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What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam What is This? A guide to a wide variety of general questions asked by those looking to learn more about Muslim culture and the Islamic world.

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How does Islam respond to stem cell research?

Islam encourages the pursuit of knowledge and research aimed at improving human health, as long as it does not violate core Islamic teachings. Because stem cell research can be used to cure diseases and alleviate human suffering, some Muslims argue that it represents an Islamic imperative that should be pursued. The Islamic view of the beginning of human life, which is based on a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad, says that “ensoulment” (the infusion of a soul into the fetus) does not begin until the 120th day of the life of a fetus. Therefore, prior to 120 days an embryo is not considered a human life and can be used for research. Moreover, Muslim jurists make a distinction between an embryo that is within the womb of the mother (which should not be used) and one that is harvested in a laboratory, which would otherwise be destroyed and carries no potential to become a human life. Because stem cell research is a relatively new phenomenon and there is little classical scholarship to rely on, many Muslims deal with the issue cautiously, for example, advocating the use of spare embryos instead of creating new embryos for specific research purposes.

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