Islamic point of view
Mr Mohamed Latahy
Former President of the Strasbourg Mosque
I am going to start with a letter from the World Islamic League in connection with the Council of Islamic Jurisprudence, regarding cloning. This league is made up of a number of lawyers, Muslim scholars from all over the world, with several committees working in different fields; legal opinions - fatwas – are issued all over the world and the imams can only take these positions because it is the League that decides more or less in this field. But there may be other Muslim scholars with different positions. The Shiites, for example, agree to “renting a womb” while the Sunnis are against this. There may be differences in that the Shiites say that the mother’s milk has the same function as blood, at least in Muslim tradition. So since a
mother can breastfeed the children of others she can also lend her womb. But the Sunnis do not agree with that.
I am going to speak of what is understood by 90 % of Muslims worldwide. The World Islamic League, through its general secretariat, has concluded that cloning is an illicit act. It has called for the establishing of a set of standards, rules and laws for scientific research in order not to detract from the honour and dignity of human beings and, consequently, of their Creator. It has also asked the international a community to mobilise against this disagreement, called “fitna”, that is human cloning, saying that it is going to harm humanity and contradicts the laws of life that God wants for humankind. The letter from the League was sent by Dr Abdallah Torki, secretary general, and member of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars in Saudi Arabia, to all governments, religious authorities and cultic and cultural organisations.
The report starts with a verse from the Koran speaking of God who created all things by giving them their just proportions. God created human beings with just proportions, beautiful, and well balanced. The League followed the claims of the Raelians with interest, the group that disseminates wrong ideas, contradicting the beliefs of most of revealed religions. The League senses a great danger in touching upon the entity of human beings and their existence and dignity. The scholars felt challenged and intervened since there was talk of creating a human being and in Islam one of the names of God is “Creator God” since he can create from nothing. God is therefore the only one to be able create. They showed then that cloning is a scientific operation using cells, genes animated by the breath of God but in a way that is not innocent. We say “animated by the breath of God” deliberately because when he created Adam, God breathed life into Adam. Since then, this breath of God has lived in us, in each cell. They use the sure The Pilgrimage (22.5): “Oh people, …surely we created you from dust,
then from a small seed, then from a clot, then from a lump of flesh, complete in make and incomplete…and we cause what we please to stay in the wombs till an appointed time”. Since
several verses speak of God’s creation the world and humankind – about 300 verses in the
Koran speak of God’s creation – and Islam also considers procreation as God’s creation since
God creates by his word. Once he says something it is there, it pervades us, it is that which makes life, it is the word that makes us live.
The League and the Council of Islamic Jurisprudence have forbidden human cloning as a crime and condemned its practitioners since 1998 for several reasons. First, it is an infringement of the law of God in creation (using several verses): “Oh people, we created you
male and female, we made of you nations and tribes so that you may know one another”. So
the only way to have children is to marry, between a man and a woman. No one can be created any other way.
Second point: God created humankind by breathing life into Adam. We are not permitted to touch this creation at whatever stage: be it a cell, an adhérence, or an embryo. If life is sacred, it is from beginning to end.
Third point: the risk of making monsters. We would make monsters because we do not have a command of all this technology, we do not know where it is going to end. There are even exegetes who have gone further to say that they were going to produce the Anti-Christ. “He
created heaven and earth; in all truth he gave you your form, and what a beautiful form…”
Fourth point: cloning is a change in the laws of creation because it brings about a change in God’s Creation, above all through reproductive cloning.
Fifth point: parenthood. Once the person is cloned, he or she will ask if they are a brother, mother or son? And the same applies to the mother: will the person be the sister of the mother or the father? That raises many legal problems at the level of relationship and heritage. That would change all the laws of society.
Sixth point: in Muslim religion, the only way to procreate is through marriage between a man and a woman.
Seventh point: cloning destroys the family and so automatically society, since the family cell is the basis of society.
Eighth point: the death of diversity and difference that is part of the law of God in Creation. For the League there is an urgent need of international legislation concerning biotechnology and it calls for the banning of cloning, confirming that marriage between a man and a woman is the only way to reproduce; it calls for legal standards for scientific research in the field of genetic engineering, state agreements regarding freedom of scientific research to encourage beneficent science and prohibiting unhealthy science, banning experiment related to cloning, adopting laws to punish offenders, i.e. those working in this field and those financing it. The spokesman of the League calls for a world council to bring together doctors, philosophers, scholars and religious representatives to discuss this question. It would thus be an international body especially for science and religion and to punish the companies encouraging cloning.
Regarding artificial insemination: by the sperm of the husband, this is considered a permissible procedure in the case of vaginal diseases or impotence. Artificial insemination from a source other than the husband is not allowed because it poses problems of descent, marriage, the status of the family and of the child, since the biological father is not known. The same applies to a donor of ova without a male partner.
In vitro fertilisation: Islam admits this practice in the context of a married couple; otherwise, all forms of IVF are banned since the create problems regarding descent, inheritance, marriage and family status. Jurisprudence is silent on surrogate mothers; the Sunnis have not said anything on this. Certain exegetes have nevertheless used the argument of breast-feeding to say that it is possible, but I admit that the problem in the Arab - or at least the Muslim - world is the lack of research. For example, the problem of supernumerary embryos is not
raised since those who practise artificial insemination (AI) or IVF have the means and go to the United States or Britain to do so. The question does not really arise. As of 1998 we insisted to get the scientists to be able to attend the meetings of the Council of Islamic Jurisprudence and we asked the questions we have here in France; it was realised that the exegetes were really a long way from having the means to formulate a fatwa. We also noted this regarding organ donation. About 10 years ago 20% of them authorised organ transplants and we noted that by dint of asking questions and requesting them to go out and see what was happening elsewhere there are now 40% of them in favour of organ transplants. But that also means that 60% do not agree. The good thing in Islam is that legal opinions are only opinions. A Muslim has the choice between several legal opinions and so, if a certain reasoning, analysis or argument sets my heart at rest I have the right to follow it. In France, for example, we tell people that we have to support organ transplants because we admit that it is not right that children can benefit from this but we cannot be donors. So if we see that the transplant is beneficial and can help people to overcome their condition and have a peaceful life, we agree with the 40 % and promote this idea.