In the name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Organ Donation After Death in Islam

بِسۡمِ اللهِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِيۡمِ



Recently there was a lot of interest amongst the U.K. Muslim community regarding the Messiah largely generated by a TV series of the same name. Many masājid and Islāmic centres up and down the country hosted presentations on the subject, some of these presentations were entitled “The Messiah”. Most of these talks were orientated around details about hadrat 'Īsā (), the Mahdi and the Dajjal. One crucial thing which was missing in these discussions was, “What exactly does the word “Messiah” mean?” What is understood by the word “Messiah” in Islām, is different from Christianity and from Qiadanism. It is crucial to understand and appreciate the different meanings of the word Messiah if one is to have a meaningful discussion with other groups who have a different understanding of the same word.

That brings me to another topic which is currently being discussed amongst the Muslims in the U.K., that of organ donation from the dead. With the change in the organ donation law, from April 2020 all adults in England will be considered to have agreed to be an organ donor when they die unless they have recorded a decision not to donate.

One of the main reasons why Muslims should strongly consider organ donation is that according to the 2019-20 figures only 4% of all deceased organ donors were Asian while 13% of all organ transplant recipients were Asian, compare this to U.K. Asian population of 5.1% (2011 census). There is an obvious imbalance. Asians are over-represented on the transplantation waiting list while at the same time under-represented on the organ donation register. One of the consequences of this imbalance is that Asians on the transplantation waiting list have to wait longer for an organ.

Many Muslims are posing the question, “Can I donate my organs after my death according to Islām?” Again, the crucial discussion that is missing is, “What exactly does the word “Death” mean?” This is indeed crucial because even those Muslim jurists who give conditional permissibility of organ donation after death require legal death according to Islām as one of the conditions.

For most Muslims, there is only one kind of death. It is when the angel of death (malk-ul-maut) removes the soul (rūḥ) from the body. This process is absolutely irreversible while we are on this earth barring a miracle from the Almighty Himself. So, what is the definition of death in the U.K.? There is no statutory legal definition of death in the U.K., you are dead when the doctor says so, following standard medical practice. Once the doctor certifies you dead you are legally dead. But are you Islāmically dead?

This question is important because if you are declared brain dead your heart will be beating while your organs are removed, this is referred to as donation after brain death (DBD also referred to as DDBD). If you are not brain dead but very seriously injured such that you are on a breathing machine and the doctors and your family agree to withdraw life-sustaining treatment, you will be declared dead 5 minutes after your heart stops and your organs will be removed as soon as possible, this is referred to as donation after circulatory death (DCD also referred to as DCDD). The guidelines for DCD were developed in 2008.

So the real question Muslims need to consider when templating organ donation after death is, "Will I be Islāmically dead when they remove my organs?"  In an effort to answer this question Muslims in the U.K. can refer to legal rulings (fatāwa) given specifically for U.K. Muslims. There are three such legal rulings (fatāwa), namely,

 1995  Muslim Law Council fatawa

  2000  European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR). Decision 2/6

  2019  Organ Donation and Transplantation in Islam, An opinion (fatawa) by Mufti M. Zubair Butt  (PDF file attached below)

None of these three fatāwa state that DCD (donation after circulatory death) is actual death, this is partly due to the fact that guidelines for DCD were developed in 2008 and two of the fatāwa, were issued in 1995 and 2000, so DCD was not practised at that time. Mufti M. Zubair Butt has rejected DCD as being equivalent to Islāmic death (malk-ul-maut removes the rūḥ), he has also rejected brainstem death as being Islāmic death, as has the European Council for Fatwa and Research. Only Muslim Law Council fatawa of 1995 considered brainstem death as being legal death in Islām allowing organ donation but they provided no details as to how they reached their decision.

Discuss organ donation with your family and seek information about it so that you can make a decision you feel comfortable with.

Further info. on organ donation in the U.K. click here.

A summary of all the fatāwa which have been issued for the U.K. Muslims regarding the issue of organ donation and brain death can be seen in this article here.

Dr. A. Hussain (Feb. 2020)



ADDENDUM (Sept. 2020)

Unfortunately, some Muslim organisations/ individuals are trying to promote and encourage Muslims to donate organs after death by stating that Mufti Zubair Butt has declared in his fatwa of 2019 that deceased organ donation and transplantation of all organs besides the gonads is permissible. This is not only misleading but actually false. 

 Mufti Zubair Butt in his fatwa on Organ Donation and Transplantation In Islam (2019), which is aimed at Muslims in the U.K., has stated that he does not consider the soul to have departed in someone declared brain dead nor someone declared dead by circulatory criteria for purposes of organ donation. Hence, Mufti Zubair Butt's fatwa is that both Donation after Brain Death (DBD or DDBD) and Donation after Circulatory Death (DCD or DCDD) are not permissible. Also, Mufti Zubair Butt's fatwa is that donation of all organs besides the gonads is permissible only if someone is Islamically dead (Shari death) which is not the case in the NHS (U.K.). 

The mainstream of Ḥanafī jurists from the Indo-Pak region and elsewhere is that deceased organ donation is not permissible (it is harām), not even if someone is Islamically dead. Mufti Zubair Butt is also a Ḥanafī jurist.

You can see pages 18-19 and page 103 (images below) of the full fatwa text. PDF file of the full fatwa is attached below.

This Mufti Zubair Butt personally stating that he does not consider brain death to equate with Islamic death in this video interview. The video can also be seen on Youtube, @ 19min 55s for fatwa on circulatory death and @ 20min 36s for fatwa on brain death. 

A summary of all the fatāwa which have been issued for the U.K. Muslims regarding the issue of organ donation and brain death can be seen in this article here.

If you are only going to read the summary of the fatwa on the NHSBT site then bullet points 5,6 and 7 have to be read in conjunction so the meaning is the same as on page 19 and page 103 of the full-text fatwa. See highlighted text on pages 18-19 below from the full-text fatwa.