Reactions to the operations of cloning varied, with many foreign countries issuing laws that prohibit these operations for all purposes whatsoever. But His Eminence, the Religious Authority Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah, issued a Fatwa that deemed cloning permissible, in what amounted to a breakthrough on both the local and international levels, especially that the debate on the issue is still unfolding, and the Catholic Church, as well as a large number of Muslim religious authorities, have expressed their unequivocal opposition..
This Fatwa did not surprise those who have been following all the Sayyed's pervious Fatwas related to many sensitive topics, the last of which is his fatwa concerning the permissibility of depending on astronomical calculations in identifying the beginning and the end of the month of Ramadan, as well as all the Islamic occasions, instead of merely depending on the sightseeing of the moon, but his announcement that cloning is not religiously impermissible has given the issue a new dimension and opened a fierce debate in the Arab, as well as the Islamic worlds, especially that those who disapprove of cloning have based their rejection upon the religious values of the Islamic doctrine.
His Eminence has identified, accurately, the points of permissibility and prohibitions with respect to cloning, explaining at the same time his view which is based on his jurisprudent judgment, discussing many possible effects of this operation on the human societies and legislative rulings starting from the lineage, inheritance, and legislative obligations of the cloned, and some other ideas, which are in his view fictitious. Fadlullah's opinion, though different from other jurisprudents, but he considers it to be is open to discussion as well as dialogue.
- Islam, scientific discoveries and cloning
Concerning the ability of Islam to face this scientific development, His Eminence says: "Islam has been making a development in science ever since it has emerged. It is Islam that has made the human culture over hundreds of years."
Moreover, it is Islam that gave the West the scientific base that considers experimenting as the source of knowledge. The Greek thought, from Plato to Aristotle, considered contemplation to be the source of knowledge. Islam came suddenly to place experiment, through the Holy Quran and the Muslim thinkers, on equal footing with contemplation as sources of energy.
This movement of experiment, as the source of knowledge, enabled the West to reach what it has reached so far, in discovering the facts of life and things. We have seen how the Muslim scholars, such as Ibn Sina, Ibn Nafis, Jaber Bin Hayan, and others, were able, for a longtime, to provide the West with the knowledge they produced and the facts they discovered.
There is something special about Islam. Islam considers the mind as the base of responsibility and the base of sound thought. Islam always wanted faith to rise from the mind. Therefore, Islam does not accept imitation in faith.
If this Fatwa is considered unique, not only in the Islamic world but also in the Christian world, and if it has, at the same time, constituted a shock to what is familiar, the Sayyed considers: "The issue is not whether this Fatwa contradicts with what is familiar or not, but the question is: Is it right in the jurisprudent sense?" I do not claim that I am infallible; I simply say that this issue could be discussed. Actually, my jurisprudent opinion is open to discussion, and if I am proven wrong, I would simply change the ruling.
It is not an issue of a subjective opinion, as much as it is an objective one, and about how much it conforms to the truth.
The Pope and other religious authorities banned cloning, because they only considered the negative moral consequences. In fact, I did not study the moral side of this case to issue a positive or negative ruling on this basis, but I studied the issue through the nature of its objective elements.
About the concerns he thought of when studying the issue of cloning, the Sayyed presents his opinion in accordance with what he has reached in his studies without putting, at the same time, an end to dialogue and discussion. This clearly appears in his saying: I was not afraid of the opposing stances to my opinion, because I believe that a person should say what he believes in, regardless of the negative reactions that he might receive.
At least, this is my opinion, and as I have said, I am not infallible. This is what I have reached in my researches. Furthermore, if there is another opinion, I am ready to discuss it. If I discover that I was wrong, I have the courage to admit so.
As for the threats that might result from cloning in the future, I had my reservations when I expressed my view, which means that we still have a lot of studies to do to determine the positive and negative aspects, and accordingly, to follow up with the proper Fatwas.
- The general attitude towards cloning
The issue of cloning has become a controversial one, not only among the scientists and religious authorities, but it extends to reach the states that are divided among themselves between those who oppose and those who support cloning.
At the time cloning is strongly opposed by most countries, it was met with great interest in Quebec; a Canadian province. His Eminence comments, saying: at the time that most countries have decided to prevent cloning of human beings, we observe that America has recently allowed it, under certain conditions. Accordingly, while I strongly insist that we prevent any abuse to this scientific event, I say that we must not consider it a catastrophe, or a disaster as some claim. When some negative consequences occur, we must confront them and either prevent, or alleviate their dangers.
