Amongst the various marvels of science and the facilities it has afforded humankind in the last two centuries one extraordinary discovery is organ transplantation. Through surgery, a defective organ of a person can be replaced with a healthy one belonging to another person. The healthy organ can be taken from either a living or a dead person. The question which arises on this procedure is, whether it is religiously permissible that a person in his life donate any of his organs for transplant, or make a will that after his death, an organ of his be donated?

The answer to this question should be in the affirmative because apparently there is nothing in the Qur’an and Hadith which prohibits this. However, the ulema of the Indian sub-continent generally regard it to be prohibited, and proffer two arguments in favour of their viewpoint.

The first of these is that a person is not the owner of his body. Hence he does not have the right in his own life to make a will for organ donation. A person has control of his body as long as he is living in that body. Once he departs from his body, he has no right on it that he can make a will in favour of it and this will be considered as implemented.

The second of these is that the sanctity of a dead body should not be violated. The living should not harm it in any way. It is their obligation that the body of a dead person be buried with full respect. Dissecting a dead body or severing any of its organs or limbs is tantamount to violating its sanctity, and no ethical system of this world can permit this to happen.

In my opinion, both these arguments need to be reconsidered.

No doubt, the real owner of everything is God; however, this too is a reality that a person has the right to use and expend within the limits prescribed by God whatever has been given to him. Thus for one’s honour, family, country and religion a person sacrifices his life, generously spends his wealth and while knowing that he can be killed or lose any of his limbs, still fights a war for the above mentioned causes, jumps in the fire and is ready to face the greatest of dangers. The Qur’an has termed this as the jihad of the life and wealth of a person and as spending for the cause of God. In various places, it has urged its followers to spend these things for the causes outlined above. It is evident that the Qur’an acknowledges this right of a person over his life and wealth.

The right a person has to make a will is a corollary of this right to use his life and wealth. Thus, just as we have the right to make a will about our wealth after our death, similarly, we also have the right to make a will regarding enshrouding our dead body and its burial. Donating one’s organ to some other person is also a similar matter. If all these afore-mentioned things are allowed, and can be done while a person has left his body, then how can making a will for organ donation be regarded as forbidden?

Similar is the case of violating the sanctity of a corpse. It relates to one’s intentions and motives. Inflicting harm on the limb of a person is a crime. The Qur’an has given the directives of qisas and diyat for such crimes. However, if with the permission of the patient, a doctor severs his hand or foot, then no one can call him a criminal. So why should not one differentiate between mutilating a dead body through various means and conducting a post-mortem for the purpose of investigation? If a person makes a will to give his wealth to some needy person, then this is counted as a virtue. Similarly, if he makes a will to donate any of his organs or limbs to someone in need, then this should also be seen as a virtue. Why should implementing such a will be regarded as violating the sanctity of a corpse?

(Translated by Dr Shehzad Saleem)