FAITH AND THE RE­SEARCHER

Qatar Today - - RESEARCH > LISTENING POST -

“Not all of the few peo­ple who are cur­rently work­ing on Is­lamic bioethics are Mus­lims – some just have re­spect and won­der for Is­lam. For them it is a schol­arly in­quiry into how to rec­on­cile this huge tra­di­tion with mod­ern science.”

reach a mid­dle ground; it all takes time. Con­tem­po­rary Is­lamic bioethics is an emerg­ing field. Un­til the 80s we had been ap­proach­ing bioeth­i­cal is­sues like any other is­sue in the life of a Mus­lim – prayers, fast­ing, pil­grim­age – but this proved to be prob­lem­atic. In th­ese other cases, you could check the sources and man­u­als of Is­lamic ju­rispru­dence and come up with an an­swer. But how do you find out what Is­lam says about cloning or IVF? You can look but you are not go­ing to find any direct an­swers,” he says. Which is why to­day, Is­lamic bioethics re­search has two parts – in­for­ma­tive and nor­ma­tive. “First you should have in­for­ma­tion about the is­sue and then you go look for the norms in your sources.” But re­li­gious schol­ars ad­dress­ing the is­sue in iso­la­tion had an in­her­ent prob­lem with the very first step of the process – the in­for­ma­tive – due to lim­ited or no back­ground in bi­ol­ogy or science, their ed­u­ca­tion largely re­stricted to re­li­gious texts. “So their knowl­edge about the theme of the ques­tions was al­most non ex­is­tent. They could be the most ac­com­plished schol­ars but if they didn't know what was be­ing talked about, their an­swers could very well be wrong. This cre­ated a prob­lem in the 70s-80s with the out­right re­jec­tion of is­sues like birth con­trol, con­tra­cep­tives, or­gan trans­plant, etc. It be­came clear that this tra­di­tional way of ad­dress­ing the ques­tions on med­i­cal ethics was not work­ing.”

The so­lu­tion was to ad­dress them col­lec­tively, in two senses. First, making it in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary and in­volv­ing bio­med­i­cal sci­en­tists, and then making it demo­cratic, by ex­pand­ing the dis­cus­sion to groups of sci­en­tists sit­ting with groups of schol­ars. “The ques­tions raised are so so­phis­ti­cated that there is no one way of un­der­stand­ing and an­swer­ing the ques­tions,” Dr Ghaly ex­plains. This has served the pur­pose well and sev­eral coun­cils based in the Gulf and out­side, hav­ing dis­cussed al­most all the stan­dard bioeth­i­cal ques­tions that are to

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