1) My husband and I haven't been able to achieve pregnancy naturally, after many visits to the doctor and performing many tests, he has advised us to perform in-vitro fertilization (IVF). The doctor has informed us of 2 things that rise questions for us. First, he has informed us that he would like to freeze excess fertilized embryos for future use in another pregnancy between me and my husband. They save the frozen embryos for up to one year. Is this allowed in Islam?
2) He told us that there is the possibility of implantation of more than 3 embryos and that this is a risk factor to both the mother and the embryos. Therefore he would remove the embryos if a large number does get implanted. Is this forbidden in Islam?
All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger, may Allah exalt his mention as well as that of his family and all his companions.
The ruling for In-vitro Fertilization depends on the way it is done. Here is a lawful form of In-vitro Fertilization. The doctor takes an egg from a wife, puts it in an external tube and fertilizes it with a spermatozoid from the husband of the wife. When the fertilized egg starts to reproduce at a given stage the doctor transfers it to the uterus of the wife herself and lets it implant on the uterus wall and develop as an embryo.
The Islamic Fiqh council issued the following Fatwa in its seventh session held in 1404 (after Hijrah AH): "Taking an egg from a woman and sperm from her husband and doing an In-vitro fertilization with the egg and sperm before planting the resulting embryo in the womb of the wife from whom the egg was taken is in principle acceptable in Islam but it can raise some doubts due to what accompanies it. So, it should not be practiced unless there is a dire necessity to do so and with some pre-conditions". These conditions are as follows:
1. The Muslim woman must not under any circumstances show her private parts to anybody except her husband unless there is a lawful reason for doing so.
2. No doubt that the need for the woman to be treated for an illness is a lawful reason that gives her the right to be exposed to a person other than her husband but this should be in conformity with the necessity itself.
3. If there is a legal reason for the woman to be exposed to a person other than her husband for treatment, that person should be a Muslim woman if there is one who can do the job; if not found, then a non-Muslim woman; if not found then a trustworthy Muslim doctor; if not found then a non-Muslim doctor. This is the legal sequence. It is unlawful for the patient woman to stay alone with an alien male doctor. Her husband or another woman should be with them. The council also states that: “the need of the married woman as well as her husband to have a child is a sound reason and a legal one that makes lawful for this woman to seek treatment in the lawful way of artificial insemination.”
The same rule was given by the Fiqh council of the Islamic Conference in 1407 (AH).
As for the scholars who forbid such an operation their reasons are:
First, they fear that the woman might give birth to handicapped children and the operation itself might have bad consequences on the newborn or the mother.
Second, the probability of doubt about the lineage of the newborn left to the doctor who is the only one who can establish that he has done the insemination between the egg the wife and the sperm of her husband. This might lead to some doubts because the doctor might have used a wrong mixture by mistake or the doctor might have some pity on a woman who wants desperately to conceive and put an alien embryo in her uterus. For this reason, one should seek to have this operation done by a trustworthy Muslim woman doctor.
Third, if the husband has a limited number of spermatozoids in his sperm and wants to conserve it in a bank specialized in conserving the sperm unchanged is it lawful for him to do so? Muslim scholars have different rulings on this issue. Some of them think that this is lawful provided that any insemination should be done during the husband's lifetime. Other scholars believe that this is lawful even after the death of the husband but before the expiration of the wife's Iddah (waiting period). A third group of scholars believes that any remaining sperm after the insemination was performed, should be destroyed and not kept for future use. The same disagreement exists also as far as the woman's ovules are concerned before being fertilized and after the fertilization.
The reason for this prohibition is the uncertainty about the concerned sperm or fertilized ovules in the banks of embryos. There is great probability that these embryos can get mixed or that someone misuses them and they might be given to alien persons and this leads the person to commit a sin and can cause mixture in lineage.
The Fiqh Council - a sub-organisation of the Islamic Conference issued a Fatwa about this in 1410 (AH) 1990 (AC):
1. Since it has been proved scientifically that unfertilized ovules can be stored and served for future use, only the number that is to be planted each time should be withdrawn to avoid having a surplus of fertilized ovules.
2. If there is a surplus of fertilized ovules, they should be left without assistance till they die naturally.
3. It is forbidden to take a woman's fertilized ovule and plant it in another woman's uterus. All precautions should be taken to avoid using a fertilized egg in a forbidden pregnancy.
A Muslim is required to have confidence that only Allah, The Exalted, will cure and relieve him. One has to know that many people resorted to artificial insemination and then, Allah cured them and grant them the offspring from His favor without need to such a method of pregnancy.
If a woman becomes pregnant with one embryo or more, naturally or by artificial insemination, she is not allowed to cause to have an abortion as long as her pregnancy exceeds forty days.
One exception is that if an expert trustworthy doctor says that this pregnancy will endanger the mother's life, then an abortion becomes allowed.
As for possible danger or deformation of an embryo, this does not constitute a real reason for causing abortion, and a perpetrator is considered sinful since he committed an aggression on a human being's right of life.
Allah knows best.
Mofti: Fatwa Team Supervised by Dr. Abdulla Al-Faqeeh