Bioethics in the Malay-Muslim Community in Malaysia: A Study on the Formulation of Fatwa on Genetically Modified Food by the National Fatwa Council

Authors

  • Noor Munirah Isa,

  • Azizan Baharuddin,

  • Saadan Man,

  • Lee Wei Chang

    Corresponding author
    • Address for correspondence: Lee Wei Chang, Centre for Civilisational Dialogue, 2nd Floor, Siswarama Building, University of Malaya, 50603 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Email: cclw86@yahoo.com.

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  • Conflict of interest statement: No conflicts declared

Abstract

The field of bioethics aims to ensure that modern scientific and technological advancements have been primarily developed for the benefits of humankind. This field is deeply rooted in the traditions of Western moral philosophy and socio-political theory. With respect to the view that the practice of bioethics in certain community should incorporate religious and cultural elements, this paper attempts to expound bioethical tradition of the Malay-Muslim community in Malaysia, with shedding light on the mechanism used by the National Fatwa Council to evaluate whether an application of biological sciences is ethical or not. By using the application of the genetically modified food as a case study, this study has found that the council had reviewed the basic guidelines in the main references of shari'ah in order to make decision on the permissibility of the application. The fatwa is made after having consultation with the experts in science field. The council has taken all factors into consideration and given priority to the general aim of shari'ah which to serve the interests of mankind and to save them from harm.

Introduction

The year 2013 marks 43 years of the birth of the term bioethics.[1] Seen as a critical field that functions to safeguard the safety of society in the face of the rapid advances of modern biological sciences, bioethics has been introduced to various parts of the world through academic institutions, international non-academic institutions, policies, rules and regulations, publications and conferences.[2] Apart from the expansion of bioethics as an academic field, many researches have been done to clarify the concept of bioethics from various cultural and religious perspectives, including those from the non-Western cultures which is important so that Western bioethics is not perceived to be the only way that bioethics can be understood and practiced.[3] For example, Tai and Lin in their article opine that Asian people have their traditional values which can be the basis of bioethical decision making and therefore they should develop a bioethics that is culturally relevant to them. In their study they have found that writings on medical ethics in Asia can be found as early as the 2nd century BCE, for example Sun Szu Miao from China wrote about ethics for physicians in the 7th century.[4]

Since the world population is diverse in terms of culture and religion, studies on the local wisdom related to bioethical tradition of certain community provide information that can enhance better mutual understanding and respect for the diversity of ethical values upheld by the world's communities, as has been emphasized by the preamble of the Earth Charter.[5] Therefore, this article intends to expound bioethical tradition of the Malay-Muslim community in Malaysia. By using the application of genetically modified food (GMF) as a case study, this article describes how an application of biological sciences has been decided as ethical or not by the National Fatwa[6] Council (NFC). Highlight is given to this council since it is an authoritative institution regarding ethical decision-making in the community. Although the given fatwa is meant for guidance for all Muslims regardless of their race, this study on the mechanism used by the NFC which consists of Malay-Muslim members can serve as reference to explain the bioethical tradition of the Malay-Muslim community.

Sources of Data

The data are derived from library research by using ‘Malay ethics’, ‘Islam’, ‘fatwa’ and ‘GMF’ as main keywords. Some of the data on the role of the NFC and mechanism used in the formulation of fatwa are obtained from in-depth interviews as stated in the table 1.

Table 1. List of interviewee
No.NamePosition*
  1. * Position of the interviewees during interviews held in 2010.
1.Ms. Wan Morsita Wan Sudin

Head of the Fatwa Management

Division, the Department of Islamic

Development Malaysia (JAKIM)

2.Associate Professor Dr Paizah IsmailCommittee member of the NFC; Lecturer at Ahmad Ibrahim Kulliyyah of Laws, International Islamic University Malaysia
3.Associate Professor Dr Suhaimi NapisLecturer at Faculty of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, Universiti Putra Malaysia, who had been invited to brief NFC on the scientific aspects of the GMF

Existing Ethical Framework of the Malay-Muslim Community in Malaysia

Malaysia is home to a multicultural, multiethnic and multi-religious society, with the Malay-Muslim community being the biggest indigenous group in Malaysia. Article 160 (2) of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia defines the term Malay as a person who is a Muslim, habitually speaks Malay language, and practices Malay social norms and cultural traits.[7] The practice of Islamic values is obvious in the daily lives of the Malays since one of the predominant characteristics of the Malay community is their strong adherence to Islam, the official religion of Malaysia.[8] As a consequence, one can observe that the nature of bioethical discourse among Malays is undeniably Islamic. The term ‘ethics’ has not been widely used among the Malays to describe a particular system to judge what is right and what is wrong. Rather, they often use the term akhlak,[9] adāb,[10] budi,[11] adat,[12] shari'ah,[13] and fiqh.[14] These interconnected terms are religiously and culturally embedded, and none of them are more superior than the other.

