Genetic engineering is defined as, “deliberate modification of genetic material of an organism”. In simple terms, it is when humans – scientists – use laboratory techniques to make changes to the DNA of humans or animals. With improved and ever-changing cheaper technology such methods are becoming increasingly popular. Often a times, humans seek to benefit from these changes – one of the most common and well used genetic engineering used currently is making human insulin from bacteria to treat diabetes. Aughton, with such great power comes an even greater responsibility and it becomes paramount that we remember that we are still God’s creatures.
For example, more recently these very same techniques are being used in humans which has raised numerous ethical questions. For example, a scientific researcher in China made specific mutations (changes in the DNA of baby girl twins) before they were born. This led to an outrage in the scientific world as the side effects of these methods in humans is not yet known. However, it also highlights a verse in the Holy Qur’an where Satan says, “I will incite them and they will alter Allah’s creation.” [Al Nisa 4:120]. This can be considered a warning for mankind, that indeed it is possible to tamper with Allah’s creation – but its exploitation is akin to making friends with Satan – and will also turn us away from God.
However, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad very eloquently explained that, “It is wrong however to infer that this verse condemns all possible usage of genetic engineering. Any branch of science which is pressed into the service of His creation and employed to protect, rather than change it, is certainly not discouraged. If for instance genetic engineering is employed to correct faults in genetic codes caused by accidents, this can in no way be dubbed as interference with the Divine scheme of things. Again, if damage to genetic codes by disease or imprudent medication is attempted to be corrected through genetic engineering, this is certainly not what is condemned in the above verse.” [Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth].
It is important to realise that Allah Almighty has stated and encouraged Muslims to seek wisdom by stating that, “Those who remember Allah while standing, sitting, and lying on their sides, and ponder over the creation of the heavens and the earth: ‘Our Lord, Thou hast not created this in vain; nay, Holy art Thou; save us, then, from the punishment of the Fire’” [Al Imran 3:192]. It is here we can learn that our work and understanding should be to actively appreciate the wonders created by Allah Almighty and not to alter His creations.
I have chosen this verse in particular, as it re-iterates that everything has a purpose, that Allah created nothing in vain, and this is something that is often seen in science – overlooking minor details. Which then with more research become apparent later on. For example, 10 years ago 98% of the DNA was considered irrelevant and it did not code for proteins, it has now been established that these parts of the DNA are also essential for life. However, what we must look into is, “…that which profits men” [Al Baqarah 2:165]. Hence it comes back to the point that when Allah Almighty gives us great power, it comes with a great responsibility. May Allah enable us to excel in benefitting mankind and society. Ameen.
By Mahedah Raja