Thomas Eich: Bio-ethics in Islam

Prof. Dr. Christine Schirrmacher

Thomas Eich. Islam und Bioethik. Eine kritische Analyse der modernen Diskussion im islamischen Recht. Reichert Verlag: Wiesbaden, 2005, 127 S., 9.90 €.

Anyone labouring under the illusion that the bio-ethical debate on questions such as artificial insemination, cloning, surrogate motherhood, abortion after prenatal screening or sex preference for implanted foetuses is limited to the West should be set right by this slim volume.

In her 1991 Berlin dissertation, “The Hurma”, Birgit Krawietz had examined 20 th Century fatwas (legal opinions on a point of law) on “infringements of body’s inviolability” including beauty treatment, blood transfusions and organ transplants.

Thomas Eich furnishes an update on important developments in bio-ethical debate in the 80’s and 90’s culled from transcripts and publications of conferences in the Arab world.
It is revealing how little consensus is achieved among Muslim scientists for whom the well-known Reform Islam hypothesis “the Koran anticipates all scientific knowledge” is the unquestioned presupposition for all scientific debate.

Considering the diversity of opinion as to the interpretation of particular Koran verses and their application to bio-ethical issues, it comes as no surprise that Muslim theologians can hardly agree on such fundamental questions as whether human life is to be considered as beginning at conception, with the nesting of the fertilized egg in the womb or at “animation” (antiquity’s view of the constitution of the human soul) after 40 or 120 days. In consequence there is an equal diversity of opinion on topics such as abortion or sex preference, which is available in at least one Jordanian clinic in Amman.

This volume offers those without access to the original sources a glimpse of the thought of those “on the other side of the fence.”