Islamic Ethics of Organ Transplantation and Brain Death

The ethical problems raised by recent advances in medicine are the domain of the ethicist, medical philosopher, lawyers, members of Parliament, religious leaders as well as physicians involved in the dilemmas of day to day problems. Islam is not only a religion; it is a code of life and hence encompasses the secular with the spiritual, the mundane with the celestial, through its holistic approach. The Islamic scholar is both the jurist and the ethicist. It is true that new methods and techniques in medicine have no precedent and hence make it difficult for Islamic jurists to give their verdict. However, the Islamic jurists were very active in the last decade and held many conferences to which many doctors were called to discuss issues such as brain death, organ transplantation, and new methods of procreation, abortion and euthanasia. They passed resolutions that help formulating the rules regarding medical ethics in the arena of rapidly advancing the medicine of high technology.

It is important to have an idea how the jurists reach their rulings and judgment on these thorny hair-raising contentious issues. Islamic jurisprudence is based on two pillars: 1) O' Sool (fundamental, basis) 2) Foroo branches) which include the actual rulings of different Islamic jurisprudence schools in various aspects of life and worship. The jurist reaches his verdict through Careful study of the Holy Quran the Sunna (the trodden path) which include the sayings and speeches of the Prophet Mohammed, Peace Be Upon Him (PBUH) (Sunna Qaw-liya), his deeds (Sunna Filiyya and his approvals (Sunna Taqiiriya). The paradigmatic behavior of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) is the example and model that each Muslim aspires to reach. If the jurist is unable to reach a verdict through studying the Holy Quran and scrutinizing the Sunna, he uses analogy and reasoning (Ijtihad or Qiyas). He can also use other sources e.g. Al Masaleh Almursalah, which simply means taking care of public interest provided it does not clash with a clear text of the Quran or Sunna.The Hanafi School of jurisprudence has in addition a similar source which they call Isthsan, i.e. seeking the best solution for general interest. Ijma is a unanimous opinion of the whole community of Islamic jurists all over the world on a certain issue. It was, and still is, very difficult to achieve; however the consensus of the majority of jurists is more pragmatic. In fact, almost all the rulings that were passed by Islamic jurists conferences were passed by majority of votes.