What do You Say About Sperm Banks and Artificial Insemination?

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Sperm banks are established to facilitate artificial insemination. It has been used for plants and animals for a long time to produce higher quality breeds and to improve and preserve the species. However, its widespread use for humans is recent.

The seed in the plant kingdom and the sperm in the animal kingdom are the indexes and data boxes of the new beings. The seed germinates in the soil and the sperm in the womb. They are the kernels from which the attributes and characteristics of the new being develop. They are the elements through which the procreation and survival of the species are maintained.

While in the plant and animal kingdom artificial insemination has some significance in terms of the preservation and improvement of the species, its usage in humans is fixed by certain legal principles. In addition, it also needs to be dealt with in terms of the natural laws governing the universe (shari’at al fitra).

We accept without argument artificial insemination for plants and animals. However, for human beings, because of inheritance, marriage, and family relationships, it represents a very different situation. For those reasons, the manner of fertilization and procreation has been bound by restrictions since the first human in the world, and it has come to our day as it was, except for a few periods of history during which it was abused. This may have been because of humankind’s unlimited carnal desire or because of some natural disposition. We strongly hold that the first union of man and woman was bound by divine restrictions. Since the beginning of legislation, the protection of lineage has been one of the five basic principles (usul al khamsa). This basic principle tells us that the sperm and the womb must be restricted and tied to each other by a contract. In other words, the sperm and womb should be tied and the reality of male and female, which seem to be separate, become symbolically united. Through this union, the third aspect of the family, i.e. the child, acquires its legitimate affinity to the family union. The religion sees this union as marriage. It is the most firm foundation on which the family can be established.

Any union of sperm and womb without marriage is considered fornication. It leads to the destruction of the family trio, widespread immorality, women being debased to the level of common property, and illegitimacy. For this reason, the Divine religions all place special emphasis on marriage. They consider it a necessary condition of being a human. On the other hand, adultery and fornication are considered to be transgression and delirium caused by uncontrolled, base human nature.

If fertilization is caused by a sperm of unknown origin, can it be legitimate? In fact, there is no difference between a child born through this manner and one born of an illicit relationship. Since there is no contract in either of these cases, lineage is broken and the family tree is felled. From this arise several legal issues which cannot be overcome: e.g. inheritance, marriage and family relationships. For this reason, artificial insemination is not a subject which can be dealt with lightly. Apart from this, in terms of a psycho sociological approach or of family psychology this issue presents many risks. A father who knows that the child was not born from his own sperm cannot erase the feeling of strangeness toward the innocent child who he himself is trying to attentively bring up. He will always approach him with a degree of fearful uncertainty. In this way, it also affects the mother and her way of looking at both the child and the father and the relationship between them. The child will carry a double burden. He may perceive the paternal closeness of his father as a mere loan. He will feel he is wearing the borrowed shirt of sonhood. I say “perceived” because it will be heard from somewhere that he is not the real son or he may gather this from the looks and attitude of his supposed father.

They may ask “if the sperm is taken from the woman’s husband, is artificial insemination then permitted?” To say yes to such a question without careful consideration may be taken as a religious legal responsum (fatwa). This is because the nature of the question seems to elicit a positive answer, but the bad intention behind it and the demagogy implied in it leads us to be cautious. Why do they choose such an unnatural way, while there is a natural and innate way? Would it not be appropriate to submit to Divine wisdom and act according to the rules of physical creation? To comply with the natural way is essential. For this reason, artificial insemination is completely unnatural and institutions serving it might be considered tacitly the institutions of fornication.

They may raise another question. They may say: “What you said may be true when the father is able to fertilize and the mother is able to be fertilized. In this case one certainly takes the natural way. However, what about when the father is not able to do so?” Then I will ask the question: “Whose sperm is used in fertilization?” If the father is weak, impotent and the sperm does not function as it is supposed to then it is obvious that the sperm taken from the father will definitely not fertilize the egg. One will then take foreign sperm and this will be considered indirect fornication. If the situation is because the mother has a blockage or inadequacy or sickness of the womb, the specialist should intervene. If such a legal medical intervention makes the womb “a place of rest firmly fixed” (Mu’minun 23:13), then it becomes incumbent to follow the natural way. If the womb is not able to function as it is supposed to, artificial insemination is meaningless. Taking this subject lightly and saying “taking the sperm from the husband is permitted,” although technically true, is a defective judgment because it is open to abuse. Indeed, I do fear that those who raise such issues do so in order to get a judgment of a sort to open the doors to abuse. Sperm banks are already in existence and their doors are wide open to anyone whether they consider artificial insemination legitimate in Islam or not.

In terms of the laws of nature (shari’at al fitriya), artificial insemination has many objections. However, discussing them opens up a complicated debate and so I will not enter into it. It is not my field. I should leave it to the specialists, scientists and doctors; that is the soundest approach.

There is no doubt that such a way is contrary to nature. Every being is urged to maintain the survival of the species through sexual reproduction. They are given a small reward in the form of temporary pleasure to serve this end. The Owner of all beings who imbued such a disposition into beings does not want it to be changed. Therefore, no one has any right to seek to abolish this natural phenomenon. Any attempt to do so is an attempt to change creation and nature, which must be rejected (mardud) as satanic. It is an approach that considers humans at the level of plants and animals and destroys the distinction of humanity. For this reason, each and every person ought to protest against such thinking. However, people of today are crawling at the ABC of natural sciences. It will not be easy to save them from the madness of hastily contrived technologies. Some are no doubt seeking an artificial conflict on this and similar issues between science and the creation of humanity “in the best pattern” (Tin 95:4), and seeking to present science and religion as in opposition to one another.

We hope that such people who are in a sort of delirium soon wake up and see the truth, and that all the obstructions in the way between science and ethics will be overcome.