Heredity, Genetic Engineering and Human Genome

In the Name of Allāh,

the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful

Praise is due to Allāh, Lord of the worlds, may the blessings and peace be upon our master Muḥammad, the last of prophets, on his family, and all his companions.

Resolution No. 203 (9/21)

Heredity, Genetic Engineering and Human Genome

The Council of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, holding its 21st session in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, on 15–19 Muḥarram 1435h (19–22 November 2013),

Having reviewed the recommendations of the Medical Fiqh Symposium on Heredity, Genetic Engineering and Human Genome organized by the Academy in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, on 13–15 Rabīʿ al-Ākhir 1434h (23–25 February 2013), in collaboration with the Islamic Organization for Medical Sciences (IOMS) of Kuwait, in response to the Academy resolution no. 193 (8/20), issued at its 20th session in Oran, People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, on 26 Shawwāl

– 2 Dhū al-Qi’dah 1433h (13–18 September 2012),

Having listened to the in-depth discussions on the subject,


First: Human Genome

Reading the human genome, which means (drawing the complete genetic map of a human being) constitutes part of the attempts of human being to know themselves and explore the divine laws that govern Allāh’s creatures in the world, a fact that the Quran indicates in the verse, «Soon will we show them our signs in the (furthest) regions (of the earth) and in their own souls,» (Fuṣṣilat, 53) and other similar verses. Because reading the human genome is a means for identification of some hereditary diseases or probability of their occurrence, it represents a valuable addition to endeavors of health and medical scientists to facilitate means of diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases, and, hence, is classified under acts of farḍ al-kifāyah (collective duty) in the society; with due consideration to the following rulings:

  1. It is permissible to use the human genome or part of it for beneficial purposes, as long as it aims to achieve interests that conform to those pursued by Shariah, such as disease prevention and
  2. Genome should not be used for harmful purposes or in any way that

contradicts with rules and principles of Shariah.

  1. It is prohibited to conduct any research work, experiment, therapy or diagnosis relating to a person’s genome before performing a precise pre-evaluation for the probable risks and benefits of the act to be con- Research work in this regard should be conducted with full abid- ance by relevant norms of Shariah.
  2. For analyzing the genetic map of a person, appropriate and Shariah- recognizable permission must be obtained from him or his lawful guard- In a genetic map, analyzing the interest of the person in question should also be given utmost priority.
  3. Everybody has the right to decide on whether he wants to be informed about the results or consequences of any genetic examination he under- goes or not.
  4. Whether kept or used for research or any other purpose, genetic diagno- ses should be treated with complete confidentiality. Information relating to such diagnoses should never be disclosed except in cases indicated in Academy resolution no. 79 (10/8) on “Confidentiality in Medical Professions” and resolution 142 (8/15) on “Physician’s Liability.” The physician must obtain the patient’s permission to disclose his secret to his family when the latter has a dangerous disease. If the patient refuses to give such permission, the physician should keep trying to convince him to save the lives of the patient’s family members.
  5. Reemphasizing Shariah criteria regarding human genome stated in the recommendation of the seminar on Heredity, Genetic Engineering, Human Genome and Genetic Treatment organized by IOMS – Kuwait in cooperation with the Academy in
  6. Nobody should encounter any form of discrimination due to his genetic characteristics if the aim behind such discrimination is to violate his fun- damental rights and freedoms or abuse of his
  7. It is prohibited to conduct any clinical research relating to the human genome or its applications, especially in biology, genetics, and medi- cine, that contradicts with rulings of Shariah or does not show respect to Shariah-recognizable human rights.

Genetic Treatment:

It refers to transferring a part of DNA (or a fit gene) to replace an infected gene

and hence restore a previous genetic function inside the cell. With regard to the genetic treatment of the cell, it can be divided into two types:

— First Type: Genetic Treatment of Somatic Cells

This type of treatment includes all body cells, and its Shariah ruling differs ac- cording to its specific purpose. If curing is the real purpose of genetic treatment, then treatment is permissible subject to the following conditions:

  1. Treatment should not lead to more than the already existing
  2. Treatment is believed, most likely, to lead to healing or pain
  3. When an alternative solution is
  4. Observation of Shariah-recognizable terms pertaining to donor and recip- ient in cases of transplantation of organs, as stated in Academy resolution 57 (8/6). Moreover, treatment should be done by specialists of vast experience, high performance and honesty.

If genetic treatment is sought for the mere sake of acquiring specific charac- teristics such as shape alteration, it becomes prohibited because it involves the prohibited act of changing the original form of Allāh’s creation. In the absence of any Shariah recognizable necessity or need that could justify it, genetic treat- ment is an act of futility and abuse of human dignity.

