The human body is seen as a gift from Allah (SWT) to whom it must return after death, unaltered in any form to be reunited with its soul and face her reckoning on the Day of Judgement.
The choice of whether to allow your working organs to be used by another human being after your death, Muslim or otherwise, is a highly personal one. Highly contentious and deeply divided, the contemporary issue of organ and tissue donation remains polarised amongst Islamic scholars and jurists. As medical research continues its search for cures to many terminal and debilitating diseases, the transplantation process continues to serve as a life-saving alternative.
Whole body organs such as the lungs, heart, kidneys, pancreas, liver and small bowel as well as body tissue such as skin, bone, heart valves and corneas can be successfully transplanted from deceased donors into patients with conditions such as renal or heart failure and used for other treatments such as skin grafts for burns victims.
Due to medical advancement, organ donation is a relatively new concept and as such, the Qur’an and Sunnah do not explicitly address this issue. In the absence of an absolute ruling on this modern day medical dilemma, each Muslimah is required to consider the arguments for and against whether she finds it acceptable to give permission to donate her organs after death, based upon the Qur’anic evidence and sources from the ahadith.
This article will look at the factors that support the argument that organ donation is not permissible for Muslims – by considering relevant ahadith which could be applied to this predicament.
In the UK, permission is always sought and more importantly, can be granted or denied, by close relatives following the death of the potential donor who has signed up to the Organ Donor Register. It therefore remains the responsibility of the person on the register to make their wishes in the event of their death known to their loved ones.
Generally speaking, there are two clearly opposing viewpoints when considering the subject of organ donation from a deceased donor. On the one hand, some Islamic jurists take the view that it is impermissible for the body to be mutilated, either whilst alive or dead, for any purpose. In contrast, some scholars take the view that donating one’s organs after death to save another’s life is a permissible and charitable act.
Opponents of organ donation base their belief on the idea that the human body is sacred and must not be mutilated after death for any purpose whatsoever and therefore prohibit the implantation of any body organs or tissue. In this regard, the human body is seen as a gift from Allah (SWT) to whom it must return after death, unaltered in any form to be reunited with its soul and face her reckoning on the Day of Judgement. As such, the person who is using that body does not have permission to distribute its parts after death.
Much consideration is given to the body whilst it is being prepared for its Islamic funeral rites. The utmost care and respect is afforded to the body of the deceased and care is taken whilst performing ghusl and shrouding the body. The temperature of the water used is prescribed to be that which is a comfortable temperature for a living person. All these measures serve to further highlight the great respect afforded to the human body in death. There are many ahadith narrated stating that weeping excessively for the dead person also causes them to suffer. Unnecessary wailing is therefore prohibited and time limits for mourning are generally accepted as a way of protecting the deceased from suffering. To mutilate and then remove an organ or body tissue is thought to inflict unnecessary pain and suffering on the individual’s soul.
It has been narrated that ‘Aishah (RA) used to say ‘breaking the bone of a Muslim when he is dead is like breaking his bones when he is alive.’ (Al Muwatta 45). By this hadith, it can be construed that performing surgery on a dead body will cause that individual to feel pain, as if she were alive. Of course surgery in living persons is always accompanied with sedation and pain relief, but on a cadaver, so long as the person is medically and legally dead, no such measures are ever considered, even if care is taken by surgeons to quickly remove only those necessary and usable organs with minimal disruption to the rest of the body.
One of the questions that Muslimahs may ask themselves is, what will happen to their organs after resurrection? The Qur’an explicitly states that our souls and bodies will be resurrected after death to face the consequences of our actions in this world. “From the Earth we created you, and into it, We will return you, and from it, We will extract you another time” (Ta Ha:55). It is widely regarded that organs will be returned to the bodies of the original donor at the time of resurrection. But what of the sins committed with that organ, particularly if the donated organ was transplanted from a Muslim into a non-Muslim whose ideas of sin and sinning are disparate. The consensus here lies with the fact that whoever used that organ will responsible for it on the Day of Judgment. The user of the organ has control and has used their will or nafs to commit good or bad, and the donor is exempted from punishment if they donated that organ with good intentions. For example, if a donated cornea was transplanted into the body of someone who then used their eyes to view pornography, or a transplanted liver from a Muslim was used by the recipient to process alcohol, then the donor would not be held responsible for those sins committed.
Another consideration is the view that organ donation alters natural creation; that the creator has designed the human body and to whom it must return in the design that it was given. In Surah An Nisa:119, Shaytan declares ‘I will command them so they will change the creation of Allah.’ Permanent alteration of the human body for beautification, such as filing the teeth, breast enlargement and tattoos are indefensibly considered haram. Although transplantation would most definitely be altering the body of both the donor and the recipient since their creation, the intention here is to either ease the suffering or prolong the life of the recipient. Nevertheless, this evidence or ayah appears to proscribe any alteration to the human body, regardless of purpose.
Next month, we will take a look at some of the arguments for organ donation, including an interview with a Muslimah who is a recipient of organs from another person.
Organ donation is an incredibly complex issue. If you are interested, please take the time to read the following research from the Fiqh council at http://islamqa.info/en/107690
Sazida Desai is a married mother of two boys from the North West of England. She works part-time as a Press Officer to a British Member of Parliament. In her spare time, she likes to sew, garden, blog and knit.