Advanced search
Last Updated: 2012/05/12
Summary of question
What is sex change?
What is sex change and how have Muslim jurisprudents defined it?
Concise answer

Although dictionaries do not provide a definition for "sex change", it means any change and transformation in a male, female or genderless in such a way that the current state is different from the previous one.

Medically speaking, sex change is different from "genetic modification" or a "change of chromosomes". In other words, sex change in medical terminology involves "an operation on the reproductive organs" which applies to sex change in both the androgynous or hermaphrodites and transsexuals.

Shiite jurisprudents have provided various definitions for sex change but it can be defined as "change or transformation in one's gender from male to female, from female to male, from genderless to male, from genderless to female, from male to genderless or from female to genderless."

Detailed Answer

We shall answer the above question in three sections:

1-Literal meaning of sex change

Although sex (jins) change has not been defined in dictionaries but literally it refers to a change and transformation in such a way that the current state is different from the previous state. Sex (jins) in its literal meaning in Arabic and Farsi refers to an identity which includes various kinds of humans and animals. It also means “goods” or “stock”.  “Jins” in the sense of “male and female” is a meaning that has come into being in a secondary phase; otherwise it is not the primary and original meaning of “jins”.

Sexuality (jinsiyah) is the mode or the state of the jins.

Therefore sex change refers to any change in such a way that the current state is different from the previous one.

2-Sex change in medical terms

It seems that "sex change" in medical terms is not much different from its literal meaning and what is generally perceived by people.  It means transformation or reassignment of reproductive organs in such a way that a female transforms into a male or vice versa. Transformation of a hermaphrodite or a genderless into male or female is also an example of "sex change". In essence, "sex change" applies to any transformation, change or reassignment in one's gender where his current state is different from his previous state in terms of being a man or a woman.

Therefore, sex change is different from "genetic modification" or "change in chromosomes” because it involves a change in one’s gender not a change in his "genes" or "chromosomes". It is obvious however that along with changes or modifications in the genes or chromosomes the person undergoes behavioral changes as well but the new state which has been brought about as a result of the modification is never called “sex change”.

In other words, sex change in medical terminology involves "surgery on reproductive organs" which applies to sex change in androgynous and hermaphrodites and in transsexuals in such a manner that sex change occurs only by means of surgery. In practice, sex change is closely associated with "the history of modern surgery". When surgeries on heart, kidney, eye, stomach and similar organs became popular, reproductive organs also became candidates for such surgeries. But surgeries on reproductive organs have always been tackled with extra sensitivity and attention since this operation leads to change in one's gender. In short, sex change in medical terms is different from genetic modification and is a surgery on reproductive organs in a way such that a female turns to a male or a male to a female or a hermaphrodite turns to either a male or a female.

3-Sex change in jurisprudential terms

Sex change does not refer to a particular Shari’ah concept i.e. jurisprudents have not provided a specific jurisprudential definition for sex change to be distinct from literal and common meaning. In fact by sex change they refer to its literal and regular meaning. Referring to this meaning, Ayatollah Meshkini says: "Sex change is clear and tangible in its literal meaning; the object of putting forth this topic is to explain the Islamic law regarding a man who has turned into a woman or a woman who has turned into a man." [1]

Only a few Shiite jurisprudents have discussed the meaning of sex change such as the following:

Ayatollah Muhammad Asef Mohseni says in this regard:

"Sex change is turning a man into a woman or vice versa. In the first case i.e. changing a male into female, the man's reproductive organs are removed and replaced by a vagina and breasts are augmented; in the second case i.e. changing a female to male, the breasts and female reproductive organs are surgically removed and replaced by a male reproductive organ. In both cases surgery may be accompanied by psychotherapy and hormone therapy."[2]

Some Shiite jurisprudents use the term "gender reassignment" instead of "sex change". Ayatollah Muhammad Sadr says in this regard:

"Gender reassignment may occur through modern surgery where a man turns into a woman or a woman turns into a man, something which we termed earlier as gender reassignment".[3]

Else where the same jurisprudent defines "gender reassignment" as under: "By gender reassignment we mean that a man changes his gender from male to female or vice versa."[4]

Given these statements, the jurisprudents' definition of "sex change" or "sex reassignment" refers only to change of "male to female" and "female to male". In other words, there is no mention made of an androgynous (neutral) changing into male or female.

Although Imam Khomeini does not provide a clear definition for "sex change" his statement also includes reassignment of an “androgynous to male/female". Imam Khomeini says: "It appears from the religious texts that it is not haram to change a man’s gender to female and a woman’s gender to male or an androgynous’ gender to male or female.”[5]

In addition, this probability should not be ignored that some healthy people may turn into genderless as a result of a medical surgery. However, this type of sex change i.e. change of male/female to genderless rarely occurs since there is no rational motive or wisdom behind it[6] but it is probable that due to a medical error a healthy person may turn into a genderless human being.

