Friday, December 12, 2008

Bioethics, Life Sciences and Islam

In this current era of information and technological development, various new findings have been presented. Many of these new developments have great potential in helping to solve the issues and challenges facing humanity today. This is the opportunity for Muslims to benefit from in order to take lead in such efforts towards global development.

However, the enhancement of knowledge and the mastery of new information that we seek is not only for the intention of contributing to the social and economic developments, but it is also for us to implement our responsibility in bringing peace and prosperity to the world. Let us not forget the fact that many of our Muslim scholars in the past were not only experts in Islamic sciences but also in other areas of knowledge as well.

Abu Rayhan al-Biruni for example, not only was he an expert in Islamic philosophy and comparitive religion, but he was also a scientist, astronomer and an expert in geography. Ibnu Nafis on the other hand was a master in physics and human anatomy. At the same time, he was also a Hafizh of the Quran and an expert in Hadith.

All of them studied science, geography, human sciences and other types of knowledge. However, they were always guided by their strong understanding of Islamic morals (akhlaq), and Islamic law (syariah) in their pursuit to consolidate the knowledge that they had.
As a result, not only were they able to leave behind valuable knowledge for others to inherit and learn, but they also managed to do a lot of research for others to benefit from and improve the quality of their lives as well as their understanding of a certain knowledge. This is the kind of motivation and spirit that we should take away and learn from.

My dear brothers,
Among the types of knowledge which has seen a lot of rapid developments recently is the knowledge of human science and bio-medics. This field of knowledge has the potential to discover the antidote and alternative treatments for various diseases and genetic disorders. Issues such as cloning, genetic testings, stem cell research and others are just some of the outcomes from the study done on life-sciences. With stem cell research for example, we are able to study the source of various diseases and genetic disorders.

That is not all. In fact, it is also needed to find the best cure and discover solutions to overcome these problems.
As a community that has been entrusted to enrich the earth, is it proper for us to ignore the developments in knowledge? Is it not part of our responsibility to analyse these developments and look at their benefits and harms?

Would it not be brilliant if the Muslim community, either ourselves or our children, are to be the ones taking the lead in such developments? It requires guidance so that the efforts are made in relevance to the ethics of the Syariah and does not contravene with its restrictions.

Allah s.w.t. says in the Quran in Surah ar-Room, verse 8: Which means: “Do they not think deeply (in their ownselves) about themselves (how Allâh created them from nothing, and similarly He will resurrect them)? Allâh has created not the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, except with truth and for an appointed term.”

In analysing the creations of Allah s.w.t, especially in the creation of humankind, we will discover many of His secrets as we study this wonderful and flawless creation. By just looking at the growth process of a foetus in a womb is enough for us to remind us of our status as His humble servants. Also look at how careful and organised the creation of a human is through the structure of DNA and chromosomes in the human cells. This allows us to think of Allah’s Divine Greatness. His Greatness which is shown in His perfect creations. SubhanAllah! This is one of the wisdoms behind Allah’s command for humans to think about how He Created them.

One of the wisdoms behind this is to also study the type of things that we can benefit from this knowledge. There are actually a lot of secrets that we can discover, which could actually improve the quality and standards of a human’s life. For example, the stem cell research can open doors to identifying antidotes for many diseases. The blood which is taken from a baby’s placenta can be used in the future as a source of treatment for that particular child or even for other children. The advancements in technology can also help a couple to have a child through the process of fertilization outside the mother’s womb, before the mother actually carries it in her own womb. Subhanallah!

God is great, for He has hidden many secrets in His creations for humans to learn and discover.
At the same time, these efforts need to be done in relevance with the conditions and ethics that has been set by Allah s.w.t. and His Messenger s.a.w. in the Holy Quran and Hadith. Let us not allow these developments to instead bring damage and harm to our planet and the creatures who are living on it.

Allah s.w.t. says in Surah al-Qasas, verse 7: Which means: “And seek not (occasions for) mischief in the land: for Allah does not love those who do mischief Some of the guiding principles in Islamic ethics when facing the developments in life-sciences are:
  1. To not bring harm to anyone, as this is prohibited in the religion, and it is in line with the core principle of protecting lives.
  2. Any form of harm, if available, must be minimised and reduced to a level which is acceptable in Islamic law.
  3. To avoid harm is more important than obtaining goodness or benefit.
  4. A good and true intention (to achieve something) cannot be attained by a manner which is immoral in Islam.
Let us become a Muslim community which thinks about Allah’s creations. Let us be determined to raise our level of knowledge and develop a generation after us that is always hungry for knowledge. Let us use the knowledge that we have now to bring benefit to others and in bringing prosperity to the world. With this strong determination, may we be chosen as the ummah which thrives in its duty as a vicegerent and caliph on earth.

Sermon for Friday prayers,12 December 2008

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