Human Cloning Through Islamic Theology Rebuffing the Absence of God

Joud Shafiq

Assistant Professor (casual appointment) at Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies (QFIS), Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar, lecturing on contemporary medical issues.
Currently enrolled in the M.A. program of Comparative Religions at Hamad Bin Khalifa University. The author also holds a higher diploma in Islamic Studies from QFIS and Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Alberta, Canada.

Introduction:

Can Science prove the existence of God, or is science in support of Nietzsche’s statement involving the “Death of God”? Every day we are being bombarded by new scientific discoveries; whether it’s Copernicus’s, followed by Darwin’s or Newton’s, one major discovery followed by another, with the ability of each to cast doubt on the existence of God if not viewed through the proper frame. Does knowing the workings of the universe disprove the existence of a maker? Does our ability to clone humans throw doubt in the hearts of some believers concerning the existence of The Creator? The aim of the current research paper is to provide a frame through which to view human cloning, a frame based on Islamic theology.

The current research paper is not  a study in Islamic jurisprudence concerning human cloning. The paper is more of a discussion of the major argument about human cloning, that when viewed outside the proper frame can cause confusion about God-man relationships, even the existence of God. Islamic theology can provide an appropriate frame or world-view, through which to reflect on human cloning.

The followings is the major argument and the points that need to be covered to generate counter-arguments (viewed through Islamic theology) discussed in this paper:

“Should our ability to clone humans negatively affect our belief in the existence of a Creator?”

To answer this question, we need to cover the following points:

a-    To delineate man’s dominion –throughout the paper, ‘man’ represents humankind being males and females-  and the nature of man’s action or creation within that dominion.

b-    God’s dominion and what does the act of divine creation involve?

c-    The definition of human cloning, its methodology, significance and ramifications.

d-    What is the nature of man?

I will start section I by looking at human cloning, discussing the technique in part one, and the ramifications of this technique in part 2.  Section II will draw a frame for some aspects of Islamic theology needed to house the major argument and its counter-arguments. Part 1 will include a brief discussion about the Dominion of man and his action, followed by God’s dominion and action in part 2 and finally in part 3 a discussion of the nature of man. After explaining the science behind cloning and presenting the needed aspects of the Islamic frame, a discussion of the major argument is divided into answering three sub-questions with conclusions regarding human cloning and the refutation of the absence of God.

Section I :Human Cloning

A new scientific age was heralded in with the development of   recombinant DNA technologies. It started with the cloning of genes, with Insulin being the first commercially produced recombinant DNA product. At that time; the term ‘cloning’ was associated with making identical copies of genes, however, we now have two more uses for this term; ‘therapeutic cloning’ and ‘reproductive cloning’. They both refer to making identical copies, however in this case, not of genes, but of cells, tissues and complete organisms. This research paper will deal with reproductive cloning in humans specifically.

Part 1: The Technical Part.
Reproductive cloning involves making a human copy of an individual without resorting to sexual reproduction or the need for two parents. Figure 1 depicts the technique of human reproductive cloning, often referred to as Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT). The same technique is used in both therapeutic and reproductive cloning, with the final step distinguishing between both:

1-    A skin cell is taken from the individual who is going to be cloned. The DNA (the Nucleus) is taken out of the cell with the cell being discarded.

2-    A human ovum from a donor female is manipulated in the laboratory for the removal of its DNA material (Nucleus).

3-    The nucleus (DNA) of the ‘to be cloned’ person is placed inside the donated ovum (that is now lacking a nucleus) and subjected to an electrical current to initiate cell division.

4-    A few cell divisions are allowed to take place in the laboratory until an embryo is formed. At this point, stem cells can be collected from the embryo (thereby destroying the embryo) and used for therapy. If we stop at this point, this technique is called therapeutic cloning.
5-   If we do not harvest stem cells from the embryo and we plant the embryo in the womb of a woman (mother, surrogate mother,…) to be carried to full term like any other natural baby, then this is called reproductive cloning.

This is a simplified presentation of the technique, however, it is not as easy as it looks. When Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell cloned Dolly the sheep in 1996, it took 277 attempts to finally clone Dolly[1] . However, we are getting closer to cloning humans; last year (May 2013), Mitalipov succeeded in producing a human embryo from skin cells of an 8 month old baby to collect stem cells to be used for therapy. Other scientists replicated his breakthrough and results were published last month (April 2014). In their experiments, skin cells from a 35 and 75-year-old men were used to generate embryos, consuming 71 and 77 donated ova[2] . Theoretically, all that is left now, is to plant those embryos into the womb of volunteer females, although the original reason for their experiments was therapeutic cloning. However, going ahead and implanting the embryo in a volunteer female is dangerous and not ethical , no one can guarantee that it will succeed and that the developing human will be normal.

