By: His Eminence, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra)
Translated by: Manal Samhat
Reactions to the operations of cloning varied, with many foreign countries issuing laws that prohibit these operations for all purposes whatsoever. But His Eminence, the Religious Authority Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah, issued a Fatwa that deemed cloning permissible, in what amounted to a breakthrough on both the local and international levels, especially that the debate on the issue is still unfolding, and the Catholic Church, as well as a large number of Muslim religious authorities, have expressed their unequivocal opposition..
This Fatwa did not surprise those who have been following all the Sayyed's pervious Fatwas related to many sensitive topics, the last of which is his fatwa concerning the permissibility of depending on astronomical calculations in identifying the beginning and the end of the month of Ramadan, as well as all the Islamic occasions, instead of merely depending on the sight seeing of the moon, but his announcement that cloning is not Haram has given the issue a new dimension and opened a fierce debate in the Arab, as well as the Islamic worlds, especially that those who disapprove of cloning have based their rejection upon the religious values of the Islamic doctrine.
His Eminence has identified, accurately, the points of permissibility and prohibitions with respect to cloning, explaining at the same time his view which is based on his jurisprudent judgment, discussing many possible effects of this operation on the human societies and legislative rulings starting from the lineage, inheritance, and legislative obligations of the cloned, and some other ideas, which are in his view fictitious. Fadlullah's opinion, though different from other jurisprudents, but he considers it to be is open to discussion as well as dialogue.
The evidences of those who prohibit cloning and Fadlullah's discussion
The first point: Those who disapprove of cloning claim that it is a command of the devil, and they refer to this verse:
"…I will bid them so that they shall alter Allah's creation .." (04:119).
His Eminence says: Most Muslim religious authorities interpret the meaning of "change" as a change of the human nature that God created in man. They refer to the following verse: "Then set your face upright for religion in the right state – the nature made by Allah in which He has made men; there is no altering of Allah's creation" (30:30).
But if we were to adopt their interpretation, we would have to prevent the continuity of life and freeze everything. This saying "a change in God's creation" is not restricted to the creation of man and animal only, but covers everything. Thus, according to such an understanding, we must not cut a tree, explode a mountain, or even dry a river. Most Muslim religious scholars argue that we can not deduce from this verse such a meaning because there is nothing in the verse that indicates that it is restricted to man or animal.
Second point: Those who disapprove of cloning claim that this act is against human dignity and it is a kind of abuse to man's life.
The Sayyed replied to this by saying: "we do not consider it an abuse to human dignity, regardless of its realistic side effects that we can pinpoint. He added: what is the difference, concerning the reproduction of a human, between fertilizing an ovum with a sperm and implanting a cell in the ovum after evacuating it. The latter moves in a way similar to that of the body's mechanism to produce a human even if it differs in form or place.
Third point: Both religions, Islam and Christianity, confirm that God is the creator. But in the act of cloning, one might think that man has become a creator too. Thus, he is a god, because Allah creates a human from a father and a mother; similarly, the one who clones produces a human from a father and a mother or from a mother only. Thus, he becomes a creator.
However, Fadlullah says: if we want to discuss this issue from the religious point of view, we would ask, "What is the meaning of creation?" It is not a production of a figure different or similar to another familiar one. But creation is a production of a new law God did not produce. And in all our readings and follow-ups of all the discoveries and the scientific productions we have gone through, and all the available potentials and statistics we have obtained, we see that the operation of cloning is one of the processes that God has inspired man to perform.
It is not an interference with His will, for God has provided man with the power of knowledge to deal with and develop the universe.
Therefore, those who say that this operation is interference in God's will suppose that His will is restricted to the natural causes. However, God's will moves in both the natural causes, as well as the causes that man comes to discover later on, and that are based on the natural causes Allah has made the universe governed by.
Are those who clone creating? And what is discovered by them?
They say that a human is created from a fertilized ovum (zygote), which results from the union between the sperm and the ovum. The sperm from a man contains 23 chromosomes and so does the ovum of the woman as specialists explain.
When the sperm fertilizes the ovum, the number of chromosomes becomes 46; a number that produces a human being. Similarly, when it comes to cloning, we find that those who clone take a mature cell containing 46 chromosomes and evacuate the ovum, and then they place the cell in the ovum. Accordingly, this operation is not unfamiliar with the law, even if it differs in the form here and there.
Man has abided by the law of creation and did not actually create. Therefore, cloning does not shock the religious doctrine, but it shocks what is familiar among people. I believe that those who clone depend on this law and try to take a complete active living cell, evacuate the chromosomes from the ovum, in order to insert the contents of this cell inside it, giving the same result that the union between the sperm and the ovum does.
