Organ Donation Permissible for American Muslims

Collaboration with Islamic ruling body results in first-ever North American fatwa on donation

On behalf of the Donate Life Community, Washington Regional Transplant Community (WRTC) is pleased to announce the newly released, and first-ever, fatwa* by the Fiqh** Council of North America (FCNA) declaring that organ donation*** and transplantation is permissible within the Islamic faith and among American Muslims.

Founded in 1986, the FCNA is a body of recognized and qualified Islamic scholars from the United States and Canada who interpret Islamic law in the North American environment. Its 19 members issue religious rulings (fatwas), resolve disputes and answer questions relating to the Islamic faith, with the goal of developing methodologies for applying Islamic law to life in the West. Until now, the issue of organ donation among American Muslims had never reached consensus or received an official ruling.

WRTC began its outreach efforts with the FCNA – and other prominent Islamic organizations – in 2015 when a noticeable and persistent pattern developed among family members of potential donors who were Muslim. When approached about donation in the hospital, the vast majority of these family members did not give authorization. The same pattern was seen outside the walls of the hospital; Muslim individuals in the D.C. metro area were not registering to be organ donors. The singular reason given in both situations was: “It’s against my religion.”

Over the past four years, WRTC led the effort to bring together national leaders in donation and transplantation (AOPO, DLA, UNOS, HRSA) with the FCNA and other influential Muslim academic and religious scholars, to reach consensus on this issue. This fatwa is the result of that effort.

It’s important to note that in this fatwa the FCNA states that it is still seeking clarity among its 19 members on the issue of brain death, and whether it meets the standards of legal death in Islam. But this point of internal debate does not conflict with, or supersede, its “Permissible” ruling on organ donation.

In the coming weeks WRTC will be finishing work on a comprehensive toolkit with resources designed to help OPOs and Donate Life State Teams implement a Muslim outreach initiative (both clinical and community-based) in their respective DSAs. This toolkit will be available on the AOPO Portal and the DLA Community Site. If you have any questions regarding this announcement, please contact Lesley Compagnone, WRTC’s Director of Community Affairs at lesleyc@wrtc.org.

* A ruling on a point of Islamic law given by a recognized authority.
** The theory or philosophy of Islamic law based on the teachings of the Quran and the traditions of the Prophet.

*** This ruling applies only to solid organs. The FCNA has not discussed, or ruled on, eye and tissue donation.

Photos Above: A Donate Life Driver’s License

In the summer of 2016, the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) held the country’s first Fiqh Forum on organ donation. After the event, several of the world’s most influential Muslim academic and religious scholars symbolically demonstrated their collective support of organ donation and transplantation acceptance for North American Muslims.