Islam and Organ Donation

A guide to organ donation and Muslim beliefs - Click here to download the pdf versionA guide to organ donation and Muslim beliefs

Organ donation

Organ donation is the gift of an organ to help someone else who needs a transplant. Hundreds of people's lives are saved or improved each year by organ transplants. Donation is an individual choice and views differ even within the same religious groups.

Why is it important to think about donating organs?

With medical advances it is now possible to use transplanted organs and tissues to enhance the life chances of those suffering from a range of terminal conditions such as renal, liver and heart failure. More people than before now suffer from these conditions and some ethnic groups seem to be more affected than others.

Consent

The consent or permission of those closest to the potential donor is always sought before organs can be donated. This is why it is so important to discuss your wishes with your loved ones should you decide to become a donor. Many families who agree to organ donation have said that it helps to know some good has come from their loss.

When can organ donation take place?

Doctors and their colleagues are committed to doing everything possible to save life. Organs are only removed for transplantation once all attempts to save life have failed and after death has been certified by doctors who are entirely independent of the transplant team.

Care and respect

The removal of organs and tissues is carried out with the greatest care and respect. The family can see the body afterwards and staff can contact a chaplain or local religious leader if the family wishes.

Islam and organ donation

In Islam there are two schools of thought with regards to organ donation. The human body, whether living or dead, enjoys a special honour and is inviolable and, fundamentally, Islamic law emphasises the preservation of human life. The general rule that 'necessities permit the prohibited' (al-darurat tubih al-mahzurat), has been used to support human organ donation with regards to saving or significantly enhancing a life of another providing that the benefit outweighs the personal cost that has to be borne. The following are some statements or verses which have been used to support organ donation:

"Whosoever saves the life of one person it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind."
Holy Qur'an, chapter 5 vs. 32
"Whosoever helps another will be granted help from Allah."
Prophet Muhammed (pbuh)
"If you happened to be ill and in need of a transplant, you certainly would wish that someone would help you by providing the needed organ."
Sheikh Dr MA Zaki Badawi, Principal, Muslim College, London

An alternative view clearly states that:

"The saving of life is not absolute, but subject to the amount of cost that has to be borne. Therefore, although the above quotation enjoins the saving of life this is not without restriction or caveats.

According to a similarly large number of Muslim scholars organ donation is not permitted. They consider that organ donation compromises the special honour accorded to man and this cannot be allowed whatever the cost. Scholars, such as the Islamic Fiqh Academy of India, allow live donations only." Mufti Mohammed Zubair Butt, Muslim Council of Britain

Therefore it is very clear that in Islam:

"Organ donation is a very personal choice and one should consider seeking the opinion of a scholar of their choosing." (Mufti Mohammed Zubair Butt, Muslim Council of Britain)

That said one of the fundamental purposes of Islamic law is the preservation of life. Allah greatly rewards those who save the life of others.

To help in this matter the reader's attention is drawn to the following life-saving Fatwa:
In 1995, the UK based Muslim Law (Shariah) Council resolved that:

  • the medical profession is the proper authority to define signs of death
  • current medical knowledge considers brain stem death to be a proper definition of death
  • the Council accepts brain stem death as constituting the end of life for the purpose of organ transplantation
  • the Council supports organ transplantation as a means of alleviating pain or saving life on the basis of the rules of the Shariah
  • Muslims may carry donor cards
  • the next of kin of a dead person, in the absence of a donor card or an expressed wish to donate their organs, may give permission to obtain organs from the body to save other people's lives
  • organ donation must be given freely without reward, trading in organs is prohibited.
  • This is supported by Muslim scholars from some of the most prestigious academies of the Muslim world who call upon Muslims to donate organs for transplantation. These include:
    • the Islamic Fiqh Academy of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (representing all Muslim countries)
    • the Grand Ulema Council of Saudi Arabia.
    • the Iranian Religious Authority
    • the Al-Azhar Academy of Egypt

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