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


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Access options

Buy single article

Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.

US$ 39.95

Price includes VAT for USA

Subscribe to journal

Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.

US$ 99

This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.


  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.


  1. Abdul Majeed, A. B. (Ed.). (2002). Bioethics in the biotechnology culture. Kuala Lumpur: IKIM Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia.

  2. Ahmed, H. K. (2000). Islamic views on GM. News. GMWatch. Retrieved 2 August 2018.

  3. al-Amidi, Abi, S. A. A. H. A., & Muhammad, A. (1968). al-Ahkam fi Usul al-Ahkam. Riyadh.

  4. Al-Attar, M. (2017). Food ethics: A critique of some Islamic perspectives on genetically modified food. ZYGON,52(1), 53–75.

  5. al-Shatibi., & Ibrahim Ibn Musa. (1975). Muwafaqat fi usul al-shari’ah/li Abi Ishaq Ibrahim bin Musa. Beirut: Dar al-Ma’rifah.

  6. al-Zuhayli, W. (1989). Al-Fiqh al-Islami Wa Adillatuh. Damascus: Dar al-Fikr.

  7. Amin, L., Ahmad Azlan, A., Gausmian, M. H., Ahmad, J., Samian, A. L., Haron, M. S., et al. (2010). Ethical perception of modern biotechnology with special focus on genetically modified food among Muslims in Malaysia. Asia-Pacific Journal of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology,18(3), 359–367.

  8. Amin, L., Sujak, S. F., Samian, A. L., Haron, M. S., Mohamad, N., & Othman, M. Y. (2009). Islamic ethics and modern biotechnology. Sari International Journal of the Malay World and Civilisation,27(2), 285–296.

  9. Ashraf, A., Abd Rahman, F., & Abdullah, N. (2018). Poultry feed in Malaysia: An insight into the halalan toyyiban issues. In: N. Muhammad Hashim, N. Md Shariff, S. Mahamood, H. Fathullah Harun, M. Shahruddin, & A. Bhari (Eds.), Proceedings of the 3rd international halal conference (INHAC 2016). Singapore: Springer.

  10. Church of Scotland. (1999). Genetically modified food: Pros and cons. Society, Religion and Technology Project. Retrieved 26 October 2014.

  11. Dahlan-Taylor, M. (2015). ‘Good’ food: Islamic food ethics beyond religious dietary laws. Critical Research on Religion,3(3), 250–265.

  12. DaSilva, E. J., Baydoun, E., & Badran, A. (2002). Biotechnology and the developing world. Electronic Journal of Biotechnology,5(1), 64–92.

  13. Department of Standards Malaysia. (2009). MS 1500: Halal food—Production, preparation, handling and storage—General guidelines (Second Revision). Malaysia: Department of Standards Malaysia.

  14. Fergusson, M. (2019). We have the right to know what is in our food. Down to Earth Organic & Natural. Retrieved 29 October 2019.

  15. Food & Water Watch. (2015). How GMO crops hurt farmers. Fact Sheet. Food & Water Watch. Retrieved 26 January 2017.

  16. Gealy, D. R., Bradford, K. J., Hall, L., Hellmich, R., Raybould, A., & Wolt, J., et al. (2007). Implications of gene flow in the scale-up and commercial use of biotechnology-derived crops: Economic and policy considerations. Issue Paper, 37(December 2007). USA: Council for Agricultural Science and Technology.

  17. Hasan, Z. (2006). Sustainable development from an Islamic perspective: meaning, implications and policy concerns. Islamic Economics,19(1), 3–18.

  18. International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications. (2016). Executive summary. Global status of commercialized biotech/GM crops: 2015. International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications. Retrieved 2 August 2018.

  19. Isa, N. M., & Man, S. (2014). “First things first”: Application of Islamic principles of priority in the ethical assessment of genetically modified foods. Journal Agriculture Environment Ethics,27(5), 857–870.

  20. Islamic Organization for Medical Sciences. (1998). Final statement & recommendations. Seminar on genetics, genetic engineering, the human genes, and genetic treatment—An Islamic perspective (13–15 October 1998). Islamic Organization for Medical Sciences. Retrieved 2 August 2018.

  21. Kamali, M. H. (2009a). Maqasid Al-Shari’ah make simple. Kuala Lumpur: The International Institute of Islamic Thought.

  22. Kamali, M. H. (2009b). Qawa’id al-fiqh: The legal maxims of Islamic Law. The Association of Muslim Lawyers.

  23. Kasule, O. H. (2004). Medical ethics from Maqasid al-Shari’at. Arab Journal of Psychiatry,15(2), 75–86.

  24. Khattak, J. Z. K., Mir, A., Anwar, Z., Wahedi, H. M., Abbas, G., Khattak, H. Z. K., et al. (2011). Concept of halal food and biotechnology. Advance Journal of Food Science and Technology,3(5), 385–389.

  25. Laldin, M. A. (2006). Islamic law: An introduction. Malaysia: International Islamic University of Malaysia.

  26. Laldin, M. A. (2008). Introduction to Shari’ah and Islamic Jurisprudence. Centre for Research and Training.

  27. Lassen, J., Madsen, K. H., & Sandøe, P. (2002). Ethics and genetic engineering—Lessons to be learned from GM foods. Bioprocess and Biosystems Engineering,24(5), 263–271.

