Please note: The answers on Hawramani.com constitute friendly advice rather than fatwas. Where relevant, we translate the opinions and fatwas of respected scholars and present them in our answers.

Islam and GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)

Hello, I'm the anon who asked about the homunculus. Thank you for answering my question. I have another question to ask of you. Is GMO, or genetically modified organism, generally a good thing or a bad thing?

Hello,

The Quran speaks against “changing God’s creation”, but as I discuss in my answer on cosmetic surgery, this refers to mutilating living things for superstitious reasons. Islam permits the castration of farm animals, grafting one type of plant onto another, creating new varieties of plants using selective breeding, and hybridization, all of which are major ways of “changing God’s creation”.

My conclusion is that making changes to living things, including genetic changes, is permissible in Islam, as long as it is done for a good reason. I have nothing against genetic modification in itself, although like any tool it can be used to create dangerous and harmful things as well as beneficial things. 

A disease could wipe out all banana trees that bear the kind of bananas we are used to, due to the fact that they are all the same genetically, and genetic modification may be the only way to enable the trees to survive. And one day we may have genetic therapy that can be used to change a person’s genes to cure things like autism and bipolar disorder. 

From a theological point of view, I believe that God created the earth’s creatures through “topological evolution”, which refers to the fact that the shape of the earth, the presence of seas, rivers and mountains, the strength of gravity, and various other factors all went into creating the creatures we know. And since topology is changeable (we are permitted in Islam to remove hills and mountains, dam rivers, create canals that link disconnected seas), this means that the creatures are changeable. Linking two disconnected seas will cause genetic changes to various creatures by changing the topology in which they exist. It was never God’s plan to create changeless creatures, but to create creatures whose genetic code could respond to the environment and change with it. For more on this see my essay: Reconciling Islam and Darwinian Evolution: Al-Ghazali’s Matrix and the Divine Template

And God knows best.

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