Does Islamic Law Support Human Cloning?

In 1983 at its Third Islamic Summit Conference, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation founded the International Islamic Fiqh Academy (“IIFA”).[1]  Based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the IIFA is tasked with the advancement of knowledge in the fields of culture, science, and economics.[2]  The IIFA engages in ijtihād—Islamic legal interpretation—to evaluate technological and social developments and publish its recommendations and resolutions.[3]  In 1997 and the IIFA’s Tenth Session, the IIFA produced a resolution prohibiting human cloning while permitting other forms of cloning research.[4]


Resolution 100/2/10 on Human Cloning (“Resolution”) cites primarily to the Qur’an, only once cites to ḥadīth, and otherwise relies heavily upon uncited scientific definitions and experiments.[5]  The Resolution begins with a two-page preamble, providing an overview of Qur’anic excerpts that describe the purity of God’s creation of man and proscribe manipulations and interventions in God’s creation.[6]  The Resolution then defines ‘cloning’ as either cloning by division or nuclear transfer—both of which depend upon an intervention in the divine process of creation.[7]  Finally, the Resolution concludes that “[i]t is prohibited to clone human being[s], such as in the above-mentioned two cases or by any other method that results in the multiplication of human specie[s].”[8]


The introductory preamble of the Resolution cites Qur’anic passages and ḥadīth to support its conclusion that human cloning is prohibited. “Establish God’s handiwork according to the pattern on which He has made mankind: no change let there be in the work wrought by God[.]”[9]  “I have created my servants all pure, but Satan has come to deviate them from their religion… and ordered them to change my creature.”[10]  Through this exegetical ijtihād, the Resolution holds that “God Almighty has… made [man] His regent on earth.”[11]

The preamble also tempers the foregoing discussion that, while “Islam does not set up any obstacle or any obstruction to the freedom of scientific research that constitutes a mean to discover the order established by God Almighty in His creation[,]” it also “stresses that the door cannot be left wide open, without restriction, to the generalized implementation, without limit, of the results of scientific research[.]”[12]  This seems to be the most discretionary admission of the Resolution: that reasonable minds might find precedent for the competing interests of pursuing technological and scientific advancement and preserving religious values and creeds.

After its preamble, the Resolution defines two separate methods of “human cloning.  The first, cloning by division, occurs when an embryonic cell “divides itself into two identical parts,” resulting in “identical twins.”[13]  The second method, nuclear transfer, involves “cloning a fully-grown being.”[14]  The nucleus of a somatic cell of a fully-grown adult is extracted and injected into an enucleated ovule, resulting in a new embryo capable of reproducing itself.[15]  The Resolution notes that, while nuclear transfer has successfully birthed the ewe “Dolly,” it fails to create an identical copy of the original “because the enucleated ovule of the mother still contains remains of the nucleus in the area surrounding the removed nucleus.”[16]

The Resolution supports its original premise that creation is exclusively divine by citing several verses from the Qur’an.  “Or do they assign to God partners who have created anything as He has created, so that the creation seemed to them similar? Say: God is the Creator of all things: He is the One, the Supreme and Irresistible.”[17]  “The human seed that ye throw out, is it ye who create it, or is it We the Creator?”[18]  “Doth not man see that it is We who created him from sperm?  Yet behold!  He stands forth as an open adversary!  And he makes comparisons for Us and forgets his own origin and creation, saying: who can give life to dry bones and decomposed ones at that? Say: He will give them life Who created them for the first time!  For He is the Creator Supreme, of skill and knowledge, Infinite!”[19]

The Resolution’s interpretative method formulates a syllogism out of two premises.  The first premise is established through Qur’anic exegesis: creating human life is a divine process in which human intervention prohibited.[20]  The second syllogism is provided by the definitions of human cloning—purposefully dividing a cell and the transfer of a nucleus— which depend upon intervention in the divine process of human creation.[21]  This syllogism conveys the inevitable conclusion of the impermissibility of human cloning.


The Resolution concludes that cloning human beings is prohibited in both of the defined methods “or by any other method that results in the multiplication of human specie[s].”[22]  However, the Resolution permits the use of cloning techniques “in the fields of microbiology, botan[y], and zoology[.]”[23][24]  The IIFA concludes by calling for the establishment of specialized committees for further inquiry into cloning.[25]

Although the Resolution and its conclusions are discretely focused on human cloning, they inspire questions regarding the permissibility of other reproductive procedures such as in-vitro fertilization, genetic engineering (pre-determination of everything from cosmetic features to sex and perhaps intelligence), post-birth gene therapy, among others.  The question lingers: how much human intervention in divine creation is permissible?  When the purpose is a reduction in disease—such as eliminating cystic fibrosis from human DNA—the legal canons ‘harm must be eliminated’ and ‘acts are judged by their goals and purposes’ might permit greater human intervention.[26]


[1] International Islamic Fiqh Academy, (last visited Oct. 4, 2019).

[2] Id.

[3] See, e.g., International Islamic fiqh academy, resolutions and recommendations of the council of the islamic fiqh academy 1985-2000 (Islamic Research and Training Institute ed., 1st ed. 2000).

[4] Id., Res. 100/2/10 on “Human Cloning,” 208-213.

[5] Id. at 209.

[6] Id. at 208-09.

[7] Id. at 210.

[8] Id. at 211, 1.

[9] Id. at 209 (citing Surat “Rum” v. 30).

[10] Id. (citing Hadith Qudsi—the Prophet (BPUH), quoted by Al-Qurtubi, extracted from the narration of Qadi Isma’il).

[11] Id. at 208.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Id. at 211 (citing Surat Ra’d v. 16).

[18] Id.  (citing Surat Al-Waqi’a v. 58).

[19] Id. at 211 (citing Surat Yasin v. 77-82).

[20] Id. (see fn. 9-12).

[21] Id. (see fn. 15-18).

[22] Id. at 211, 1.

[23] Id. at 212, 4.

[24] The Resolution does not explain the permissibility of cloning animals against the impermissibility of cloning humans. It is speculated this is because of a uniqueness of humankind and its divine creation.

[25] Id. at 212, 6-9.

[26] Mohammad Hashim Kamali, Shari’a Law: An Introduction, 146-49 (Oneworld Oxford ed., 2005).

Leave a Reply