Is organ donation permitted in Islam?
I am frequently asked whether it is permissible to donate organs in Islam. The answer is that apart from certain restrictions, it is a matter of personal choice.
What is organ donation?
Organ donation is the removal of any ‘organ’ (tissues, cells, blood and so on, such as the cornea) from the donor and its transplant to the recipient in order to keep the beneficiary alive or to keep some essential or basic function of his body working.
There are four types of organ transplant:
- Transplant of an organ from a living person
- Transplant of an organ from a dead person
- Transplant from a foetus
- Transplant from an animal
Is organ donation permitted in Islam?
As the possibility of donating organs is a modern scientific development, there is no specific mention of it in the Quran and Sunnah. Therefore the fatwas that exist are from ijtihad (juristic interpretation) based on Islamic legal maxims.
In brief, the majority of scholars have stated the opinion that organ transplantation and donation is permissible in Islam.
Among the councils, in 1988 the Islamic Fiqh Council in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia approved organ donation. In 2000, the Fatwa of the European Council for Fatwa and Research ratified the resolutions of both the Islamic Fiqh Academy (IFA) of the Muslim World League and the the Islamic Fiqh Council.
Based on widespread fatwahs, organ donation is a valid choice as long as it meets the conditions set out by the scholars and is up to the individual. It is not compulsory, but if one does it with the hope of reward it will be rewarded inshallah, and there is no sin if one does not do it. It is your personal choice.
There is great reward for the one who preserves human life. Allah Almighty states in the Quran:
“…and if anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people…” (5:32)
What are the conditions required for organ donation?
Organ transplantation is performed when there is an urgent need to save the life of the patient, in critical and crucial situations or to enhance someone’s life who is experiencing hardship.
The transplant should have a high degree of success.
In heart transplantation, the death of the donor must first be ascertained. Physicians differ on whether brain death can be considered true death. However, the majority agree that brain death is true death, not heart death, as once there is brain is dead it is irreversible. The Egyptian Islamic Research Assembly adopted this opinion in 2009.
Necessary actions must be taken so that no human killing and organ trading are involved. The organs must be donated freely and willingly without any coercion or payment. Trafficking organs is haram. Offering compensation or honouring the donor is subject to ijtihad.
Permission must be obtained from the donors prior to transplantation (in cases of normal death) or from the family members (in cases of death resulting from accidents).
The donation needs to be carried out with sincere intention and be beneficial to the recipients’ quality of life.
The governing principle is that the benefit should outweigh any possible harm. If the harm is greater, then the donation is haram.
It is haram to transplant an organ on which life depends, such as transplanting the heart from a living person to another person. These are generally singular organs, such as the heart, unlike the kidneys.
Harm to the donor is negligible or relatively minor that it does not disrupt the life of the donor. They should not be inflicted with disabilities such as loss of hearing, sight, and mobility. The donor must be informed of the harm involved beforehand and they should be able to bear the procedure physically, psychologically and materially based on the opinion of qualified physicians.
It is haram to remove organs which would cause major detriment to the donor such as removing both corneas or both kidneys. This would cause an essential function to cease, even though life does not depend on it, based on the consultation of trusted consultants.
Apart from singular organs, like the heart, the transplant of a testis or ovary is prohibited as one of the aims of the shariah is the preservation of lineage. The transplanted organ must not in any way lead to confusion regarding one’s lineage.
Why is organ donation permissible?
It is permissible because organ transplantation and donation fulfils the requirement in the preservation of human life, which is one of the five objectives in maqasid al-shariah (objectives of the Islamic law) and removing hardship from someone’s life.
1. Deeds are judged by their goals and purpose
Under this legal maxim, the purpose of organ donation is saving a life.
2. Harm must be eliminated
A patient has the option to receive organs from a donor in order to replace their damaged organs. In this context, preventing harm takes priority over preserving the body of the deceased.