The term akhlak is originated from Arabic word (akhlaq) from the root word kha-la-qa. The singular word for akhlaq is khuluq which can be defined as expression of spiritual traits of human in terms of good or bad. The discourse of akhlak or akhlaq centres on the noble character building and the improvement of daily religious practices in order to get close to the God.[15] The paragon of perfect akhlak for the Muslims is the Prophet Muhammad himself. This is because they believe that he was sent to complete the beautiful characters of man.[16] There are two other terms that are derived from the same root word of akhlaq namely makhluq (the creatures of God) and khaliq (Allah, the Creator).[17] This similarity manifests that there is relationship between these terms whereby akhlaq of the Muslims is based on rules revealed by their God which is in accordance with their position as the creatures of the God.

Adab can be defined as right action that is based upon knowledge whose source is wisdom.[18] Human soul has two dimensions which are the rational soul and the animal soul. The former is responsible for the good acts, whereas the latter is inclined to evil deeds. An individual that have adab is the one who can subdue the animal soul so that it is rendered under control, and put in its proper place just as the rational soul also has its proper place.[19]

The Malay word budi is often regarded as encapsulating various elements such as emotion, rationality, good character and ability. It comes from the word buddhi which is a Sanskrit word. It can be defined as the ‘power of intelligence’ as well as ‘reasoning’. The Malays refer budiman as a Malay person that is thoughtful, considerate and has good conduct. The person who is budiman assists his society to further develop.[20] Budi has critical place in the Malay thinking and has been considered as part and parcel of the community.[21]

Like other indigenous communities in the world, the Malays strongly uphold adat which means customary practices and is an important ordering principle and tradition in the life of the Malays. Their adat consists of elements adapted from various other cultures that the Malay people have interacted with over a long period of time. These elements have been carefully and dynamically harmonized with the Islamic values and principles.[22] The most interesting point that can be observed in the practice of adat is that it has a robust relationship with shari'ah. This is stated in the one of the famous sayings among the Malays in relation to adat:[23]

  • Adat bersendikan hukum

  • Hukum bersendikan syara'

  • Syara' bersendikan Kitabullah

  • Syara' mengata, adat memakai

  • Ya kata syarak, benar kata adat.[24]

Shari'ah is often understood as the detailed code of conduct, basis of guidelines for ethics, morality and laws that prescribe judgement of right and wrong.[25] Two principal sources of shari'ah are the Qur'an (the Divine revelation) and the Sunnah (a collection of the instructions issued or the memoirs of the Prophet Muhammad's conduct and behaviour). Human action in shari'ah is not only categorized into good or bad, rather it is divided into five categories namely wajib (obligatory), mandub (recommended), mubah (legally indifferent), makruh (discouraged) and haram (prohibited).[26] The ultimate goal of shari'ah is as a blessing for mankind. This is the primary purpose for which the Prophet Muhammad was sent to this world.[27] One way to realize this goal is to promote the falah[28] or real well-being of all the people living on earth.[29] Shari'ah is regarded as revelation by the Creator to fulfil the basic human needs, physical and spiritual alike, in order to achieve falah. Specifically, the primary purpose of the shari'ah is to serve the interests of mankind and to save them from harm.[30] Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 1111 AD), an eminent scholar among Muslims, classified the objectives of shari'ah (maqasid al-shari'ah) into five major categories. He stated that the objective of shari'ah is to promote the well-being of the people, which lies in safeguarding their din (faith), nafs (self), ‘aql (intellect), nasl (posterity) and mal (wealth).[31]

Fiqh is an expansion of shari'ah, which literally means knowledge or deep understanding. It is knowledge of the rules of shari'ah as deduced from particular evidences in the sources of the Qur'an and the Sunnah.[32] It is also regarded as the outcome of the interpretation of the jurists and their understanding of the general guidance found in the sources. Another function of fiqh is that it extends the general guidance and message of shari'ah to issues which have not been regulated in the Qur'an and the Sunnah.[33] Thus the rulings that arise from fiqh can occur in two varieties; a) regulations which are based on textual injunctions, such as rules related to the basic guidance of worship; b) regulations related to the things that do not have any direct evidences in the Qur'an and the Sunnah, in which intellectual reasoning or ijtihad is used.[34] The question regarding permissibility of an application of biological sciences has been discussed under the second category of fiqh.