The law is, then, fixed, but man moves in the sphere of details. Thus, man does not become a creator, but rather a producer, in accordance with the law God has set. In the light of this, we do not consider this operation as an issue of creation, which negates the religious doctrine, because creation results from the innovation of a new law, while cloning is not an innovation of a law, since there is no particular role for the ovum and the sperm in the process of creation itself, but the particularity lies in the completion of the cell through their meeting. As a result, every active living cell that contains what both the ovum and the sperm contain might be a base for a new born living being.
Fourth point: someone might claim that the cloned is a human being from a mother without a father, and, if possible, it is from a father without a mother. If you ask them, "What is the problem with that? They would tell you that it ruins the family". His Eminence answers, saying: The family is a traditional concept man has got used to, so why do we prevent the production of a child outside the circle of the family? It might be unfamiliar, but there is no problem with it, provided that we make a new program for this child like many other life matters, for which we have established new laws and programs. Accordingly, such things have become very normal in man's life.
Why do we react awkwardly towards anything new, for which we have no basis for understanding? Why do not we base this understanding on God's law? "Taught man what he knew not?" (96:05).
Fifth point: cloning leads to some problems and complications related to fatherhood, inheritance, and the person's movement in this life. These complications must be considered and studied according to the realistic circumstances. Then, if we find out that the negative aspects outnumber the positive aspects, it will be deemed prohibited, according to the Islamic legislation, whereas if the positive aspects either outbalance or balance with the negative ones, then it is deemed permissible. In the Holy Quran, we always read the general rule which is summarized in the following concept: anything, whose harmful effects are more than the positive ones, is deemed impermissible and whose positive effects are more than the negative ones, is deemed permissible (…). Therefore, we have to study the movement of this new scientific production in reality. Does it move in its positive or negative aspects? Later on, we could identify, based on our follow-ups and observations, the legislative judgment. Therefore, for the time being, we can not give a decisive juristic judgment concerning the process of cloning.
As it appears, His Eminence deals realistically with the issues. He sees that when the operation succeeds, and a cloned human being is born, we must consider him a normal human being who must take all his human and legal rights. However, the difference lies in the fact that this cloned human might be from a mother only, like God's prophet, Jesus (a.s.) though Jesus' birth was a miracle. He would be considered a legitimate child of his mother and he would thus, inherit from her and from her relatives. As for the question of whom the cloned child would follow; his father or his mother, His Eminence replies: "if the cell is taken from the mother, then he should follow his mother.
However, this point raised some problematic issues, because the cloned child becomes a brother to his mother. His Eminence replies saying that we know that Adam's children reproduced through the marriage between the brother and his sister. At that time, this marriage was permissible, and we also know that there might be a child without a father similar to Jesus (p.), the son of Mary (a.s.).
Sixth point: Those who oppose claim that cloning will make the world of one form and this phenomenon will create many negative issues. His Eminence says: cloning is not as easy as we imagine. We have to rest assured that the operation of cloning is so expensive and so tiring that it costs a lot of money and a lot of hard work; whereas, the natural reproduction does not require any financial demands. Therefore, I believe that this scientific invention will not affect people in a way that they would resort to cloning and abandon the natural process. Most importantly, the natural way of reproduction is an instinctive way through which people fulfill their sexual needs. But in cloning, a child requires many things; people need to go the laboratory, pay money, do official documents, and so on, things many people can not afford.
Seventh point: Those who oppose claim that cloning cancels marriage, an issue which is against God's laws or human instinct. But His Eminence says that we observe that the production of a baby is taking place, nowadays, without sexual intercourse. It is occurring through the baby tube (in vitro fertilization). In this operation, the sperm is taken from a man and the ovum from a woman, regardless of its permissibility or prohibition. In fact, reproduction occurs without any sexual relation.
Therefore, this is not against God's laws, neither in the world, nor in the human instinct. It does not cancel marriage, simply because marriage is not restricted to the issue of reproduction only. God has made marriage a kind of harmonious living and integration between man and woman; God wants it to be the first social cell, in which the relation of love and mercy moves.
His Eminence deals with this issue from another perspective: "marriage or natural reproduction, even if outside the institution of marriage, occurs due to a natural need; it is the sexual need for both man and woman. This means that this natural way of "the reproduction of a human being" remains the normal and the everlasting way. It is considered a personal matter for both, the man and the woman, whereas the case of cloning concerns only the scientists or a limited number of people. Accordingly, I do not see that great danger in cloning human beings, since this scientific event is not going to spread worldwide. The great disadvantages that endanger human life are not usually a result of limited experiments, but rather through the wide spread of such experiments that might form a new human phenomenon, which might affect the natural human phenomenon.