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Paper title: Islam and Biotechnology: With Special Reference to Genetically Modified Foods Author: Mohd Safian, Yasmin Hanani Institutional Affiliation: Lecturer, Faculty of Shari`ah and Law, Islamic University College of Malaysia This paper was prepared for "Science and Religion: Global Perspectives", June 4-8, 2005, in Philadelphia, PA, USA, a program of the Metanexus Institute Abstract: This paper attempts to highlight and discover Islamic principles in legitimizing current scientific research and innovations related to Biotechnology. For instance, genetically modified food issues ignite a firestorm of world debate especially in Western countries. GMF issues are debated globally as many claim that these foods have the potential for detrimental impacts on public health and the environment. Some biotech food producers have claimed their intellectual property rights over their food products and seeds for the technology they are licensing to farmers. For some Muslims and other God-conscious people, tampering with nature by implanting genes from one organism into another, which nature has not sanctioned through natural processes, and then claiming legal ownership over such GM products is considered to be intolerable. The ‘terminator gene’ introduced by GM food companies may lead to the possibility of monopoly and encroachment of the world agro-economics by western seed producing conglomerates. This paper attempts to discover the Islamic perspectives regarding the said issue, the teaching of the Prophet and the Islamic guidelines with regards to biotechnology. The main source of hukm
(legal rules) in Islam is al-Qur’an
(tradition of the Prophet), consensus and analogy. However, if the problem is not covered textually, the principle of maslahah
(public interest) may be applied onto the matter. This principle of maslahah
is based on the principle of avoiding harm and promoting interest. However, there are many guidelines in applying this principle in order to prevent people from clinging on to it tenaciously in order to fulfill their own unlawful desire. Hence, this paper tries to highlight the Islamic constraints in pursuing biotechnology research based on the said Islamic Legal principles. Biography: Yasmin Hanani Mohd. Safian currently is a lecturer in The Faculty of Sharicah and Law, Islamic University College of Malaysia. She holds a B.A (Hons.) in Sharicah from El-Azhar University Egypt and M.A (in Islamic Studies) from the University of Birmingham. She teaches several courses in Sharicah such as History of Islamic Law, Islamic Commercial Law and Islamic Criminal Law. She has published articles related to Usul Fiqh
(The principles of Islamic jurisprudence) and Islamic Business Transactions. Her husband, Amir Shaharuddin is also a lecturer in the same institution teaching Islamic Banking and Total Quality Management.
Tampering with nature, changing God's creation to create another 'invented' creation and
finally claiming legal ownership over such products are some hot issues in
biotechnology. The said issues have led to ethical and religious concerns. By using
several undisputable primary sources of Islamic Legal Rules (hukm)
(the Prophet traditions) and a disputable tool that is the principle of masalih al-
(public interest), the writer tries to shed light into the advancement of
biotechnology with special reference to the genetically modified foods. Therefore, in
order to highlight the Islamic perspective regarding genetically modified foods (GMF),
this paper is divided into three parts. The first part discusses the issues that ignite
firestorm among public pertaining to food technology. The second part highlights several
provisions from al-Qur’an, al-hadith
related to the said matters. Finally, the third part
concentrates on the possibility of the application of principle of masalih al-mursalah
justify the necessity of changing God’s creation in GMF technology and justify the
necessity of claiming legal ownership over such foods and products.
In Western countries, GM food issues are debated as hot as halal
food issues in Muslim
countries. The debated issues include the issue of the safety of GM food, the possible ill
effects to the environment, changes of ecosystem and ethical issues. According to
Brainyencyclopaedia (20/10/04), a genetically modified food is a food product containing
some quantity of any genetically modified orgasm (GMO) as an ingredient. It also used
interchangeably with genetically engineered food and genetically altered food. Genetic
engineering is the process by which scientists combine the genes of dissimilar and
unrelated species or manipulate the genes of existing species to change their
characteristics, permanently altering their genetic codes and creating novel organisms.