The Practice of Ijtihad by the National Fatwa Council (NFC)

As aforementioned in previous subtopic, ijtihad is used to deduce ruling on issues that so far have no direct guidance in the primary sources of shari'ah. The end-product of ijtihad is fatwa, an explanation from shari'ah perspective given by a mufti.[35] The practice of ijtihad is not new in the Islamic tradition since their beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) was a mufti himself. He answered questions that were directly forwarded to him, for example, questions about the rights of an orphan girl to have her inheritance. In the historical situation, a man who was her guardian wanted to marry her because he feared that her inheritance would fall into the hands of an outsider. The source of the given fatwa came directly from the All-Knower as revealed in verse 127 chapter al-Nisa’. Its translation is as follows:[36]

They ask your instruction concerning the women. Say: Allah does instruct you about them: and remember what has been rehearsed unto you in the Book, concerning the orphans of women to whom you give not the portions prescribed, and yet whom you desire to marry, as also concerning the children who are weak and oppressed: that you stand firm for justice to orphans. There is not a good deed which you do, but Allah is well-acquainted therewith.[37]

This practice continues till today, where the influence of fatwa remains strong in the Muslim community.[38] Fatawa (the plural word for fatwa) are often sought by the Muslims since they are divinely encouraged to ask guidance from those who are qualified.[39]

Prominent scholars of the Malay-Muslim community have been reactively issuing fatwa as guidance for them in dealing with particular issues. The earliest collection of the fatwa that can be found is ‘al-Fatawa al-Fataniyyah’ by Sheikh Ahmad Muhammad Zain (1856–1906) which was published in about 1903.[40] According to the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, Islam is a state subject, whereby every state has its own religious council to advise the ruler on Muslim matters.[41] Therefore every state has their mufti and fatwa council which has been appointed by the ruler of the state.[42] The objective of this council is limited to the state religious affair, while the NFC has bigger scope in which it serves as referral council for the Conference of Rulers.[43]

Established in 1970,[44] the NFC uses the ijtihad jama'i (collective ijtihad) approach[45] whereby it consists of a chairman, a secretary and muftis from all the 14 states in Malaysia, five Muslim experts of shari'ah and a Muslim law advisor.[46] In the context of bioethics thus far, 62 fatawa related to bioethical issues have been declared, with the first fatwa being on heart and eye transplantation. Table 2 below shows the list of the topic of the fatawa.[47]