Part 2: The Significance and Ramifications.
The Significance of the success of this technique (whether therapeutic or reproductive) is far reaching, almost limited only by the imagination. With all the recombinant DNA technologies, In Vitro Fertilization, and now the success of SCNT in humans, scientists are now armed with a vast array of tools to manipulate human genetic material, and see the effect manifested in curing individuals or maybe in ‘creating’ new ones! Theoretically, if we do a forecast of possible ramifications for human reproductive cloning, the following scenarios are some of what is popping up in people’s minds[3] :

1-    Cloning loved ones who have passed away, whether children or spouses.

2-    Cloning great minds like Einstein, great leaders to help solve society’s problems.

3-    The advancement of eugenics, the creation of a superior race, or the creation of a low intelligence race for labour.

4-    To clone a sick child in order for the clone to provide healthy organs such as bone marrow, or a kidney (overcome organ rejection).

5-    Couples who are carrying serious genetic diseases, worried about passing on their diseases to their children by natural sexual reproduction, can opt for such a technique.

6-    Can be a solution to some infertility cases.

7-    A way for humans to be immortal!

 

Section II: Islamic Theology

Part 1: The Dominion of Man:

Our problem with making man a God I believe stems from the initial perception of equating man to animals through the Darwinian Theory. Hence our attempt to prove the evolution of humankind and our supremacy over the universe. If we did not start from the bottom of the scale, we would not be trying to prove that we are at the top of the scale! This is where science and theology differ. In this part, I will discuss man’s place in this universe according to Islamic theology, his dominion and what actions or creations fall under the dominion of man:

1-    Man is the best of creatures[4] :

“We have honored the sons of Adam; provided them with transport on land and sea; given them for sustenance things good and pure; and conferred on them special favours, above a great part of our creation”[5] .

“And behold, We said to the angels: "Bow down to Adam" and they bowed down. Not so Iblis: he refused and was haughty: He was of those who reject Faith”[6] .
Scholars differ in their opinions; some say man is better than the angels (according to the previous verse), while others state that man is the best of creatures , however, man is not better than the angles.

2-    Man was not created in vain or for fun, man already has a purpose to fulfil in this life[7] , this being servitude and vicegerency.
"Did you think that We had created you in play (without any purpose), and that you would not be brought back to Us?" [8]
"And I (Allah) created not the jinns and humans except they should worship Me (Alone)"[9] .
“Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: "I will create a vicegerent [meaning man] on earth…." [10]

3-    Man was endowed with all the necessary qualities to enable him to perform that purpose, some qualities resembling those of God on a minuscule level[11] . God made available to man all that is in the universe for man to fulfil his purpose.

" And He has subjected to you, as from Him, all that is in the heavens and on earth: Behold, in that are Signs indeed for those who reflect"[12] .

From these points, we see that man’s position was never at the bottom of the scale! He is the best of creatures and God’s representative on earth. He was created to uphold God’s rules and was given the qualities that would enable him to do so. Man was given dominion over the material world that has been made available to man by God, not to abuse it, but in order to fulfil his ordained purpose in life. What about man’s actions, can man Create?

God created the world to follow the law of cause and effect, God created abilities and qualities in things and people to act as causes, so man has the ability to act as a cause in order to get the desired effects[13] . Therefore, man is required in his role as vicegerent to follow up on causes in order to attain effects, such as pursuing medical treatment to regain health, or to study biological systems to create new medicines for treatment. However, in Islamic theology, the belief is that the cause is not the sole perpetrator in attaining the effect. The conditions have to be right, obstacles removed, and possibly other secondary causes need to come into play. However, the most important factor is the Will of God, for without it nothing can happen. In other words, there is no perfect essential cause, without which there will be no effect, except for the Will of God[14] .

“But you cannot will it unless God wills, for, behold, God is indeed all-knowing, wise”[15] .

Part 2: The Dominion of God:

In Islamic theology:

1-    God is the Lord of the universe, the owner, creator, sustainer, Guardian of everything, the whole universe and beyond is His dominion.

2-    When we think of the act of creation we think of God’s attributes: Al-Khaliq (the Creator), Al-Bari (the Producer) and Al-Musawwir (the Fashioner).  Emam Al-Ghazali explains: God creation involves planning and organizing, and bringing into being from nothingness, and then fashioning it in the best image and best way possible[16] .

