Organ Donation: A Fatwa and Explanatory Notes in Light of the Islamic Shariah

A question to the noble scholar, Shaikh Zayd bin Hādi Al-Madkhalī (may Allah’s mercy be upon him):

Is it permissible to donate the organs of one’s body to another person?

Answer: The donation of one’s organs is permissible so long as certain conditions are met:

1. There should be no harm to the life [and wellbeing] of the one who is donating. The donor’s life should not be adversely affected.
2. That the donor is pleased and content to donate his organ or that his next of kin are pleased and content to do so, if it is immediately after the death of an individual. And the next of kin are his (or her) close relatives such as the father or the son or the brother and so on.
So if these two conditions are met, then it is permissible to donate one’s organs or limbs to his brother.

(Source: Salafi Centre of Manchester. Click YouTube link)

From this Fatwa and with the principles of the Shariah, we should understand the following points:

  1. The implementation of the principle of not harming and reciprocating harm in accordance with the hadīth:
    لاَ ضَرَرَ وَلاَ ضِرَارَ
    “There should be neither harming nor reciprocating harm.” (Ibn Mājah, 2341, declared sahīh by Al-Albāni)
  2. Permission must be sought from the donor if he is alive, or that he leaves his permission before he dies, or that the next of kin give their consent after his death. There is to be no compulsion and over-riding factor must be the consent of the donor― if he/she refuses consent, then that is given precedence.
  3. A person should not give his organs to those who harm the people (and harm Islam and the Muslims in particular); those who cause corruption in the earth such as dangerous criminals, murderers, highway robbers, rapists and so on (unless they have repented).
  4. If one is alive and he donates something from his body to another person, then it should not cause damage to his body leaving his life in a vulnerable state (other than the normal discomfort of surgery).
  5. Whilst the organs are being removed after death, the body should be treated with honour and dignity, the ‘awrah (private areas) should be covered whenever possible.
  6. There should be no money given or taken.
  7. The donation of an organ or limb is considered an act of charity (sadaqah) and more so if it is for a relative.
  8. In the case of a woman, the organs should be removed by a female surgeon and in the case of a man, by a male surgeon.
  9. The deceased person does not feel any physical pain as the organs are being removed― there is no proof that the dead feel the hands or medical instruments of living people upon their bodies. Whatever is done to the deceased of pleasure or pain is from the Angels appointed by Allah.
  10. The removal of the organs of a deceased person must be done immediately after death so as not to delay the funeral and burial (once the next of kin have consented or if the deceased permitted it before his death). Delay in burial is not permissible.
  11. As a general rule, a Muslim should opt-out of organ donation because there are too many concerns surrounding it, especially in non-Muslim societies (as you can see). You can record your decision not to become an organ donor (in the UK) on the NHS Organ Donor Register. This can be done quickly and easily online.
  12. A different perspective: The Mufti of the era, Al-Imām Ibn Bāz (may Allah’s mercy be upon him) cited the hadīth: “Breaking the bone of the dead person is like breaking his bone while he was alive in terms of sinfulness.” (Ibn Mājah, 1617, sahīh) Then he stated (abridged): The scholars have differed concerning this matter [of removing organs]. Some have allowed it saying, “The benefit of the living person takes precedence over the benefit of the deceased― and the people are in need of the organs of the deceased due to the prevalence of kidney disease and other illnesses.” However, what is apparent to me is that it is not permitted because it comes under the meaning of the text of “breaking the bone of the dead person”― it would involve abuse of the dead body. So someone will take his kidneys, and another will take his heart, then someone will take another organ, and he ends up having no value. His inheritors have a right to his wealth but not to his body― they do not inherit his body. As for opening up his body and selling its parts to people, then this opposes what Allah has legislated in terms of respect for the deceased and his body parts. So what is obligatory is to wash the deceased, shroud him, perfume him and bury him in that state in his grave. (Source: Ibn Bāz Website)

Abu Khadeejah Abdul-Wāhid Alam.

2 Comments

  1. Salaam alaykum. Jazaakum Allahu Khairan for this article and your efforts in general. Everything was clear from the first fatwa and then the second fatwa by Shaykh Bin Baz seems to go for a different opinion or have I not understood it clearly? Is there a difference of opinion? If someone is interested in becoming a Transplant surgeon would this be permissible (if all the above criteria are met)? Baarak Allahu feekum. Would appreciate clarification on the above questions. May Allah grant you eternal success.

    • Wa ‘alaykumus salām wa rahmatullāh,

      Bārakallāhu feekum.

      There is a difference of opinion in the matter, no doubt. Shaikh Ibn Bāz stated, “The scholars have differed concerning this matter [of removing organs].” And I included his statement to offer the reason why a person should be, at the very least, cautious. The decision is not an easy one and one should really consider before offering up their organs after death, especially in Europe and the West.

      Even if one is convinced by the fatwa of Shaikh Zayd bin Hādi, then I still believe that the Shariah regulations cannot be met in Western countries because they do not value faith requirements as Muslims countries do. So, perhaps the organs of a woman may be removed by a man because (in their minds) it doesn’t matter because the person is dead; or they may harvest the body of organs for research purposes (and organs should not be donated for that); or they may give the organs to a person who is a convicted dangerous criminal or hates Muslims and works for the downfall of Muslim values (because they don’t “discriminate”); or the ‘awrah (areas that are to be concealed) of a man or woman are left bare for no understandable reason, etc.

      These types of concerns are less troubling in a Muslim country because there are certain built-in ethical practices in Muslim societies that are not found in secular societies.

      This is why I added point 11 above because secular societies tend to trivialise religious ethics and values. So until they offer clear choices and assurances to the Muslim donor, it is safer for a Muslim to opt-out.

      And some people may be convinced by the Fatwa of Shaikh Ibn Bāz, which is also a valid position since he has clarified his reasoning with proofs and therefore a Muslim opts-out regardless.

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