To a certain extent, there need not be strict homogeneity to maintain coherence within a religious tradition for the adherents to ‘live successfully in the modern world’. There is a diversity of expression within the widespread nature of Islam, but it is the principal beliefs in Tawhid (the oneness of Allah), Kutubu’llah (the books of Allah), Al Qadr (fate) as well as submission to Allah that denotes an adherents success of life. Sunni Imam Al-Shafi (767- 820 CE) identified that the diversified ummah, as a result of context, required different answers to life’s enduring questions, and paved the way for various schools of fiqh (jurisprudence) to appeal to the diversified adherents. Imam endorsed the importance of adherent’s application of the traditional and crucial teachings of the Qur’an and Hadith to their modern day context and lives. Islam provides the ummah with guidance on emerging bioethical issues such as IVF and Genetic Engineering.
To ‘live successfully in the modern world’ is a contemporary challenge for Islamic jurists when addressing moral issues that arise with biomedical advancements which to some extent challenge Al Qadr. Although the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said “that which is lawful is clear, and that which is unlawful is also quite clear”, the challenge to ‘successfully live in the modern world’ is perpetuated by technologies which didn’t exist in the time of the Prophet. Islamic jurists employ derivative reasoning from the classical roots of fiqh and secondary juristic principles such as “necessity makes prohibition lawful”.
As such, the complexities surrounding emerging processes for artificial fertility treatments provide new questions for Islamic ethicists. IVF is considered halal as long as it is between a husband and wife within an authentic marriage contract. However, artificial insemination by a donor as well as surrogacy, is considered haram as the majority of madhabs, including Shafi‘I, have ruled this to be immoral as the child is not the fruit of a marriage contract and therefore not legitimate. This is supported through the reference “And Allah has made for you mates of your own kind and has bestowed on you good provision” (Surah 16:27). While for a Muslim couple the prospect of maintaining childless if halal IVF fails in a tradition that places high value on family lineage can be fraught, their faith supports them to accept that ‘God knows best’ (94 Al-Tahawai). Sara Bamdad, a researcher in Shiraz (Iran), conducted a survey on attitudes towards assisted reproduction and determined that only 34% of Muslim respondents approved of egg donation (January 17, 2014). They argued it contradicts the commands of the Holy Qur’an and that of a ‘successful life’, which describes believers as “Those who guard their private parts except from their spouses … but whoever seeks to go beyond that, these are they that exceed the limits.”(Sura 23, v. 5, 6, 7). Ultimately in issues of bioethics, Muslims are called to Ishan (virtue) when considering what technologies fall within the acceptable boundaries of faith and that any innovation must legitimately be “a healing and a mercy to those who believe” (Qur’an 41:44).
The intentional manipulation of DNA, Genetic Engineering, has the potential to shape the present and future of mankind. The degree to which a ‘successful life’ can be exercised may require an individual to adopt Genetic Engineering. Specifically, Islam facilitates the safeguarding of all human health, as stated in the Quran (al- Baqarah 2:195) “o not throw (yourselves) with your (own) hands into destruction”. Thus, treatment is specifically urged by adherents for hereditary as well as acquired diseases and ailments, deeming this application of Genetic Engineering halal. Al-Shafi further implies this notion, suggesting that haram (unlawful) things become permissible when a person’s life is in danger. However, Allah created man in the best form, whereby Islamic jurists foresee any tampering with basic constituents or subjecting humans to aimless genetic engineering experimentation as a violation of man’s God-given dignity, as asserted by the Quran (al-Isra 17:70) “We have created, with (definite) preference”. Thus, the exercise of Genetic Engineering challenges the notion of a successful life with this modern world, as such modern technologies can enable the safeguarding of health and life or death, however can tempt adherents to participate in aimless experimentation, a violation of man’s God given dignity.
Islam’s five primary obligations, pillars of faith, provide Muslims with a practical framework to cultivate spiritual growth and ultimately a reflection of one’s willing submission to Allah and pursue to ‘live a successful life’. One of these five pillars of Islam is ‘Hajj. At least once in a lifetime, every Muslim is expected to perform Hajj; an obligatory six day pilgrimage to Mecca, in obedience to the Qur’an; “pilgrimage to the House is incumbent upon men for the sake of Allah” – Surah 3:96. The journey enables Muslims, personally and as a universal community (ummah), to focus on submission to Allah’s will, developing spiritual consciousness and understanding of the one God. Occurring in Mecca- Sudi Arabia, at the end of Ramadan and brings in the Festival of Ede, Hajj is symbolic of the utter mercy of Allah and the rehearsal for the day of judgement (Al-ahkira) for Muslims and the promise of an afterlife, Surrah 22 states ‘Whoever honours sacred rites of Allah, for them it is good in the Sight of their Lord.’ Moreso, the purpose of entering into Ihram at the commencement of Hajj is to ensure purity of intention and coming before God in humility. The Qur’an states, “Call on your Lord with humility and in private: for Allah loveth not those who trespass beyond bounds.” (Surah Al-Araf, 55), displaying the importance of being humble whilst performing Hajj. However, a 2016 SMH article detailing the debate between traditionalists and more liberal interpretations of the appropriateness of using social media during Hajj. The adoption of social media, a ‘modern world’ necessity, during Hajj leads to questions such as whether pilgrims are in a state of Ihram before Hajj, and is observed as being ego critical and can thus lead us to question whether pilgrims using it are actually fully in submission with Allah. As such, this exhibits the challenge of ‘living a successful life in a modern world’.