Table 2. Fatawa issued by the NFC regarding bioethical issues
No.IssueDate
 1.Heart and eye transplant23–24 June & 1–2 October 1970, 22 February 1973
 2.Family planning22 November 1973
 3.Sperm bank28–29 January 1981
 4.Sex change from man to woman13–14 April 1982
 5.Blood donation and the use of Muslim blood by the non-Muslim and vice versa13–14 April 1982 & 10 October 1983
 6.Test-tube baby10 October 1983
 7.Injection of highly purified insulin from swine10 October 1983
 8.The use of direct current shock10 October 1983
 9.Preservation of the corpse11 October 1983
10.The use of drug for heart disease patients who are fasting11–12 April 1984
11.Post-mortem24–25 September 1984
12.Rubella vaccination12 September 1988
13.The use of alcohol as stabilizing agent in cordial drink24 November 1988
14.The use of electrical stunning in slaughtering animal24 November 1988
15.Slaughtering chicken by using water stunner24 November 1988
16.Immunization of hepatitis B24 November 1988
17.Immunization of measles, tuberculosis, whooping cough, diphtheria, tetanus and polio5–6 June 1989
18.Artificial insemination for animal6 June 1989
19.Brain death13 December 1989
20.Abortion of abnormal fetus7–8 March 1990
21.The use of active agent in food7 March 1990
22.Norplant implant system in the national family planning program29 December 1991
23.The use of cochineal as colouring agent23 May, 1995, 4 July 2012
24.The use of tissue graft21 June 1995
25.The use of swine PSH-P hormone to increase productivity of livestock21 September 1995
26.Biotechnology in food and drink12 July1999
27.Guideline on production, preparation, handling and storage of halal foodApril 2000
28.Human reproduction and therapeutic cloning11 March 2002
29.Abortion for thalassaemia carrier and patient1 July 2002
30.Abortion for rape victim1 July 2002
31.Meningococcal vaccination27 November 2002
32.The use of Newater27 November 2002
33.Artificial insemination7 May & 8 April 2003
34.Post-mortem on non-criminal case related corpse27 January 2004
35.The use of bacteria taken from baby faeces as catalyst agent in yogurt16 March 2004
36.Therapeutic cloning and stem cell research22 February 2005
37.The use of stunning in slaughtering animal29 September 2005
38.The use of ‘thoracic stiking’ method in slaughtering animal29 September 2005
39.The use of ‘pnematic percussive stunning’13 March 2006
40.Botox injection4–6 April 2006
41.Virtual autopsy as an alternative for post-mortem4–6 April 2006
42.Halal status of fish that is fed with non-halal feed4 April 2006
43.The use of material from non-halal animal (except dog and swine) for cosmetic purposes25–27 July 2006
44.Sex ambiguity ‘congenital adrenal hyperplasia’ and ‘testicular feminization syndrome’21–23 November 2006
45.Circumcision for hemophilia patient and children with mental disability10–12 April 2007
46.Religious practice for patient with colostomy bag6–8 September 2007
47.Assisted tools for sexual intercourse13–15 June 2005
48.Surrogacy1–3 February 2008
49.The use of biothrax and rotate vaccine that its preparation involves swine substance31 March 2008
50.Breeding and selling leeches and worms for medical and cosmetic purposes31 March 2008
51.Female genital mutilation21 April 2009
52.The use Clexane and Fraxiparine23 June 2009
53.‘Holbein Drawing Ink’ for cancer therapy1 March 2010
54.Vaccination for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)16 December 2010
55.Meningitis Menveo vaccine22 April 2011
56.The consumption of genetically modified food17 June 2011
57.Maggot Debridement Therapy14 February 2012
58.Alcohol in food, drink, perfume and drugs15 July 2011
59.Euthanasia16 December 2011
60.Milk bank16 December 2011
61.Implantable Collamer Lens for eye treatment5 May 2012
62.The use of DNA to determine child's lineage27 September 2012

The process of fatwa making begins with the study on the query that had been forwarded to the council. This query may be lodged by the public, government or private agencies or it may be an initiative taken by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM).[48] A study on the forwarded issue will be carried out by the Research Unit of the JAKIM. This unit will first find out whether a fatwa relating to the issue does exist or not. If no specific fatwa related to the issue exists, then a research paper will be prepared. In order to provide that paper, officers attached to that unit will study the related evidences in the main references of Islam namely the Quran, Sunnah, ijma' (consensus of Muslim scholars) and the qiyas (analogical reasoning). They would also refer to the opinions of the Companions of the Prophet (qaul al-sahabi), followers of the Companions (tabi'in) as well as views of the past and present prominent scholars in fiqh on the matters related to the issue.[49] If there are some things that need explanation from the experts in related field, the officers will conduct interviews with them.

The research paper will be presented during the meeting of Shari'ah Research Panel.[50] This panel facilitates the preparation of the proposal paper to be forwarded to the NFC. In this meeting, they also invite the experts if further explanation is needed. If the panel decided that the issue can be solved at the panel level and needs no more discussion, a fatwa will be issued.[51] But if the panel members think that meeting with the NFC should be held to get more perspectives to solve the issue, a proposal paper will be forwarded to the NFC. The council may invite again the selected experts in order to have a clear understanding of the issue discussed. This meeting may be held several times according to the need. Based on inputs from these experts and references from the Qur'an, Sunnah, ijma', qiyas and existing fatawa, the council strives its best to decide on a new fatwa. Among methods of reasoning that being used in the decision making are al-masalih al-mursalah (public interest), sadd al-zara'i (prevention of harm) and other principles of fiqh.[52] The NFC has also referred to the fatawa issued by the other organizations such as Majma' al-Fiqh al-Islami Al-Duali in Jeddah, yet finally decision will be made by taking local need and context into consideration.[53]

According to Associate Professor Dr Paizah Ismail, the council has taken all factors into consideration, including socio-economic factor. In the context of fatwa on the issues related to applications of biological sciences, she admits that it is not an easy task to weigh carefully the benefits and the risks of these applications. In general, Muslims are encouraged to adopt technology for their good, but their adoption should be grounded on the revelation and its objectives (maqasid al-shari'ah), not just on the logical thinking. This may cause delay for the council to declare fatwa in order to comprehend the issue and make the best decision for the benefit of the society.[54] It is noteworthy to mention that fatwa is made based on the available scientific findings. There might be changes in the fatwa given, if there is new finding available regarding benefit or harm of the application. Apart from that the fatwa can be revised based upon request from any party, government or public alike.[55]

