Cloning has rekindled the ongoing debate centered on ethical concerns, which scientists, pro-creationists, politicians and religious personalities are struggling to define in terms of right and wrong.
Scientists who favor cloning, argue that the tissue material from cloned embryos could lead to breakthroughs in the treatment of severe human diseases such as Parkinson’s, Motor Neuron or Diabetes. On the other hand the Church and pro-life campaigners argue that the cloning of embryos constitutes life, and to terminate an embryo would be no different to terminating the life of any other human being. Western politicians are also deeply divided between the two views. In 2003, White House spokesman said that US President George Bush had found the news "deeply troubling", and added that the news underscored the need for legislation to ban all human cloning in the US. While other politicians most notably those with close ties with biotechnology firms are fervent supporters of human cloning.
So who is right? Many people in the West believe that science is fully capable of providing truths about human behavior, which in turn can be used to govern people’s lives. This view is erroneous, as the scientific thought is a particular type of thought only suited to the study of material objects under laboratory conditions. Under these conditions no ethical truths are revealed or discovered. This is because material objects do not possess an inherent ethical attribute, which during experimentation manifests itself as right or wrong. Science can only provide explanation of how things function and cannot answer questions such as ‘is it right?’, or ‘should this be allowed?’
The same argument applies to the so called scientific study of human behavior. Human beings are not born with an ethical code, nor do human actions have an intrinsic ethical quality, which helps the scientist decide whether the action is right or wrong. For instance science can explain the process by which procreation occurs, but can it tell us whether it is right to have sexual relationships in or out of wedlock, between brother and sister or between an adult and a child? Those who choose to engage in incest or sexually abuse children are branded deviants and abhorred by society. The same was said about homosexual relationships, until recently, when public opinion was changed to make homosexuality acceptable as an idea. Scientist then suggested that some people were born with the inclination to prefer people of the same gender. If it were proven that people were born with a tendency to commit incest, sexually abuse children or murder would that in any way make it right? Would these actions be regarded as acceptable by society?
Science is unable to pass ethical judgements on things or human actions and can never provide a code of ethics for mankind. In reality, people live according to a specific viewpoint of life, which shapes their inclinations and tastes. This viewpoint of life emanates from a creed and gives rise to a specific system, which binds people together to produce a distinctive society. The creed coupled with its viewpoint of life produces a code of ethics responsible for governing society.
In western societies it is the secular creed together with its view point on life based on benefit, which determines what is right and wrong. In practice the politicians who are the elected representatives of the people are given the responsibility of deciding what is right and wrong on behalf of society. Politicians may entertain scientific facts or arguments from other sources during the law making process, but ultimately the Western point of view i.e. benefit determines ethics. Therefore it is common to find western politicians subscribing to those ethical views, which provide them and their sponsors with the greatest amount of benefit. Usually the sponsors of such views are powerful interest groups such as big businesses, wealthy industrialists and influential organizations. Often there is a clash between these powerful groups as each group competes by lobbying politicians to protect their interests. In such circumstances politicians seek a compromise verdict to appease these interest groups. Nevertheless, in both cases no serious attempt is made to seek the truth, the foremost concern of all parties is to safeguard their interests. For instance on the issue of human cloning Tony Blair’s New Labor party which has close links with biotech companies is in favor of human cloning, while opposition groups such as the anti-abortion charity, Life want a total ban on all forms of human cloning. In the end, the government sought a middle ground and enacted legislation to support the cloning of human embryos, but outlawed the cloning of a human being. An ethical position which is definitely incorrect, as it fails to provide an answer to the original question.
A major flaw of Western way of life is that ethical standards constantly evolve and change around benefit. There is no absolute truth or falsehood, right or wrong. What is viewed as evil and abhorrent in a particular age is praised and raised high at different times. Take for example the issues of adultery, homosexuality, and children born out of wedlock or the taking of cannabis. All of these issues have been despised in the past, but now are accepted by society. Similarly, what is considered by people as wrong is regarded by other people who share the same values as right. For example, the Europeans consider capital punishment to be barbaric whilst the Americans uphold it as a civilized form of punishment. This leads to people losing confidence in ethical standards and eventually society becomes morally bankrupt and declined.
