Fatwa: Using stem cells in scientific experiments by Dar al-Ifta al-Masriyah



Using stem cells in scientific experiments

A fatwa issued by Dar al-Ifta al-Masriyyah

Background

We conduct experiments as part of our research on stem cells.  These include isolating live adult stem cells extracted from laboratory animals, such as rabbits and goats. The cells are then allowed to differentiate into various cell types and are afterwards put back inside the same animal’s live bodies to study their effect on cell engineering and renewal. If these experiments are successful, they will be conducted on humans.  Human adult stem cells will be taken from patients and then returned inside the bodies of the same patients after taking the necessary medical procedures—i.e. obtaining the patients’ consent to conduct this experiment on them for treatment.

Question

Stem cells are cells that have the potential to divide and give rise to many different kinds of specialized cells that form the various body tissues. Scientist recently succeeded in identifying these cells, isolating them, and growing them to treat some diseases.

What is the ruling for this?

Sources of stem cells

Stem cells can be obtained from:

  • miscarried embryos (at any stage of development)
  • placentas and umbilical cords
  • children
  • adults
  • cloning

Conducting scientific researches on animals

It is permissible to conduct stem cell researches; to experiment on animals for the benefit of humans. Allah made animals subject to man and for his benefit.  He says:

Do you not see that Allah has made subject to you whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth [Luqmān, 20].

Qiyas on Slaughtering

Likewise, if Allah has made it permissible to slaughter various kinds of animals for food, then the permissibility of using animals in scientific experiments to benefit mankind is given more precedence. The benefit derived from the knowledge acquired from experimenting on animals is greater than that of eating their flesh.

Criteria for permissibility

The permissibility of experimenting on animals depends upon treating them with mercy and avoiding as much as possible exposing them to undue pain and suffering.  There are many hadiths urging Muslims to show mercy to animals:

Shadād ibn Aws, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that the prophet said:

  • “I learned two things from the messenger of Allah [pbuh] who said: ‘Allah has decreed benevolence in everything you do. So if you kill [an animal], then kill it well, and if you slaughter [an animal], then slaughter it well [i.e. causing the animal as little pain and suffering as possible]‘ [Muslim].

The messenger of Allah said:

  • “He who is deprived of mercy will be deprived of all benevolence” [Muslim and Abū Dawūd. The hadith is in Abū Dawūd's words].

̓Abdullah ibn ̓Umar narrated that the prophet said:

  • “Allah will not show mercy to a person who does not show mercy to other people. Show mercy to those on earth that you may be shown mercy by the One in the Heavens” [al-Tirmidhi and others].

There is nothing in Islamic law that forbids taking stem cells from a sick person and using it for his treatment. However, this procedure is subject to the following conditions:

  • It must not pose any harm.
  • If the patient is an adult and sane, he must give his consent
  • If he is not, consent must be obtained from his guardian.

Islamic law urges treatment and medication

Usama ibn Sharīk narrated that the prophet [pbuh] said: “I approached the prophet [pbuh] and all the companions were attentive to his words. I greeted him and then sat down. Then Bedouins from all directions came in and said: ‘O messenger of Allah! Should we seek medication and treatment for our illnesses?’ He replied, ‘Yes, seek treatment because Allah did not make a disease without making a cure for it except for one disease—old age” [al-Tirmidhī and Abū Dawūd. This hadith is in the words of Abū Dawūd].

This hadith urges Muslims to utilize medication and treatment without imposing any restrictions. And the principle [in Islamic law] is that general rulings must be left general until a ruling comes to restrict them. Imam al-Khatābī said: “This hadith establishes the validity of medicine and treatment and that seeking treatment is permissible and not disliked.”
The Ruling

We base our opinion on the permissibility of seeking treatment in the manner outlined in the question on the general ruling derived from the hadith above. Whoever refutes this opinion is required to provide proof to substantiate his opinion.

Allah Almighty knows best.

Dar al-Ifta al-Masriyyah

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10 Comments

  1. Farida says:

    subhanna Allah and i just saw this article on bbc news:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/79985
    about the first cloned camel…

  2. abu Muhammad says:

    If the above is the complete fatwa, unfortunately and respectfully, there is a lot lacking in the answer and also in the manner of presenting
    the answer, in the organization of the answer and in its logical presentation. The fatwa raises many questions and then fails to answer
    the questions in a logical manner.

    Moreover, it doesn't answer many questions directly posed such as can cells from miscarried embryos be used in research?
    How about ones that are obtained after abortions? Is it permissible for a healthy woman to give her embryo for such research?

    Also, the conculsion is misleading. The Ruling section seems to make it seem like there is general permissibility in relation to stem
    cell research while as in the body of the fatwa itself there seems to be a negativity attached with taking such cells from a child!?!?

    Sorry but just to compare, see the clear cut and logical ruling given by the Rabita fiqh councel at the end of this article:

    http://www.nature.com/stemcells/2008/0801/08011

    It is best to leave such sensitive matters to international fiqh councils such as the Majma al Fiqh. Local bodies such as Dar al Ifta
    al Misriyyah, Darul Ulum Karachi, or e.g. a local scholarly body in Riyadh should not simply rule on such a sensitive issue without due
    consideration in an international public forum that involves 'ulema from around the world as well as scientific experts.

    Respectfully, we need details at this stage from our 'ulema, not half baked answers that lead to more confusion. Otherwise, its just a
    dis-service.