The distinguish feature of GM as highlighted by Prof. E. Ann Clark (2004) is the process
of forcible gene insertion. Genetic engineering differs from traditional breeding and
allows biotechnology corporations to combine organisms that would never able to
combine naturally, such as tomato and fish. Because of the imprecise nature of gene
insertion, these crops and foods may pose significant risk to human health and the
environment (National Association of State PIRGs As You Sow Foundation. 2003)
In nature, we cannot cross a tomato with a fish as animals and plants have long been
separate in evolution. However, there was a laboratory research that produced a "frost-
resistant" tomato by splicing into its genetic code a gene that protects a flounder from the
cold (The Independent. 12 October 1999). This first transgenic plant is said to have been
created in the early 80’s when a gene from a bacterium was spliced into a petunia.
Subsequently oilseed rape has had a bay tree gene spliced into it, to improve its oil, and a
potato has been given a disease-resistant chicken gene.
The first commercially grown genetically modified food crop was a tomato created by
Calgene called the FlavrSavr
(Brainyencyclopaedia. 2004) Calgene submitted it to the
U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for testing in 1992; following the FDA’s
determination that the FlavrSavr,
in fact, a tomato, did not constitute health hazard, and
did not need to be labeled to indicate it was genetically modified, Calgene released it into
the market 1994, where it met with little public comment. Genetically modified plant are
already grown extensively particularly in the USA, South America and Canada. At the
first stage, some of European countries banned the GM foods into their countries.
However, in September 2004, the European Commission has finally permitted the first
genetically modified seeds for cultivation and sale across the EU. After several years, we
can easily find food contains GM ingredients such as vegetarian cheese and GM tomato
Despite the approval of EU concerning GM seeds recently, the fear of GM food has led
to the withdrawal of US Food Aid by some African countries such as Sudan and Angola.
The Sudanese government for instance in May 2003 issued a memorandum requiring that
all food aid brought to the country must be certified as free from GM ingredients.
However, in March 2004 the USAID – the main supplier of aid for the World Food
Programme announced that it would cut off food aid supplies to Sudan on the basis that
USAID does not issue certificates confirming the GM status of its food aid.
Consequently, the USA is accused of manipulating the humanitarian principles of food
aid to further its political and economical objectives. African countries are facing
dilemma; accepting GM food aid or letting the populations go hungry.
The potential benefits of GM are believed could bring a new dawn in agriculture and
food production. GM foods offer a way to quickly improve crop characteristics; draught
or the local pests resistance, herbicide tolerance (scope.educ.Washington.edu
30/10/2004), crops that give higher yields; or fish or livestock that grow bigger and feed
more people like salmon fish with three times more growth; or GM crops that
incorporated vaccines to prevent prevalent diseases (Biotechinfo, 19/10/04). Through
new innovation, healthier foods can be produced which incorporate extra nutrients or
Biotech conglomerates such as Monsanto1 claims GM food and GM crops are crucial in
order to feed and to provide balanced nutrients to the chronically hungry people
especially in the third world countries (Monsanto 29/10/2004). There are more 842
million people across the world are hungry and remain chronically undernourished. Bo
Lonnerdal (2003) in his article has contended that the GM technology can combat the
lack of deficiencies of iron and zinc. The said biotechnology can improve trace element
nutrition of staple foods such as cereal and legumes. He further stresses that this way may
be achieved by introduction of genes that code for trace-element binding proteins, over
expression of storage proteins already present and/or increased expressions of proteins
that are responsible for trace element uptake into plants. However there is still a major
concern especially for Muslims when the researchers tend to use human breast milk to
1 Monsanto is a biotechnology company, founded in 1901. Nowadays, as a leading worldwide provider of technology-based solutions to farmer around the world, it has committed to innovation in plant biotechnology, genomics and breeding to improve productivity and to reduce costs of farming. One of its worldwide used products is the herbicide Roundup
. The original Monsanto’s first plant biotechnology products, Roundup Ready
soybeans, canola and Bollgard
cotton, are planted commercially in 1996.
improve the ion content of rice due to the fact that human lactoferrin
binds specifically to
receptors in the human small intestine.