Furthermore, we observe how His Eminence assures the importance of science and its role in all fields of life calling for avoiding the disadvantages. He says: I do not think that the disadvantages of cloning allow us to ignore the main advantages we might, at the same time, obtain.
For example, the invention of dynamite, although it was damaging, it has benefited human beings a lot. Similarly, the atomic energy has allowed human beings to achieve most of their peaceful needs, in spite of its damaging effects, which man, up till now, is not allowed to use freely. It was used once; in Japan. However, later, it was not used in any other location, due to its catastrophic effects on human beings.
I want to highlight a vital point which is that the world we are living in is a limited world and any advantage we get from any invention is usually accompanied with a disadvantage, and the opposite is true. In the light of this, if we want to be concerned with the disadvantages of any phenomenon, or any scientific invention, we have to restrain ourselves from inventing anything, because this new invention stores disadvantages, just as it stores many advantages.
We have to allow science to move freely in the field of the advantages to serve the best interests of mankind. We have to try our best not only to educate people on how to benefit from the advantages of the development of science in serving humanity, but also to make such an education a part of the educational curriculum like any other course.
His Eminence draws the attention towards an important point. He says that science does not endanger the prevailing concepts that human beings believe in, as some might consider. He calls for a daring attempt to abandon what is familiar and follow the scientific and intellectual movement. His Eminence comments, saying: "I do not think that breaking out with the familiar represents a human disaster. Since the human intellect is in continuous development, the person with familiar thoughts should arm himself with all kinds of intellectual weapons to encounter this new movement of thinking, so as to discover its disadvantages or to discover that what he was thinking about is wrong.
- The negative aspects of cloning
- Serving the Zionists' interests
His Eminence does not see that the Jews might exploit the cloning of human beings to dominate people, in a way that might serve international Zionism. His Eminence says: "I do not think that we can take into consideration, in an accurate way, the issue of the religious and political affiliations of those who apply this theory, simply because this person might be Jewish but he thinks in a scientific way, and at the same time, he might not be a Jewish and thinks in a different way. We know that the Jews, based on their guiding norms, have tried, throughout their history, to undermine a number of values for the benefit of the international Judaism or international Zionism.
But we cannot consider this to be the basis of reviewing this issue, because human reality does not accept such a thing. However, this does not mean that we do not have to be careful and study well the possibility of some negative aspects.
- cloning dictators
Many interpretations of "the cloned person" say that the cloned is a typical image of the person he is cloned from, while others claim that the cloned also incorporates the habits, thoughts, attitudes, and behavior of the person he is cloned from. His Eminence comments, saying: I think that cloning is a kind of a well-advanced development of the law of inheritance. But the laws of inheritance, even the material elements in cloning, are not the ones that make man's mind or heart. The person is affected by who and what is around him. He is affected by his experience and by the surrounding circumstances. Therefore, cloning does not cancel the human self development, in which the intellect of the person can produce, according to new directions, new thoughts, and new emotions. Most importantly, I do not think that we are in need for a cloned Hitler, a cloned Neron, or many other similar people, simply because the natural way of reproduction and the surrounding circumstances can make another Hitler, young or old, and another Neron, in one way or another. We do not need to exhaust ourselves in making such people, because our reality might produce those who are similar to them.
-The domination of a group of human beings:
As for the fear that a group of human beings, which is perfect in its genetic composition, might dominate over other genetically imperfect groups; a thing that might lead to a racial discrimination similar to the racial segregation of nowadays, His Eminence replies: such thoughts are nearer to fantasy than to reality. The process of dominating the other is not restricted to the elements existing in the person who dominates. We observe, for instance, how many distinguished personalities, in power and in knowledge, could not dominate because the social, political, and economic circumstances of their societies did not allow them to do so. The process of domination rises from both, the elements exiting inside the person and the outside circumstances, which provide him with the favorable conditions to dominate. As a result, the mere production of a human and the tackling with or modification of his genes to make them "perfect" does not enable him to dominate over the society.
As for the idea that cloning is a means that allows the powerful countries, through producing controlled human beings, to dominate, His Eminence says: "I do not think that the powerful countries can either manipulate, or interfere in the life of the cloned person, because the elements of person's personality are not only restricted to the natural inherited objects that exist inside the living being, but there are also other outside elements affecting this being.
- The project of producing human embryos
His Eminence comments on the operation of producing cloned human embryos to be used in medical treatment. He says: "Scientists have started talking about the possibility of using cloning in the field of medical treatment and transplanting organs". We say, scientifically speaking, that when the cell transforms into an embryo, so as there is a project of a human being in the making that has the organs of a normal person, even if it is at its primitive stage, we are not allowed to take any organ from this being, simply because this is similar to taking any organ from any other embryo or any other normal new born baby delivered in a normal way. This is not permissible. It is also impermissible to take any organ from any living thing, even if it is in its early life.
