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Transplanting Pig Hearts into Humans: Islamic View

30 January, 2022
Q The successful transplant of a pig's heart in a human body for the first time has been announced recently. But some Muslims are concerned about the ruling of this surgery due to the prohibition of pork consumption in Islam. Could you enlighten us about Islam's stance towards such a medical achievement and how Islam deals with such situations where human life is at stake?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. 

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.


In this fatwa:

Transplanting pig hearts into humans is not permissible under normal conditions as pig, and their body parts are wholly impure and cannot be used for treatment. Yet, it is allowed to resort to it to save lives if there are no alternatives. For more, see the detailed answer.


In responding to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:

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Fiqh and modern medical issues

The question is related to new issues arising out of the unprecedented breakthroughs in modern medicine. As such, it is not possible to pick out a specific ruling on it from the fiqh legacy of the past.

In the absence of such precedents, we have no choice but to exert ourselves to formulate a ruling based on the accepted principles of the Shariah.

Can Muslims use body parts of pigs?

The scholars who have ruled on this issue so far have not arrived at a consensus; instead, they offer different rulings based on their diverse perspectives.

One group of scholars has dismissed any use of body parts of pigs as entirely forbidden and unacceptable.

They refer to the tradition of the Prophet (peace be upon him) “Verily, Allah did not ordain a cure for your diseases in the things he has forbidden for you.” (Reported by Al-Albani)

They base themselves on the majority view that pig is wholly impure and filthy; therefore, its flesh and its body parts are dirty; hence we must shun their use altogether.

As opposed to the above view, another group of scholars takes a different stand. The Maliki school, the Zhahirites, and scholars, including Ibn Taymiyyah, Al-Shawkani, and  Ibn Ashur,  do not consider pigs essentially impure. Thus, it is not different from other animals that we are unlawful to consume, as with all predatory animals.

Imam Ibn Taymiyyah provides the following reasoning in support of this position:  

One of the general principles we can deduce from the sources of the Shariah is that all things are deemed pure except what is explicitly stated by the clear evidence (of the revealed texts). Allah says,

“He has detailed for you what is prohibited for you unless you are compelled by necessity.” (Al-An`am 6:119)

And,

“God would never lead a people astray after He had guided them until He makes clear to them what they should guard against. God has knowledge of all things.”  (At-Tawbah 9: 115)

Based on this, although consuming swine flesh is forbidden, there is no harm in using the body parts of pigs or dogs or other animals once they have been processed and cleaned.

Considering transplanting pig hearts into humans in light of objectives of the Shariah

When we consider the fundamental objectives of the Shariah, one may be able to see the issue in a new light.

Preservation of religion, life, intellect, property, offspring, and honor are fundamental objectives of the Shariah.

The golden rule of jurisprudence states, “Prohibition is lifted in case of dire necessity.”

Thanks to this principle, even those who consider pig as wholly filthy have ruled that if using body parts of the pig is the only way to save lives, its use becomes permissible.”

Scholars of al-Azhar have offered the above ruling. They say while the use of body parts of big is haram; however, one may use them to save lives if there are no other alternatives; Allah says:

“He has forbidden you carrion, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and what was dedicated to other than God. But if anyone is compelled, without desiring or exceeding, he does not sin. God is Forgiving and Merciful.” (Al-Baqarah 2:173)

While offering the above rule, they also cite the rulings of the past jurists. The latter consider using body parts of animals that are forbidden in case of necessity in the absence of alternatives.

As we learn from the specialists and surgeons involved in the procedure, they resorted to it as that was the only option available for them.

Although the above view is held by the majority and is in complete agreement with the standard methodology of fiqh, we cannot consider it the final word on the issue.

According to those who do not consider pig as essentially impure, there is no problem in using its body parts once cleaned for transplantation or using the leather or hair, etc.

So far, we have traditionally approached the issue.

It is also reasonable for us to approach the above issue differently.

Applying the rule of transformation

I would cite the rule of transformation, which jurists have used to revise the original rulings on a thing due to changing its properties.

For instance, the rule on alcohol turned to vinegar; although the former is haram, the latter is halal—the reason being that the original properties of alcohol have changed.

Undergoing genetic modification before transplantation

Therefore, it is possible to use this rule in coming up with a ruling on this case.

As far as we can judge from the statements of the specialists, since the human body would reject a transplanted pig organ, it has undergone genetic modification before transplantation in the human body.

This kind of procedure is nothing new. To cite the sources: “Pig heart valves are routinely transplanted into humans, and some patients with diabetes have received porcine pancreas cells. Pigskin has also been used as a temporary graft for burn patients. Two newer technologies — gene editing and cloning — have yielded genetically altered pig organs less likely to be rejected by humans.”

The Final ruling on transplanting pig hearts into humans

Let me summarize our discussion in a few words:

We can sum up the academic position into two categories:

1. Transplanting pig hearts is not permissible under normal conditions as pig, and their body parts are wholly impure and cannot be used for treatment. Yet, it is allowed to resort to it to save lives if there are no alternatives.

2. Pig is not different from other animals; its flesh is haram; however, its body parts are not as is the case with the body parts of other animals which we are not allowed to eat. No one objects to their use once cleaned and processed for human use.

This view can also be strengthened if we consider that body parts of pigs or other animals undergo considerable modifications before transplantation into human bodies. Therefore, their original properties do not remain intact, and consequently, they are akin to alcohol turned into vinegar.

However, before concluding, I would also like to add the following note:  

Recourse to such a procedure to keep alive should be left to the individuals- given the diversity of views on the issue. In other words, a person should consult his conscience.

Shariah does not force us to accept treatments that we are uncomfortable with or at ease given the elements of doubt or ambiguity. On the contrary, our eminent scholars of the past have ruled that a person may refuse treatments that he would not like as long as his action does not cause harm to others.

Almighty Allah knows best.