ART Halal or Haram
"For every disease there is a cure"
For many couples there are no set cures for their infertility causes to date. But in the meantime, while cures are being revealed to us by Allah (swt), there are many options for couples to be blessed with successful pregnancies. There are some who are of the opinion that a couple who faces infertility should simply accept what Allah (swt) has given them. What they fail to recognize is that infertility is a "disease" in which a muslim should seek the cure. As Muslims we have a duty to seek treatment for any disease, infertility should not be viewed any differently.
One of the most common artificial insemination techniques is Invetro Fertilization (IVF). In summary this is when several eggs are taken from the woman's ovaries and are fertilitzed outside of the body. These fertilized eggs are latter placed inside the woman's uterus in hopes that the fertilized egg will than form into a normal fetus, with a normal pregnancy.
This process can help many couples in many different situations, 1. Blocked tubes 2. Low sperm count 3. Adhesions tying down the tubes and/or ovaries just to name a few. The IVF procedure has a 30-35% success rate.
There are several aspects that one has to consider, Islamically. 1) Fertilization takes place outside of the woman, hence the name "test tube" 2) Not all fertilized eggs are placed into the uterus(some might be frozen) 3) Donor sperm/eggs are often used 4)The decision to terminate of the pregnancy in light of "abnormalities" <abortion will be discussed in detail at a latter time>
There is very little Islamic information available on ART. I have yet to read or hear any Muslims of knowledge address the issue of the egg being fertilized outside of the woman. It was not until I found out that the Catholoic church forbids such a thing did I even consider it as a concern. On the surface there does not appear to be an Islamically based reason why such a thing would be prohibited. As we become more informed of this particular issue we will update the viewpoints on this.
Abul Ebrahim (1) on page 62 of his book, briefly addresses the point of not all of the fertilized eggs are being placed in the uterus. There are cases in which multiple fertilized eggs are placed in the uterus to increase the success rate. There is no guarantee that any of the eggs placed into the uterus will attach and grow at all. It is not unreasonable that doctors would choose the best of the choices to place in the uterus. .
This issue would turn into the obvious question of does a fertilized egg constitute a child. Thereby making the act of discarding it haram? Is this a form of abortion? "Abort means to terminate the life of the fetus deliberately, by any means, while it is still in the womb of the mother" (2) If this definition of abortion is generally agreed upon, it would not apply to the IVF process for the fertlilized egg is not in the womb.
As new medical techniques are being discovered, it brings constant questions for muslims
to address Islamically. One such recent question for many is the use of donated fertilized eggs to be used in
embryonic stem cell research. It is hoped that he use of embryonic stem cells will cure such things as Parkinson's,
Alzheimer's, heart disease, stroke as well as repairing injured spines.
The issue of using donor eggs or donor sperm is the most important
point in the Islamic View. Lineage is a very protected aspect in Islam.
It is He (Allah) who created mankind from water, then has
He established them relationship of lineage and marriage
for your Lord has power over all things"
Donor eggs and/or sperm upsets the foundations of lineage. This also
goes for renting the womb, i.e. surrogacy. Sperm, eggs, and the womb are all a part of the process
which determines lineage.
O mankind! if ye are in doubt concerning the Resurrection, then lo!
We have created you from dust, then from a nutfa (zygote), then from a clot,
then from a little lump of flesh shapely and shapeless, that We may make (it) clear for you.
And We cause what We will to remain in the wombs for an appointed time,
and afterward We bring you forth as infants, then (give you growth) that ye attain your
And among you there is he who dieth (young), and among you there
is he who is brought back to the most abject time of life, so that, after knowledge,
he knoweth naught. And thou (Muhammad) seest the earth barren, but when
We send down water thereon, it doth thrill and
swell and put forth every lovely kind (of growth).
I must also mention that not only is the lineage of the child confused, such a child is illigetimate under Islamic shariah. The sperm of a donor is not lawful for any woman unless she is marred to the man giving the sperm. As is the case with donor eggs and a rented womb, these are not lawful for a man unless they come from his wife. The same outcome occurs when children are born from zina (adultery, fornication). While I do not agree that the process constitutes zina, I do agree that the outcome is the same.
Artificial insemination with the sperm of a foreign person, is, under the shariah, a grevious
crime and a great sin and is tantamount to adultery, for their essence is the same and their
result is also the same. For, it is the insertion of the sperm of a foreign person intentionally
into a tilth which has not been legally tied to him through the bond of marriage.... The legal
verdict for artificial insemination in that way is the same as that of adultery which has been
condemned and prohibited by the divine shariah. (3)
The outcome of such procedures is an illigetimate child. This may seem harsh to non-muslims, or even new muslims. But the long term affects of donors is disturbing not only to individuals but also to society. A society that not only promotes illigetimate children but promotes a selfish desire with no thought of long term affects on children,who they possibly marry, and the children they may possibly have. Not knowing lineage may cause one to marry a brother, sister, father, and other close lineage. This in itself should make any couple think twice. Children deserve to know legitimate things, such as what makes them who they are, what family member did they get their colour eyes from, why do I look like this but no one else in my family does, normal things children go through. It is difficult enough to grow up in such a society these days without having to deal with such an ordeal.
I truly understand a couple's desire to have a child. But one has to look beyond their own selfish desires and think long term as to how their choices will affect their childs. This very issue is one that is just recently starting to be researched. As the children from donors grow up, the questions begin to be asked, and the children feel so lost, and no one is able to give them any answers.
Other forms of ART would follow the same guidelines. Islamically the only real issue is that of donors and surrogacy which as already been stated is prohibited. Procedures such as GIFT, ZIFT, and IUI, are all permissible as long as the eggs and womb belong to the wife and the sperm is from the respective husband.
I was once asked a question: "What if the donor egg or womb used are both the legitimate wives of the husband, i.e a polygamous situation". This would make the lineage legitamate, and both the wives being legal for him. It is argued that using an egg from one and the womb of the other could also have the same affect as breastfeeding between women and other children, which is permissible. However what is ignored in this situation is that the womb forms a tie of lineage according to Qur'an. This is not so with breastfeeding another child. So even if both the womb and the egg are halal for the man in essense the child would have two mothers, again not something that occurs with breastfeeding. A child could be claimed custodially by both mothers, for each have as much importance in bringing this child to life. The one mother for the egg the other for her womb, each of equal importance each not forming a child on its own. So the same rules which make a surrogate mother haram, would also apply in this situation even though the womb is halal for the man.
(1) Abortion, Birth Control, & Surrogate Parenting An Islamic Perspective, by Abul Fadl Mohsin Ebrahim; Americn Trust Publications ISBN 0-89259-110-2
(2) Marriage in Islam, by Muhammad Abdul-Rauf, Ph.D; Al-Saadawi Publications ISBN 1-889163-48-9
(3) Mahmud Shaltut, al Fatwa; Caira: Matbu'at al Idarat al 'Ammat lil Thaqafah of al Ahzar, December 1959