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My Will and Organ Donation

بِسۡمِ اللهِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِيۡمِ

The inquiry frequently posed by Muslims revolves around the permissibility, from an Islāmic standpoint, of donating one's bodily organs posthumously. This issue holds significant importance, necessitating the provision of comprehensive and balanced information for potential donors or the relatives of the deceased to give informed consent. This article aims to offer a basic overview of end-of-life organ donation.

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Before into the question, it is imperative to outline certain aspects of Islām that enjoy widespread consensus among Muslims:

1. Each individual's lifespan on Earth is finite and predetermined by the Almighty, neither extendable nor reducible.
2. The purpose of human life on Earth is to worship the Almighty according to His prescriptions, adhering to His commands and refraining from His prohibitions, with worship understood in a broad Islāmic context.
3. The human body belongs to Allāh, and individuals merely serve as trustees or caretakers during their Earthly existence.

The majority of Muslim scholars concur that organs may be donated while alive and healthy, provided that the donor does not suffer permanent harm from the procedure. However, regarding deceased organ donation, differences of opinion exist among scholars. Deceased organ donation constitutes a bequest, or gift after death.


Arguments Against Permissibility and Caution

Scholars from South Asia, including India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, consider posthumous organ donation impermissible. According to this view, individuals are not permitted to donate their organs through their wills, grounded in their interpretation of religious texts. The rationale includes the honour bestowed upon mankind by Allāh, precluding the tampering with one's body, as well as the concept that ownership of the body returns to Allāh upon death, rendering postmortem examinations and organ donation impermissible. Moreover, legal maxims such as "Prevention of harm takes precedence over (potential) gain" and "Whoever avoids doubtful matters clears himself regarding his religion and his honour" further reinforce the prohibition.


Arguments For Permissibility

Conversely, the vast majority of scholars from the Middle East endorse deceased organ donation, with official fatawa issued in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other Middle Eastern countries. They invoke the Islāmic principle that "necessity makes prohibition lawful," permitting organ donation from the deceased for the benefit of recipients and public welfare. Supporters contend that the sanctity of the body may be overlooked in circumstances involving life-saving measures, employing the principle of adopting the lesser of two evils.


In Conclusion

The question of whether it is permissible for a Muslim to donate organs after death elicits varying viewpoints. Central considerations include one's intention behind the donation and the principle of reciprocity—whether an individual would be willing to receive organs from others. Given the gravity of the decision and its implications for the afterlife, individuals contemplating organ donation must seek comprehensive information from knowledgeable sources, including hospital staff, doctors, Muslim hospital chaplains, and scholars. It is essential to specify one's intentions regarding organ donation in a will, or register on the NHS website (links below)  and inform next of kin accordingly. Additionally, individuals residing in countries with an opt-out organ donation scheme must declare their intention not to donate if they wish to abstain from organ donation after death. Finally, individuals should remain aware of evolving legislation and governmental consultations regarding organ donation policies.


A. Hussain