In Islam truth and falsehood, right and wrong are clearly defined and do not change with age, places or people. The Islamic laws or ethical standards in Islam are fixed and do not revolve around benefit nor are subject to environmental influences. This is because the Islamic creed recognizes God as the only sovereign and not man. God alone is the arbiter of what is right and what is wrong. This means that all actions undertaken by Muslims or all judgements pronounced by Muslims on things or events must comply with Islam.
Islam did not leave human beings without guidance in this life. On the contrary, Islam provides a complete and comprehensive way of life in the form of the Quran and the Sunnah of the messenger (Sallalahu Alaihi Wasallam) of Allah. The legal texts found in the Quran and the Sunnah are more than capable of addressing all human problems. This is because the legal texts of Islam have an immense capacity to produce a multitude of solutions to problems encountered by human beings irrespective of diversity of the problem or its complexity. So what is Islam’s view on cloning?
The aim of cloning in plants and animals is to improve quality and increase productivity, and to find a natural cure for many common human diseases, especially the acute ones, instead of using chemical drugs which have harmful side effects on mans health.
The improvement in the quality of plants and animals and the increase of productivity is not prohibited from a shari’i perspective, and it is among the things that are allowed. Also, the use of plants and animal cloning to cure human diseases, especially acute ones, is allowed in Islam. It is even recommended because seeking a cure for illness is recommended and manufacturing medicine for curing is recommended as well. Imam Ahmad narrates from Anas, he said; that the Prophet (Sallalahu Alaihi Wasallam) said, "Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala) has created the illness and the cure. So seek a cure."
Therefore, it is allowed to use the cloning process to improve the quality of plants and to increase their productivity. It is also allowed to use the cloning process to improve the quality of cows, sheep, camels, horses, and other animals, in order to increase productivity of these animals and to increase their numbers, and to utilize this to cure many of the human diseases especially the acute ones.
This is the ruling concerning cloning plants and animals. As for cloning human beings, it is as follows:
For fetal cloning, the zygote is formed in the womb of a wife as a result of the husband’s sperm and the wife’s egg. That zygote is divided into many cells, which can divide and grow. These cells are divided so that each cell becomes a fetus by itself, as a duplicate of the original zygote. Then, if they were to be implanted in the womb of a foreign woman or in the womb of the husband’s second wife, these two forms of cloning would be prohibited (Haram) because this would result in mixing of kinship. Then, it would cause loss of kinship, and Islam has prohibited this.
If on the other hand, one or more of these zygotes were implanted in the wife’s womb (who was the source of the original cell) then this form of cloning would be permitted (Halal). This is because it is a multiplying of the zygote, which existed in the wife’s womb through a medical procedure to bring about identical twins. This is the rule concerning fetal cloning.
As for the cloning of humans, it could be done by taking a body cell from the male, extracting its nucleus, merging it with a female’s egg after removing the egg’s own nucleus. This male nucleus in a female egg would be transferred to a woman’s womb to double and grow. Hence, it would become a fetus and then a baby, which is a duplicate of the original male from whose body the cell was taken. Also, cloning could be done among females only without a need for a male. This is done by taking a cell from the body of a female and extracting its nucleus in order to merge it with a female’s egg. Then, the egg is transferred to a woman’s womb after it is merged with the cell’s nucleus, to grow and become a fetus and then a baby, which is a duplicate of the female from which the cell was taken. This is what happened with Dolly, the sheep, where the nucleus was taken from a sheep’s breast cell. Then, the elements related to the breast were taken out from this nucleus and the nucleus was placed in a sheep’s egg after removing its own nucleus. The cell was placed in the womb of a sheep to multiply and grow, and become a fetus. Dolly, the sheep, was born as an exact duplicate of the first sheep from which the cell was taken.
