Cloning: Friend or Foe

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Islamic Medicine
Staff member
By: Ayman Nawash

In the late1980s and early 90s, it was the issue of abortion that caused great controversy between advocates of pro-choice and pro-life. Now with the new millennium approaching and amazing advancements in science, the new topic up for debate is cloning. A debate that will most likely be between advocates of pro-science and conservatists. The word cloning essentially means to copy or to duplicate. It all started in Scotland when scientists in an experiment, took a cell from the body of a lamb, nurtured it, and eventually growing into a lamb physically identical to the original host. After news of this breakthrough became public, a stream of ideas started flowing through the minds of the political and agricultural communities. From political leaders that viewed it as a source of strengthening the militaries to the small time farmer who saw it is a way to double and tripling his livestock without spending too much money. Cloning initially captured the mind of the individualist. However, within a little more time and rational thinking, it also became a means of helping those that can't help themselves. For example, parents unable to have children. So what are the advantages and disadvantages to cloning? Is cloning the beginning of the end to humanity? What does the religious community have to say about it? The intention of this article is to give you the reader, all the facts necessary that are important to make a logical decision about an issue that will most likely be the hottest issue of the next millennium.


Issues of Infertility:

There are many reasons that advocates of cloning can claim as justifiable for its use but the one that they will probably claim and rely on most is the issue of couples with infertility problems. Infertile women will be able to have children by having cloned embryos implanted in them. It is as simple as that. Also, at the same time for couples, it would eliminate the hassle of going through ordeals of mental and physically painful procedures even with the small chance of having children.

Healthy Infants:

For any person that plans on having a child, the main concern in any parent's mind is their baby's health. Questions like "Will my baby come out healthy?" or "What happens if the baby is born with a deficiency?" run in and out of a mother and father's head almost constantly. Worrying about their child's health became a common pregnancy ritual that every parent would perform. Cloning can eliminate all that worrying. For a medicinal explanation, each tiny cell in our bodies contains thousands of strands of DNA in which scientists can manipulate to ensure a healthy child. After the cell is implanted in the carrier, a doctor can determine what strands of DNA are deformed and can eliminate them to ensure a healthy child. For example, is a pregnant mother who has already given birth to two children with Down syndrome. Doctors can now manipulate and balance out the number of chromosomes in the embryo to give the mother a normal and healthy child.

Genetic Engineering:

In terms of the whole concept of cloning, this category probably catches the human psyche more than anything. Cloning gives parents the opportunity to choose what characteristics they want their children to have with a simple yes and no answers. This is good for parents that want their children to be well balanced mentally as well as physically. For example, a father wants his child to have the same DNA strand or close to it as say Micheal Jordan for athleticism, at the same time, the mother wants to the child to have eyes like George Clooney. With genetic cloning, all this can become possible. Perhaps, this is the issue that has made so many people disapproving of the whole concept of cloning.


Losing Our Diversity:

It is a question that we often ask ourselves and ponder in our heads, "What would the world be like if everyone was the same?" Usually, in a normal state of mind, we always come up with the same response, "It would be a very boring place." Although it is hard to do, but can you imagine for a second everyone looking like one another. Sure we might not all have the same color hair two pound nose rings hanging from our face, but we would generally be all the same. That wouldn't be fun at all would it? The beauty of humanity lies in the differences we see in each other. Cloning would eliminate surprise and predict expectancy.

The Great Disease:

It would basically be the beginning of the end of humanity. The fact that the entire human race may be genetically identical, or individual persons to each other, means that the entire race is at great risk from a single pathogen. In laymen's terms, if everyone had the same genes or close to the others, an unknown and fatal disease that the gene could not defend itself from could easily form and virtually wipe out the entire human race. Not only would cloning be detrimental in terms of a great viral disaster, but another negative effect of it would be inbreeding. Cloning would give humanity a big head start to cataclysim because if it is relied upon for reproduction and we lose the ability to clone, everyone will have the same genotype and to keep reproducing within ourselves would lead us to our own extinction.


A clone is essentially what it is claimed to be, an exact replica of the original. A clone can talk. Just like us, a clone must eat, drink and sleep in order to survive. Most importantly, it can think and probably better than the original host. It would be totally inhumane to treat these people (That is what they are) as animals because they are of free will. If humans are to be cloned, then that makes them property to which they can be sold. And of course we all know that selling other humans is unethical, inhuman, and most of all immoral.

In the past 5 years religious leaders have criticized animal cloning activities and the possibility of cloning humans. There is a general consensus among religious scholars that cloning is sacrilege and that a full banning of it is a must. To accommodate readers from all religious backgrounds, the perspectives of the three major religions (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism) will assess the issue of cloning.


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 Council first contacted the Organization of Muslim Doctors in Kuwait and organized a preliminary conference in Casablanca. Then the issue was discussed in the meeting of 1997. 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 council 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. (Al Balagh)

Christianity (Catholic Church):

Pope John Paul II recently made a statement against cloning of all life forms and declared it wrong and demanded an illegal ban. The Vatican then issued a statement totally condemning the cloning of human beings. The Pope has yet to come out officially against the cloning of other creatures. The Vatican also claims that cloning doesn't respect the fact that human have souls. They also consider cloning to be unnatural and claim that we are taking the work of God into our own hands. The basic Christian understanding is that all creation owes its existence foremost to God. Christians must do all that they can to protect God's creatures no matter of superiority or inferiority.


Although the issue of cloning has not been officially addressed by the Jewish scholars, some of them have publicly stated on their own interpretations that cloning of any creature is against Judaism. On the other hand, other scholars believe that the cloning of animals to produce better food and medications for human use would be permissible within in the tradition of Judaism. Nonetheless, Jewish leaders have imposed a five-year moratorium to study the cloning issue and how it would effect the social, economic, and political aspects.

In conclusion, there are many advantages that cloning has to offer but there are even more disadvantages to it also. The whole idea of cloning is a remarkable concept in itself but should it be of use when it could easily compromise the whole human race. Variety should make us appreciate what we have and that should never be taken away from us. If cloning was to be permitted, whom will it eliminate? Won't there be short people anymore? Modern advancements in science and technology have almost secured our existence as a species but we must be careful of how we use it. Sure, it would be nice to see more Micheal Jordans and more Mother Teresas, but unfortunately, as we all know, it takes more than just the clone to remake heroes of the past. Factors like environment and interaction with others dictate how people will turn out. I don't think Adolph Hitler would have been the same kind of person had he been raised in New York City. He would have probably been driving a fruit truck with a big smile on his face. The safest bet we have as humans is to believe in God and to let him be the creator of all things
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