I’m doing a paper on the Islamic perspective on Human Cloning for my Bio-Medical Ethics Class and I would like your opinion.
Basically Muslim jurist fall into two categories: those who think it should all be banned, from embryo-cloning for therapeutic reasons (like stem-cell research) to actual cloning of humans; and there are those who think that only cloning of full-fledged humans should be banned but other, lesser types should be allowed because the benefits out-weigh the harm. Like all things that are debated in Islam, both use the same sources to make their argument, the Qur’an and Hadith, which neither of course say that cloning is haraam or halaal. I was wondering what a sampling of the Muslims out there would think. Which camp would you most likely support, and if you don’t mind, why? Also, what is your personal opinion of cloning? What do you think cloning means? Not withstanding whether human cloning should be done, do you think it can be done?
Before answering your specific question, I would first like to clarify that during the test of the life of this world, God has bestowed upon man the ability to benefit from the natural phenomena around him. All the major material developments of man have generally been based upon this ability. Whether it be the production of grain for food; construction of houses for shelter; flying across continents in airplanes; transmission of electricity or the scanning of the human body utilizing ultra-sonic or X-rays, it is, in fact, man’s ability to manipulate and benefit from the natural phenomena around him, which has made all these material advancements and developments possible. Cloning1, seen from the perspective of a positive scientist, is only another application of man’s ability to manipulate the natural phenomena that surrounds him.
Cloning, like every other case of advancement and development, has the potential of being used for the benefit of man, in general, as well as for his ultimate sufferance. Take a simple example of the invention of airplanes. We know that the invention of airplanes can, undoubtedly, be considered as one of the biggest advancements in human history. However, man has not only used this great advancement for the general benefit of his species, but has also used it as a tool of more effective destruction of his enemies – which, unfortunately, were also members of his own species.
Keeping the foregoing explanation in perspective, in my opinion, cloning, per se, cannot be termed as “good” or “bad”. Just as agriculture or utilizing the production capacity of land, per se, is not ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but its specific usage may make it so2, in the same manner it is the usage to which man puts his ability of cloning, which may make it ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
The decision, as should be clear through some deliberation, is one of judging the socio-moral implications of a particular usage of cloning. If a particular usage is considered to entail negative socio-moral implications, it should then be considered as ‘bad’, while if a particular usage does not entail any negative socio-moral implications and has the potential of benefiting the humankind, in general, it should then be considered as ‘good’. After all, having gained the ability, why should man not use it in producing trees, hens, cows or sheep, which may benefit him more effectively? Why should man not use this ability in curing his diseases? Why should not the Chinese use it for protecting the complete annihilation of their endangered national symbol – the Giant Panda? However, considering the socio-moral as well as ethical implications of human cloning, one finds it quite difficult to consider it among the ‘good’ usage of the extraordinary ability.
It is necessary to understand that whatever opinion one may ascribe to regarding the issue of cloning, the opinion should be considered as one relating to applied ethics, rather than the Shari’ah. It is obvious that the Shari’ah neither prohibits nor promotes the use of cloning (just as it neither prohibits nor promotes the use of airplanes).
As far as your question regarding whether, in my opinion, human cloning CAN be done or not is concerned, I really do not consider myself qualified to give any opinion on the issue. However, I instinctively feel that man may have gained the ability to make a human being with the same mental, physical and emotional abilities as that of Einstein. Yet, Einstein is not merely a collection of a set of ‘mental, physical and emotional’ abilities. Einstein is, in fact, a product of the interaction of a set of ‘mental, physical and emotional’ abilities with an infinite number of external and uncontrollable variables. Any alteration in this interaction of the internal and the external variables may have resulted in altering the phenomenon known as ‘Einstein’ from a ‘science genius’ to the ‘most innovative criminal the world had known’. In other words, we may have gained control over the degree of intelligence, strength etc. that we would like a child to possess, yet we do not have any control over how the child would use his intelligence, strength and other cloned attributes. Thus, in my – layman’s – opinion, man may, indeed, have gained the ability to replicate the set of internal abilities of Einstein, yet he is no closer than ever before, in actually producing another “Einstein”.
November 30, 2000
- Cloning, as the Britannica explains it, is the process of producing “genetically identical cells or organisms that are derived originally from a single original cell or organism by asexual methods”. [↩]
- One may, obviously, use the production capacity of land to produce grain and, thereby, benefit his kind; or for the production of marijuana. [↩]