“He is Allah, the Creator, the Evolver , the Bestower of Forms (or Colours). To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names: whatever is in the heavens and on earth, doth declare His Praises and Glory: and He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise”[17] .

3-    He not only planned, created from nothingness and shaped everything in the universe, but also is the Guardian and maintainer of everything, in other words, He did not create the universe and then left it to run on its own.

“Allah is the Creator of all things, and He is the Guardian and Disposer of all affairs”[18] .

4-    God’s creation happens by God willing it to be and it is. No need for providing the right circumstances, gathering all the needed causes and removing all obstacles:

“Whenever We will anything to be, We but say unto it Our word "Be" -and it is”[19] .

5-    We can think of two other attributes that come with God the Creator, and those are His Knowledge of all things (Al-Alim) and His Will (as discussed in part 2).

“verily, thy Sustainer is the all-knowing Creator of all things”[20] .

From these points we can see that God’s dominion is all the physical universe that we know, and all the metaphysical that we don’t know much about. Nothing occurs in His dominion without His knowledge and will. His act of creation is  based on His all-encompassing knowledge , is perfect, and He creates from nothingness ,fashions it in the best of images and all that is needed is for Him to will it to be.

Part 3: The Nature of Man:

In this part  I will  not attempt to provide a thorough discussion on the nature of man, since it is a lengthy and complicated subject. However, I would like to at least, show the complexity of human nature, that we are more than our biological bodies.   Gods speaks of creating Adam from a form of special clay, and then God breathed into man a soul:

“who makes most excellent everything that He creates. Thus, He begins the creation of man out of clay. Then He causes him to be begotten out of the essence of a humble fluid. And then He forms him in accordance with what he is meant to be, and breathes into him of His spirit: and [thus, O men,] He endows you with hearing, and sight, and feelings as well as minds: [yet] how seldom are you grateful!”[21]

Therefore, in the Islamic perspective, man has a physical aspect and a metaphysical one. God talks of creating the physical aspect:

“And then We create out of the drop of sperm a germ-cell, and then We create out of the germ-cell an embryonic lump, and then We create within the embryonic lump bones, and then We clothe the bones with flesh - and then We bring [all] this into being as a new creation, hallowed, therefore, is God, the best of artisans!”[22]

As for the metaphysical component of man:

“And they will ask thee about [the nature of] divine inspiration [soul]. Say: "This inspiration [comes] at my Sustainer's behest; and [you cannotunderstand its nature, O men, since] you have been granted very little of [real] knowledge."[23]

God also addresses man by describing man’s heart, man’s inner self (nafs)  as those entities affected by belief, sins and are the ones that get transformed:

“(It will be said to the pious): "O (you nafs) the one in (complete) rest and satisfaction! Come back to your Lord, Well-pleased (yourself) and well-pleasing unto Him! Enter you, then, among My honoured slaves. And enter you My Paradise!" [24] .

“[and when] only he [will be happy] who comes before God with a heart free of evil!”[25]

God also, addresses man’s intellect, that man should use his intellect to reflect upon God’s signs in the universe:

“And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are signs for those who reflect”[26] .

From all the previous verses, we can see the complexity of human nature, man is not just a body!

As for immortality, in Islam there is no immortality, every soul/nafs will have a taste of death:

“Every soul (nafs) shall have a taste of death in the end to us shall ye be brought back”[27] .

Section III: Discussion and Conclusions

We view scientific discoveries through the lens of our own world-view, a context through which we give meaning to life. Human cloning is a technique that results in a product (a human clone), the ramifications of that technique, the product and how it affects how we see the world; is determined by our world-view. This is why  human cloning to some is a technique, while to others is an abomination,  and why it shakes the belief in God for some and not for others. Psychologist have emphasized the psychological need for each person to have a world-view, to be aware of the window through which one analyzes life.  If my ‘window to life’, has no place for God in it to begin with, then cloning or no cloning, my belief system is not going to be affected. However, if believing in God is part of my world-view, then it being shaken by human cloning has probably to do with me having one of three types of ‘window to life’:

1-    I Don’t have a specific world-view so I drift every time the wind blows.

2-    A ‘copy-paste’ world view, a horribly shaped mosaic of incompatible components.

3-    An internally compatible world-view ,but is not of a divine origin.

In this paper I am proposing Islamic theology as a ‘window to life’ through which to view human cloning.

The central argument for this paper is: “Should our ability to clone humans negatively affect our belief in the existence of a Creator?” I will attempt to formulate my discussion around three sub-questions, starting with the first one:

1-Is Human cloning a divine act of creation?

