In the name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

My Will and Organ Donation

بِسۡمِ اللهِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِيۡمِ

My Will and Organ Donation

 

The question that many Muslims ask is, "Is it permissible from an Islāmic perspective for me to give away my body organs after my death?" This is a very important issue and in order for the potential donor or the relatives of the deceased to give informed consent, it is necessary to provide the required information in a balanced manner. This article provides information only about cadaveric organ transplantation and is not applicable to all organs.

Before attempting to answer this question, let us state some aspects of Islām which virtually all Muslim agree upon. 

  1. The life of each human being on this earth is finite and predetermined by the Almighty, it can neither be increased nor decreased. 

  1. The purpose of life for mankind on this Earth is to “worship” the Almighty in the manner prescribed by Him, obeying all His commands and abstaining from everything which He has forbidden. The word “worship” is used in the wider Islāmic context. 

  1. Man’s body belongs to Allāh () and man is only the trustee (caretaker) of the body while he/ she is on this Earth. 

Most scholars agree that organs can be donated as a gift for the benefit of fellow human beings while one is alive, on the condition that the donor does not suffer harm from the procedure, the scholars disagree on the permissibility of donating organs when one dies (cadaveric organ transplantation). 

 

The Case for Impermissibility and Avoidance 

The scholars of South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh) consider it impermissible to donate one’s organs after death. According to this view, one should not donate one’s organs in his/ her Will. This ruling is based on authentic aḥadith (narration of the sayings, actions and acts of approval by the Prophet Muḥammad  ()) and views of some of the classical jurists. 

Allāh () has honoured mankind, so his body should not be tampered with and cutting a dead body amounts to mutilation, hence, post-mortem examinations and organ donation are considered to be impermissible. Furthermore, when a person dies the ownership of the body returns to Allāh (), one cannot donate (make a bequest) of something he/ she does not own. Hence, any bequest (donation) mentioned in a Will of an organ would be invalid as per Islāmic law.

Furthermore, an issue which is not impermissible prima facie becomes illegal on the application of legal maxims such as, “Prevention of harm takes precedence over (potential) gain,” (dar’al-mafsadah muqaddamun ‘alā jalab al-manfa‘ah) or on account of precautionary considerations (sadd al-dhari‘ah). As Prophet Muḥammad  () said, “….He who avoids doubtful matters clears himself in regard to his religion and his honor, but he who falls into doubtful matters [eventually] falls into that which is unlawful, …….” (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī and Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim)

 

The Case for Permissibility 

Nearly all major scholars of the Middle East allow donation of organs from the deceased, there are official fatāwa (legal rulings) issued in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries regarding this matter.   

The main argument used by those who permit organ transplantation from the dead is the well-known Islāmic principle in jurisprudence, “necessity makes prohibition lawful,” (الضـرورات تبیح المحظورات , aḍ-ḍarūrāt tubīḥ al-maḥūrāt). This juristic principle is only employed where something is considered impermissible by default, so those scholars who employ the principle of ḍarurāt consider organ transplantation impermissible as the default status. What constitutes necessity, in general, has been discussed in detail by the jurists. The ruling effectively means that organ transplantation is permissible due to necessity of the recipient. That is to say, the recipient's life or a fundamental function in his body is dependent on receiving a donor organ.

Other supportive evidence in favour of transplantation is that the sanctity of the body can be overlooked in situations involving saving a human life, thereby, making use of the legal maxim of adopting the lesser of two evils (irtikāb akhaff al-ḍararayn). The lesser evil being procuring organs from the dead compared to the greater evil of death of a living person needing organ transplantation. The question of whether a Muslim can donate his organs through a will is answered by protagonists by stating that in Islām a Muslim has legal authority over his body, so he or she may sanction the use of his/ her organs after death. 

With reference to cadaveric organ transplantation, the fatāwa have stated that the deceased person should have given his/ her consent, or the deceased's heirs can give their consent. If the deceased or his heirs specify a particular beneficiary or designate an authority to select a beneficiary then this should be abided by as much as possible. If the law of the land is posthumous presumed consent regarding organ donation, such as it is in Wales (Human Transplantation, Wales, Act 2013), then the absence of refusal in clear terms to such a ruling tantamounts to implied consent.

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As can be seen from the preceding arguments there are differing views on whether or not it is permissible for a Muslim to donate his organs after his/ her death. Some important aspects to consider is what is one’s intention for wanting to donate his/ her organs after death, and the important principle of reciprocity, if you would be willing to receive organs from others perhaps you should also be willing to donate.

A decision to donate one's organs after death is a very important decision which will impact your 'ākhira (afterlife), so it is essential that you obtain all the information you need, and those advising others, such as hospital staff, doctors, Muslim hospital chaplains, Muslim scholars provide all the information necessary for an individual to make an informed decision. 

If you decide that you wish to donate your organs after your death, it is important to specify which organs you wish to donate, because there is a prohibition of donating reproductive organs by all Muslim scholars. You should inform your next of kin of your intentions to become an organ donor and also carry an organ donation card (or register your decision to donate) to make the process of organ procurement after your death easier.

If you live in a country where the opt-out organ donation scheme operates then you must state your intention not to donate your organs if you do not wish to do so, by stating it in your Will or register your decision not to donate. Also, let your relatives know about your decision.

You can change your decision on the register.

 

Dr. A. Hussain

If you wish to write your free customised Islāmic Will online click here. The Will contains a  clause regarding organ donation.

 

UPDATE
In December 2015 an opt-out system for organ donation was introduced in Wales for adults, in an effort to increase organ donations. The opt-out organ donation system means that adults will be regarded as having consented to organ donation unless they have opted out. A similar system may be implemented in the rest of the U.K. in the future.

January 2018. The U.K. government is currently conducting a consultation on opt-out organ donation system. If introduced it will be presumed that you have given consent for your organs/ tissues to be donated after your death unless you specify otherwise.
Government Consultation document on Opt-Out Consent can be found here.
Have your say regarding the opt-out organ donation system here.

It is, therefore, important for individuals to think about this subject matter and also discuss it with their close relatives, and if necessary write a Will detailing one's wishes regarding organ donation after one's death.