On the other hand, the development of GM crops also brings a great benefit to the
environment. The GM technology enhances conservation of soil, water and energy that
are three critical and endangered components of the ecosystem. The efficiency in land use
can save the rainforest, reduce the pollution emission and save precious habitats from
exploitations. Furthermore, the crop yield in the farmland could be tripled and could
increase profit margin per acre (Saeed A. Khan, 2003). Meanwhile for crops, the GM
technology can reduce the maturation time and reduce reliance on pesticides and
herbicides, which damage the environment. 2.0
Issues on GM Food:
The safety of GM foods is still in a grey area. Until nowadays, no guarantees as to long term safety of GM foods and we cannot predict how human health will be affected over a long time period. However, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has subjected GM foods to an extensive range of analytical tests for food safety including chemical analysis, allergenicity tests, evaluation of nutritional composition and others. A report by the scientific council of the American Medical Association also argues that there is no long term-health effects have been detected from the use of transgenic crops and genetically modified food. These two reports conclude that GM foods are “substantially equivalent” to their conventional counterparts. On the other hand, the alternative argument put forward by anti-GM lobbyists is that GM is still new that the full effects on human health have not yet been tested adequately. This due to the fact that the reports also highlight some risks that may occur from the biotechnology engineering. There may be health risks from allergic reactions to GM food or from the bacteria and viruses used to transfer genes from one organism to another. Someone with a peanut allergy could have a fatal reaction to a plant engineered to carry a peanut protein. Problems could also arise if biotech companies transferred traits from antibiotics into crops. The anti GM groups also view that funding for truly independent research at many university and research faculties and institutes compares unfavorably to the billions of dollars spent by the companies who want to sell GM foods and crops. However, the other argument that we should bear in our mind is that humans have practiced genetic modification since we first domesticated animals and plants over 8,000 years ago. The alternative argument is that in the past all modification and crossbreeding has happened within nature. Our predecessors never crossed the genes of different species from a plant to an animal or fish. There is also a hadith
indicating that the Arabs also crossbreed the dates plants. Nowadays people can take a gene that protects the flounder fish from cold, add it to genetic code of a tomato and make transgenic frost resistant tomato.
Monsanto introduces a technology called terminator
into food crops, which produced plants that grew sterile seeds. Monsanto claimed this was necessary to protect their intellectual property rights, since they were licensing the technology to farmers. However, public outcry about the undue influence that the terminator gene would give to Monsanto, particularly in less developed nations where seed saving is more common, led to its withdrawal. Not only Monsanto, any other GM food producer have already developed seeds that will only produce one yield of crops that will make farmer dependent on such companies. These farmers, especially from developing countries are required to purchase more seeds from foreign companies that will make they lose their autonomy and become dependent farmers. Consequently, the monopoly of the world agro-economics will be on the hand of the GM companies. The claiming of legal ownership over GM plant has led to ethical concerns and public confusions. Intellectual property rights are in fact temporary rights of exclusive exploitation of an idea and not ownership rights to the product that emerges from it (OECD Observer, 23 October 2004). Many scientists argue that the restraining of biotechnology programmes through the Intellectual Property Right legislation has led many biotech research at hold and they really hope that the ethical based system may have the virtue of open ended and adaptable to new circumstances as knowledge about GM foods improve. 2.3 Ecological
Apart from the great benefit GM technology could bring, there is still a worry that GM plants could potentially lead to detrimental consequences to the environment as warned by the report of the American Medical Association. One of the greatest fears in regard to GM crops and food is that, once growing in our fields, these plants might pass pollen or seeds to native plants that could then take on the engineered traits. There have been some instances where insects and plants in and around GM crops have shown some damage. For example, the Soil Association in the UK points out that the death rate of lacewing insects was doubled when they were fed on plant eating- larvae raised on GM maize. Likewise, they point to damage to bees feeding of GM rapeseed genetically modified to produce natural insecticide intended to kill only caterpillars and beetles. To counter this potential problem, boundaries are placed around GM crops. Also, the much misunderstood ‘terminator genes’ has been produced to stop what is called the ‘gene flow’ or spread genes from plant to plant and into the wild. Research is ongoing into the halting of the ‘gene flow’. Plants, which are modified by inserting a gene which renders all seed produced infertile has been much criticized as an attempt to corner the seed market. During the last decade, more than 40 varieties of transgenic crops have been approved for use in the USA, most of them genetically modified to produce a pesticide called Bacillus thuringiensis,
or Bt. The Bt toxin attacks pests like the European corn borer, but
laboratory studies suggest it may also be dangerous to the larvae of the monarch butterfly and other butterflies and moths. 2.4
Changing God’s creation and tampering with nature:
Apart from environment effects, the GM food producers, farmers and manufacturers are
accused of changing natural process and tampering with nature when cattle were changed
from herbivores to cannibal carnivores. Previously, during winter when the grass is thin
and weak, soybean was used to feed the cattle, as they need protein supplement.