However, if the scientific progress necessitates that we take these elements that are found in a creature that has not become an embryo yet, we can take from it whatever we want before it is placed in the womb.
On the other hand, the Sayyed determines the time when the soul embraces the embryo's body. He says: "The Islamic jurisprudence used to believe that the soul embraces the embryo's body in the fourth month of pregnancy. However, some scientific theories say that this event happens in the seventh week.
Furthermore, some believe that reaching a certain scientific conclusion means that we have to get rid of many embryos during the experiments. His Eminence replies: "I do not agree with the killing of any living being in the form of an embryo, whether this embryo has been normally formed or has been cloned. However, it is allowed to destroy the fertilized ovum before it transforms into an embryo, when it is still outside the womb.
This is the Sayyed's comprehensive view towards the issue of the genetic modification that can be applied on the embryos, in order to cure them from some probable diseases, "there is no religious problem in curing the embryos at this stage of their life. This embryo can be given some genes that cure certain diseases or develop the gene itself."
- The evidences of those who prohibit cloning and Fadlullah's discussion
The first point: Those who disapprove of cloning claim that it is a command of the devil, and they refer to this verse:
"…I will bid them so that they shall alter Allah's creation .." (04:119).
His Eminence says: Most Muslim religious authorities interpret the meaning of "change" as a change of the human nature that God created in man. They refer to the following verse: “Then set your face upright for religion in the right state – the nature made by Allah in which He has made men; there is no altering of Allah's creation.”(30:30).
But if we were to adopt their interpretation, we would have to prevent the continuity of life and freeze everything. This saying "a change in God's creation" is not restricted to the creation of man and animal only, but covers everything. Thus, according to such an understanding, we must not cut a tree, explode a mountain, or even dry a river. Most Muslim religious scholars argue that we cannot deduce from this verse such a meaning, because there is nothing in the verse that indicates that it is restricted to man or animal.
Second point: Those who disapprove of cloning claim that this act is against human dignity and it is a kind of abuse to man's life.
The Sayyed replied to this by saying: "we do not consider it an abuse to human dignity, regardless of its realistic side effects that we can pinpoint. He added: what is the difference, concerning the reproduction of a human, between fertilizing an ovum with a sperm and implanting a cell in the ovum after evacuating it. The latter moves in a way similar to that of the body's mechanism to produce a human, even if it differs in form or place.
Third point: Both religions, Islam and Christianity, confirm that God is the creator. But in the act of cloning, one might think that man has become a creator too. Thus, he is a god, because Allah creates a human from a father and a mother; similarly, the one who clones produces a human from a father and a mother, or from a mother only. Thus, he becomes a creator.
However, Fadlullah says: if we want to discuss this issue from the religious point of view, we would ask, "What is the meaning of creation?" It is not a production of a figure different or similar to another familiar one. But creation is a production of a new law God did not produce. And in all our readings and follow-ups of all the discoveries and the scientific productions we have gone through, and all the available potentials and statistics we have obtained, we see that the operation of cloning is one of the processes that God has inspired man to perform.
It is not an interference with His will, for God has provided man with the power of knowledge to deal with and develop the universe.
Therefore, those who say that this operation is interference in God's will suppose that His will is restricted to the natural causes. However, God's will moves in both the natural causes, as well as the causes that man comes to discover later on, and that are based on the natural causes Allah has made the universe governed by.
Are those who clone creating? And what is discovered by them?
They say that a human is created from a fertilized ovum (zygote), which results from the union between the sperm and the ovum. The sperm from a man contains 23 chromosomes and so does the ovum of the woman as specialists explain.
When the sperm fertilizes the ovum, the number of chromosomes becomes 46; a number that produces a human being. Similarly, when it comes to cloning, we find that those who clone take a mature cell containing 46 chromosomes and evacuate the ovum, then they place the cell in the ovum. Accordingly, this operation is not unfamiliar with the law, even if it differs in the form here and there.
Man has abided by the law of creation and did not actually create. Therefore, cloning does not shock the religious doctrine, but it shocks what is familiar among people. I believe that those who clone depend on this law and try to take a complete active living cell, evacuate the chromosomes from the ovum, in order to insert the contents of this cell inside it, giving the same result that the union between the sperm and the ovum does.