Having provided this explanation, sex change may be defined as: "Change or reassignment of one's gender from male to female, female to male, genderless to male, genderless to female, male to genderless or female to genderless."


[1] Meshkini,Ali, Mustalahat al-Feqh,p.153,Qom, Al-Hadi, 1999

[2] Mohseni, Muhmmad Asef, al-Feqh val Masa'el al-Tebbeyya

[3] Sadr, Muhammad Sadeq, Mawara' al-Feqh (Bairut, Darul Adhwa, 1966) vol.6, p.133

[4] Sadr, Muhammad Sadeq, Manhaj al-Salehin, vol.3, p.642, Bairut, Darul Adhwa,2003

[5] Imam Khomeini, Tahrir al-Wasila,vol.2, p.588, Qom, Esma'ilian, 1987

[6] See Sadr, Muhammad Sadeq, Manhaj al-Salehin, vol.3, p.642


Question translations in other languages
Number of comments 0
Please enter the value
Example : Yourname@YourDomane.ext
Please enter the value
Please enter the value

Thematic Category

Random questions

  • What are the signs for the reemergence of the Master of the Age [i.e. the Twelfth Imam]?
    7269 Modern 2011/08/10
    The topic of the signs of the re-emergence is a complicated one and calls for a thorough investigation of all the related narrations. However, in brief, the signs fall under two categories. One group consists of those signs which will certainly occur, foreshadowing the re-emergence: the rebellion ...
  • Is it permissible to open and close tap several times during Wudhu so as not to waste water?
    6158 Laws and Jurisprudence 2012/09/22
    Office of Grand Ayatollah Khamenei (may Allah grant him long life): There is no problem in it. Generally speaking, there is no objection in opening and closing tap before washing the left hand completely. However, if one touches a wet thing (such as a wet ...
  • What are the ways for drawing Allah’s (swt) affection and love?
    9033 Practical 2009/07/23
    Allah's (swt) affection for people doesn’t mean what is normally understood from this concept; because it entails deficiencies that Allah (swt) is pure of and theology has proven false. What Allah's (swt) affection for others truly means is that this affection stems from His love for ...
  • What is the Islamic law on Forex trading?
    15367 تجارت الکترونیک 2015/05/03
    The foreign exchange market (forex, or currency market) is a global decentralized market for the trading of currencies such as rial, dollar, euro, pound, yen, dinar, etc.). If one who intends to trade currency, feels the value of a certain currency is going up, he will buy ...
  • Is Satan eternal and immortal like God since God gave respite to Satan until Day of Judgment?
    4763 Exegesis 2019/06/12
    Eternity means a state of immortal existence in future. Since Satan is God's creature and each creature is under the control of its creator, therefore Satan cannot make himself involved in God's affairs volitionally, rather like other creatures whatever he has belongs to God. The respite God ...
  • How can one cure jealousy?
    6072 Practical 2008/06/17
    Jealousy is a low spirit and attitude in its possessor causing him/her to wish for another to lose something he/she has.In order to remedy this problem, the following points are prescribed:1) Thinking about the bad effects it can have on one's spirit, nerves, religion, and hereafter.2) Strengthening ...
  • Why are shrimps halal and crabs haram? What makes one of them halal and the other halal despite the fact that both of them are from the same category?
    98117 Philosophy of Religion and Law 2012/03/18
    Although all Islamic laws are a result of the benefits or disadvantages and harms that back them, and there is a particular reason behind each and every one of them, discovering the exact reason in detail for every one of them is extremely difficult. The most we ...
  • Which of the two versions of Hadith Thaqalayn are more authentic?
    12027 نبوت و امامت از خاندانی پاک 2015/06/18
    The text of the report transmitted by Ahl-e Sunnah in Sahih Muslim, Sahih Timidhi and Musnad of Ahmad bin Hanbal is as such: "The Book of Allah and my progeny ('itrah)" This is the famous version of the tradition found in their books. However, there is another ...
  • Is the repentance of a person who has committed sodomy accepted?
    13035 Practical 2011/05/08
    From the Islamic viewpoint, sodomy is a very inferior and ugly act and is one of the great sins for which heavy punishments have been determined, namely execution.[1]What various verses of the Quran tell us is that no matter how great and numerous one’s sins ...
  • What is the difference between Shia and Sunni?
    11603 Traditional 2010/12/06
    Although such a topic requires extensive discussion, we shall briefly mention, in two stages (beliefs and laws), those of the Shiite views which are opposed by Sunnis or a group of them:A) Beliefs: Shia holds that God’s ...