Describe and explain Islamic ethical teachings in bioethics

Categories: EthicsIslamTeaching

Bioethics is the ethical reasoning around issues of human biology. A Muslim would approach an ethical issue to seek ethical reasoning through the process of the Islamic ethical system. This is based upon Tawhid (the submission to the will of the transcendent; Allah. Humans were created with the ability to recognize goodness and reciprocity as the "best composition" willed by Allah. Humans are created with freedom and are naturally good, however 'nafs' like pride and greed interfere with the egotistical soul.

When describing and explaining the Islamic ethical teaching on a bioethical issue like abortion, euthanasia and organ transplantation the Muslim belief in Allah as one true God who created human beings to live freely but in accordance with his will is crucial. To understand Islamic ethical teachings one must also understand Islamic Jurisprudence. Muslims believe that a human needs external sources for ethical guidelines. When an issue is presented to a Muslim their first/greatest authority is the Qur'an - words of Allah.

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Then Shari'ah law, the law binding on Muslims is also drawn from the Qur'an. When the Qur'an is not explicit enough the next source a Muslim turns to is the Sunnah or Hadith which are the words and actions of Mohammad the Prophet. Where the Shi'a Muslims would only source the Sunnah or the Qur'an but Sunni Muslims would further seek guidance of Ijma (Consensus of Islamic scholars), the Qiyas (which is legal precedent or analogies) or religious leaders whose rulings about issues are not specified in the Qur'an, Sunnah.

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The bioethical issue of abortion reflects the Qur'an, which states human life is sacred "We thus produce (Anshaa) a new creature. Most blessed is God, the best creator" (Qur'an 23:14). Thus abortion is prohibited in Islam once the foetus has reached ensoulment (the Sunnah describes this after 120 days) when "the angel is sent and he breathes the soul into it". This stance is further clear in the Qur'an with "kill not your children...killing them is a great sin". Despite the strong ethical stance Muslims hold against abortion there are two instances in which abortions is allowed. These are, if the mother's life is in danger or if the child is defective. However both options must be taken prior ensoulment. It is evident that abortion can be outlined in Islamic jurisprudence through the interpretation of the the Sunnah and Qur'an.

Euthanasia is part of the sanctity of life and an Islamic ethical issue. It is forbidden to purposely end a human life as Allah (for Muslims) is the owner of life and wills the end/beginning. "Take not life which Allah made sacred..." (Qur'an 6:151)

A Muslim is forbidden to give passive or active consent for a person to take their life. The Qur'an states "whoever kills a human shall be as if they killed all mankind". This reason underlines the belief that Allah decides the length of life and any questioning is distrust in Allah and an act against nature (tughyan). This is the one of the worst offences a Muslim can commit.

In order to explain the rules of Muslim life it is important to take the community (umma) into account. Muslims must look after a person despite how bleak the future looks, how malformed or diseased they are. This is evident in the Hadith "My subject has hastened his end...I deny him paradise" and the proof of how strict the Muslim perspective is upon euthanasia. This stems from the belief that Allah made the soul perfect and the reason for suffering will be revealed in paradise.

Organ transplantation is a bioethical issue which is commonly accepted (due to support for medical technology) in the umma (Islamic societies) and often practiced within Islamic countries thus is important in Islamic ethics. Generally organ transplanting involves donations from relatives, yet donations from corpses are increasing. Death is described as "when the soul has left the body and brain death is a certainty, (verdict reached by scholars and jurists at the 3rd International Conference of Islamic Jurists in Jordan 1986 "if a person has reached with certainty the state of brain death...that person is departed"). Problems arise here as Shi'a Muslims do not seek anything after the Sunnah to answer the ethical issues and thus do not allow organ transplants donated from the deceased. In the Qur'anic affirmation of Bodily Resurrection (surat-al-Bayyina 98:8) it explains that moral decisions involving cadavers is acceptable and hence organ transplantation reflects Islamic jurisprudence, including the difference in opinion of variants.

The ethical system of Islamic Jurisprudence allows an eschatological reward of a better afterlife, with Allah in heaven. This Islamic system is important for adherents and the community. For the individual it is a source of guidance as they turn to core beliefs and teachings in morally contentious times. This gives an outline of what is important and acceptable in society. E.g. Respect, care for others. This provides social cohesion and allows adherents to have a positive structure to live by.

To conclude, the bioethical issues of abortion, euthanasia and organ transplantation offer the entire scope into Islamic ethical teachings. These issues allow a deeper understanding of Islamic jurisprudence and the reliance of the Qur'an and Sunnah (by Muslims) in order to answer morally contentious ethical decisions that affect the adherents and the communities.

Updated: Feb 22, 2021
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Describe and explain Islamic ethical teachings in bioethics. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from

Describe and explain Islamic ethical teachings in bioethics essay
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