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Dissecting human cadavers in Islam

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"O' servants of Allah, seek treatment for your ailments, for surely He who has created the disease has also given a cure for it. Those who are knowledgeable will be able to discover this cure." (Related by Bukhari)

Aisha' narrated that the prophet (s.A.w.) said:

"Indeed the Believers would be hardly pressed, and indeed every believer who is to suffer even from a sting or pain, Allah would as a reward, erase one of his sins and increase his rewards a degree." (Related by Ahmad, Ibn Sa'd, al-Bayhaq & al-Hakim)

The opinion among most Fuqaha (jurists) is that seeking medical treatment is either recommended (Mandub) or obligatory. There are many Hadiths which encourage the Muslims to seek medical treatment. Therefore it is up to the patient to decide whether or not if he or she wants to undergo organ transplant.

In regards to the prohibition of violating and mutilating the dead, it has been narrated that a man was digging a grave and he stumbled on some bones, the Prophet of Allah (s.A.w.) said:

"Breaking the bones of the dead is like breaking the bones of the living."

(Related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud & Ibn Majah)

It is a general rule in Fiqh in which it is prohibited to violate, harm or mutilate the dead body whether it is a Muslim or non-Muslim cadaver, as an act of revenge, showing disrespect or doing so without any good reason. There are exceptions to this general rule especially in the light when there is a Necessity (Darurah).

"The Fuqaha of the Maliki and the Hanbal schools state that it is impermissible to dissect a dead pregnant lady in order to retrieve the baby, as it is difficult to determine whether the baby is alive. Because of this uncertainty, it should not be a cause to violate the sanctity of the dead. On the other hand, the Fuqaha of Shafi'i allows this dissection to be carried out. Besides, to dissect a dead body in order to remove valuable goods is allowed according to Jumhur (majority of scholars or the three Madhdhabs as opposed to just one) except the Hanbal school."

(Ad-Durr al-Mukhtar 3/246)

Nowadays, it is possible for medical authorities to determine whether the baby is alive or not when such cases arise. The uncertainty that some Fuqaha had, is thus removed.

In Fiqh al-Islam wa Adillatuh (7/3), the author concludes:

"Based on the rulings which allows dissection on dead bodies in specific cases, therefore any dissection or operation done on the dead body due to a significant necessity is allowable. For example, dissection for the knowledge of medicine and dissection in order to find the cause of death to convict criminals by which there are no other avenues to come to the truth (al-Haq). These are based on the Shari'ah principle of establishing justice ('Adil) in any ruling given by the court, in order to avoid injustice (Dhalim) from happening to the innocent or to ensure the guilty not to escape from the punishment as a result of his crimes.

Even though such dissections are allowed, it should be done within necessary limits without overdoing it. Besides, the sanctity of the dead body has to be respected and handled properly. After the investigation, bits and pieces should be gathered, the body should be closed by suturing it up and finally shrouding the body.

It is also allowable to perform any organ transplant such as the human heart or the eye. This must be with the condition that the donor is proven to be dead by a specialist in the field. This is because the priority is given to the living. The success of recovering vision for a human is a wonderful gift and is demanded by the Shara'."

In al-Ifta', The Permanent Committee for Legal Rulings (Fatawa) in Saudi Arabia conclude the following regarding dissection on dead bodies:

Dissection to discover if there is a criminal act causing the death is sanctioned.
Dissection to see if there is a contagious disease and to then conclude how to stop its spread is sanctioned.
Dissection for educational and training purposes is accepted

Asslaam Aleikum, you have raised a very good subject tackling the issue of the permissibilty dissecting a human body.
In fact, there is no religious text tackling directly the issue of using the organs of the dead for medical or scientific research. The issue is controversial among Muslim scholars; each making his own Ijtihad (Personal Reasoning).
In the first place, it is noteworthy that Islam cares much for a person whether dead or alive. Jabir Ibn `Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “One day we accompanied the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in a funeral of a person. When we reached the graves, we sat down. The gravedigger brought out a bone- of a leg or another organ- and began to break it. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: ‘Do not break it, for breaking this bone, even after the death of its owner, is like breaking it while he/she is alive.’” (Reported by Malik, Ibn Majah and Abu Dawud).
Accroding to Sheikh Jadul-Haq ( former Grand Imam of Al-Azhar,may Allah bless his soul) says that it is permissible, if the deceased is of unknown personality or family, to take his/her bodily organs and use it in treating another person or for medical research. All these are in fact very important and of general benefit for all Muslims.
Another well-known scholar by the name of Sheikh `Ikrimah Sabri, the Mufti of Al-Quds & the Khatib of Al-Aqsa Mosque, states that Islam shows unprecedented care for the needs of man and the necessities of life. It makes it permissible to reveal the private parts of a male or a female in case of necessity. All this stems from the juristic rules: “Necessity dictates exceptions.” This rule is also governed by another rule that reads: “Necessities are duly estimated."
In my personal view, based on these fatwa's, It is thus permissible to dissect the dead body of a person with the very aim of discovering diseases or finding out a treatment or knowing the functions of bodily organs and the component of human body. It should also be permissible to resort to carry out this process for the purpose of knowing the reason that caused the death of a person, and this will be useful for homicidal investigation. Using the bodily parts of a dead person should also  permissible for the students of medicine who do so as a way of training. However, this is to be carried out in a place specialized for that purpose and not open for everybody.
Dr. Muzzamil Siddiq, former President of Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), states that dissection of the human bodies for the purpose of medical education is allowed in Islam. There is a basic rule in the Shari`ah that says: “What is necessary for the fulfillment of an obligation, becomes an obligation itself.” It is obligatory to treat people and perform surgeries on them when they need. To perform this obligation it is necessary to study human anatomy and for this purpose dissection has to be done as and when necessary. It is, however, important that the bodies should be taken with the consent of the deceased or his/her relatives. If the deceased had no relative and his/her body was unclaimed, then such bodies can be used for the dissection purpose only with the permission of a local other legal authorities. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “The ruler (or the legal authority) is the guardian of him who has no guardian.” If a Muslim’s body is used for the dissection, then it should be washed. Funeral prayer should be performed before the dissection. After the dissection all the parts of the body should be collected in a bag and then they should be properly buried. I am told that some Muslim medical schools did follow this procedure.
In conclusion, it is to be noted that scholars have a lot to say on the issue at hand, but as we have noticed the preponderant view is that dissecting human dead bodies is permissible on the condition that it is done while adhering to the Islamic regulations stated above which aim at maintaining the highest degree of security and safety of the body.



Salaama Caleikum

Fatwa i read said that this kind of issues are called ''grey area'' and muslims should stay away as much as possible. 


Assalam Aleikum Sumayya,

Pleasee kindly requested to post the Fatwa you read or the Mufti who issued , in order to know his arguments and on what he has based to issue such a fatwa.


Western Medical schools tend to cremate their cadavers after use.
 The question is, will pro-sections ever be as valuable as cadavers in medical education, until that
isn't the case, Medicine will continue to use cadavers.


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