In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF treatment) and Surrogacy in Islam (Ethics 1.8)

In Vitro Fertilisation  IVF

Since 1977, in vitro fertilisation (IVF) has become common place. It helped couples to become parents who previously would not be able to have their own children. The procedure involves the removal of eggs from the body of the mother and fertilising a small number of them with sperm obtained from the father, outside the body in a glass dish. One or more of the resulting embryos are then medically inserted into the mother. The hope is that one will become embedded into the wall of the uterus and begin to develop and grow, before being born naturally about 38 weeks later. However, success rates are still quite low. Many couples have to undergo treatment several times to achieve success – and some are not successful even after that.

As stated in Ethics 1.7 and stressed here again, that this is only permissible Islamically if the sperm of the husband and egg of his wife are used in this process.

Surrogacy

Surrogacy is a procedure in which a woman agrees to carry a child conceived artificially for another woman who is unable to do so herself. So fertility treatment can also be used to ‘impregnate’ a surrogate mother (i.e. a woman who has a baby for another woman). A surrogate mother gives birth to a child and hands it over to a couple to raise it.

It is usual for the surrogate mother merely to have the sperm of the intended father implanted onto her own egg via artificial insemination. However, if the intended mother has working ovaries then through IVF, the fertilised egg can be implanted into the surrogate mother’s womb (gestational surrogacy). Once the baby is born, it is handed over to the couple for whom she carried it. Under British law, she can be paid expenses but not a fee.

After the child is born, the intended father will put his name down as the father on the birth certificate. This automatically gives him equal rights with the surrogate mother. After six weeks the couple who intend to raise the child can apply for a Parental Order. This gives them full parental rights over the child and the surrogate mother loses all the rights she had in the first six weeks.

This process of surrogacy is strictly forbidden in Islam. Ibn Uthaimīn (in vol. 17) and many other scholars state that the egg must be placed into the uterus of the wife and it is absolutely forbidden to place it into another woman because that involves placing the sperm of a man into a woman that he is not married to, which is clearly not permissible. The Qur’an states:

“Your wives are a tilth for you, so go to your tilth, when or how you will.” (2:223)

So the “tilth” is mentioned with regard to one’s wife – so the only place for a man’s sperm is his own wife.

Additionally:

  • The process involves a second woman who is not the wife of the man. This may be seen as a form of adultery.
  • Family life and lineage is very important and it is not allowed to mix the identity of the offspring by placing a confusion over who the parents are.
  • It is Allah’s choice whether a couple should have children and one is not allowed to use impermissible means to attain something that they want. After making permissible attempts to have children – the acceptance of a couple that they cannot have children is a sign of true faith.

Questions:

  1. Discuss why IVF should be allowed, and why it should not. Try and think of two reasons for each.
  2. Explain the system of surrogacy.
  3. Write down why surrogacy is forbidden in Islam.
  4. Why would non-Muslims not accept some of these reasons?
  5. How can accepting the fact that one may not ever have children be a sign of faith? Why would some some non-Muslims disagree?

Summary:

You should now know and understand about IVF and surrogacy and understand Muslim attitudes and some examples.

NOTE:

I initially compiled these worksheets for my students at the Redstone Academy (aged between 13 and 16 years), Moseley Road, Birmingham, UK who are working towards their General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). I felt that others who do not attend the school can also benefit from these topics since they are presented in simple bitesize chapters. I have relied upon GCSE text books and adapted them for my classes.

 

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