However, some farmers have used remnants of dead cattle instead of soybean as to save
cost. Consequently, the BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy)
or mad cow disease
that attacked the UK nation widely was claimed as the detrimental effect of the step of
changing natural process.
Further more, as Saeed A. Khan argues that the positive consequences of GM technology
are also counterbalanced with an equally pernicious cost. The danger of overproduction
of crops may be irresistible. Although the crops that are resistance to disease and pests
have constructive value, the disruption to the balance of the ecosystem is unclear as
illustrated in the reports made by American Medical Association. 3.0 Al-Qur’an and Al-hadith views regarding GM foods and products:
points of views regarding food intake:
As regard to the potential risks associated with GM food, Al-Qur'an has led several rules
on food intake. Allah The Almighty said:
“Eat of the things which God hath provided for you, lawful and good: But fear God, in
Whom ye believe” (Al-Qur'an. Al-Ma'idah 5: 88).
What we can deduce from this ayat is that Allah orders us not only eating halal
good food as well. Thus, based from this ayat
(Quranic verse), we should not only avoid haram
(illegal) foods and drinks such as non slaughtered animals and liquor, also we
should refrain ourselves from taking regularly any foods and drinks that contain chemical
substances, preservatives, additives or colouring agent that may harm our bodies.
However, there is no scientific evidence that GM foods are harmful to human health.
There are many research and experiments conducted that GM foods are as safe as their
conventional counterparts. Furthermore, many scientists argue that GM food on our
plates have been tested far more thoroughly than any other conventional foods. For
instance, a research conducted by Harry Kuiper of the State Institute for Quality Control
of Agricultural Products in Wageningen, Netherlands, had shown that GM tomatoes were
not harmful to rats, conversely they would have been poisoned by the basic nutrients in
the tomato such as potassium (Librarythinkquest. 19 October 2004). As a result all myths
that associating GM food and health hazard has yet proven scientifically.
However, for Muslims, God has created and fashioned every living things in the best
form and man as a viceroy or khalifatullah
(al-Qur`an 2:30) is assigned to manage and
utilize them for living purposes in the best way and order. As a viceroy, man has been
given responsibility on this earth and he is accountable on what he has done before God
in the Hereafter. This is the crucial guideline for any human being to live in this world,
utilize the entire natural resources for the sake of living things and ensure the best for nature, as it will become legacy for the future generation. The very well known hadith
in the Sahih al Bukhari
is that: "Everyone of you is a guardian and is responsible for his charges. The ruler who has authority over people, is a guardian and is responsible for them" (Hadith. Al-Bukhari. Kitab al-Nikah: Juz` 81: #16)2 Islam teaches its believer to be kind to nature and do not betray the responsibility and the trust that have been given to them. As stated earlier, man as a khalifatullah
has his own responsibilities towards nature. Animals, nature, trees and all creatures in this world are created to assist people living easily and assist them to become good servants of Allah. Everything people do, they have to submit it to God. Therefore, human and nature are two important elements in this world in order to fulfill the prophet's mission that is tawhidullah.
A prominent Muslim scholar, Seyyed Hossein Nasr in his book, Man and Nature (1968) has stressed that the relationship between man and nature should be as the same as the relation between man and wife. Each of them has their own responsibilities towards each other. Unfortunately, for modern man, nature has become like a prostitute- to be benefited from without any sense of obligation and responsibility towards her.
