August 20, 2005- Detroit News -Stem Cell Research
"We created Man from a quintessence (of clay); Then we made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood; then of that clot We made a (fetus) lump; then We made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then We developed out of it another creature. So blessed be Allah, the Best to create."
Dreams of defeating a long list of more than 70 different diseases and disorders, such as cancer, heart problems, strokes, Parkinson, Alzheimer, diabetes and spinal cord injury, may come true as a result of major breakthroughs in stem cells experimentations. A recent study by Australian scientists revealed that stem cells taken from adults can also develop into brain, heart, nerve, muscle and kidney cells. Stem cells can also be taken from the umbilical cord or an aborted fetus.
There is no debate about the destruction of embryos that results from assisted reproduction technology. The conflict starts over the embryonic stem cells. The remarkable ability of embryo cells to develop into any adult cells, such as blood, bone, brain and muscle, has made them the most useful for research.
The Catholic Church considers the destruction of an embryo for research as killing a potential human and as immoral as abortion. There are also some Muslim scholars who see any human cloning as an intervention in God's creation and prefer to let the frozen embryo die out of fear of it being misused later.
Mainstream Muslim scholars cautiously welcome the stem cell research as a development that may ease human suffering. Islamic traditions state that life starts when the fetus is four moths old and the heart starts beating. Until then, the life is more potential and vegetative than real.
However, abortion is not permitted even during this period except for necessities. Experimenting with embryos formed by artificial fertilization — still in the test tube and not the womb — is not considered abortion. Iranian scientists, with the official approval of the supreme religious leader Ayatollah Khamanie, have developed lines of human embryonic stem cells. This has given more confidence to other Muslim scholars.
This should end the fight between theology and science. They are two gifts from our Creator. They are there to complete one another. Any scientific victory that doesn't cause harm and injustice to human society is celebrated as a sign of God's glory and guidance.
Cloning and cell research is based on the system of cause and effect already designed in nature. There is no such thing as separation between science and religion in Islam.
A teacher of mine, the late Ayatollah Motahary, used to say, "Knowledge gives us light and power. Faith gives us love and hope. Knowledge is speed, faith is direction. Knowledge is about means to move and faith is about destination."
Science is external security, and faith is about internal peace. Faith without knowledge is ignorance and knowledge without faith is dangerous.
Science and religion should reconcile and work together to create a high-quality life free of unnecessary suffering. The fact that President George W. Bush finally agreed to support some embryonic stem cell research with federal funds and that already has dedicated $3 billion for this project is good news.
The Quran mentions the mission of man is to represent God's authority, trust, honor and love. Through understanding the secrets of nature and the soul, man is given free will. Easing human suffering through scientific discovery is moral.