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Devilish Human Cloning for Islam?

Part 1

Human cloning is a topic charged with mortal dread and excited fascination in any setting, be it scientific, religious, political, or social.

Will we haphazardly overstep the boundaries of physical nature and produce Frankensteins? Or half-man, half-beast monstrosities like mythological minotaurs and centaurs?

Or will we possibly eradicate human genetic abnormalities, cure debilitating diseases, and improve the health and lives of humans and animals in ways previously unimaginable?

For Muslims, every controversy, no matter how thorny, and every topic, no matter how mysterious, can be identified in the most miraculous source of knowledge, Islam’s Holy Qur’an.

We have faith that Allah covered everything in our Book of Guidance which He mercifully provided us through the Prophet Muhammad, Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him.

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{O mankind! There has come to you a good advice from your Lord (i.e. the Qur’an, enjoining all that is good and forbidding all that is evil), and a healing for that (disease of ignorance, doubt, hypocrisy and differences,) Which is in your breasts, – a guidance and a mercy (explaining lawful and unlawful things) for the believers}. [Surat Yunus: 10:57].

Is Human Cloning Covered in Qur’an?

A burning question entered the breasts of Muslims all around the world in February 1997, with the announcement that a sheep named Dolly had been successfully cloned.

No longer a matter for science fiction, Dolly demanded global attention, and Muslims were no exception. “Is human cloning covered in the Qur’an?” “What does Allah say about it?” “What, exactly, is cloning?”

These questions launched investigations, resulting in foundational declarations around which Islamic discussions of cloning, even today, still pivot.

The Islamic Organization of Medical Sciences (IOMS) and the International Islamic Fiqh Academy (IIFA) immediately organized two conferences.

The first conference in Casablanca, Morocco, and the second in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia brought together top scientists as well as leading Islamic scholars.

Comprehensively covered in Human Cloning Through the Eyes of Muslim Scholars,Mohammed Ghaly, Egyptian former assistant professor of Islamic Studies at Leiden University, Netherlands, and professor of Islam and Biomedical Ethics, Center for Islamic Legislation & Ethics (CILE) at Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Qatar shares the proceedings of these two defining conferences of 1997.

Understanding Science of CloningHuman Cloning

According to Ghaly, the three current cloning technologies under research and development in 1997 at the time of the two conferences included:

Reproductive Cloning: Transferring the nucleus of an adult cell containing 46 chromosomes to an egg whose nucleus, and thus its genetic material, has been removed.

Artificial “Twinning”: Similar to In-vitro Fertilization (IVF); the wife’s egg is fertilized by the husband’s sperm outside the womb and then inserted into her uterus. However, unlike IVF, the embryo is artificially split into two cells and there could be separate pregnancies for each fertilized cell.

Therapeutic Cloning: A form of cloning organs; according to Ghaly, “the scientists [at the Casablanca conference] pointed out that cloning organs rather than a whole body is, scientifically-speaking, impractical. They added that this type of cloning proved to be successful only in skin tissues.”

Finding Guidance on Cloning in Qur’an

During Casablanca Conference, then Mufti of Tunisia Muhammad Mukhtar Al-Salami investigated the equivalence of “cloning” as a term for “creation,” and referred to the verse:

{…Or do they assign to Allah partners who have created [anything] as He has created, so that the creation seemed to them similar? Say: [Allah] is the Creator of all things: He is the One, the Supreme and Irresistible}. [Surat Ar-Ra’d 13:16].

Al-Salami said, “These scientists did nothing more than study the laws of the divine creation carefully and then put them into practice. They didn’t create a cell, a nucleus, or a chromosome.” Next, the scholars examined Islamic Shari’ah, which further informed their decision-making.

Reproductive cloning clearly invalidated the wife as mother, because the egg she would carry contains none of her DNA.

Likewise, the husband’s cell inserted in the egg was in fact fertilized by his father, thus invalidating the husband as father, because he didn’t fertilize the egg.

All familial relationships, rights and obligations, and rules of inheritance, are invalidated by reproductive cloning, rendering Islamic rulings based on these relationships impossible.

Artificial Twinning was argued to be Islamically permissible if the same conditions required for IVF are met. However, scholars noted the invalidation of DNA as legal proof in the case of a crime committed by one of the identical persons.

Therapeutic cloning was considered only by the Egyptian scholar Hasan Ali Al-Shadhili, who noted that cloning organs or tissues “is in principle allowed and even required in Islam to make use of these organs as a medical treatment.”

Among many other verses offered and considered by the scholars at Casablanca in their search for specific guidance on human cloning, the Syrian scholar Wahba Al-Zuhayli offered:

{And surely I [the Satan] will command them and they will cut the cattle’s ears, and surely I will command them and they will change Allah’s creation}. [Surat An-Nisa 4:119].

Islamic Conclusions on CloningCloning

The Casablanca Final Declaration forbids cloning outside of marriage. Reproductive cloning was forbidden, but future exceptional cases could be investigated.

Permitting artificial twinning, the drafting committee stated, “If this technique were to be used in procreation, the juristic rulings pertinent to the IVF technique would apply.” Ghaly pointed out, “Notably, it made no reference to therapeutic cloning, probably because of its impracticality as expressed by the scientists.”

Issued as an official fatwa, Jeddah Conference declared both reproductive and artificial twinning forbidden, and likewise forbid any other cloning leading to human procreation.

Cloning Advances in the Islamic World

In the second part of this article we’ll cover Islamic advances in therapeutic cloning technology, following wide-scale adoption of the Casablanca and Jeddah declarations.

Being far more than just the copying of cells for the purpose of duplicating human beings, Islamic advances in cloning technologies are leading to exciting medical applications.

Use of therapeutic cloning techniques in the Islamic World is, however, still controversial globally, with a wide range of political, scientific, religious, and social motives at play in the international legislative process.

A mix of mortal dread and excited fascination is still the soup-du-jour in which the topic of human cloning is stewing.