This cloning of humans, males or females, if done, would be a disaster for the world. This would be the case whether the aim was to improve quality, select the offspring which is smarter, stronger, braver, healthier, or more beautiful, or if the aim was to increase the number in order to increase the population or to make the state stronger. It is prohibited because of the following of the following reasons:
1. The production of children in this manner is different from the natural way that Allah made humans to reproduce their offspring.
Allah says, "And that He (Allah) created the pairs, male and female. From Nutfah (drops of semen – male and female discharges) when it is emitted." [TMQ An-Najm:45-46]
Allah also says, "Was he not a Nutfah (drops of semen) poured forth? Then he became a clot; then (Allah) shaped and fashioned (him) in due proportion. And made him in two sexes, male and female." [TMQ Al-Qiyamah:37-39]
2. The children who are born out of cloning females, without a male, have no fathers. In addition, they will not have mothers if the egg that was merged with the nucleus of the cell was placed in the womb of a female different from that female whose egg was used in the cloning process. This is the case because the female whose womb was used to implant the egg is no more than a place to house the egg. This will lead to the loss of that human, where he has no father and no mother. This contradicts the saying of Allah ta’ala, "O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female." [TMQ Al-Hujurat:13]
And also His (Subhanahu wa ta’ala) saying, "Call them by the names of their fathers, that is more just in the sight of Allah." [TMQ Al-Ahzab:5]
3. Loss of kinship. Islam has obligated preserving affinity and maintaining it. Ibn Abbas said that the Prophet of Allah (Sallalahu Alaihi Wasallam) said, "Whoever claims relationship by birth to other than his father or belonged to other than those he belongs to, then the curse of Allah, the Angels, and all the people be upon him." (Narrated by Ibn Majah).
Abi ‘Uthman an-Nahri said that he heard Sa’d and Abu Bakrah each of them saying that they had heard and understood from Muhammad (Sallalahu Alaihi Wasallam) saying, "Anyone who makes a claim for somebody other than his father and he knows that he is not his father, then Paradise is forbidden for him." (Narrated by Ibn Majah).
Abu Hurayrah also narrated that he heard the Prophet of Allah (Sallalahu Alaihi Wasallam) saying (when the verse of cursing was revealed), "Any woman who introduced to some people an offspring that does not belong to them, then she has nothing to do with Allah and she will not enter Paradise; and any man who denies his son while looking at him, Allah will not reveal Himself to him and Allah will disgrace him in front of the first and last generations." [Narrated by Al-Darimi].
The cloning which aims at producing people who are outstanding in terms of their intelligence, strength, health, and beauty would mean choosing the people with characteristics among the males and the females regardless of if they were married couples or not. As a result, the cells would be taken from the males who had the required characteristics, and the eggs would be taken from selected women and implanted in selected women. This would lead to the kinship being lost and mixed.
4. The production of children through cloning prevents applying many of the shari’i rules, such as the rules of marriage, kinship, alimony, fatherhood, sonship, inheritance, custody, Maharim and ‘Usbat (forbidden degrees of consanguinity) in addition to many other shari’i rules. The affinity would get mixed and would be lost. This go against the natural way that Allah has created people, in terms of reproduction. Therefore, human cloning is prohibited (Haram) from a shari’i perspective and it is not allowed.
Allah ta’ala said quoting the cursed Satan,
"I will command them to change the creation of Allah." [TMQ An-Nisa’:119]
The creation of Allah is the nature (fitra) which Allah has created in people at birth, and the nature (fitra) of reproduction of humans from a male and a female through the fertilization of the sperm of the male with the egg from the female. The law of Allah is that this process is to be done between a male and a female with a valid contract. It is not the nature (fitra) that reproduction and birth are achieved by cloning. This is in addition to the fact that this would happen between a male and a female who do not have a valid marriage contract that binds them.
Clearly, the 1400-year-old legal texts of Islam present unambiguous answers to issues arising out of human cloning, which Western societies and science are unable to answer.
Muslims should take every opportunity to highlight the inability of Secularism and science to make ethical judgements for society. Furthermore, Muslims should work to present Islam as the only ideology that provides an ethical code where truth and falsehood, right and wrong are fixed, thereby giving society greater stability and elevation.