— Second Type: Genetic Treatment of Genital Cells

This refers to the genetic treatment of sex (reproduction) cells. It is permissible to perform a genetic examination for these cells to see if they suffer from a ge- netic disease or not.

However, genetic treatment of genital cells in their present form, which does not abide by Shariah rulings, especially with regard to mixing of lineage, is pro- hibited given the danger and harm it involves.

Second: Genetic Engineering
  1. It is prohibited to use genetic engineering to change the genetic setup through what is known as “Enhancement of Human Progeny.” Any at- tempt of genetic tampering with the human character or intervening with the capacity to assume individual responsibility is prohibited by
  2. Utilization of genetic engineering in the fields of botany and zoology is permissible in principle, subject to the following norms:

    1. Such utilization should not lead to harm sooner or
  1. It should be for an appropriate and permissible purpose, rather than for the sake of abuse and wastefulness.
  2. It should be undertaken by specialists of vast experience and
  1. Genetic Engineering should not be used for harmful
Third: Genetic Counselling

Genetic counselling aims to provide its seekers with the proper knowledge, be- sides predictable outcomes and their statistical probability. Decision making, in this regard, belongs only to stakeholders and the treating physician with no attempt to influence them towards any specific direction. This process involves several aspects of which most important are the following:

  1. Facilitation of genetic counselling services at a wide scope to families and those about to get married, recruitment of competent specialists, and using all available means for disseminating mass awareness and
  2. Genetic counselling should be done as per the clause regarding “Preventive Genetic Survey” in this resolution, provided that its outcomes would not entail any mandatory action.
  3. Information relating to counselling should be considered as top
  4. Widening the scope of knowledge about genetic counselling in medical and health institutes and schools, in addition to the presentation of such knowledge through media and worship places, by well-qualified specialists in the subject.
  5. Families that witness the frequent occurrence of a genetic disease in some of their members need to consult physicians to know about the probability of transmission of such disease.
Shariah Rulings on Genetic Treatments

Rulings on genetic treatment differ as follows:

  1. Preventive Genetic Survey

It is permissible to conduct this type of survey, provided that the means used are permissible and safe. In order to achieve the interest of averting public harm, the competent national authority has the right to enforce such device when, for instance, an epidemic disease spreads in a country or when a country becomes vulnerable to radioactive or toxic materials that can adversely affect genes. However, the survey results should remain confidential to preserve the

privacy of personal affairs and maintain human dignity, as emphasized in the objectives and general principles of Shariah.

  1. Pre-Marriage Genetic Examination

It is permissible to undertake pre-marriage genetic examination since it helps achieve objectives of Shariah by safeguarding family against genetic diseases, provided that the means used are permissible and safe. The competent author- ity can also enforce pre-marriage genetic examination for the realization of a Shariah recognizable public interest.

  1. Genetic Diagnosis before Sperm Culture

It is permissible to perform diagnosis before sperm culture and after in-vitro fertilization (in-vitro fertilization babies), provided that precautionary measures are taken to ensure the avoidance of sample mixing.

  1. Genetic Examination during Pregnancy

This method has several medical means and can be performed at different stages at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of pregnancy. If it is proved that there is a genetic disease, the fetus can be aborted as indicated in Academy res- olution no. 56 (7/6) on Abortion.

  1. Genetic Examination after Delivery

The genetic examination must be done for newborns to give a chance for early intervention when there are curable cases.


  1. Enhancing awareness about genetic diseases and working for reduction of their occurrence.
  2. Encouraging pre-marriage genetic tests through enlightenment cam- paigns through media, organization of seminars and at worship places.
  3. Calling upon national health authorities to increase the number of hu- man genetic units to facilitate access to services of genetic counseling consultants and enlarge the scope of health services in diagnostic and therapeutic genetics to enhance reproductive health.
  4. Calling upon IOMS and other specialized institutions to follow up new developments in the area of genetic engineering.
  5. Calling upon Muslim countries to pay more attention to all Shariah-

recognizable areas of genetic engineering. This would require perfor- mance of several tasks, including:

  • Establishment of specialized research centers that work in this field with the maximum possible synergy and complete conformity with rules and principles of Shariah.
  • Provision of highly qualified human resources to work in these
  • Including genetics in educational programs at different
  • Simplification of results of genetic research work and surveys for its dissemination through different media
  1. Muslim countries are urged to provide free of charge service of this kind to its needy people who cannot afford the payment of its high cost.
  2. Companies that produce animal and plant products should clearly indi- cate if any of their products are produced through genetic engineering techniques so that consumers can base their decisions to purchase such products or not on such information.
  3. Calling upon Muslim countries to issue necessary rules and regulations to protect their people against being used as fields of
  4. Activating the role of consumer protection agencies and raising its aware- ness in Muslim countries.

Indeed, Allāh is All-Knowing.

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