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Islam and Bioethics

Islam is an all encompassing religion with a comprehensive law that provides guidance in all key
aspects of life. Sharia is Islamic law based on the Quran and the sunna of the Prophet. Sharia
contains both legal rules and ethical principles. Sharia is summed up under four broad categories:
Ibadahreligious worship and practices
Ahklaqmorality and ethics
Muamalahsocial relations
Ethics is the explicit, philosophical and/or religious reflection on moral beliefs and practices. Its
purpose is to clarify what is right and wrong and what human beings should freely do or refrain from
doing. In Arabic, the phrase Ilm al-Akhlaq indicates ethics or morals. Islamic ethics is an extension of
Sharia that is itself based on two foundationsthe Quran, in itself a healing and a guidance to those
who believe (Surat Fussilat 41:44), and the sunna of the Prophet. The overriding concept that
informs Muslim ethics is tawhid, the absolute Oneness of God.
The basis of the ethical teachings of Islamthat all actions are governed by tawhid, the belief in the
oneness and unity of God, and umma, the promotion of unity and harmony within the Muslim
communityshow that Islam is not monolithic and a diversity of views in ethical matters does exist.
This diversity derives from the various schools of jurisprudence, different movements within Islam,
differences in cultural backgrounds and different levels of religious observance.
It is the interpretation of new issues that most distinguishes Shii and
Sunni, and it is in the concept of taqlid (literally this means follow
(someone), imitate; In Islamic legal terminology, it means to follow a
mujtahida person who is an expert in Islamic jurisprudence) where
the major difference lies between Sunni and Shii jurisprudence.
Essentially, the difference is in the concepts each have of what
constitutes the sunna of the Prophet.
According to Sunni, the sunna is everything narrated from the
Prophet as long as the transmitters are trustworthy. Development of
Sharia for Sunni has also required ijma (consensus) and qiyas
(analogy), resulting in four major schools of jurisprudence. Sunni
acknowledge the concept of taqlid, but they understand it differently.
For Sunni taqlid is following any one of these four major schools.
Shii developed its own interpretations, methodology and authority
systems. Shii believe that until the return of the Mahdi, the Twelve
Imams instructed believers to follow the mujtahid. Which particular
scholar (mujtahid) someone follows, however, is a matter of choice not
For both Sunni and Shii, taqlid in the matter of fundamental beliefs
and practices is ruled out.

Issues of morality fall

into one of the following
Fard obligatory
Mubah Permissible
Haram Forbidden

There are 4 ethical

principles that apply to
ethical decisions:
The requirement for
A respect for all
A need to do good
A need to avoid

In Islam, human beings are the crown of creation. They are endowed with reason, choice and
responsibilities, including stewardship of other creatures, the environment and their own health.
Muslims are expected to be moderate and balanced in all matters, including health.
Islam is a religion of knowledge and science the findings of this research must, however, be
considered in light of Islamic principles. Islams approach to bioethics is intimately linked to the broad
ethical teachings of the Qur'an and the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad, and thus to the
interpretation of Islamic law. The Qur'an and the traditions of the Prophet have laid down detailed and
specific ethical guidelines regarding various medical issues.
Islam emphasises the importance of preventing illness, but when prevention fails, it provides
guidance not only to the practising physician but also to the patient. The physician understands the
duty to strive to heal, acknowledging God as the ultimate healer. Islam teaches that the patient must
be treated with respect and compassion and that the physical, mental and spiritual dimensions of the
illness experience be taken into account.
In Islam, life is sacred: every moment of life has great value, even if it is of poor quality. The saving of
life is a duty, and the unwarranted taking of life a grave sin. The Qur'an affirms the reverence for
human life in reference to a similar commandment given to other monotheistic peoples: "whosoever
killeth a human being ... it shall be as if he had killed all humankind, and whosoever saveth the life of
one, it shall be as if he saved the life of all humankind (5:32).
The Oath of the Muslim Doctor includes an undertaking "to protect
human life in all stages and under all circumstances, doing [one's]
utmost to rescue it from death, malady, pain and anxiety. To be, all
the way, an instrument of God's mercy, extending ... medical care to
near and far, virtuous and sinner and friend and enemy."
To respond to new medical technology, Islamic jurists, informed by
technical experts, have regular conferences at which emerging
issues are explored and consensus is sought. Thus, over the past
few years, these conferences have dealt with such issues as organ
transplantation, brain death, assisted conception, technology in the
intensive care unit, and even futuristic issues such as testicular and
ovarian grafts. The Islamic Organization for Medical Sciences,
(, based in Kuwait, also holds conferences and
publishes the Bulletin of Islamic Medicine. Most Islamic
communities, however, would defer to the opinion of their own
recognisd religious scholars.
Do good; for God loves those who do good Quran 2:195