The NFC primarily uses the Shafi'i approach in its ijtihad. This is as stated in the regulations of the National Council for Islamic Affairs that is established by the Conference of Rulers. Opinions from other schools of fiqh will also be taken into considerations if they provide stronger argument in terms of benefit for the society.[56]

Issuance of Fatwa on GMF by the NFC

The government of Malaysia is positive about the capability of biotechnology to generate wealth and promote societal well being.[57] The Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI), one of the key actors in research and development of biotechnology in Malaysia, has developed transgenic papaya which is resistant to papaya ring spot virus and transgenic pineapples which are resistant to black heart rot.[58] Despite the government's commitment to develop GMF, public have raised ethical concerns about it. One of the most concerned issues is about the halal status of the GMF. Apart from that, there are concerns about the potential risks of the GMF. For example, the Consumer Association of Penang, Malaysia had voiced out its objection to GMF since April 1997. It had suggested to the government to hold moratorium on the import, sales and commercial plantation of the genetically modified crops.[59] In December 2007, a resolution was made during the ‘National Seminar on Biotechnology in Food and Consumer Products: Islamic Perspective’.[60] It recommends that thorough and independent researches should be carried out on the effects of genetic modification on the human health and environment.

The NFC has issued two fatawa regarding the application of GMF. The first fatwa declared on the 12th July 1999 that materials, food and drink produced from genetic modification that involves swine gene are considered haram (unlawful). This fatwa was issued after a request had been made by the Food Quality Control Unit under the Ministry of Health Malaysia for the council to declare on the permissibility of the technique applied in the production of GMF, especially when it involves gene transfer from swine to food, drink or plant substances.[61] Islam prescribes certain rules about which foods are permissible and some are not permissible. The consumption of swine is forbidden in Islam, as Allah directly commands in verse 173, chapter al-Baqarah which can be translated as follows:[62]

He has only forbidden you dead meat, and blood, and the flesh of the swine, and that on which any other name has been invoked besides that of Allah. But if one is forced by necessity, without wilful obedience, nor transgressing due limits-then he is guiltless. For Allah is Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful.[63]

A series of briefing on the scientific process of genetic modification were given by Ms. Mariam Abdul Latiff from the Ministry of Health Malaysia and Associate Professor Dr Suhaimi Napis from Universiti Putra Malaysia in front of the members of the NFC.[64] Among the important points that was explained by Dr. Suhaimi is that animal DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) which is transferred to the host is no longer an original copy since it had undergone several processes including the cloning of the gene in the bacteria called E. coli and gene transfer from the bacteria to plant mediated by Agrobacterium tumefacians or gene gun. During the former process, the original DNA is used to produce new copies of DNA synthesized from the bacteria. The original copy is later metabolized during cell division. After that the latter process will take place whereby the new copy will undergo duplications in the A. tumefacians. Protein synthesis machinery of the recipient plant will transcribe the transferred gene into RNA (ribonucleic acid) using its own ribonucleotides and translate the RNA intro protein using its own amino acids. The resulting protein in the genetically modified plant is identical to original protein in donour organism (swine). Therefore, the GMF do not have any physical substance from the swine, but it has donour's copy of the genetic information.[65]

The NFC had reviewed that the method of producing genetically modified plant as aforementioned is not similar to conventional cross breeding of pig with goat and swine hormone injection to cattle; therefore the ruling of these methods cannot be used as analogy (qiyas) to provide ruling of the GMF.[66]

The council decided that the DNA copy that is inserted into host plant cannot be considered as being transformed through istihalah, a process that changes the nature of forbidden substance to produce a different substance in names, properties and characteristics. This process justifies that prohibited materials can become pure and permissible, for example wine is prohibited but it becomes permissible when it had transformed into vinegar. This decision was made based on the consideration that the copy of the gene in the genetically modified plant still has relation with the original gene in the swine.[67] Therefore the council takes mindful approach for not declaring that plant as permissible. Swine is classified as highly impure in Islam, and Muslims normally avoid using any products that contain swine substance as far as possible. Therefore the use of swine DNA in the production of GMF can cause bewilderment to the community.[68] This decision is based on the principle ‘preventing harm takes precedence over securing benefit’ (daf' al-mafasid aula min jalb al-masalih). Other principles of fiqh that had been considered are ‘all things are permissible unless proven to be unlawful’ (al-'asl fī al-ashya' al-ibahah hatta yadullu al-dalil ‘ala al-tahrim) and ‘when the lawful and unlawful things are mixed up, the unlawful prevails’ (idha ijtama'a al-halal wa- al-haram ghuliba al-haram).[69]

