Assalamu Alaikum wa Rahmat Allahu wa Barakatu
About selecting the gender of an embryo in an in vitro fertilization procedure? What is the Hukm Shar’ii for the process of in vitro fertilization procedure in order to select the gender of the fetus in the future? And thank you and May Allah reward you.
From Abu Zaid
Wa Alaikum Assalam wa Rahmat Allahu wa Barakatu
First: Before answering about selecting the gender of the fetus, we will briefly mention about in vitro fertilization:
There are some medical conditions between couples that prevent the fertilization of the wife’s egg from the sperm of the husband in a natural way, like if there is an obstruction in the cervix or weakness in sperm mobility to reach the egg, or other reasons known to the specialists. So some scientists were able to achieve fertilization of the egg outside of the uterus in a tube under suitable conditions. The woman is given pharmaceuticals such as Clomid that makes her secrete many eggs at one time. Then the specialist doctor enters the laparoscope and probe on the date of ovulation (the release of eggs) and suctions the group of eggs from the ovary… then each egg is placed in a petri dish in a special liquid and these eggs are fertilized by the sperm of the husband…
After this fertilization happens in the tube the fertilized eggs “one or more” are returned to the uterus of the wife, and if Allah سبحانه وتعالى wills a creation from this fertilized egg then it attaches to the uterus and develops into a drop of seed to a clot… and if Allah سبحانه وتعالى does not will a creation from this fertilized egg then it dies and disappears.
And based on this then the Hukm Shar’ii is as follows:
1. The couples resorting to fertilization outside of the uterus as a medical treatment for their situation of not becoming pregnant in the regular manner, this is allowed because it is treatment, and the Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم ordered the use of therapy, Abu Dawud narrated on the authority of Usama bin Shreek, he said, the Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
«تَدَاوَوْا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ لَمْ يَضَعْ دَاءً إِلَّا وَضَعَ لَهُ دَوَاءً غَيْرَ دَاءٍ وَاحِدٍ الْهَرَمُ»
“Make use of medical treatment, for Allah has not made a disease without appointing a remedy for it, with the exception of one disease, namely old age.” i.e. except death.
But with two conditions:
First: That the fertilization in the tube be from the fluid of the man and woman who are married with a valid contract. On the authority of Ruwayfi’ bin Thabit al-Ansari, the Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
«لَا يَحِلُّ لِامْرِئٍ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ أَنْ يَسْقِيَ مَاءَهُ زَرْعَ غَيْرِهِ»
“It is not lawful for a man who believes in Allah and the last day to water what another has sown with his water”. (Narrated by Ahmad)
So it is not permissible to fertilize the egg of any woman except from the fluid of the husband.
Second: That the fertilization in the tube and its carrying to the uterus of the woman happens within the lifetime of the husband, and not after his death as happens in the West, where they see no objection with carrying a frozen fertilized egg to the mother’s uterus at the time which she wishes, if the husband was alive or dead! This is not allowed in Islam, and this is because the pregnancy of a women without a living husband at the beginning of the pregnancy is Haram, and has a punishment, and one of the evidences of Zina is being pregnant without a husband, so any woman that became pregnant without a husband has sinned and committed a Haram and grave sin, and that is because of what was narrated by Umar and Ali (ra), and none of the Companions denied what they had said, despite that this is an issue that could be denied if it was not a constant, and therefore it is Ijmaa’ (consensus).
And therefore fertilization outside the uterus and then transporting it to the uterus of the mother, if it is from the husband of the wife, and in the life of the husband, then this is allowed, in other words what are called “test tube babies” are allowed with the mentioned conditions.
Secondly: Selecting the gender of the fetus:
For a long time people have tried to select the baby that they want, and dispose of what they do not want in the way that was available to them.
*In the Days of Ignorance (Jahilliya) they desired males to assist them in conquests and preserve their lineage so they would bury the girls alive:
وَإِذَا الْمَوْءُودَةُ سُئِلَتْ * بِأَيِّ ذَنْبٍ قُتِلَتْ
“When the girl, buried alive, is asked:* For what crime was she killed?”
*And when other means were available, like picturing what is inside the pregnant stomach, if the fetus was unwanted, they used abortion to abort it while it is in the stomach of its mother.
*And there are other ancient attempts.
*Then later on, especially after sophisticated new techniques there was research dealing with selecting the gender of the fetus, and the most prominent two methods are:
First: What they said was most sophisticated and that it is the method of selective fertilization as they say. This method requires testing the sperm to separate the female chromosome (X) from the male chromosome (Y) in a test tube, in other words separate it outside of the body by different means, and this requires the technical medical intervention.
And the idea among the scientists is that they found that the chromosomes of the sperm are X and Y and that Y is the male part, and X is the female part. And they found that the chromosomes of the egg are XX, meaning both parts are female. And they found that if the male part of the sperm Y fertilizes the egg then the result is XY, or a male embryo, and if the female part of the sperm X is what fertilizes the egg, then the result is XX or a female embryo, and based on that they conducted experiments on separating the male sperm (Y) from the female sperm (X), and then fertilize the egg in the tube with the male part if they desire a male fetus, and fertilize the egg with the female part if they desire a female fetus.
