If you could help save lives and make many better without anything but compassion from your side, would you seek the approval of a cleric before doing so?

Unfortunately, for a considerably large number of people in our society, the answer is yes.

In a recent blog post, I urged the readers to not let their kindness die with them and register as organ donors. In response, many asked if doing so was allowed in Islam and a few declared it was not. In a country where people so vehemently rely on opinions of religious scholars, it would be naive to expect them to prefer rationalism over faith all of a sudden. To promote a culture of organ donation in our country, it is necessary to acknowledge and address the religious taboos associated with the subject.

You might ascribe to political or religious beliefs, but your organs don’t.

Knowing this, the Sheikh Zayed Islamic Centre, Karachi University, in collaboration with the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT), organized a seminar on ‘Donation and Transplantation of Organs In the light of Quran and Sunnah’.

Addressing the seminar, a majority of scholars explained that not only is organ transplantation permitted in Islam, it is, in fact, considered “Sadqa-e-Jariya”.

You might ascribe to political or religious beliefs, but your organs don’t. For Muslims who might shy away from the thought of a non-Muslim being saved from their posthumous charity; and for Muslims who might refuse to be saved upon discovering the differences in religious affiliations of their donor and themselves, Mufti Muneeb ur Rehman clarified that transplantation of any organ from a Muslim to non-Muslim or from a non-Muslim to Muslim is allowed in Islam.

President of Jamiat-i-Ulema Pakistan-Noorani Dr Abul Khair Mohammad Zubair identified organ donation as the greatest charity to save human lives and summed up his stance by saying, “Saving lives can never be against Islam”.

I can only be satisfied by the outlook of the event at a time when there are thousands of people who gravely await the gift of life from their compatriots. Hopefully the effort doesn’t stop here and more people who might have had religious reservations holding them back from registering as organ donors are encouraged to rethink their position.

Our ethical behaviour should be based on sympathy, education and our social needs, not on dogmas or preconceptions.

Our ethical behaviour should be based on sympathy, education and our social needs, not on dogmas or preconceptions.

In a country where their influence is so overwhelming, such willingness by the clergy to revise and clarify their stances in the light of modern science demonstrates signs of an ideological reformation we as a society are in dire need of.

From contraception being considered the “act of Satan” to clerics backing family planners, the story of how Bangladesh curbed their burgeoning birthrate by involving religious leaders in vigorous population control programs is remarkable.

If they can do it, why can’t we?

By educating and training clerics to join our efforts to combat the ills of our society, we can unite our apartheid-torn land, contribute towards a tolerant society safe for diversity and break prevalent taboos by putting an end to persistent silence on issues that need to be tackled.

Seminars of this sort are essential for guiding public opinion and political actions; and the organizers have my utmost respect.

However, this is only a milestone and great challenges lie ahead. Besides religious concerns, there are sociocultural barriers restraining us from saving and improving lives. The availability of organs can be a matter of life and death (as it has been for many who’ve lost their lives knowing they could be saved if only their compatriots discerned the value of human life) and therefore deserves our devoted, not divided, attention.
Amid cultural challenges, organ donation thrives in many countries owing to tireless awareness efforts by their government and media. By arduously fighting against illegal trafficking, launching education campaigns to cope with public distrust in the procedure, promoting enlightened family discussions on the issue, and eulogizing selflessness by propagating narratives revealing how impactful one’s willingness to gift life to others can be, we can eventually witness a tremendous decline in the stigma of organ donation.

Many might feel uncomfortable talking about death, but it remains to be a subtle reality each of us shall have to encounter. If you decide to register as an organ donor considering it “Sadqa-e-Jariya” or merely an act of kindness, in the end, it will be you who will make the most of your decision – for when the time comes, knowing that the end of your life will be the beginning of a new one for somebody, will allow you to say goodbye with pride.

This article was originally published in Express Tribune.

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