  3. abu Muhammad says:

    The Rabita fatwa in full: http://www.themwl.org/Fatwa/default.aspx?d=1&ci… (Arabic)

    Apologies for seeming harsh but I pray that Allah swt guides all our scholars to excellence in their research and presentation. And may
    Allah swt reward them all!

  4. Suhaib Webb says:

    Abu Muhammad:

    I pray you are well. I respectflluy don't agree with your contention. Granted there could me more details provided, there is not much difference between the two answers.

    I would also disagree with your advice given to Darl Ifta and it shows your lack or familiarity with the place. They receive over 10,000 questions a day, host a large number of scholarly conferences, train muftis and many of their members sit on the very Majma's you mentioned. I do support the idea of making the Majm'as a reference, but I fail to understand how discrediting national fatwa bodies is going to help Muslims.

    SDW

  5. abu Muhammad says:

    Ustadh,

    JazakAllah for your reply.

    In relation to the issue of international bodies. I am familiar with the Darul Ifta's workings. I appreciate that they host a large number of conferences and train muftis and answer thousands of questions a day, but so do all other national/local Darul Iftas! And many of the 'ulema of local scholarly bodies of Saudia, India, Syria etc. also sit on international bodies.

    My point is more as follows: in relation to cutting edge new issues which are of a sensitive nature, we need to try to develop an international consensus on these issues. These are not matters which should even be sorted out at a national level. Dont' get me wrong, on a personal level, I not only follow a specific madhab but for most financial and ibadah matters follow a particular Darul Ifta from a particular country.

    But I think for such controversial/cutting edge scientific issues such as stem cell research we actually need a specialized body like what AAOIFI has done in the realm of contemporary banking and financing. http://www.aaoifi.com/sharia-board.html They have made tremendous progress in a few decades to the point that in some countries the fatwas of AAOIFI hold the status of law!

    WiBillahiTawfeeq.

  6. Suhaib Webb says:

    Aba Muhammad:

    I stand corrected. You are correct here and I'm sit with you at the same bus stop waiting for that to happen.

    SDW

  7. AS

    Hope your well Abu Muhammad. One can strongly agree with the position of fiqh councils and the need for them to take on a role of centrality in matters that affect the Ummah as a whole. No doubt group ijtihad is called for here and in fact is wajib as this is no matter for individual ijtihad alone. On the other hand, the notion of international consensus what does that mean? If that was practically possible then “ijma” would be easily attainable today and political leadership of the Ummah would be much more easy we know this is no light act it is a major and idealistic feat. With that said we need something more practical. So we are back to at least looking to the major Fiqh Councils for guidance those which host scholars from around the world and then their ijtihad should be looked at as binding whether or not it is backed by a court system.

    There is something missing from the logic of our thinking here. The question to be posed is what is the cause for the absence of the major educational institutions of the Muslim world on this platform of biomedical ethic or and other such as you mentioned and rightly so -economics? When we come to answer this question then we will understand the impotency of fiqh councils today. Unfortunately, most Muslims do not recognize their authority. If you permit me to say is it not possible that we need to start reform by cultivating the necessity and importance of fiqh councils over personalities on matters that affect the Ummah?

    Please keep me in your du'aa

  8. Ibn Masood says:

    Assalamualaikum Warahamtullahi Wabarakaatuh Sheikh,

    May Allah swt increase you in knowledge and bless your family :) .

    I was reading through this and felt something was missing. The ethical controversy that mainly occurs with stem cells is when human embryos need to be destroyed to obtain a line of stem cells. What basically happens is that leftover excess human embryos from In-Vitro-Fertilization (a method used to artificially inseminate female egg cells with male sperm outside of the body) are destroyed to obtain the stem cells from them. From my limited research these embryos appear to be the most significant source of embryonic stem cells. Some questions then pop to my mind: Wouldn't the requirement of the Shariah to preserve life prevent these embryos from being used? Do these embryos constitute life Islamically in the first place?

    Therefore I'm confused with this fatwa because the main source of stem cells that is causing global controversy in the first place has not been addressed. The embryos that are responsible for this controversy are not miscarried, they are spare embryos kept in storage from IVF procedures.

    If you know of any fatawa or Ulema that have dealt directly with this issue of IVF-derived embryonic stem cells, could you post it on your blog so we could benefit inshaAllah?

    BarakAllahu feeh.

  9. AbulHussein says:

    AS

    Ibn Masood, how are you I hope well and close to Allah. You bring up an excellent points beloved brother which leads to a series of questions. Such as, is abortion allowable and when is a fetus or zygote considered a human (person) etc. Also as a question of importance and relation to what was said is the question of when is a life in the womb considered to be possessed of legal capacity (Ahliyyah)? Is it Halal to use the human body of human tissue for scientific inquiry.

    These questions need address. Maybe Shaikh Suhaib can post some of the latest positions on such grave topics.

    Thank you Ibn Masud for the mindful thoughts. This is truly the fiqh we need it is very relevant to today. So thank you too Shaikh Suhaib for posting the fatwa in the first place.

    May Allah reward you both.

    Abul-Hussein

  10. tom says:

    Allah is the All-mighty and is aware of all things. All of creation is under His rule.

    Is it true to classify all of the so-called “diseases” of today as having naturally occured through the course of human survival just like in the time of our prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)? I mean;…. from the hadith it seems that the point being made is that for each disease that Allah has created, He also created a cure”. (except old age)

    Did Allah then “create” all diseases whether synthetic or naturally occurring in today’s world, the same as those referenced at the time of the hadith?

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