Islamic Fiqh Academy: Deliberations of the 97 Meeting
By Mufti Taqi Usmani
Translated from Urdu by Khalid Baig.
Although the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) has not yet succeeded in solving major problems of the Muslim world, it has at least provided a platform for the discussion of our collective problems. It has also produced some academic, research, and economic institutions that are active in various fields. One of these important institutions is the Islamic Fiqh Academy.
The idea of the Islamic Fiqh Academy was proposed by King Khalid in the OIC meeting of Rabi Awwal 1401 (January 81) that was held in Masjid Haram in Makkah Mukarramah. The suggestion was to have a body consisting of scholars and jurists of the Muslim world that would focus on the new problems presented by the contemporary world and propose Islamic answer to those problems. The OIC accepted this suggestion and the idea of the formation of Islamic Fiqh Academy was approved. Next year (22 August 1982) the Islamic Foreign Ministers conference in Nigeria approved the bylaws of the Academy and the OIC Secretariat was instructed to establish the Academy in accordance with those bylaws. A founding meeting was held in Makkah Mukarramah in Shaban 1403 (July 1983) which was attended by representatives from the entire Muslim world. The meeting approved the bylaws with certain changes. The changed bylaws were subsequently approved by the Islamic Foreign Ministers Conference and the Academy was finally established.
The secretary general of the Islamic Fiqh academy is nominated by the secretary general of the OIC. At that time Habib Shatti was the OIC secretary general and he nominated Mufti Dr. Habib Balkhouja of Tunis as the secretary general of the Academy who continues to serve in that position. Each Muslim country was asked to nominate an expert in Islamic disciplines as its representative. While governments nominate the representative, once nominated only the Academy can revoke their membership. This writer has been the representative from Pakistan and for the past six years has been working as the deputy chairman of the Academy. The first meeting of the general council of the Academy, consisting of all the nominated members, was held on 26 Safar 1405 (19 November 1984). Dr. Bakr Abu Zaid of Saudi Arabia was chosen as the president of the academy in that meeting. The operating procedure of the Academy was also decided upon in that meeting.
The planning committee of the Academy selects topics for research. Then a selection of these topics is sent to the Academy members as well as other Islamic experts who are asked to write research papers on them. The research papers are then circulated to all the members for review. In the annual meeting of the Academy, these papers are presented and freely discussed. Every word said in those discussions is recorded and published later. For every topic, a drafting committee is formed to draft the proposed resolution in light of that discussion. Finally, the draft proposal is once again presented to the meeting of all the members for discussion and approval.
So far, ten annual meetings have taken place in accordance with this procedure. Resolutions about many modern issues have been produced in these meetings. What is of even greater importance is that on these issues research papers authored by Islamic world's great scholars have been collected and published. Every year the Academy publishes a several volume collection of these papers and the transcript of full discussion on them by the experts. So far, twenty-six such volumes have been published, providing an invaluable treasure for those interested in research into the contemporary fiqh problems. Some of the topics covered by these publications and the resolutions of the Academy include problems related to banking and insurance, stock market and money markets, trade using modern means of communications, international trade, currency transactions, Zakat, test tube baby, organ transplant, artificial heart, and other modern medical techniques.
In addition, the Academy is also compiling an encyclopedia of fiqh about finance and a compilation of fiqh rules in collaboration with other organizations of the Muslim world.
The 1997 Meeting
The meeting was held from 28 June through 3 July. The Governor of Makkah Mukarramah inaugurated the meeting and about 125 representatives from all parts of the Muslim world attended it. Three issues discussed in this meeting deserve special mention.
Cloning (Translated as Intinsakh in Arabic) is a hot issue in the entire world today. The issue arose after the experiment in Scotland in which a cell from the body of a lamb was nurtured and it turned into another lamb physically identical to the original lamb. It raised the possibility that this could also be done with human beings, although no cloning experiments involving humans have been done so far. The debate the world over is whether human cloning experiments should be permitted. Many western countries including the U.S have banned such experiments. The Pope has also declared it wrong and has demanded a legal ban.
From an Islamic perspective, two issues have been discussed regarding cloning. First, does it bring into question Islam's belief about Allah's attribute as the Creator in any way? Second, should it be permitted? The Islamic Fiqh Academy first contacted the Organization of Muslim Doctors in Kuwait and organized a preliminary conference in Casablanca. Then the issue was discussed in this year's meeting of the Academy. The medical experts were also invited to the meeting who explained the process and its implications to the Academy.
Regarding the first issue, there was a consensus that cloning does not bring into question any Islamic belief in any way. Allah is the Creator of the universe but He has established the system of cause-and-effect in this world. Sowing a seed in the ground is the cause but only Allah produces the effect from it in the form of a plant. Similarly cloning is a cause and only through Allah's Will it can produce the effect. Just as the person sowing the seed is not the creator of the resulting plant, so the cloning technician is not the creator of the resulting animal. Allah alone is the Creator and all creation takes place solely through His Will.
Regarding the question of permissibility, the majority of the Academy members after discussion reached the conclusion that cloning is permissible in case of plants as well as in case of animals except human beings. The extension of cloning to human beings would create extremely complex and intractable social and moral problems. Therefore cloning of human beings cannot be permitted.
Another topic discussed in this year's meeting was the impact on fasting of various new medical procedures. The meeting discussed which procedures invalidate the fast and which ones can be used without any harm while fasting.
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The third important topic of discussion was the new methods of slaughtering animals. The meeting discussed which of these new methods are in accordance with Shariah and which are not. In many Muslim countries, especially in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries, meat imported from non-Muslim countries is widely used. The Academy was told by its researchers, based on their personal experience, that the Halal label put on such imported meat is not reliable. The producers exporting this meat from non-Muslim countries to the Muslim countries do not take care to meet the requirements of the Shariah. Therefore the Academy appealed to the Muslim businessmen that before importing such meat, they should ensure that the slaughter is certified to be performed in accordance with the Shariah, the certification being given by observing Muslims who are knowledgeable about Shariah requirements regarding animal slaughter. The Academy also appealed to the Muslim governments that they should use their embassies in the exporting countries to keep the exporters from using the Halal label without proper Halal certification by reliable Muslim agencies.
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