This domination over nature without rendering it back for the purpose of `ibadah
(act of worship) to God has led to massive disaster. 3.2 Al-Qur’an
points of views regarding the issue of changing God's creation: Islam, at the first stage regards attempt to modify living things a sin as stated in the Al Qur’an: “God did curse him, but he said: “I will take of Your servants a portion marked off, I will mislead them, and I will create in them false desires, I will order them to slit the ears of cattle, and to deface the (fair) nature created by God.” Whoever forsaking God, takes Satan for a friend, hath a surety suffered a loss that is manifest”
(Al-Qur’an. An-Nisa’ 4:119)3 This ayat is a warning from Allah that any means to unnecessary change of the Creation of Allah will make one subject to the curse of Allah and his Prophet. However, if the change falls under the category of essential type (daruriyyat
), so such a change and modification is permissible. For instance, if the genetic engineering is conducted to prevent from harm i.e to reduce reliance on pesticides and herbicides, which damage the environment, such an experiment is permissible and is in line with the principle of Shari`ah
that is promoting welfare and preventing from harm (jalb al-masalih wa dar’ al-mafasid
). Further more, in order to create better livestock and crop, Islam does encourage gene modification that has been used for centuries using natural methods involving organisms of the same species. There is a hadith
where the Prophet S.A.W approved the action of
2Al-Bukhari. Sahih Al-Bukhari. (trans). Muhammad Muhsin Khan. 1984. The Translation of The Meaning of Sahih Al-Bukhari.
New Delhi: Kitab Bhavan. Vol. 7. p. 82 3 The Quranic translation in this writing is based on `Abdullah Yusuf Ali. 2000. The Holy Qur`an, Original Arabic Text with English Translation & Selected Commentaries.
Kuala Lumpur: Saba Islamic Media.
crossbreeding of date plant by the Arab in his saying: "You are more knowledgeable in
your worldly affairs" (Hadith. Muslim. Kitab Al-Fada'il: Bab 39: #6082). However,
according to this hadith
that was narrated by Anas, at the first stage, when the Prophet
saw the Arab was making crossbreeding into the dates plants, he prohibited them by
saying that it is better if they let the dates grow naturally. However, when the Arabs let
the dates grow naturally as suggested by the Prophet, the yield of the plant was not as
satisfactory as before and then the Prophet said: "You are more knowledgeable in your
worldly affairs". In the same hadith
, the prophet mentioned that he was the best person to
refer to in the religious matters, nevertheless when it comes into the worldly affairs, he
admitted that the people knew better than him. This is evident that Islam and Shari`ah
not put strict limitation in worldly affairs provided they are used, managed and utilized
for the benefit of the common people and vice versa. That means it is not only for good
of certain groups of people. On the other hand, observing the said hadith,
it is evident that
at the first stage the Prophet prefers we preserve and monopolize living things in their
natural ways. However, if there is a need to modify them in natural ways such as
crossbreeding or what so ever for the good of human life, he did recognize such an
Dr. Wahbah Zuhaili in his great masterpiece, Al-Fiqh Al-Islami wa 'Adillatuh
elaborated this hadith
by saying that any worldly affairs that are not textually covered in
the Holy Book of al-Qur'an nor hadith
is upon the discretion of human being provided it
will not violate the principle of Shari`ah that is promoting interests, avoiding hardship
and for the good of people. The writer is of the view that the principle of masalih
may be applicable here to justify the necessity of changing God’s creation in
GM technology and to justify the necessity of claiming legal ownership over such foods
and products. 4.0 The application of masalih mursalah in validating or invalidating GM food
Another tool in Islamic Law that can be applied to justify the validity of GM foods is masalih mursalah.
Majority of Muslim jurists unanimously agree that al-Qur'an, hadith
(consensus) and qiyas
(analogy) are the prime sources of law in Islamic
jurispurdence. However, there are disputes among jurists on the usage of any other
sources of law and masalih mursalah
is one of them. The Maliki School of law accepted
it as its founder Imam Malik regards "public interest" is a valid source of juridical
decision. Other schools of law such as Hanbali and Hanafi also accept this principle of
(legal rules) as well as the Shafii School of law though the latter school
basically discards this principle in its original meaning. This paper is not trying to discuss
the disputes among Muslim scholars on this issue extensively rather it is merely
highlighting an epigrammatic view on it. The more important point that is highlighted in
this section is the guidelines set up by Muslim scholars in adapting the mentioned
principle by which we can justify the necessities of genetically modified foods and the
issues of intellectual property rights.
