Wilāyah And Its Implications For Islamic Bioethics

Ahsan M. Arozullah and Mohammed A. Kholwadia

This article was published in March 2013 in the Journal of Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics.

One of the goals of Darul Qasim is to bring traditional Islamic scholarship to bear on the mainstream discourse in various disciplines. This paper was based on a presentation given by Shaykh Amin at the Islamic Bioethics conference in Ann Arbor, MIchigan in 2011. This article is the product of research that commenced back in 2011. This work can serve as as a foundation for application in other fields (e.g. in the area of business ethics).




Abstract Juridical councils that render rulings on bioethical issues for Muslims living in non-Muslim lands may have limited familiarity with the foundational concept of wilāyah (authority and governance) and its implications for their authority and functioning. This paper delineates a Sunni Ma¯turı¯di perspective on the concept of wilāyah, describes how levels of wilāyah correlate to levels of responsibility and enforceability, and describes the implications of wilāyah when applied to Islamic bioethical decision making. Muslim health practitioners and patients living in the absence of political wilāyah may be tempted to apply pragmatic and context-focused approaches to address bioethical dilemmas without a full appreciation of significant implications in the afterlife. Academic wilāyah requires believers to seek authentication of uncertain actions through scholarly opinions. Fulfilling this academic obligation naturally leads to additional mutually beneficial discussions between Islamic scholars, healthcare professionals, and patients. Furthermore, an understanding derived from a Ma¯turı¯di perspective provides a framework for Islamic scholars and Muslim health care professionals to generate original contributions to mainstream bioethics and public policy discussions.

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