The ethical limits of genetic intervention: genethics in philosphical and fiqhi discourses

Dublin Core


The ethical limits of genetic intervention: genethics in philosphical and fiqhi discourses


al-Khatib, Mutaz



Publication Date



The power of biomedical technology lies not only in treating diseases and relieving pain, but also in intervening in our bodies at the molecular level in a way that makes us wonder if this is (re)shaping our very human nature. This technology raises ethical, philosophical and religious questions related to understanding and identifying our essential humanity, that which is “uniquely human” in us, and how far genetic interventions in our human bodies may affect all this. Biomedical developments and their associated philosophical and religious dilemmas shed new lights on old questions like: What makes us distinctively human? Why is human life sacred? When does human life begin? What makes an individual eligible to certain rights? How would the answers to these questions determine the optimal way to deal with a human being throughout the various stages of his/her lifespan?

All the previous questions were usually linked to the classical topic of abortion, but modern biomedical technology expanded the reproduction possibilities in unprecedented ways. This new situation puts humans in front of a new and increasing list of options and alternatives, including striking ones like the so-called “liberal eugenics”. These developments make the decision-making process about these issues quite complex because one’s moral world, consisting of basic moral assumptions and convictions, does not always have readymade and clear-cut answers about these questions. This holds true to both the deliberations taking place among Western philosophers like Habermas and the parallel discussions in the Islamic tradition.

This chapter will tackle the above-mentioned questions by examining first the moral status of biomedical technology itself and understanding the different perceptions of its potential among philosophers and Muslim jurists. Further, the chapter will discuss the philosophical and jurisprudential perceptions of human beings and human life; and the identification of the key ethical dilemmas raised by modern biomedical technology, as epitomized by genetic intervention.

Primary Classification


Secondary Classification

2.1; 1.2; 15.1; 1.1; 4.4

Primary keywords

biotechnology [pri]; genetic engineering [pri]; Islamic ethics [pri]; philosophy

Secondary keywords

autonomy; beginning of life; fiqh; genetic intervention; reproduction; theology; value of life


International Islamic Fiqh Academy
Islamic Fiqh Academy'
Islamic Organization for Medical Sciences


hifz al-nafs; hifz al-nasl


Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Primary Document Type


Call Number

QH438.7 .I85 2019


52 refs., 41 fns


9789004392137 (e-book)

Book Chapter

In: Ghaly, Mohammed, ed. Islamic Ethics and the Genome Question. Leiden: Brill Open, 2019: 169-200



“The ethical limits of genetic intervention: genethics in philosphical and fiqhi discourses,” Islamic Medical & Scientific Ethics, accessed July 12, 2020,