by Prof.Dr. Omar Hassan
Cloning was achieved
in sheep by transfer of a nucleus from the somatic cell of an adult
animal into an egg whose nucleus had been removed. A live sheep
was subsequently born (1, 2, 4). This process seems to be technically
feasible in humans. In the foreseeable future some products of cloning
may be available.
Cloning is not creation
of new life from basic organic and non-organic matter. Creation
of life de novo is the prerogative of God alone. Cloning starts
with a living nucleus with its genetic characteristics (3). The
product resulting from cloning is programmed by the DNA in the nucleus.
Human cloning although
not yet achieved has already raised a lot of ethical controversies.
The ethical debate on human cloning has been complicated be sensational
media reporting. The public is not aware of the biological end ethical
issues involved (4). The major ethical issues raised are: loss of
human uniqueness and individuality, hazardous unexpected products
from cloning, and criminal misuse of the cloning technology (2).
Cloning relates to a
powerful human emotion of self-perpetuation. The desire to perpetuate
their kind or continue living in some way is a very strong drive
in humans. It is satisfied partly by the sexual reproductive process
in which the person's identity continues in their offspring. The
emotion is also obvious in animist beliefs in ghosts and ancestral
spirits. Reincarnation is another interpretation of self-perpetuation.
The ancient Egyptians preserved their dead as mummies in the hope
they will live again. Many political leaders have tried to leave
behind monuments so that the future generations may know about their
Cloning as a concept
goes far beyond the natural method of human sexual reproduction.
If human cloning is ever achieved in practice, it will not be the
first exception to human sexual reproduction. The Prophet Adam had
neither a father nor a mother. The Prophet Isa had a mother but
no father. Asexual reproduction is common in the animal and plant
kingdoms. Bacteria, viruses, and other micro-organisms reproduce
The issue of quality
of life arises in the case of cloning if ever it becomes a reality.
The product of cloning will not have the same quality as we know
it in humans today. This is because a human is both matter and spirit.
During the first trimester of intra-uterine development the soul,
ruh, is inserted into the body by God. There is one ruh for each
being. Thus the cloned product can not have a ruh and will therefore
not be human being as we know. The product of cloning will have
all the biological properties of the ordinary human being but will
not have the spiritual qualities. Thus the life of the cloned product
will be of little or no quality. We can only speculate how that
cloned product will behave. The possibilities are frightening as
the brave new world of biotechnology unfolds.
The Islamic tradition
discourages speculative thinking about hypothetical events. Issues
are discussed from the legal and ethical aspects after they have
occurred. We therefore can not engage in a detailed discussion of
cloning until it has occurred and we see its implications in practice.
- Brdicka-R: Human cloning. Do we
have too much courage or not enough? New perspectives in medicine.
Cas-Lek-Cesk. 1998 Jun 29; 137(13): 387-90
- Harris-J: "Goodbye Dolly?" The
ethics of human cloning. J-Med-Ethics. 1997 Dec; 23(6): 353-60
- Blacksher-E: Cloning human beings.
Responding to the National Bioethics Advisory Commission's Report.
Hastings-Cent-Rep. 1997 Sep-Oct; 27(5): 6-9
- Hopkins-PD Bad copies. How popular
media represent cloning as an ethical problem. Hastings-Cent-Rep.
1998 Mar-Apr; 28(2): 6-13