Pearl of Wisdom
?Make use of some of the [commodities of this ] world to help you in the next world, for I have heard Abu 'Abdallah [i.e. Imam al-Sadiq] (AS) say, ?Make use of some of this [abode] for that one, but do not be a burden on other people.'
Mufaggal b. 'Umar
Ibid. v. 78, p. 381, no. 1
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Some Ethical Questions
What you will read below are issues being discussed for the first time from the shari'ah point of view. These are the results of my initial interpretation. I hope this will stimulate a fruitful discussion among our mujtahids.
1. DESTROYING THE EXTRA FERTILIZED OVA
In most cases of artificial insemination, three ova are removed from the woman's body and all three are fertilized by the husband's sperms. But only one is used for reimplantation into the woman's womb. And if it fails in the first attempt, then the other fertilized ova are used. The question which has created much controversy is about the extra and unwanted fertilized ovum. What should be done with the extra fertilized ovum? Must it be used? Can it be destroyed?
According to the shari'ah, there should be no problem in destroying the extra fertilized ovum. It will not constitute abortion because, firstly, abortion only takes place after the implantation of the fertilized ovum in the womb and, secondly, abortion takes place in a woman's body not in a test-tube or a laboratory dish!
2. FROZEN EMBRYOS
Another by-product of the new technology is the so-called sperm bank where sperms and fertilized ovum are preserved in frozen state. There are four questions which must be addressed here.
Firstly: Is man allowed to preserve his sperms in frozen state? Similarly, are married couples allowed to preserve their fertilized ova for future use? I can think of no shari'ah basis for prohibiting such an act. It is no different from the act in which a person banks or donates his blood.
Secondly: Is it permissible to sell the sperms or the fertilized ova? One cannot sell his sperms to be injected into the uterus of another woman; he may only sell it to a scientific institution for medical research. Similarly, a couple cannot sell their fertilized ova to be implanted into the womb of another woman.
Thirdly: Can a woman use the preserved fertilized ovum or sperms of her husband after the latter has died? Apparently, there is nothing to prevent her from doing so. The frozen ovum (fertilized by her husband's sperm) is her property and therefore she can use it. The child will, of course, be legitimate! However, this would be allowed only if the woman does not marry another person after her husband's death. Since Islam does not allow a woman to have more than one husband at a time, the second husband will take the place of the first in the verse which says, protect their private parts except from their spouses." (23: 5)
Fourthly: Can a woman use the fertilized ovum after she has been divorced from her husband? This is allowed only if she has not married another person. As soon as she marries another person, she cannot use the ovum fertilized with the sperm of her previous husband. The basis of this view is the same as mentioned above.