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Keywords:

  • embryonic stem cell research;
  • therapeutic cloning;
  • Islam;
  • Islamic jurisprudence;
  • induced pluripotent cells;
  • ethics;
  • Islamic countries

ABSTRACT

Stem cell research is very promising. The use of human embryos has been confronted with objections based on ethical and religious positions. The recent production of reprogrammed adult (induced pluripotent) cells does not – in the opinion of scientists – reduce the need to continue human embryonic stem cell research. So the debate continues.

Islam always encouraged scientific research, particularly research directed toward finding cures for human disease. Based on the expectation of potential benefits, Islamic teachings permit and support human embryonic stem cell research. The majority of Muslim scholars also support therapeutic cloning. This permissibility is conditional on the use of supernumerary early pre-embryos which are obtained during infertility treatment in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics. The early pre-embryos are considered in Islamic jurisprudence as worthy of respect but do not have the full sanctity offered to the embryo after implantation in the uterus and especially after ensoulment.

In this paper the Islamic positions regarding human embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning are reviewed in some detail, whereas positions in other religious traditions are mentioned only briefly.

The status of human embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning in different countries, including the USA and especially in Muslim countries, is discussed.