The law is, then, fixed, but man moves in the sphere of details. Thus, man does not become a creator, but rather a producer, in accordance with the law God has set. In the light of this, we do not consider this operation as an issue of creation, which negates the religious doctrine, because creation results from the innovation of a new law, while cloning is not an innovation of a law, since there is no particular role for the ovum and the sperm in the process of creation itself, but the particularity lies in the completion of the cell through their meeting. As a result, every active living cell that contains what both the ovum and the sperm contain might be a base for a new born living being.
Fourth point: someone might claim that the cloned is a human being from a mother without a father, and, if possible, it is from a father without a mother. If you ask them, "What is the problem with that? They would tell you that it ruins the family". His Eminence answers, saying: The family is a traditional concept man has got used to, so why do we prevent the production of a child outside the circle of the family? It might be unfamiliar, but there is no problem with it, provided that we make a new program for this child like many other life matters, for which we have established new laws and programs. Accordingly, such things have become very normal in man's life.
Why do we react awkwardly towards anything new, for which we have no basis for understanding? Why do not we base this understanding on God's law? "Taught man what he knew not?" (96:05).
Fifth point: cloning leads to some problems and complications related to fatherhood, inheritance, and the person's movement in this life. These complications must be considered and studied according to the realistic circumstances. Then, if we find out that the negative aspects outnumber the positive aspects, it will be deemed prohibited, according to the Islamic legislation, whereas if the positive aspects either outbalance or balance with the negative ones, then it is deemed permissible. In the Holy Quran, we always read the general rule which is summarized in the following concept: anything, whose harmful effects are more than the positive ones, is deemed impermissible and whose positive effects are more than the negative ones, is deemed permissible (…). Therefore, we have to study the movement of this new scientific production in reality. Does it move in its positive or negative aspects? Later on, we could identify, based on our follow-ups and observations, the legislative judgment. Therefore, for the time being, we cannot give a decisive juristic judgment concerning the process of cloning.
As it appears, His Eminence deals realistically with the issues. He sees that when the operation succeeds, and a cloned human being is born, we must consider him a normal human being who must take all his human and legal rights. However, the difference lies in the fact that this cloned human might be from a mother only, like God's prophet, Jesus (a.s.) though Jesus' birth was a miracle. He would be considered a legitimate child of his mother and he would thus, inherit from her and from her relatives. As for the question of whom the cloned child would follow; his father or his mother, His Eminence replies: "if the cell is taken from the mother, then he should follow his mother.
However, this point raised some problematic issues, because the cloned child becomes a brother to his mother. His Eminence replies saying that we know that Adam's children reproduced through the marriage between the brother and his sister. At that time, this marriage was permissible, and we also know that there might be a child without a father similar to Jesus (p.), the son of Mary (a.s.).
Sixth point: Those who oppose cloning claim that it will make the world of one form, and this phenomenon will create many negative issues. His Eminence says: cloning is not as easy as we imagine. We have to rest assured that the operation of cloning is so expensive and so tiring that it costs a lot of money and a lot of hard work; whereas, the natural reproduction does not require any financial demands. Therefore, I believe that this scientific invention will not affect people in a way that they would resort to cloning and abandon the natural process. Most importantly, the natural way of reproduction is an instinctive way through which people fulfill their sexual needs. But in cloning, a child requires many things; people need to go the laboratory, pay money, do official documents, and so on, things many people cannot afford.
Seventh point: The opposers claim that cloning cancels marriage, an issue which is against God's laws or human instinct. But His Eminence says that we observe that the production of a baby is taking place, nowadays, without sexual intercourse. It is occurring through the baby tube (in vitro fertilization). In this operation, the sperm is taken from a man and the ovum from a woman, regardless of its permissibility or prohibition. In fact, reproduction occurs without any sexual relation.
Therefore, this is not against God's laws, neither in the world, nor in the human instinct. It does not cancel marriage, simply because marriage is not restricted to the issue of reproduction only. God has made marriage a kind of harmonious living and integration between man and woman; God wants it to be the first social cell, in which the relation of love and mercy moves.
His Eminence deals with this issue from another perspective: "marriage or natural reproduction, even if outside the institution of marriage, occurs due to a natural need; it is the sexual need for both man and woman. This means that this natural way of "the reproduction of a human being" remains the normal and the everlasting way. It is considered a personal matter for both, the man and the woman, whereas the case of cloning concerns only the scientists or a limited number of people. Accordingly, I do not see that great danger in cloning human beings, since this scientific event is not going to spread worldwide. The great disadvantages that endanger human life are not usually a result of limited experiments, but rather through the wide spread of such experiments that might form a new human phenomenon, which might affect the natural human phenomenon.