4.1 Muslim scholars’ point of view regarding the application of masalih mursalah
in legitimizing worldly affairs: Many scholars view that its name masalih
(interest) comes together with the word mursalah
(the unrestricted public interest) as it is not mentioned specifically in Qur'an neither in Sunnah (Abdul Karim Zaidan,1998; Wahbah Zuhaili, 1998). Actually, there are three types of maslahah; maslahah mu`tabarah (accredited maslahah), maslahah mulghah (discredited maslahah)
and masalih mursalah
(unrestricted public interest). Maslahah mu`tabarah
refers to interests recognized by as-shari`
(the law maker) as the purpose of shari`ah
is to protect five specific interests; to protect the religion (din),
, life (nafs)
, reason (`aql)
and lineage (nasb).
Preserving these interests is vital and is considered as essential in human life. Maslahah mulghah
refers to any unrecognized maslahah
by the shar`i`.
Meaning that certain hukm
is applied regardless of certain personnel maslahah
such as the compensation one has to pay when committed unlawful action. In this situation, one's personnel interest will not be taken into consideration for instance in hudud
cases. Maslahah mursalah
as mentioned above
refers to any interest, which is not mentioned in the al-Qur'an
Since these interests have not been covered textually, therefore are considered mursal
i.e., set loose from such texts. This is the principle that may be adopted to justify the necessities of changing justify the necessities of changing God’s creation in GM technology and justify the necessities of claiming legal ownership over such foods and products. Having discovered the three types of maslahah
, it seems crucial to define the meaning of masalih mursalah
as our centre of discussion. Maslahah
literally means interest, welfare, advantage, wellbeing. Karim Zaidan (1998) defines it as to promote and bring welfare and to avoid and prevent harm (jalbu al-masalih wa dar' al-mafasid)
. Meanwhile, al-Ghazali in his book Mustasfa as cited by Wahbah Zuhaili (1998) advocates that maslahah
does not merely carry this meaning nonetheless the most important thing is to preserve five objectives of the shari`ah
namely the religion (din),
, life (nafs)
, reason (`aql)
and lineage (nasb)
. Meaning that any means to protect any one of the five objectives of shari`ah
will be deemed as a maslahah
in Islam. Other scholars define this principle as public welfare as cited by Abdurrahman I. Doi (1984). This principle together with other principles like istishab
go back in their origin to reason; to the study of the reasons behind the rules, to the fulfillment of the interests of the people in their social life and to abiding as closely as possible with absolute good and the dictates of justice and equity (S. Mahmassani, 2000). However, the study of the reasons behind the rules can only be applied to transaction matters and not to religious observances (ta`abudiyyah)
. Therefore, any action which benefits people is considered legal and lawful. To some extent, majority of Muslim jurists agree that the governing measure of all that lawful or unlawful thing or action is the benefit or the harm which stems from it (Muhammad Abu Zahrah, 2001; S.Mahmassani, 2000). This is the argument which the scholars of Maliki school of law use in advocating this principle. On the other hand, many scholars from Shafii School of law do not accept the masalih mursalah
as one of the sources in Islamic legal rules due to the fact that interest varies according to different degree of people, time and place. Furthermore, as maslahah
interest is a subjective matter, it will open a back door to the exploitation of this principle when people simply cling on it tenaciously to fulfill their unlawful desire. Generally speaking, we can conclude that scholars from Shafii School of law reject maslahah
or interest as a determining factor in legal ruling. However, al-Ghazali in his book al-Mustasfa
as cited by Wahbah Zuhaili (1998) only sanctioned the application if the maslahah
to be served was absolutely essential. He also put strict guidelines in accepting this principle as a method of deriving hukm
in Islam. 4.2 Guidelines in adopting the principle of masalih mursalah
as a source of hukm:
Many Muslim scholars have set up guidelines and attached several conditions that should be fulfilled in applying this principle in transaction matters, which can be concluded as; First: the interest should be in harmony with the spirit of the shari`ah
or in other words it should be in line with the general objectives of the shari`ah
. Furthermore, it should not be in conflict with any of its accepted sources. Second: the interest involved in the case should be accepted by majority of scholars and the interest must be reasonable, rational, and logical. Third: the application of this principle is to avoid hardships and difficulties. Fourth: There are three types of maslahah
according to the priorities; daruriyat
. The interest should be one of the essential (daruriyat
) or the necessary (hajiyat
) and not of the perfectionist (luxury, tahsinat
) type. Daruriyat
includes the preservation of religion,
property, life, reason and lineage as mentioned earlier.
