Just weeks after UAE changed its laws to permit surrogacy in the country, an Emirati doctor has called on Islamic scholars to pass a fatwa to legalize the practice from an Islamic point of view.
Surrogacy is the process in which a woman carries and gives birth to the child for a couple or individual.
Addressing the second international conference of the UAE Council for Fatwa on Wednesday, Dr. Maha Taysir Barakat gave a detailed presentation on the science of surrogacy to over 160 scholars, scientific and intellectual personalities from around the world.
“It is important to understand that the surrogate mother provides a nourishing and life-sustaining environment to the baby,” she said. “It is similar to a woman who breastfeeds another woman’s baby who cannot produce milk.”
She explained how the egg and sperm are fertilised in a controlled environment and then implanted in the womb of another woman – meaning that the surrogate mother cannot change the genetic make-up of the baby.
It was last month that the Federal Decree Law No. 17 of 2023 amended the Federal Decree Law No. 7 of 2019. According to a legal associate from Alketbi advocates and legal consultants the law had ushered in groundbreaking changes to the legal landscape surrounding reproductive techniques in the UAE.
“Notable amendments include extending Medically Assisted Reproduction Techniques (IVF) to non-Muslim parties without a marriage certificate, permitting surrogacy, and allowing unmarried couples access to fertilization and implantation procedures,” said Manasi Dicholkar.
Speaking about surrogacy, Manasi said “A significant shift is seen in the removal of Article 9(3), which previously prohibited the performance of surrogacy. The amendment now permits surrogacy in the UAE, signaling a progressive move towards embracing diverse reproductive options.”
New world issues
Speaking to Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the event, Dr. Barakat explained that it was important that the scholars understood the science behind the process. “You have the Islamic world in the audience and they have to understand the science that is new,” she said. “I tried to convey to everyone how the process works with more details that they have five or ten years ago. I am hoping that there is more acceptance for the science with my explanation.”
She also cautioned that the audience that the process of renting of natural and artificial wombs is a newly emerging issue, and that it was necessary to explain the definitive Shariah ruling concerning it, as it has become a real issue.
“Artificial wombs are one of the newly emerging fiqhi issues that require in-depth study to give an accurate ruling that aligns with the objective of Shariah without contradicting scientific progress,” she said. “It needs to be debated and discussed to come to an agreement on how to facilitate surrogacy for women who will never have a children unless they have a surrogate mother.”
Just like a wet-nurse
She said that the purpose of her presentation was to drive home that message that surrogate mothers can never change the lineage of a child and that the woman who gives birth can be considered in the same manner as a wet-nurse, who breastfeeds a baby.
According to Islamic law, a wet-nurse or a woman who has breastfed a baby that is not related to her is considered as a second mother. Marital relations are prohibited between the child and her and any other children who she has suckled are prohibited from marrying each other.