Call for Papers – International Conference on Organ Transplantation in Islam

Call for Papers

An International Conference on Organ Transplantation in Islam

Date: Friday, 21st November, 2014 – Saturday, 22nd November, 2014

Venue: Religion and Society Research Centre, University of Western Sydney, Bankstown Campus, Sydney, Australia

Abstract Deadline: Friday, 5th September, 2014

Abstract Confirmation: Monday 22nd September, 2014

Background

Organ transplantation in Islam is one of the most under-researched areas in social sciences particularly sociology and anthropology. In Islam, organ transplantation and donation are not specifically discussed in the scriptures, namely the Qur’an and Hadith. Given organ transplantations are modern medical developments born out of new scientific accomplishments, both two great texts of Islam, in fact, are silent on the issue of organ transplantation and donation. As such organ transplantation and donation have only recently begun to receive attention in Islamic scholarship.

Organ transplantations are carried out to remove the non-functional or diseased organs and replace them with functioning ones in an attempt to cure patients. There are, in essence, two types of organ transplantations. One is when the organ or organs are harvested from a live body and transplanted in another live but non-functional or diseased body. The other is when the organ or organs are removed from a cadaveric body and transplanted into a live body to cure the patient. Similar to other medical procedures, organ transplantation is generally viewed as permissible in Islam for the simple fact that it is a form of treatment for a medical illness. Many Islamic scholars consent to organ transplantation and donation as they see it consistent with the objectives of the maqasid al-shar’iah (objectives of the Islamic law)that privileges human welfare, interest, and the preservation of human life. Qur’anic verse such as the following is used to make reference to this: “[U]nless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people” (Al-Ma’idah, Verse 32). Organ transplantation, according to this verse, therefore, is in the same category as saving a life.

However, not all Islamic scholars and jurists are necessarily unanimous on the issue of organ transplantation and donation. Although a vast majority of them consent to the permissibility of organ transplantation and donation, there is a school of thought that considers organ transplantation and donation to be prohibited in Islam, particularly the removal of the organ or organs from a cadaveric body and transplanting them in a live body. This lack of unanimity is not so much over the question of whether organ transplantation and donation is permissible in Islam or not but rather the issue of removing an organ or organs from a cadaveric body and transplanting them in live body or bodies.

The latter group of Islamic scholars and jurists view the human body as a unique gift from Allah. It is The Trust which human beings must take great care of and over which have great moral responsibility. The human body is a consecrated entity and the view here is that any process of transplanting organs from the cadaver violates the sanctity of it. The violation of the sanctity of the cadaveric body, according to this school of thought, is forbidden in Islam. In this regard a Prophetic Tradition is often referred to which says: “Breaking the bones of a corpse is similar to breaking the bones of someone who is alive” (Hadith narrated by Abu Dawood: 3207; Ibn Maajah: 1617).

Based on this Hadith, one can infer that the same level of sanctity is accorded to the cadaveric body as is to the live body, and that breaking the bone in the cadaveric body is not permissible just as it is not permissible in the case of a live body. Removing the organ or organs from a cadaveric body and transplanting them in live body involves a loss of dignity and the violation of the sanctity of the body in general and, therefore, from this viewpoint, is prohibited.

Given the fact that the two great texts of Islam – Qur’an and Hadith – are silent on the issue of organ transplantation and donation, how then Islam reconciles itself with the progress and advancements made by humanity in time and space, i.e., in modernity? This is an important sociological question. It is important to note that organ transplantation and donation in their current forms are modern medical developments born out of new scientific accomplishments not within Islam but outside it; mainly in the West. Muslims who have to face the possibility of having organ transplantations or making organ donations not only have to pay heed to Islamic theology but also have to deal with the deep and extensive effects of organ transplantation involving donors, recipients, families, and medical professionals. Organ transplantation and donation, therefore, is not only a “private transaction” between the donor and recipient but one that occurs within the context of an intricate nexus of relationships extending to incorporate, families, friends, professionals, and members of Muslim community. Often seen as a very generous way of saving a life, organ donation through transplantation is also a very powerful gesture of “gift exchange” embodying strong social and cultural meanings.