  28. Laxman, L., & Ansari, A. H. (2011). GMOs, safety concerns and international trade: Developing countries’ perspective. Journal of International Trade Law and Policy,10(3), 281–307.

  29. Mallinson, L., Russell, J., Cameron, D. D., Ton, J., Horton, P., & Barker, M. E. (2018). Why rational argument fails the genetic modification (GM) debate. Food Security,10(5), 1145–1161.

  30. Marsh v. Baxter. (2014). WASC 187, CIV 1561 of 2012, Judgement Summary Supreme Court of Western Australia.

  31. Masud, M. K. (1977). Islamic legal philosophy. Islamabad: The Islamic Research Institute Islamabad.

  32. Meri, J. W. (2006). Medieval Islamic civilization: An encyclopedia. London: Psychology Press.

  33. Moosa, E. (2009). Genetically modified foods and muslim ethics. In C. G. Brunk & H. Coward (Eds.), Acceptable genes? Religious traditions and genetically modified foods (pp. 135–158). New York: SUNY Press.

  34. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2016). Genetically engineered crops: Experiences and prospects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

  35. National Council of Fatwa Islamic Affairs Malaysia. (1999). Biotechnology in food & drink. e-Fatwa. National Council of Fatwa Islamic Affairs Malaysia (JAKIM). Retrieved 26 October 2011.

  36. National Council of Fatwa Islamic Affairs Malaysia. (2011). Eating genetically modified food law (genetic modified food). e-Fatwa. National Council of Fatwa Islamic Affairs Malaysia (JAKIM). Retrieved 26 October 2011.

  37. Nyazee, I. A. K. (2004). Islamic jurisprudence. New Delhi: Adam Publishers & Distributor.

  38. Oliver, M. J. (2014). Why we need GMO crops in agriculture. Missouri Medicine,111(6), 492–507.

  39. Percy Schmeiser and Schmeiser Enterprises Ltd. v. Monsanto Canada Inc. and Monsanto Company. (2004). 1 S.C.R. 902, 2004 SCC 34, 239 D.L.R. (4th) 271, 31 C.P.R. (4th) 161.

  40. Prakash, D., Verma, S., Bhatia, R., & Tiwary, B. N. (2011). Risks and precautions of genetically modified organisms. ISRN Ecology,2011(369573), 1–13.

  41. Premanandh, J. (2011). Global consensus—Need of the hour for genetically modified organisms (GMO) labeling. Journal of Commercial Biotechnology,17(1), 37–44.

  42. Qadri, A. A. (1973). Islamic jurisprudence in the modern world. Lahore: SH. Muhammad Ashraf.

  43. Ronald, P. (2011). Plant Genetics, sustainable agriculture and global food security. Genetics,188(1), 11–20.

  44. Saifuddeen, S. M., Abdul Rahman, N. N., Isa, N. M., & Baharuddin, A. (2014). Maqasid al-shariah as a complementary framework to conventional bioethics. Science and Engineering Ethics,20(2), 317–327.

  45. Schatzschneider, I. (2013). Islamic perspective on genetically modified food. Genetic Literacy Project. Retrieved 2 August 2018.

  46. Schneider, S. A. (2011). Food, farming, and sustainability: Readings in agricultural law. Durham: Carolina Academic Press.

  47. Senan Mahmod, S., & Ahmed Kabbashi, N. (2013). Ethical evaluation of GMO from an Islamic perspective. In: 3rd international conference on engineering professional ethics and education 2013 (ICEPEE’13). Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur.

  48. (2020). Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim: 2363 Book 43, Hadith 186. Accessed 10 Jan 2020.

  49. Surah Al-Baqarah 2:168, 2: 173 in Telaga Biru Sdn. Bhd. (Ed.). (2016). Al-Quran Al-Karim Al-Mubarak with English Translation & Guide on Waqaf & Ibtida'. Kuala Lumpur: Telaga Biru Sdn. Bhd.

  50. Surah Al-Ma’ida 5:1, 5:4-5, 5:87-88, 5:96 in Telaga Biru Sdn. Bhd. (Ed.). (2016). Al-Quran Al-Karim Al-Mubarak with English Translation & Guide on Waqaf & Ibtida'. Kuala Lumpur: Telaga Biru Sdn. Bhd.

  51. Surah An-Nisa’ 4:119 in Telaga Biru Sdn. Bhd. (Ed.). (2016). Al-Quran Al-Karim Al-Mubarak with English Translation & Guide on Waqaf & Ibtida'. Kuala Lumpur: Telaga Biru Sdn. Bhd.

  52. Waytz, A., & Young, L. (2019). Aversion to playing God and moral condemnation of technology and science. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

  53. Weiler, A. M., Hergesheimer, C., Brisbois, B., Wittman, H., Yassi, A., & Spiegel, J. M. (2015). Food sovereignty, food security and health equity: A meta-narrative mapping exercise. Health Policy and Planning,30(8), 1078–1092.

  54. Yaacob, M., & Yaacob, I. (2007). Islam Hadhari and the environment. Persidangan Serantau Islam Hadhari dan Profesionalisme, 22–23 Februari 2007. Hotel Equitorial: Bangi, Putrajaya.

  55. Zupan, N. (2019). Bioethical reflection on the use of GMOs. Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere (MAHB). Retrieved 3 December 2019.

Download references


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.

Author information

Correspondence to Lee Wei Chang.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

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).

Download citation


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