The council had also reviewed the advantage of GMF to overcome food shortage due to increasing world population as well as to alleviate hunger in the Third World. They opined that these problems cannot be used as justification to permit the consumption of GMF that contains swine substance. This is because they believe that root cause of the problems is the unfair distribution of food among the society. The issued fatwa is also based on the fact that there are many choices of available halal food and drink for Muslims and that they are not yet in the state of darurah (necessity).[70]

Twelve years later (in June 2011), the second fatwa was made based on the meeting held to discuss on the ruling of the GMF in the more general context. This fatwa states that it is not permissible to use genes from halal animal that is not properly slaughtered by using shari'ah-compliant method. The productions of GMF that may bring harm to human health and unknown long-term risks on environment are also prohibited. A briefing was given by Prof. Dato' Dr. Yaakob Che Man, the Director of Halal Product Research Institute, Universiti Putra Malaysia. Among the important points that he explained is that halal as well as non-halal genes have been used in the production of GMF.[71]

The council had reviewed that Islam has put utmost importance on eating of halal and tayyib food which do not bring harm to human soul and intellect, and the production process of the food does not bring bad impact to human health and environment. Among the fiqh principles that had been considered in the discussion are ‘preventing harm takes precedence over securing benefit’ (daf' al-mafasid aula min jalb al-masalih) and ‘permitting the beneficial and prohibiting the harm’ (ibahah al-nafi' wa hazr al-dhar).[72] The council had also given attention to the issue of using gene from halal animal that being slaughtered by using method that is not compliant with shari'ah. They decided that GMF which contains this gene is not halal because compliant slaughtering method is one big factor that determines the permissibility to eat the halal animals.[73]

This fatwa had answered ethical question that being raised by the Muslim community on the impact of the potential risks of the GMF on its halal status. It is clearly stated that the teachings of Islam promotes preservation of environment. Nevertheless, Muslim scholars do not put much emphasis on causing no harm to environment as one of characteristics of halal food. For example, the Trade Description Order (Definition of halal) 2011 published by the Attorney General's Chambers Malaysiastates that the definition of halal is as follows:[74]

  • a) does not consist of or contain any part or matter of an animal that is prohibited by Islamic law for a Muslim to consume or that has not been slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law
  • b) does not contain anything which is impure according to Islamic law;
  • c) does not intoxicate according to Islamic law
  • d) does not contain any part of a human being or its yield which are not allowed by Islamic law
  • e) is not poisonous or hazardous to health
  • f) has not been prepared, processed or manufactured using any instrument that is contaminated with impure according to Islamic law; and
  • g) has not in the course of preparing, processing or storing been in contact with, mixed, or in close proximity to any food that fails to satisfy paragraphs a) and b).

Therefore the latest fatwa on GMF issued by the NFC has added new characteristic of halal food which is having no high potentiality of causing harm to environment.

Conclusion

As a conclusion, religious element has central influence on the bioethical tradition of the Malay-Muslim community. Its framework is based on the Divine ethics, whereby shari'ah and its extension, fiqh are the main elements. The National Fatwa Council is an authoritative institution which remains the main referral for the community to know Islamic perspective on any bioethical issue that has no direct evidence in the Qur'an and Sunnah. The council uses a collective approach to produce fatwa on the issues related to the application of modern science and technology. This approach involves the prior briefings and discussions with selected experts from related fields of science and technology. In order to declare fatwa relating to application of biological sciences, the council had reviewed the basic guidelines in the main references of shari'ah. The council has taken all factors into consideration and given priority to the general aim of shari'ah which to serve the interests of mankind and to save them from harm.

Biographies

  • Noor Munirah Isa is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Science and Technology Studies, Faculty of Science, at the University of Malaya, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

  • Azizan Baharuddin is Professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies and Deputy Director General of the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Baharuddin has special interests in environmental ethics, the interactions and relationships between religion and science, and the impact of science on society.

  • Saadan Man is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Fiqh & Usul, Academy of Islamic Studies, at the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

  • Lee Wei Chang is a Social Research Officer at the Centre for Civilisational Dialogue at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Ancillary