucleus, is not to be permitted. If exceptional cases emerge in the future, they should be considered to verify compliance with the Shari’ah.

III. All Muslim countries are called upon to formulate the necessary legislation to prevent foreign research institutes, organisations and experts from directly or indirectly using Muslim countries for experimentation on human cloning or promoting it.

IV. The Islamic Organisation for Medical Sciences and other similar bodies are called upon to monitor all scientific developments in the field of cloning and define its terminology and organise seminars and meetings, as required, to determine and articulate the Islamic rulings and prin-ciples pertaining thereto.

V. Specialised committees should be set up to look into the ethics of biological research and adopt protocols for study and research in Muslim countries, and prepare a document on foetal rights as a prelude to formulate legislation on the rights of the foetus.

Bibliography references:

From islamonline.net.

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