It is very clear from Figure 1 that cloning is like ‘Xeroxing’, man is not creating out of nothingness! The procedure started with an ovum and a skin cell, both created by God, and the nucleus of the ovum was substituted by that of the skin cell (again, both created by God). The embryo developed according to the stages that God created, therefore, there is no divine creation in human cloning, it is like if I get to master using a complicated TV system, does that make me the maker of that system?

Another point is that, in order to clone, scientist have to create the proper circumstances, remove obstacles, put together all necessary causes and still cloning may not occur. This is not divine creation, man does not clone just by his will for it to be done!

2-Does cloning defy God’s authority and reign over the universe?

I would like to start by re-iterating what I mentioned in the introduction, I will not be commenting on the Islamic legality of human cloning, which is a subject for Islamic jurisprudence.

Some are of the world-view that there is a God, He created the world, established the rules -such as cause and effect, but left it to run on its own. To those who subscribe to this world-view, man can be viewed as defying God. Since God is not watching and sustaining the world anymore, so, it is up to man to take care of things and maybe this act challenges God’s authority. According to Islamic theology as presented in section II, God is the Guardian and Sustainer of the world, nothing happens without his knowledge and will. Man can only create according to his God-given abilities, so man cannot surprise and defy God with what God has already given man! In addition, man was given intellect to choose between good and bad action, if man chooses to take bad action he can only affect himself, God is not affected or defied by man’s action.

We can also think of cloning as a form of IVF (in-vitro fertilization); physicians plant embryos into wombs, but the success of the procedure is never guaranteed, it is only when God gives a soul to that embryo that it becomes really alive. Same thing with cloning; they can exchange nuclei and insert the clone into the womb, but since God is the Sustainer of the universe, whatever man does, he can’t give life, it is only God who can. Therefore, man can never escape the dominion of God when cloning!

3-Does cloning give humans immortality?

We can answer this question by addressing three points:

As explained in the answer to the previous question,  man has a physical component (his body) and a metaphysical one (soul). Even if scientists were able to clone the physical body, they can never provide a soul, therefore man can not give immortality, since he can not give a soul to the clones.

The second point is explained by looking at identical twins. Are identical twins copies of one person, do they have the same personality, same soul? Then why do people expect a human clone to be an extension to the life of the cloned individual? Xeroxing a body does not mean we are Xeroxing the soul!

Thirdly, God said that every soul will taste death, meaning, even if scientists develop techniques that will enable humans to live longer (and I don’t mean here through human cloning), it is of man’s nature to taste death, there is no immortality!

In conclusion, just because man did something that seemed impossible a few years back, it does not mean that man acted beyond his dominion, or that he challenged the authority of God. The fact that we are discovering the “intelligent design” of the universe and of the creation of human beings, even if we get to manipulate what we discover (still within our God given abilities), this still does not eliminate the existence of a Maker. All this becomes clear if we have the proper world-view, a world-view that puts God, man and the universe in the appropriate perspective, and the only view that could do that , is a view created by the Creator Himself.

 


المراجع العربية :

  1. البوطي , محمد سعيد رمضان , مدخل   الى فهم الجذور . دمشق : دار الفكر , 1999.
  2. البوطي , محمد سعيد رمضان ,كبرى اليقينات الكونية . دمشق : دار الفكر , ط 27, 2007 .
  3.  الشهري , عبد الله بن ظافر بن عبد الله البكري , الحكمة والتعليل في أفعال الله تعالى عند أهل السنة والجماعة ,جامعة أم القرى , المجلد الثاني , أطروحة ماحستير , 1423ه -. الألوكة , المجلس العلمي ,http://majles.alukah.net/t20465-13/ شهر مايو ,2014و الساعة 9:44 ليلا .

English References:

  1. Al-Ghazali, The Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names of God. Al-Maqsad al-asna fi shafh asma ALLAH al-husna, trans. David B. Burrell and Nazih Daher .Cambridge: The Islamic Text Socioty, 1999.
  2. Chia , Roland, “Xeroxing the Soul?”, 73-75,http://www.ttc.edu.sg/csca/CS/2003-Aug/ROLAND.pdf.
  3. Cyranoski ,David, “Human Stem Cells Created by Cloning”, Nature,497, 295-296(16May 2013).http://www.nature.com/news/human-stem-cells-created-by-cloning-1.12983. Accessed May 7th, 2014 at 6:23 pm.
  4. Landau , Ellizabeth, “Cloning Used to Make Stem Cells from Adult Humans”,CNN.April 28, 2014. http://edition.cnn.com/2014/04/28/health/stem-cell-breakthrough/. Accessed May 7th, 2014 at 6:39 pm.
  5. No author,“The History of Cloning” at Learn Genetics. http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/cloning/clonezone/
  6. Accessed May 7th, 2014 at 5:48 pm. Translation of the Holy Quran: http://www.islamicity.com/mosque/QURAN http://www.noblequran.com/translation/

