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Human Life - Its Inception and End as viewed by Islam


Islam and Current Medical Concerns

Second Volume


The Full Minutes of the Seminar on Human Life: Its Inception and End as Viewed by Islam, Held on January 15, 1985 A.D.
(Rabi Al-Akhar 14, 1405 H.)

Supervised and with an Introduction by
Dr. Abd El-Rahman Abdulla Al-Awadhi
Minister of Public Health and of Planning
Chairman of the Islamic Organization for Medical Sciences

Edited by
Dr. Khaled Al-Mazkur
Dr. Alii Al-Saif
Dr. Ahmad Raja'ii Al-Gindi
Dr. Abd Al-Sattar Abu Ghuddah

Translated by
M. Muneer S. Asbahi, Ph. D.


In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.

With God's help and guidance, the Islamic Organization for
Medical Sciences, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health in
Kuwait, held the scond of its series of seminars on Islam and Contemporary Medical questions under the title of "Human Life: Its Inception and End as Viewed  by Islam" on Rabi' Al-AwaI24-26, 1405 H. (January 15-17, 1985 A.D.) in the Kuwait Hilton, Kuwait.

The seminar was a response to a feeling of the general public that
co ntemporary problems have become too intricate to be encompassed by individual scholars working independently and
that the efforts of specialized. Muslim scientists have to be mobilized and combined with those of scholars, so that any Islamic legal opinion would be based on sufficient understanding of the subject involved.
    An elite group of fiqh scholars, physicians, jurists, and specialists
in umanities were invited to the seminar. The first day was devoted
to a iscussion of the question of the beginning of human life, and the second to a discussion of its end. On the morning of the third day, the Drafting ommittee met to phrase the outcome of the discussion. After going through the reports of what had gone on at the seminar, the memoranda submitted by session secretaries, and the written suggestions extended by a number of participants, the Committee pproved the following.

First: The Inception of Life

One: The ,inception of life pccurs with the union of a sperm and an ovum, forming a zygote which carries the full genetic code of the
human ace in general and of the particular individual, who is
differerent from all others throughout the ages. The zygote begins a process of cleavage that yields a growing and developing embryo, which progresses through th  tages of gestation towards birth.
Two: From the moment a zygote settles inside a woman's body, it deserves a unanimously recognized degree of respect,and a
number of legal stipulations, known to all scholars, apply to it.

Three: When it arrives at the spirit-breathing stage, the time of which is subject to controversy, being either forty or 120 days, the fetus acquires greater sanctity, as all scholars agree, and additional legal stipulations apply to it.

Four: Among the most important of these stipulations are those that govern abortion as pointed out in article seven of the recommendations of the seminar on "Reproduction in Islam".

Second: The End of Life

One: The seminar realizes that in the majority of cases, there is no , difficulty in ...recognizing the occurrence of death, through conventional'  signs or as a result of external medical observation which notes the absence of the signs that distinguish the living from the dead

Two: Tile seminar has reached the conclusion that there are few cases--which are usually under careful and comprehensive medical, observation at hospitals, specialized medical centres., and intensive care; units that have particular Importance because there
is an urgent need to diagnose them as cases of death, although the body still shows, signs, which have been always accepted as signs of life, whether these signs are naturally displayed by some organs of the body or result from resuscitation  equipment applied to the patient.

Three: The seminar has discussed the signs of death listed by fiqh reference works and discovered that, in the absence of a Quran or  Tradition text which explicitly defines death, these' opinions reflect the medical knowledge available at the time of writing. Because the diagnosis and the signs of death have always been a medical matter, on the basis of which fiqh scholars make legal rulings, Participant physicians presented the current medical view concerning the occurrence of death.

Four: From the presentations of physicians, it is clear that, the
decisive factor for them in proclaiming the death of a patient is the lifelessness of the area of the brain that is responsible for vital body functions, which they express as death of the brain stem. A diagnosis of brain stem death has clear conditions which rule out certain suspicious Cases, and physicians are capable of coming up with a confident diagnosis o brain stem death about which they have no doubts.
    Any other vital organ or function, such as the heart or respiration, may temporarily stop, but as long as the brain stem is alive, it can be revived. he lives of a number of patients are saved this way. When, however, the rain stem itself has died, there is no hope of saving the patient, for his life has come to an end, even if other systems of the body continue to move or to function. Undoubtedly, with the death of the brain stem, these systems  are eventually going to stop and be lifeless.

Five: On the basis of this presentation by doctors, fiqh scholars are
inclined to the view that when it is ascertained that a human being
has reached the stage of brain stem death, he is considered to have withdrawn from life, and certain rulings of the dead are applicable to him, in analogy,  though with the evident difference, with what fiqh books say...about an injured person who has reached the stage known as that of the "slain". As for the remaining rulings that concern the dead, the participant fiqh scholars prefer their postponement until all major systems of the body  ome to a stop.
    It is hereby recommended that an additional, detailed study
should be made to determine which rulings for the dead apply immediately and which should be delayed.

Six: On basis of the above, it has been agreed that when the death
of the brain stem is certified by ar eport of a committee of medical specialists, it is lawful to remove resuscitation equipment.