- What is the ruling on organ transplant?
- It is commonly said, “If you can take why can’t you give.”
- Is this hypocrisy and double standards?
In the name of Allah, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful
The Islamic scholars have debated and written on the subject of organ transplant at great length. As this is a contemporary issue the views of the scholars are based upon the general guidelines and principles of Shariah. Therefore there are respected differences of opinions on the subject.
There are two opinions on the issue of organ transplant.
The first group of scholars are of the opinion that organ transplant is not permissible (i.e. haram). Allah (SWT) says: “We have indeed created man in the best of moulds” (Surah At-Tin: 4) and “verily we have bestowed the progeny of Adam specific honour and sanctity.” (Surah Al-Isra, V.70)
In honour of mankind, Allah (SWT) created all the things on the earth for their benefit and service. “It is He, who has created for you all things that are on earth.” (Surah Al-Baqarah, V.29)
From this ayah, it is clear that it is permissible for mankind to take benefit from every creation of Allah (SWT). However to place another human being in that category and use them for benefit by performing an organ transplant, is against the honour and sanctity of mankind.
It is stated in Hidaya: “It is unlawful to sell the hair of a human, just as it is unlawful to derive benefit out of it. A human is honoured and sacred, and therefore it is not permissible to disgrace any part of a human’s body.” (Vol 3, P 55)
In regards to the use of human parts, it is narrated by Asma bint Abi Bakr (RA) that the Prophet (SAW) said: “Allah’s curse is on a woman who wears false hair (of humans) or arranges it for others.” (Sahih Muslim, 2122)
Imam al-Nawawi (RA) writes in the commentary of this Hadith: “If human hair is used, then it is unlawful by consensus, be it the hair of a man, woman, mahram or the husband, because of the general narrations that prohibit this. And also, it is unlawful to take benefit from the hair and all other organs of a human body due to its sanctity. The hair of a human, along with all its body-parts must be buried.” (Vol 14, P 350)
The human body is regarded as sacred in life and death. The Prophet (SAW) said: “Breaking the bone of a dead person is similar (in sin) to breaking the bone of a living person.” (Sunan Abu Dawood, 1417)
Another factor that is considered by the scholars who are of the opinion that organ transplant is not permissible is that the transplant process causes mutilation of the human body. Allah (SWT) records the words of Satan in the Quran when he said “I will mislead them and I will order them to slit the ears of cattle, and to deface the (fair) nature created by Allah.” (Surah An-Nisaa: 119)
The above verse is referring to mutilation which is prohibited in Islam. Imam Bukhari (RA) has recorded a narration from Abdullah bin Yazid Al Ansari (RA) that the Prophet (SAW) forbade robbery (taking away what belongs to others without their permission), and also forbade mutilation of bodies.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari, 3.654)
However, in order to save human life (in desperate situations), items or actions that were unlawful (under normal circumstances) become lawful in Islam. Allah (SWT) has stated in the Quran: “Anyone who disbelieves in Allah after establishing his belief excepting him who has been compelled but his heart is content with faith. (Surah Nahl: 106)
In another verse Allah (SWT) says in regards to using prohibited items by a person dying of hunger: “But whosoever is forced by hunger (to eat any of the forbidden things), not inclining wilfully to sin, surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (Surah Al-Maida: 3)
From the above verses it is clear that unlawful things under extreme and desperate situations become lawful, however even in those situations using human body parts remain prohibited (i.e. haram). “If a person feared death due to hunger and another person said to him: “Cut off my hand and consume it” or he said: “Cut a part of me and eat it”, it will be unlawful (i.e. haram) for him to do so. Similarly, it is not permissible for a desperate person to cut part of his own flesh and eat it.” (Hindiyya, Vol 5, P 338)
In conclusion, some scholars are of the opinion that organ transplant is unlawful (i.e. haram). They further state the principle, that when proof of prohibition clashes with the proof of permissibility then preference is given to prohibition. (Ashbah Wan-Nazair, P55)
The second opinion in respect to organ transplant is that it is permissible (i.e. halal) subject to conditions.
In response to the points raised earlier in regards to honour, sanctity and mutilation of the human body, this second group of scholars say that the modern day procedure of organ transplant is not regarded as muthla (mutilation) and violation of the honour and sanctity of the human body. It is argued that the procedure is carried out in a dignified and respectable manner.
They further argue that there are situations where the Shariah allows the honour and sanctity of the human body to be overlooked due to necessity. For example if a pregnant woman died and the child was still alive, then a caesarean will be allowed to save the child.
It is a well established principle of Shariah that, if one is confronted with two evils (prohibited acts), then one should choose the lesser of the two (out of necessity). (Al-Ashbah wan-Nazair, P 44)
As mentioned above in the Quranic verses, in order to save human life in desperate situations, items or actions that were unlawful under normal circumstances become lawful in Islam. Therefore this group of scholars are of the view that it will be permissible to transplant organs when there is no alternative available apart from the human organ and there is a definite fear of a loss of life.
Similarly, when a healthy person on the advice of a doctor confirms that the removal of one organ (which is not vital for survival) will not put the donor at risk, then in this situation it will be permissible (i.e. halal) to donate that organ. It is haram to sell the organ.
It is mentioned that the scholars who view organ transplant as haram do so in both donating and receiving. Therefore, it cannot be said to be “hypocrisy and double standards”.
Furthermore, the group of scholars who regard organ transplant as halal do not hold a view that all organ transplants is generally permissible.
Therefore, if a situation in respect to organ transplant arises then the particular case should be discussed with an Islamic scholar and each case will be judged on its own merit.
Allah knows best
Darul Ifta, Birmingham