‘Islamic Perspectives on Organ Donation after Death’ Research Workshop

3rd-4th October 2019

Al Mahdi Institute partnered with the Organ Donation & Transplant Research Centre, University of Bedfordshire to host a multidisciplinary workshop addressing ‘Islamic Perspectives on Organ Donation after Death’. It was the inaugural workshop in the ‘Islamic Perspectives on Ethical Issues’ series which hopes to tackle the challenges of applied ethics faced by Muslims in everyday life.  The two-day event brought together religious scholars from different jurisprudential and theological dispositions, academics, medics, policy makers and those engaging with the Muslim community. All those participating agreed that it is vital to take discussions regarding donation beyond academic confines  into the wider community.

The opening paper by Professor Gurch Randhawa, Director of the Organ Transplant & Research Centre, stressed the influence of religion on individuals when deciding whether to become organ donors and the need to engage with faith leaders to allow for informed decision making, especially in light of the recent Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Act 2019. Mr Amjid Ali, Strategic Partner NHS Blood and Transplant, spoke of his work as the project lead on the ‘Transplantation in Islam’ initiative which culminated in an updated religious edict (fatwa) from the Sunni perspective. He also mentioned the next phase of the project, the Muslim Scholars Conference, in which he hoped AMI would take a leading intellectual role. An ‘informed choice model’ for motivating organ donation through community-based education was presented by Dr Aasim Padela, Director of the Initiative of Islam and Medicine, University of Chicago.

Aside from public policy and engagement, presentations also considered the Islamic view on organ donation and transplantation from both Shia and Sunni scholars.  Ayatollah Alidoustabarghouei’s research on the Shi’i jurisprudential discourse on donation was presented as part of AMI’s recent Memorandum of Understanding with the Secretariat for the Assembly of religious Seminaries (Hawza Ilmiyya, Qom) to work together on scholarly activities pertaining to contemporary issues. Both his and Professor Liyakat Takim’s paper challenged the dominant view that organs cannot be donated to non-Muslims. Arguably, the most complex aspect of donation relates to the definition of death and whether brain-death corresponds to death in Islam. Dr Mansur Ali explored how Sunni medieval scholars understood the relationship between death, the human body and the soul. On the same topic, Shaykh Arif Abdul-Hussain presented a novel contribution that the life of the body is distinct from human life drawing upon the example of the feotus prior to ensoulment and the tradition from Imam Ali regarding the four types of souls.

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