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Fiqh Post Mortem


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Fiqh Post Mortem, by Fiqh Medical Interest Group (FMIG) of Volunteer Team IIUM (International Islamic University Malaysia)

Published in: Health & Medicine, Spiritual
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Fiqh Post Mortem

  1. 1. FIQH ON POST-MORTEM<br />1.0 Introduction<br />Handling the issue of dissecting human dead body for medical purposes or the like, Sheikh `Attiya Saqr, former Head of Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee, issues the following fatwa;<br />“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 their own Ijtihad (Personal Reasoning)”<br />2.0 Definition <br />Post mortem simply is to study or examine a human body after death. It is called autopsy; postmortem examination of a body to determine the cause of death or the nature of pathological changes; necropsy. <br />3.0 Does Islam allow post-mortem to be done?<br /> <br />3.1 Points affirming impermissibility<br /> A very important and fundamental principle should be remembered with regards to the human body in that the human body, whether dead or alive, is considered sacred according to Islam. Thus cutting, mutilating and tampering with it in any way is considered blameworthy and unlawful.<br /> Allah Most High says:<br /> “And verily we have honored the children of Adam.” Surah Al-Israa’17: 70<br />A human body is sacred even after death. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Breaking the bone of a dead person is similar (in sin) to breaking the bone of a living person”. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Sunan Ibn Majah & Musnad Ahmad) <br />Thus the human body, dead or alive, has great significance. It is honoured and sacred, and because of the sanctity that is attached to it, it will be unlawful to tamper with it, cut parts of it or dishonor it in any way. <br />Based on this very important principle, many scholars have declared that carrying out post-mortems is unlawful, because it violates the sanctity of the human body. Cutting and dissecting the human body cannot be considered permissible regardless of what beneficial results may stem out from carrying out a post-mortem. <br />3.2 It is not allowed unless where there is a genuine need, such as for criminal identification and when one is forced by law. <br /> General rule: Some of the rules of Islamic medical ethics are 1) Necessity overrides prohibition that is if there are certain items which are islamically prohibited, under dire necessity they can become permissible. 2) Accept the lesser of the two harms if both can not be avoided. 3) Public interest overrides the individual interest. 4) Harm has to be removed at every cost if possible.<br />3.21 To establish the cause of death or restore the right<br />Some contemporary scholars say that it is unlawful unless done with a certain purpose;In the fatwa issued by the Egyptian House of Fatwa on 31st Oct. 1937 on the issue of dissecting the belly of a dead person who swallowed an amount of money, it is stated: <br />The Hanafi scholars permit dissecting the belly of such a person if the money belongs to another person and the deceased left no money that can be given to the owner. The simple reason for this is that the right of a human being takes priority over the right of Allah and the right of the wrongdoer. It goes without saying that it was a wrong thing done by the deceased to unjustifiably take a person’s money. <br />The Shafi`i scholars permit dissecting the belly of a dead person for the purpose of taking out money without giving further details on the issue. The same view adopted by Maliki jurist, Sahnun, while Ahmad holds the opposite view. <br />As for opening the belly of a dead mother for the very purpose of taking out the baby, the Hanafi scholars permit it if the baby is known to be alive, for this will help in saving the life of a human being. The same view is upheld by Shafi`i scholars while the Malikis and the Hanbalis disallow it. <br />The correct opinion is that the rules and the objectives of Shari`ah indicate that if there is a benefit behind opening the belly of a dead person, leading to establishing the cause of death or restoring back a right, then dissection is permissible in this case.<br />The Fatwa of late Sheikh Jadul-Haq `Ali Haq, former Grand Imam of Al-Azhar (may Allah bless his soul) also reads: <br />According to both Imam Abu Hanifah and Ash-Shafi`i, it is permissible to open the belly of a dead person, if there is a valid reason for doing so, such as taking out a living baby or valuable or precious thing (money or jewelry or the like) that the person has swallowed. The view of Malik and Ahmad is that it is allowable to do so in case of money and not in case of a baby. I myself support this view. To me, there is nothing wrong in opening the belly of a dead person so as to take out something valuable such as a living baby or money of considerable value.<br />3.22 Using human organs after death<br />As for using human organs after death, late Sheikh Jadul-Haq adds: <br />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.<br />3.23 Using the bodily organs of a dead person for research purpose<br />The Fatwa of Sheikh `Ikrimah Sabri, the Mufti of Al-Quds & the Khatib of Al-Aqsa Mosque, states: <br />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." <br />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 is also 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 is also permissible for the students of medicine who do so as a way of training. However, these are to be carried out in a place specialized for that purpose and not open for everybody. <br />As far as the work of the doctor is concerned, if post-mortem is a legal requirement, then it would be permitted for him/her to perform the post-mortem. However, if that is not the case, one should avoid it. <br />4.0 Conclusion <br />There is daliil against post mortem the prophet forbade mutilation of the human body (tamthiil). However ulama have allowed post mortem under the doctrine of dharuurat (necessity). The daruurat can be for criminal investigation or for purposes of medical education. In case of the latter permission must be obtained from the deceased (before death) or from the family. Bodies used in post mortem dissection must eventually be buried properly and any parts that are cut off must be buried properly<br />Summary <br />Postmortem is allowed in the following condition:<br />to confirm the cause of death in a criminal case<br />to know the disease that cause the death <br />For teaching and learning purposes in the medical field.<br />In all conditions mentioned above, it is compulsory to bury the dissected dead body.<br />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.<br />Clinical scenario.<br />Mr. X, a 56 year old Muslim politician, a known case of Diabetes Mellitus, hypertension, was found dead in the toilet of his office. He was brought to the forensic department for a postmortem. His wife, Mrs. X, refused to do the postmortem as she believed that it will hurt his husband’s body and Islam does not allow it. What is your advice to the wife?<br />Answer; see above <br />References :<br />Dorland’s pocket Medical Dictionary, Oxford & IBH, 1995<br /><br /> (fatwa bank)<br /><br />Prof Omar Hassan Kasule <br />