Organ donation

The following post is currently being circulated on social media:

A reminder to all, residents in the UK are now automatically on the organ donation register. If you don’t Opt Out your organs and tissue are now the property of the UK government after death. You can easily opt out for yourself and family members using the link below, it takes about 1 minute. [link] It is *NOT* permissible for us to donate our organs.

My immediate thought, on reading this, was: why is it not permissible for us to donate our organs after our death? Do we need them as we lie in our graves?

After all, we read in the Qur’an that God explicitly says He can recreate even the tips of our fingers, long after we have become dust in the ground:

“Does man think that We will not assemble his bones? Yes. We are able even to proportion his fingertips.” Qur’an 75:3-4

Given that we know that our organs quickly decompose after death and that within about a decade only our skeleton remains of us, what is it that I am preserving, which God cannot recreate, by refusing to give my organs so that another’s life may be saved?

But of course these are just my personal opinions, borne of personal reflections on verses of the Qur’an and the life we live. What of scholarly reason?

To my knowledge, it is not possible to definitively claim that it organ donation is not permissible, from a scholarly perspective. Obviously there are some who hold that opinion, but there are many others who say the opposite. Some, for example, claim that organ donation after death is a form of sadqah jariyah. Others that saving a life is more important than preserving the body of the deceased.

Clearly there are different opinions on this sensitive topic. But from a personal perspective, I’d find it a terrible shame if living patients in desperate need of a new liver should be deprived pristine, healthy livers from suddenly-deceased, non-alcoholics, simply because an individual irresponsibly circulated an opinion opposing organ transplantation as a definitive fact.

6 thoughts on “Organ donation

  1. It is indeed true that it is not permissible to use the organs of a deceased person, with or without his prior consent. The evidence for this is that:
    a) Removing organs from a dead body comes under mutilation, and mutilation is forbidden in an unrestricted manner for any reason whatsoever, and there is no difference of opinion on it. The only difference of opinion in this issue is whether it is permissible to extract by Caesarian Section an unborn foetus if the mother has died. For any other reason, there isn’t even any difference of opinion under the issue.
    b) The person’s prior consent does not matter because the person does not have authority over his future corpse, nor the right to decide how it is to be disposed off.
    c) While it is true that it is permissible (though Makrooh) to use haraam *substances* for medicinal purposes (even when not life-threatening, though there is difference of opinion on it), the permissibility does not extend to haraam *actions*. Just as it is not permissible to take a life (a haraam action) to save your own, it is not permissible to mutilate a dead body (a haraam action) to save a life. it is also irrelevant to say that the mutilation does not harm the dead body. What harms and what is beneficial is not for us to decide where Allah has decided.


      1. When I say “no disagreement”, I mean amongst classical scholars. Also, I’d like to add that apart from delivering the unborn baby, classical scholars also differed on whether it was permissible to extract swallowed property from a dead body. Those who allowed it (Malikis and some Shafi’i’s) discouraged it.

        This is not something one can have a personal opinion in. Disagreement can be only on the basis of Shara’i Texts. You shared your “personal perspective”. I shared the Shara’i hukm. The two are not equal.


  2. Absolute cobblers from Muneeb, with his added proviso of “classic scholars”. Said scholars didn’t have to deal with organ transplantation and you need to have scholars specialised in the field to give an opinion, something that is scarce on the ground. You can’t just spout forth, just because you went to some Rihla somewhere.


  3. A Muslim friend of mine survived cancer, but suffered kidney failure after chemotherapy. As a result, three times a week, every week, he must visit his local hospital to sit connected to a dialysis machine for hours on end while it cleans his blood. What he and the other people connected to that row of machines in the dialysis unit really need is a kidney transplant, to prolong their life and restore their quality of life. It perplexes me that an injunction meant to prevent the desecration of the dead on the battlefield is used to prevent us from saving people’s lives: the highest form of action.


  4. Assalamu alykum,
    Saving one person’s life is like saving the life of all people. This is found in the Quran.
    Organ transplant is a modern surgery.
    Organ transplant would not be allowed if it was harmful especially to the recipient body.
    If I recall well, there was an incident in old times were a woman died but her unborn baby was still moving. When Imam Abu Hanifah was asked, he said to cut open her belly and get the baby out. The baby lived afterwards and even became his student. His argument was that life takes priority over death. In his decision making he gave life a chance instead of death.
    Having said that the body of the deceased should be treated with dignity.
    There are problems with organ transplants though. Maybe in the near future stem cells research will make a breakthrough and replace it.


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