- Islamic Bioethics
This special issue of the Asian Bioethics Review presents a forum for Islamic bioethics. The importance of religious perspectives on bioethical issues is well acknowledged in bioethical discussions; however, compared to other religions, there is less representation of Islamic bioethics in bioethical literature. This forum aims to provide a platform for a better understanding of how an ethical dilemma is dealt with and how decisions are made in Islamic bioethics.
Islam is a monotheistic religion that began in the seventh century by the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (born in 570 CE). It has a common root with other Abrahamic religions: Judaism and Christianity. The Qur’an (revealed texts) as well as Sunna (the traditions) extracted from the Prophet’s life, are the main sources of ethical and legal systems and the basis for normative practice in Islamic society. These two sources, which are the foundation for subsequent juridical deliberations in Islamic Jurisprudence (fiqh), are the ultimate authority in Islamic bioethics.
As a tradition since the ninth century, Islamic scholars are affiliated with one of the five legal schools, namely Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, Hanbali and Shi’i. The followers of the first four schools are called Sunni and the last one is called Shi’ite, and their juridical deliberations reflect one of these schools of thought in Islam. The validity of such diversity with different interpretations of the Qur’anic laws and prophetic traditions is behind the establishment of different schools of the juridical practice in Islam.
Islamic legal and ethical traditions make the foundation in dealing with inquiry about new emerging issues in the field of biomedicine. It covers practical aspects of clinical and research-related decision-making. However, in the absence of a central authority for all school of thoughts in Islam, determination of valid religious practice is left to the qualified scholar of religious law (faqih). [End Page 313]
In this special issue, four articles present different topics discussed widely in Islamic bioethics. In the first piece, Farhat Moazam presents a critical topic, not only in her homeland, Pakistan, but in the global scene: brain death and organ transplantation. By providing a brief explanation of the evolution of Shari’a law within the Sunni legal tradition, in order to show how Muslim jurists and judges attempt to apply Shari’a law in practice, she exemplifies brain death and organ transplantation and explains how in juristic positions on this issue, rulings range from consensus to dissent based on particular interpretation of the Shari’a. Her scholarly article illustrates that in Islamic bioethics, discussions and rulings are not fashioned in a vacuum but shaped by an interplay of perceived boundaries of authority within political and legal systems and existing societal norms.
In another article, Mohsin Ebrahim presents a case from South Africa: a young Muslim, who did not disclose his HIV/AIDS status and infected his young wife and baby before his death. In his article, by raising some questions regarding HIV/AIDS, Mohsin sheds light on a very sensitive as well as controversial issue in Islamic Medical Jurisprudence. Referring to some principles in Islamic bioethics, he explains how healthcare providers can make a decision in a situation where there is a conflict between respecting confidentiality and the responsibility of individual Muslims to refrain from causing harm to others.
How should Muslims interact with HIV/AIDS patients, whether zakat (compulsory charity in Islamic societies) can be given to HIV patients to be able to afford their treatment and the issue of public good vs. individual autonomy in compulsory HIV testing, are among issues in which Mohsin examines in the context of Islamic bioethics.
Mohaghegh Damad’s analytical article explains the methodological problem in Islamic bioethics and suggests a practical solution for approaching the ethical dilemma posed by the development of science and technology in the Islamic context. By elaborating the Shi’ite and Sunni schools of thought on cloning and the theological and juridical arguments in Islamic bioethics against cloning, he argued that the reasons raised against human cloning do not correspond to the traditional method of Islamic juridical reasoning (al-ijtehad ).
He suggests that to deal with emerging issues in medicine such as...