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Last Updated: 2007/05/22
Summary of question
What is Islam’s viewpoint on cloning?
question
Is there any marja who considers cloning permissible? What does Islam say about cloning?
Concise answer

Cloning and especially the cloning of humans is a new subject that has come up in our era and as a result, its ruling hasn’t been mentioned in the Quran and Islamic tradition, yet Shia scholars and jurisprudents have been able to reach certain conclusions on it using ijtihad (Islamic jurisprudence). Today, there are four points of view regarding cloning among Islamic marjas (jurispridents): 1- Some say that it is absolutely permissible.

2- Others say that individual and limited use of such a science is acceptable.  3- A third group says that it is originally halal, but because of certain detriments and disadvantages that accompany cloning today, it is haram. 4- A fourth group says that this act is originally and absolutely haram.

Detailed Answer

In order to answer this question, a few points need to be mentioned beforehand:

1- The Cloning Process

The cloning process consists of a few steps:

a)       Removing an egg cell from a female mammal.

b)       Extracting the nucleus of the egg cell to form an enucleated cell. (The egg cell lacks all 23 types of chromosomes and also lacks genetic information regarding human beings. Of course, some genetic information can be found in its cytoplasm.)

c)       Collecting a cell containing a nucleus from a second mammal, removing its nucleus and fusing it with the first enucleated cell, thus the enucleated cell now has all of the 46 chromosomes needed which all have come from the cell collected from the second mammal.

d)       Stimulating the egg cell using chemical medicines or electrical currents in order for it to grow and divide and finally form an embryo.

e)       Implanting the embryo into the uterus of a third mammal, which acts as a surrogate mother.

f)         The embryo turns into a fetus and the surrogate mother goes through a normal pregnancy and gives birth to a mammal that is a clone of the genetic donor. The newborn is almost genetically identical (97%) to its genetic donor and is of the same gender. The only difference between the two comes from the effects of the DNA of the mitochondria of the egg cell.[1]

Cloning is of many different types, for example:

1-       Cloning in animals, making no difference if the animal type and gender are the same or differ.

2-       In animals and plants

3-       In animals and humans

4-       In humans.  This type of cloning is also divided into different categories. Sometimes cloning takes place between a couple, and sometimes between two people who aren’t married. Sometimes the surrogate mother is married and sometimes she isn’t, etc. Each of these might have its own Islamic ruling that differs with the ruling of the others.[2]

Some of cloning’s disadvantages and the problems it causes or might cause are as follows:

 

1- The mixing up of generations and lineages

2- Vagueness and ambiguity in family relationships

3- In some cases, the absence of one’s parents

4- Vagueness in who has to pay for the clone’s expenses after birth and who he/she inherits from or who inherits from him/her

5- Chances of deformation in some clones

6- Unexpected and unwanted diseases

7- Cloning contradicts the reasoning behind why people are created with different characteristics

8- The abandonment of marriage and establishment of a family

9- Chances of illegitimate and haram relationships

10- The loss of motherhood

11- The propagation and spreading of homosexuality

12- Misuse of criminals, and many other theological and fiqhi problems[3]

 

These matters have worried religious communities such as Christians and Sunnis to the point that they have named cloning as “The Challenge of the Century”. The Pope has denounced it in a statement, saying that it reduces human dignity. Sunnis have held more than ten conferences on this issue and one can say that they have somewhat reached a consensus on it being banned.[4] Only Dr. Mahroos, a Hanafi Sunni from Iraq has considered it permissible. [5]

Some Shia scholars have answered the many questions surrounding cloning and have said that its disadvantages aren’t capable of making it haram.[6]

Nevertheless, Shia scholars have reached four conclusions on cloning; 1- Some say that it is absolutely permissible. 2- Some say that it is permissible if it isn’t used broadly, it can only be used limitedly and individually. 3- Others say that it is originally halal, but since it is accompanied by different problems and disadvantages, it is haram. 4- A fourth group of scholars say that it is absolutely impermissible.[7]

1) Absolute permissibility:

Relying on the principles of Asalat-ul-Hill and Asalat-ul-Ibahah, some jurisprudents and fiqh experts say that since there is no tradition on the ruling of cloning, it is halal.

In response to the question “Is the reproduction of humans in laboratories using the highly developed method of cloning permissible?”, Grand Ayatullahs: Sistani, Musawi Ardabili, Fazel Lankarani, Allamah Fazlullah, Muhammad Mo’min, and others have all answered that it is ok per se.[8]

In addition to issuing a fatwa on its permissibility, some grand scholars[9] have also fully answered the questions that have caused others to doubt about and ban it.[10]

2) Limited permissibility:

Like the abovementioned group, another group of scholars also says that cloning is ok. The only difference is that this group says that because of some problems, it shouldn’t be used broadly. This theory belongs to Sheykh Hasan Javaheri, and not only does he say that its individual use is halal, but he also says that it is haram to claim that such an act is haram. In other words, no one has the right to label a halal act as haram without any reasonable evindence.[11]

3) The secondary impermissibility of cloning:

Some grand scholars believe that cloning is originally and primarily halal, yet in order to prevent its negative outcomes from occurring, it is secondarily haram. This fatwa belongs to the grand Ayatullah Makarem Shirazi and Ayatullah Seyyed Kazem Ha’eri.[12]

Ayatullah Makarem has fully spoken on this subject in his book, “Ayatullah Makarem’s Fiqhi Viewpoint”.

4) Primary impermissibility:

This fatwa belongs to the late Ayatullahs: Tabrizi and Allamah Seyyid Mahdi Shamsuddin of Lebanon who believes that cloning in animals is also absolutely forbidden.[13]



[1] Islamic Propaganda Bureau, A New Research in Fiqh, Cloning in the viewpoint of Shia Jurisprudents, pg. 6.

[2] Seyyid Musa Sabzavari, Al-Istinsakh bayn-al-Tafsih wa-al-Tashrih, pg. 43.

[3] From the weekly magazine of “The Howza Horizon”, no. 94 and “Cloning in the viewpoint of Shia Jurisprudents”.

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] See: Seyyed Muhammad Hakim, Human Cloning and Medical Rulings, pg. 32.

[7] Islamic Propaganda Bureau, A New Research in Fiqh, Cloning in the viewpoint of Shia Jurisprudents, pg.32.

[8] Ibid

[9] Ayatullah Seyyid Muhammad Saeed Hakim

[10] Islamic Propaganda Bureau, A New Research in Fiqh, Cloning in the viewpoint of Shia Jurisprudents, pg. 32.

[11] Ibid

[12] Ibid

[13] Ibid

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