3. Hardship begets facility
Organ transplantation grants ease to patients with end-stage organ failure. Allah Almighty states in the Quran:
“…Allah intends every facility for you He does not want to put you to difficulties…” (2:185)
4. Necessity permits prohibited matters
Islamic law permits one who is in an urgent situation to do the unlawful (haram) in order to eliminate the harm he faces, under the condition that there are no other lawful options available. As Allah Almighty states in the Quran:
“…But if one is forced by necessity without wilful disobedience, nor transgressing due limits—then is he guiltless. For Allah is Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful.” (2:173)
5. The living take precedence over the dead
As established in fiqh (Jurisprudence), the living take precedence over the deceased. We know this from the rule that a pregnant mother’s life takes precedence over her unborn foetus.
Who can give permission for organ donation?
The deceased before his death, or his heirs after his death, or the authorities in charge if the identity of the deceased is unknown or he has no heirs.
The donor must be a person who is in full possession of their faculties and able to make a sound decision by themself.
The donor must be an adult.
The donor must have chosen this with their own free will without any external pressure exerted on them.
As such, permission cannot be given by children, mentally-incompetent people, or individuals who are confused, under pressure or coerced to donate.
Is donating organs a violation of the deceased?
There has a been a shortage of organ donors from ethnic minorities in the UK due to the fact that the body of the deceased has to be cut to remove their organs and they do not want to violate the sanctity of the body.
And We have certainly honoured the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with (definite) preference. (17:70)
`Aisyah (may Allah be pleased with her), she heard the Prophet (peace be on him) say:
“Verily the act of breaking the bones of the deceased is the same as breaking the person’s bones while he is alive.” (Musnad Ahmad)
We are prohibited from causing any humiliation to the body of the deceased. One must be treated with respect in life and in death. Breaking the bones of the deceased is regarded as an act of torture when it is carried out with malicious intent. However, organ donation and transplants are carried out with benevolent intent. Organ transplantation is not performed with the intention of humiliating or agonising the deceased. Instead, it is carried out with the intention of saving a life, as a final resort or as removing hardship from someone’s life, for instance the one who is on kidney dialysis.
When balancing the principles of the shariah, the need to preserve life would take precedence over the procedure of removing the organs which has been done with virtuous and benevolent intent.
“…But if one is forced by necessity without wilful disobedience, nor transgressing due limits—then is he guiltless.” (2:173)
Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi said that the act of donating parts of a deceased’s body does not violate the dignity of the deceased.
Who can receive organs?
Anyone can receive organs. When one opts in as donor, one does not have the control over where one’s organs will go. Some people will be concerned that their organs may end up in the body of someone who will sin. This is the case when one donates blood, as one does not know who will be the recipient and beneficiary of one’s donation, but where they have the ability to choose the recipient, they wish to express the condition that a Muslim receives it.
When one opts in with the intention of saving another human life, one should do so holding a good opinion of others, with optimism that Allah Almighty will choose the best recipient for one’s organs and trust Him.
One should also bear in mind, that if you are prepared to receive transplanted organs, it is only fair that you are prepared to donate your organs.
Do you have the right to donate your body parts?
As a Muslim, we believe that the body that we have is a gift and a trust from Allah Almighty. This means that we need to take care of our body and to duly give our body its rights both during life and death. According to Mufti Mohammed Zubair Butt, who produced a fatwa, Organ Donation and Transplantation in Islam: An Opinion:
The life and body of the individual combines both a right of the individual and a right of God [in terms of public interest over which no one individual has an exclusive claim]. The individual enjoys the right of disposal until such disposal conflicts with the right of God. The question thus remains as to where public interest, which is a function of the balance of benefits and harms, lies in the issue of homotransplantation. As long as public interest is served and the benefits to the recipient outweigh the harms to the donor, homotransplantation cannot be deemed to be impermissible on account of a lack of self-ownership.
Will the donor bear the sins of the persons who receive his/her organs?
No, because every mukalaf (a person who has reached the age of maturity and of sound mind) is responsible for his own deeds. Allah Almighty says in the Quran:
Say: “Shall I seek for (my) Cherisher other than Allah, when He is the Cherisher of all things (that exist)? Every soul draws the meed of its acts on none but itself: no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another. Your goal in the end is towards Allah. He will tell you the truth of the things wherein ye disputed.” (6:164)
What is the reward of donating?
Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi holds the opinion that those who donated their organs will be rewarded because the act of donating organs is one of the three deeds that is continuously rewarded even after his death. Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace be on him) said:
“When a person dies, his actions come to an end except in three matters: Continuous charity (jariah), knowledge from which benefit can be derived, or a virtuous son who prays for him.” (Muslim)
Will organ donors be raised on the Day of Judgement with the organs that were donated?
On the Day of Judgement Allah Almighty will resurrect mankind in a new form, so the organs of the previous body will not be part of them, as Allah stated in the Quran:
Say, “He will give them life Who created them for the first time! for He is Well versed in every kind of creation! (36:79)
Can Muslims receive organs from non-Muslims?
There are no restrictions in Islam to transplant organs from non-Muslims to Muslims or vice-versa as one does not classify body parts as Muslim or non-Muslim. They are tools used by humans to perform their religious duties and a means of living. When an organ is transplanted from a non-Muslim to a Muslim, that organ becomes part of the new body. A person’s faith does not depend on his organs, but his soul.
Can Muslims donate organs to non-Muslims?
There is a disagreement among scholars on this opinion. There is one opinion which says that it is only fair to be prepared to donate your organs if you are prepared to receive them from non-Muslims:
“Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loves those who are just.” (60:8)
The Prophet (peace be on him) also reminded us that Muslims should always give to others and help those who are in need, he did not restrict this charity to Muslims.
Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah placed the sacrifice of the body and soul as the highest level of sacrifice from ten categories of sacrifices that he mentioned in Madarij al-Salikin. Organ donors can be categorised under the sacrifice of body and soul, because the donors willingly donated their organs to patients who were in need. Saving human lives is also one of the objectives of Islamic law.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) says:
Whoever helps a brother in difficulty, Allah will help him through his difficulties on the Day of Judgment. (Muslim)
Are transplants from animals permissible?
As for transferring an organ from an animal to a person its rule depends on the rule of the animal itself whether it is pure or impure.
If the animal is pure such as legally slaughtered camels, goats and sheep – there is no doubt about the lawfulness of using any of its parts in medication (transplantation or others) as it is lawful to seek remedy in any lawful thing. The Prophet said:
“Seek remedy as Allah has not sent down any sickness without sending a cure for it” (Abu Dawood and Tirmidhi)
Scholars are agreed that this is lawful. Al Nawawi said:
“If a person gets one of his bones broken, he could put a pure bone instead of it” (Al Majmu’ 3-138).
In the Al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, it is stated:
“There is no harm in being treated with a bone from a goat, a cow, a camel or a horse or any other animal save the pig”.
However, if the animal is impure such as dead without being slaughtered or of other impurities, the initial rule is that it is forbidden. However, if there is no alternative and there is a need for it, it is permissible.
In the Shafi school, it is said:
“It is unlawful for him to put an impure bone as long as he could get a pure one; otherwise he is excused.”
If one of the two conditions is not met, it is forbidden to transplant an organ from an impure animal into a human being.
The opt-out system in England
Due to the shortage of organ donations, England changed to an opt out system in 2020.
All adults are deemed to have agreed to be an organ donor when they die unless they have recorded a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups.
When you register as an organ donor on the NHS Organ Donor Register, you can now state on the registration whether or not you would like the NHS to speak to your family, and anyone else appropriate, about how organ donation can go ahead in line with your faith or belief system.
About the organ donation system in England
Register to opt in or out
Is it OK to permit a post-mortem?
If a post-mortem is a coroner’s decision, then it is not your choice. If there is any unclear reason for death, it will be necessary to do it as per the coroner’s decision. However, if there is a normal death it is not necessary and should not be done. The main principle is that we are not allowed to mutilate the body, as this would be deformation. This principle will be extended over the question of organ donation.
Organ Transplantation from an Islamic Perspective – Ministry of Health Malaysia
Fatwa on transplants NHS Organ Donation
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