Meanwhile, the necessary type or hajiyat
appertains to the betterment of living. People depend on this maslahah
as it will release people from hardship. For example; in the case of concession granted to travelers to break the fast during the daytime of Ramadan. On the other hand, the perfectionist type (tahsinat
) refers to "decoration and improvement" which make life more cheerful and comfortable. Fifth: Other ulama' from Maliki and Hanbali Schools of Law put a condition (Wahbah Zuhaili, 1998) that the application of this principle should be based on the objective to promote the welfare and the interest of the public and not only the interest of certain group of people or individuals. This is due to the fact that the aim of shari`ah
is to protect the interest of the whole mankind. Fifth: the case under review should be one pertaining to matters of transactions so that interest involved in it may be construed upon grounds of reason. The case should not be one relating to religious observances (Mahmassani 1983). It is clear to us that the guidelines in the application of the principle of masalih mursalah
to legitimize an action is an evidence that our previous Muslim scholars had taken serious effort to determine that this principle cannot be simply violated by whatever means. Examining the reasons behind why the manufacturers tend to modified gene as they claim to feed hunger people seem to be a mere political and economical basis. Since they are licensing the technology to the farmers through their 'terminator gene' technology, it will make farmers especially in less developed countries loss their autonomy and consequently become dependent to such GM companies. The world agro economic will at last be on the hands of GM food producers. Even though the GM companies have their own intellectual property rights (IPR) over the foods, plants and seeds, this is truly violated the Shari`ah
principle that we should help the need and the hunger without any
profit proposes behind. Via GM food technology, the genes can be manipulated to enable
staple crops to grow in marginal condition, but the farmers still have to purchase the
seeds from the conglomerates. Further more, though nearly 800 million people go to bed
hungry every night as stated by World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development,
Ian Johnson but there is still a strong argument that the problem of starvation in African
countries is mainly caused by inefficient domestic management of food and political
reasons rather than scarcity of it! Furthermore, the GM technology in Islam is permissible
under the principle of maslahah
provided that the maslahah
is to serve the interest of the
public rather to serve the interest of certain group of people. Examining the reasons why
some manufacturers license the technology to farmers, it is clear that it is only to protect
their own interest. Even though they do have right over their technology that recognized
by Islam, but there is still a fear of the terminator
gene will be passed to native plants,
hence making them cannot grow naturally. Therefore, this terminator
the Shari`ah principle.
. 5.0 Concluding Remarks:
To conclude, many experiments had shown that GM food is safe for consumption and the
technology does not contradict Islamic tenets on food intake. Furthermore, GM food has
been altered genetically in order to improve trace element nutrients and is well balanced.
However, there is a strong need for labeling GM food products as the consumer's trust
should not be abused especially when the processing involves inserting animal genes for
vegetarians and pig genes for Jews and Muslims. Furthermore, there is still a major
concern considering the fact that mixing genes from radically different organisms is
ethically wrong. Therefore the manufacturer should be more responsible and not let the
customers end up eating food without knowing it contain GM ingredients.
It is important to note that Islam imposes no restrictions on biotechnology research, rather
considers it as an `ibadah
(act of worship) and a means of better living even though some
religions might render the technology of GM food as an acceptable intervention in God's
creation or so called as 'playing God'. However, Islam advocates that the door of
scientific research should not be left wide open without proper Shari`ah
all possible precautions should be taken to ensure public interests are protected and the
research is in line with the Shari`ah
Al-Bukhari. Sahih Al-Bukhari. (trans). Muhammad Muhsin Khan. 1984. The
Translation of The Meaning of Sahih Al-Bukhari.
New Delhi: Kitab Bhavan. Vol. I-IX
Al-Qur`an (Trans.) `Abdullah Yusuf Ali. 2000. The Holy Qur`an, Original Arabic
Text with English Translation & Selected Commentaries.
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