And the Second method is similar with a slight difference. This method happens after the fertilization of the eggs in the tube, then they are tested after fertilization, and the fertilized egg that carried XX is a female, and the one that carried XY is a male, and one who wants a male has the fertilized egg carrying XY implanted in her uterus, and the one who wants a female has a fertilized egg carrying XX implanted into her uterus. Both methods are similar in purpose, except that in the first method the sperm is tested before fertilization and the male part is separated from the female part, as for the second method the fertilized egg embryo is tested, and then the female and male embryos are separated.
These are all human attempts to select the sex of the fetus from antiquity to modern times.
And after understanding the reality, or investigating the area, the ruling is shown to be as follows:
A. As for killing the unwanted baby, this is Haram, because it is the deliberate killing of a person, and its penalty is Hellfire in the Hereafter for eternity:
وَمَنْ يَقْتُلْ مُؤْمِنًا مُتَعَمِّدًا فَجَزَاؤُهُ جَهَنَّمُ خَالِدًا فِيهَا وَغَضِبَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَلَعَنَهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُ عَذَابًا عَظِيمًا
“Whoever kills a believer deliberately, the penalty for him is Hell, where he will remain forever. And God will be angry with him, and will curse him, and will prepare for him a terrible punishment.”
And the punishment in this life is retribution by execution if the guardian of the murdered does not forgive, or the Diyah (blood money).
B. As for killing the fetus while it is in its mother’s stomach when its parents find out that it is unwanted, as if it is a female and its parents want a male, likewise this is Haram, and it has a punishment. Bukhari and Muslim have narrated, by the way of Abu Huraira, and in the words of Bukhari,
«اقْتَتَلَتْ امْرَأَتَانِ مِنْ هُذَيْلٍ فَرَمَتْ إِحْدَاهُمَا الْأُخْرَى بِحَجَرٍ فَقَتَلَتْهَا وَمَا فِي بَطْنِهَا فَاخْتَصَمُوا إِلَى رَسُولِ اللَّهِ فَقَضَى رَسُولُ اللَّهِ أَنَّ دِيَةَ جَنِينِهَا غُرَّةٌ عَبْدٌ أَوْ وَلِيدَةٌ…»
“Two women of from Hudhayl tribe quarreled and one of them threw a stone at the other and killed her and her unborn fetus. They disputed before the Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم and he decided that the Diyah should be to free a male or female slave…”
C. As for separating the male part from the female part in the sperm then fertilizing the egg with the male part if they want a male baby, or the female part if they want a female baby, or separating the male embryos from the female embryos, and implanting the desired embryo in the uterus, these procedures are not permissible because it is not therapy, in other words not a therapy for pregnancy in a woman who is unable to become pregnant and is treated to become pregnant, in other words it is not a therapy for the inability of the wife’s egg to become fertilized by the husband’s sperm in the normal way, so they resorted to treatment to fertilize the egg in a tube. Instead this is another issue that deals with separating the male part from the female part of the sperm or separating the embryos, and not a therapy for the impossibility of the woman to become pregnant in the normal manner. These procedures are not therapy for the affliction of not becoming pregnant, and since it does not happen except with exposing the ‘Awrah, because the operation of taking the eggs and implantation requires that, and exposing the ‘Awrah is Haram, and this Haram is not permissible except for therapy, and as long as this procedure is not therapy, then they are Haram and not permissible.
And in conclusion the knowledge which Allah سبحانه وتعالى said about
اقْرَأْ وَرَبُّكَ الْأَكْرَمُ * الَّذِي عَلَّمَ بِالْقَلَمِ * عَلَّمَ الْإِنْسَانَ مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ
“Read: And your Lord is the Most Generous.* He who taught by the pen.* Taught man what he never knew.”
This knowledge can be used for good according the laws of the Shar’i and the possessor of this knowledge are rewarded for this, and it can be used for evil and he earns sin, and its results in this situation are consequences for humanity and what is observed in the West of muddled descent and frozen sperm and egg and embryo banks and the selling of them all of this is chilling, and Allah سبحانه وتعالى was truthful when he said about those evil people:
لَهُمْ قُلُوبٌ لَا يَفْقَهُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ أَعْيُنٌ لَا يُبْصِرُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ آذَانٌ لَا يَسْمَعُونَ بِهَا أُولَئِكَ كَالْأَنْعَامِ بَلْ هُمْ أَضَلُّ أُولَئِكَ هُمُ الْغَافِلُونَ
“They have hearts with which they do not understand. They have eyes with which they do not see. They have ears with which they do not hear. These are like cattle. In fact, they are further astray. These are the heedless.”
Allah سبحانه وتعالى has placed sciences in this universe, and taught the human what he did not know, so he placed in him the attributes of the mind and thought and understanding to increase the Iman of those who believed, and throw those who disbelieved on their faces in humiliation in this world, and a painful torment in the Hereafter.
Ata Bin Khalil Abu Al-Rashtah
10 Safar 1435 AH