There are groups who are working to be the first ones to clone a human, so the question arises, is this an option for infertile couples. In this article I don’t claim to come with concrete answers for there are just to many unknowns. However it is something that we should understand and evaluate in order to make a balanced Islamic decision.
HOW IS CLONING PERFORMED
Cloning is done by the use of the nucleus of an egg and selected DNA from the one being cloned. These two are than fused together with the use of an electrical current. This cell than grows into a genetic duplicate and placed into the womb until full term into a normal human being. At least this is the theory.
So a clone is not an identical person to the one being cloned in all respects. Just as an identical twin is not the twin in all respects. They are two distinct human beings, if one dies the other lives on. Cloning should not be mistaken with the ability to live forever. It is just a genetic duplicate, the two would look the same, have some of the same likes and dislikes but would be two separate distinct human beings.
ARE THEIR HUMAN CLONES NOW
No one can say for sure at this point if there are or not. Dolly was seven months old before we knew that she existed so we can’t expect that those who clone a human may rush out and let the world know. Considering that many are against such procedures as being morally wrong those who undertake such medical experiments would have to do so very quietly. There are groups such as the Relians who say they have a lab and scientists working to make a clone of a 10 month old boy who died and have 50 surrogate women who have volunteered to carry the baby to term. Scientists in Japan have claimed to already cloned a human but destroyed the embryo rather than implanting it. Human clones may very well be a present day reality.
IS THIS REALLY A SENSIBLE OPTION FOR INFERTILITY
Many who desire a child but have no other means to conceive would of course say yes. But at what cost are we going to pay in order to produce children? This is something that needs to be evaluated and seriously considered before anyone takes it as a viable option for infertile couples. There is not an issue of will it work, for it can for couples who may be going through early menopause or the husband lacks viable sperm. The question for such couples who would be the one to clone? Remember a clone is an identical twin to the one being cloned. So if one were to clone their husband a woman would be literally giving birth to her husbands genetic twin. So such a child would be a son to the father as well as his brother and a son to his mother but also a brother in law by marriage. How odd is this picture?
We also have to consider the downfall of cloning, considering that it took 277 tries in order to clone Dolly. The risks of having a deformed child are very great. And it may not be until the mother carries the child full term before the deformities are realized. The emotional trauma that most couples go through in battling infertility are great there is no need to add such an experience on top of it.
THE ISLAMIC POSITION
There seems to be no concrete Islamic stance on this issue. It has been discussed between many scholars and some have declared it out rightly haram. Others have declared it haram on a societal level but hold a wait and see attitude when it comes to personal situations that may arise.
What is at question among Muslims is keeping the lineage established rather than how the procedure is performed. When it comes to treating infertility there are agreed upon basic Islamic principles which we can go by. All agree that an egg, sperm and womb must be used by the wife and the husband. And at the time of the implantation there is a valid marriage, this in order to maintain a proper lineage. So by this we do know that no donor eggs can be used in order to retrieve the nuclei, nor can a surrogate mother be used in order to bring the child to term. The only issue that remains is the use of DNA.
We would now need to ask, can a woman use the DNA of her legal husband?
Can a woman use her own DNA?
Can a couple use the DNA of a child already born?
Can a couple use the DNA of a deceased child?
These questions alone bring many thoughts. If a woman can use her own DNA than what use is the man? Considering that many Muslim women can support themselves would this lesson the reasons for marriage? Add in the fact that most Muslims portray the major reasons for marrying is to reproduce. If one can actually reproduce without the need of a man would they then need to marry or even desire to? Besides the present need for Muslims to reevaluate their understanding of marriage and the importance placed on ones ability to reproduce, one would also have to evaluate the role of men in raising children.
We would also need to ask ourselves what rights we have to our own DNA. Can a couple decide to clone a child without their consent? Or can one parent decide to clone while the other one disagrees? One also needs to ask if a valid marriage is needed in such an instance as well, for it is not the sperm which is used by the outcome of the sperm and egg union.
We must keep in mind that in Islam the lineage is closely guarded. We are not to call adopted children other than by their fathers name, we are to remain far from zina, we are to not hide what is in our wombs. All this, and more, is in order to protect the lineage of a child to avoid any types of confusions. In many instances with cloning, confusion is the only outcome. This is against the spirit of Islam and should be avoided, because it does nothing more then harm the society as a whole.
This does remind me of a saying attributed to Muhammad pbuh in which one of the signs of the last day are when the slave girl gives birth to her master <Muslim> In the instance of cloning this hadith will come to a literal reality. We would totally confuse the lineage of people and this is not a good thing for society. If the lineage of a child can be maintained than this is something that needs further study.
ACTING AS GOD
One of the most voiced concerns among Muslims and Non Muslims alike is the feeling that such science wishes to “act as God”. I have listened to many Muslims who suggest that infertile couples should just accept the will of Allah and not act as God in order to reproduce. But how far are we to take such an approach to scientific advance? If one argues completely on the basis that cloning is acting like God in order to create another human being, well then isn’t IVF treatment the same thing? Isn’t one taking the raw components in order to reproduce? So if we follow this line of thinking before we know it all medical advances will be eliminated just on this position. I would find it hard to believe that those who protest on such a basis would be inclined to take such a stance if they or a loved one had a need for a transplant or any other medical treatment.
Inshallah in the future cloning and issues related to it will be rationally discussed by our Muslim scholars. Where the benefits and the harms of society will be weighed and a balanced outcome will be found. On the surface there doesn’t appear to be that much of an issue when it comes to human cloning. Considering the basic Islamic guidelines on lineage and halal relationships there doesn’t appear to be much room for debate. However there may be circumstances where cloning can be performed in an halal way and we must not shut the door in a heated reaction without discovering all possibilities and judging with all criteria.