[1]  No author,“The History of Cloning” at Learn Genetics.  http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/cloning/clonezone/

[2]  David Cyranoski, “Human Stem Cells Created by Cloning”, Nature,497, 295-296(16May 2013).

http://www.nature.com/news/human-stem-cells-created-by-cloning-1.12983

Ellizabeth Landau, “Cloning Used to Make Stem Cells from Adult Humans”,

CNN.April 28, 2014. http://edition.cnn.com/2014/04/28/health/stem-cell-breakthrough/

[3]  Roland Chia, “Xeroxing the Soul?”, 73-75,http://www.ttc.edu.sg/csca/CS/2003-Aug/ROLAND.pdf.

[4]  محمد سعيد رمضان البوطيكبرى اليقينات الكونية (دمشق : دار الفكر , ط 27, 2007 ), 245-249.

[5]  Holy Quran 17:70, http://www.islamicity.com/mosque/QURAN/

[6]  Holy Quran 2:34, http://www.islamicity.com/mosque/QURAN/

 محمد سعيد رمضان البوطيمدخل   الى فهم الجذور (دمشق : دار الفكر , ط 5, 1999), 76.[7]

[8]  Holy Quran, 23:115. http://www.noblequran.com/translation/

[9]  Holy Quran, 51:56 http://www.noblequran.com/translation/

[10]  Holy Quran 2:30, http://www.islamicity.com/mosque/QURAN

[11]  البوطيكبرى اليقينات الكونية , 64-66.

[12] [12] Holy Quran 45:15, http://www.islamicity.com/mosque/QURAN/

[13] عبد الله بن ظافر بن عبد الله البكري الشهريالحكمة والتعليل في أفعال الله تعالى عند أهل السنة والجماعة  (جامعة أم القرى , المجلد الثاني , أطروحة ماحستير , 1423ه -) , 607-615. الألوكة , المجلس العلميhttp://majles.alukah.net/t20465-13/ شهر مايو ,2014و الساعة 9:44 ليلا .

[14]  الشهريالحكمة والتعليل في أفعال الله تعالى عند أهل السنة والجماعة 607-615.

[15]  Holy Quran76:30, Holy Quran 45:15, http://www.islamicity.com/mosque/QURAN

[16]  Al-Ghazali, The Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names of God. Al-Maqsad al-asna fi shafh asma ALLAH al-husna, trans. David B. Burrell and Nazih Daher (Cambridge: The Islamic Text Socioty, 1999), 68-72.

[17]  Holy Quran, 59:24, http://www.islamicity.com/mosque/QURAN/

[18]  Holy Quran39:62, , http://www.islamicity.com/mosque/QURAN/

[19]  Holy Quran14:40, , http://www.islamicity.com/mosque/QURAN/

[20]  Holy Quran15:86, http://www.islamicity.com/mosque/QURAN

[21]  Holy Quran 32:7-9, Holy Quran 45:15, http://www.islamicity.com/mosque/QURAN

[22]  Holy Quran 23:14, Holy Quran 45:15, http://www.islamicity.com/mosque/QURAN

[23]  Holy Quran 17:85, Holy Quran 45:15, http://www.islamicity.com/mosque/QURAN

[24]  Holy Quran, 89:27-30. http://www.noblequran.com/translation/

[25]  Holy Quran26:89. , http://www.islamicity.com/mosque/QURAN

[26]  Holy Quran, 30:29, http://www.islamicity.com/mosque/arabicscript/Ayat/30/30_21.htm

[27]  Holy Quran, 29:57, http://www.islamicity.com/mosque/arabicscript/ayat/29/29_57.htm

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Submitted by Waseem Usman on Wed, 12/17/2014 - 12:13

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The very fact that man is able to "think" and manipulte it into action ..is the very fact there is a superior intelligence who created everything...if we just ponder upon our orgin just as Allah told us so-"We created you from a mere clot of blood"-- give us an insight how could mere clot of blood grew up into a being that can really think about its orgins..this very Fact is what differentiates from other organisms and it proves us that we have some superior purpose on this planet unlike other creatures and at this position is where relegion plays a role i.e to fullfill that superior purpose and thats what defines Islam and all the other Abrahamic faiths.

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