Dire Necessity And Transformation: Entry-points For Modern Science In Islamic Bioethical Assessment Of Porcine Products In Vaccines

Aasim I. Padela, Steven W. Furber, Mohammad A. Kholwadia and Ebrahim Moosa

Dr Padela’s’s time-effort for this project was partially funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars program and the project was partially carried out during his tenure as a Visiting Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. This paper was presented in partial form at a conference entitled ‘Health related Issues and Islamic Normativity’ at University of Hamburg and at the a conference on ‘The Interplay of Islam & The West’ at Georgetown School of Foreign Service, Doha Qatar both in June 2012. We thank the Prof. Farhan Nizami, Prof. Afifi al-Akiti, Prof. Mohammad Akram and the OCIS staff for the gracious hospitality, advice and support. We thank Drs. Farr Curlin and Daniel Sulmasy for their feedback and guidance while this paper was conceptualized.




The field of medicine provides an important window through which to examine the encounters between religion and science, and between modernity and tradition. While both religion and science consider health to be a ‘good’ that is to be preserved, and promoted, religious and sciencebased teachings may differ in their conception of what constitutes good health, and how that health is to be achieved.
This paper analyzes the way the Islamic ethico-legal tradition assesses the permissibility of using vaccines that contain porcine-derived components by referencing opinions of several Islamic authorities. In the Islamic ethico-legal tradition controversy surrounds the use of proteins from an animal (pig) that is considered to be impure by Islamic law. As we discuss the Islamic ethico-legal constructs used to argue for or against the use of porcine-based vaccines we will call attention to areas where modern medical data may make the arguments more precise. By highlighting areas where science can buttress and clarify the ethico-legal arguments we hope
to spur an enhanced applied Islamic bioethics discourse where religious scholars and medical experts use modern science in a way that remains faithful to the epistemology of Islamic ethics to clarify what Islam requires of Muslim patients and healthcare workers.

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