Organ transplantation and donation in Islam needs to be explored and understood in these broad theological and sociological contexts. Several positions on the issue exist and the phenomenon itself is very complex. A sociological analysis of organ transplantation and donation in Islam will, therefore, yield some meaningful and clear insights.

Questions

All these have sparked a number of questions. Does the removal of the organ or organs from the cadaveric body really violate the sanctity of the human body? Isn’t the body just entrusted to us but in reality belongs to Allah and, therefore, the removal of the organ or organs impinges on this Divine Right? A vast majority of Muslims believe in the torment and pleasure of the grave according to the status of the dead and the life in al-barzakh (the interval between death and the Day of Resurrection). The evidence of this is found in the Qur’an which says, “The Fire, they are exposed to it, morning and afternoon. And on the Day when the Hour will be established (it will be said to the angels): ‘Cause Fir‘awn’s (Pharaoh) people to enter the severest torment!’”(Ghaafir 40:46). Here, we learn that the people of Pharaoh are exposed to torment morning and afternoon even though they are dead and this affirms the torment of the grave. There is also evidence from early Islam that ‘Aa’ishah, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad, narrated as follows: “O Allah, I seek refuge in You from the torment of the grave, I seek refuge in You from the tribulation of the Dajjaal, I seek refuge in You from the trials of life and death, O Allah, I seek refuge in You from sin and loss”, (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 798; Muslim, 589). If this is the case then wouldn’t the removal of the organ or organs have major ramifications for the body in the grave? How would the body function with organs missing from it?

Despite these there are many Muslims who have donated organs and many who have received them. This demonstrates that at a sociological level, many Muslims who subscribe to organ transplantation and donation base their decisions not just on one single source or factor but multiple. Several processes and the role of key institutions such as family and medical fraternity play an important part in donor-receiver decision. Hence, what ethical and legal issues organ transplantation and donation raise for Muslims? Since organ transplantation and donation are modern medical developments, what are some of the sociological implications of these processes? How can sociological studies of organ transplantation and donation help us not only understand about these processes but provide important insights into ways in which Islam negotiates its place in modernity and maintain its importance and relevance?

Aims

To develop some critical insights into this very important topic and attempt to address some of these and other important questions, the Religion and Society Research Centre at the University of Western Sydney is convening an international conference around the following themes:

i. Organ Transplantation in Modern Medicine,

ii. Islamic Theological Perspective on Organ Transplantation and Donation, and

iii. Social Scientific and Comparative Analysis of Organ Transplantation and Donation.

By investigating how Islam grapples with the question of Organ Transplantation and Donation in the modern world, this conference aims to enhance our understanding of various issues and debates surrounding these processes and different ways through which Muslims deal with organ transplantation and donation. For this, we would like to invite religious scholars, medical experts, and social scientists to submit papers that deal with one of the three themes mentioned above. We are particularly interested in papers that address ethical and theological questions of organ transplantation in Islam as well as those that are informed by sociological and ethnographic studies or enriched by case studies from different Muslim communities.

To this end presenters may deliver papers that may specifically address any issues related to organ transplantation that include, but are not limited to, critical and comparative discussions on:

  1. Recent medical technological inventions and processes of organ transplantation.

  2. Ethical and religious issues and dilemmas in medical practice of organ transplantation and donation.

  3. Theological analysis of organ transplantation and donation.

  4. Islamic legal and jurisprudential rulings on organ transplantation and donation.

  5. Socio-economic factors of organ transplantation and donation.

  6. Ethnographic studies and life stories about organ transplantation and donation.

Convenors

Dr Jan A. Ali (Jan.Ali) and Dr Arskal Salim (A.Salim) – Religion and Society Research Centre, University of Western Sydney.

Outcome

It is envisaged that the final outcome of the conference will be the publication of papers in an edited volume.