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Beyond Halal: Maqasid al-Shari’ah to Assess Bioethical Issues Arising from Genetically Modified Crops

Abstract

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have increasingly dominated commodity crop production in the world in the endeavour to address issues related to food security. However, this technology is not without problems, and can give rise to bioethical issues for consumers, particularly Muslims. The Islamic perspective on GMOs is complex and goes beyond just the determination of whether food is halal or not. If the food is halal, but the process to obtain it is not thoyibban, as it is unethical, then the food cannot be permitted under the Maqasid al-Shari’ah. This paper examines ethical issues pertaining to GM crops and how the related ethical issues contradict with Islamic principles beyond the binary distinction between the contaminated and uncontaminated food. Since GM technology is a contemporary issue that may not be directly addressed in the al-Quran and Sunnah, other Islamic sources should also be referred to when drawing up this code of ethics to achieve the objective of Syariah (Maqasid al-Shari’ah). Maqasid al-Shari’ah can be applied to frame the Islamic bioethics guideline as it is comprehensive and encompasses moral principles directly applicable to modern biotechnology. The paper subsequently explores how the principles of Maqasid al-Shari’ah are applied in addressing these ethical issues.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The Quran and Hadith, being the fundamental sources of Islam, provide Muslims with guidelines and obligations that one must act upon to preserve a good and healthy life. Hence, in the case of decisions about GM crops, any decision-making must refer to these sources. Ḥadith in Islam refers to the record of the words, actions, and the silent approval, of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

  2. 2.

    Tayyibat in this article means agricultural produce, fruits, meat, and milk with all kinds of delicious and desirable flavors and colors and beautiful appearance, and fine clothes of all kinds of shapes colors and sizes, which they make for themselves or are brought to them by others from other regions and areas.

  3. 3.

    Fitrah according to the Quran is the original state in which humans are created by God. In this article, Fitrah refers to a natural predisposition for good and for submission to the One God- Allah.

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Acknowledgements

The author would like to acknowledge her Ph.D. Supervisor, Emeritus Professor Dr. Shad Saleem Faruqi, for his detailed and helpful comments to the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Lee Wei Chang.

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Idris, S.H., Abdul Majeed, A.B. & Chang, L.W. Beyond Halal: Maqasid al-Shari’ah to Assess Bioethical Issues Arising from Genetically Modified Crops. Sci Eng Ethics (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-020-00177-6

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Keywords

  • Halalan thoyyiban
  • Islamic
  • Bioethics
  • GM crops
  • Farmers’ rights
  • Maqasid al-Shari’ah