Surrogacy, egg donation, IVF and Islam

Mariam asked me to do a post on surrogacy and IVF in Islam and this  topic was on my to-write list because exactly a year ago someone asked me about egg donation and if I thought it was allowed in Islam. This is what I wrote in my reply:

You will not find anything in the Quran and hadith about it simply because IVF didn’t exist back then. Therefore whatever interpretation anyone gives you is just that – their interpretation. In that way no one can tell you with certainty whether it is haram or halal. Let me give you some background:

In the time when Quran was written, if a woman couldn’t bear children the husband was allowed to marry again. We should note that just before his death, the Prophet had almost a dozen wives/slaves and only one of them had managed to conceive a child (Ibrahim who died in infancy). Yet, his wives neither adopted children (as such an adopted child is not given the same status as a biological child under Islam) nor were they given the option to adopt and raise the Prophet’s son Ibrahim who was born to a Coptic slave, Mary. This disturbed Aisha a lot who wanted children desperately and eventually she was given the title of Umm al Momeneen because she desperately wanted a kunya for herself (be called umm of someone). The Prophet also allowed her to use the kunya of her nephew. Thus, anonymous or known adoption as well as raising the husband’s child with another woman were both options that could have been available to Aisha, but she wasn’t given them.

Second, I personally analyse how a situation would be dealt with by all Abrahamic religions. If all three religions agree on something then I personally believe I have greater proof that it is allowed or not allowed. In Islam paternity status of a child is more important than the maternity. This is because in those days a child’s mother was known in every single case, but paternity was hard to define. It could be any man’s child. However, in today’s age with anonymous egg donation, even finding the mother is difficult. But the same ruling can be applied – that a child MUST know both the father and the mother since the biological mother has the same rights as the surrogate mother under all Abrahamic religions.

In Islam it doesn’t matter whether the child is born to a wife or a concubine since the child carries the father’s name and lineage. But that wife or concubine – in all three Abrahamic religions – must *belong* to the man. That he, the man should have full access and authority over her body, including the womb and the eggs. In Judaism and Islam a man can have a child from a concubine (indeed the Prophet had Ibrahim from Mary the slave whom he didn’t marry and Abraham had Ishmael from Hagar whom he never married), but in Christianity a child should only be the result of marriage between two persons. So according to Christianity anonymous egg donations is out-rightly wrong. But according to Islam and Judaism, it could be allowed even if the man and the egg donor weren’t married for the child to be carried and raised by the wife only if the egg donor was a slave! That is theoretically possible but practically impossible. Thus, the result of this is that a man can buy an egg to impregnate his wife (and the wife can carry and raise the child), but the egg donor and the man have to be religiously married (not necessarily legally married).
Thus, in the light of all Abrahamic religions, an anonymous donor egg and known sperm creates a child outside the boundaries of marriage making the child illegitimate with no certain lineage creating the chances of negative future consequences. Thus, from my study, anonymous donation is completely banned.

But even in known egg donation the man and the donor have to be religiously married. In that case, there are scholars who allow surrogation so that for example a woman would be allowed to carry, give birth and raise a child who is the result of either:
• Sperm and egg of a married couple – a relative
• Or the sperm of the husband and the egg of his second wife.

This second wife could be temporary since at one time mutah was allowed to all Muslim men who wanted sex while fighting wars and didn’t have access to their wives, and even had sex with war captives, and today misyar marriage is allowed by Sunni Islam in Saudi Arabia where a man owes no material or moral support to a woman apart from regular sex. I should add that Shia Islam allows egg donation from a known donor who does not have to be married to the man.

Having said all this, I don’t think anything is black and white in any religion. Not even in Islam. There are shades of grey. And Islam has been through 1400 years of interpretation and misinterpretation. I don’t think that when you read a hundred times that God is merciful that He can act mercilessly and condemn people to hardships when they don’t understand the shades of grey. If your heart tells you that you are not doing anything that is morally wrong then it doesn’t matter how you see the shades of grey.

If a woman is unable to have a baby, a Muslim husband will be encouraged to marry again and indeed has the choice to marry again. But if a man has a reproductive problem, would the wife be encouraged similarly  to leave him and marry again? Why are there two popular options for women: to have patience or to adopt? What do you think about surrogacy and egg donation in Islam (especially Sunni Islam)? Should a couple be allowed to buy a donated egg and have a child through IVF? Also, do you think a couple should be allowed to opt for surrogacy in case of an incompetent uterus of the wife or other problems?


34 thoughts on “Surrogacy, egg donation, IVF and Islam

  1. wafa' says:

    I don’t know why my religion wont let a woman or a parent to have a child anyway they want, of course minus the illegal actions. Why would adoption be wrong and why wouldn’t i have the chance to adopt a baby whom i can love and needs my love without being married. why can not i be called its mother without being married or wanting to marry. Whatever restrictions may have been back then are different now. But…

    ( If a woman is unable to have a baby, a Muslim husband will be encouraged to marry again and indeed has the choice to marry again. But if a man has a reproductive problem, would the wife be encouraged similarly to leave him and marry again? ) yesterday i got an email that says and proves -by a religious scholar- that women and men are not equal so who are we to say they are and blah blah blah… So i guess that email would of have answered your question. Men are way better than women, men need to be fathers while women aren’t. It’s just so sick. and my personal opinion is that adoption should be illegal for such cases- aren’t they allowing things their scholars say are 7aram ?- But to me it’s either you marry because you want to have a family and in this case you should leave -whether you are a man or a woman- but again what is your defintion of a family , is it kids and paranets or can you call your spouse your family then in this case you can forget that he can not have kids and you two can have your own family. Or do you marry because you are in love and is marring this man and care less than kids so the decision is easy in here.

    What do you think about surrogacy and egg donation in Islam (especially Sunni Islam)? Should a couple be allowed to buy a donated egg and have a child through IVF?
    Here and i guess in most Islamic countries is not accepted and considered 7aram but i guess since it’s going to make my life easier and make me a happier person then why not ? . Don’t they say that religions are here for our happiness, so if my happiness means being a mom then why would i be denied the chance to have it ?

    Also, do you think a couple should be allowed to opt for surrogacy in case of an incompetent uterus of the wife or other problems?
    oh yea, why not.

    I wonder why does my religion make things tougher for people most times 😦

  2. Lat says:

    “If a woman is unable to have a baby, a Muslim husband will be encouraged to marry again and indeed has the choice to marry again. But if a man has a reproductive problem, would the wife be encouraged similarly to leave him and marry again?”

    Remarrying because either spouse couldn’t have a child,is becoming a reality now.Even women want to carry their own child if possible.So if husband is incompetent in this area,the woman will remarry.So far i’ve seen non-muslim women do it.Maybe muslim women do it too since our culture is quite modern here,eventhough conservative views still prevail.

    Remarrying because of divorce etc is common and why not because of the inability to conceieve? It’s just that for a woman to divorce her husband for this reason alone,is taken to imply that her husband is not man enough as such other reasons can be made up for divorce to take place to safeguard a man’s pride and ego,which is not taken into consideration for women, as past women have failed to stand up for their rights to be seen and treated in this equal manner,whether we like it or not.Men are often regarded as semi-gods in eastern culture so their inablities are often sidelined and vanished unlike a woman’s.

    Families here do adoption all the time.I have relatives,women who couldn’t conceive and they adopted children from BILs,SILs etc.In most cases,we do not know who is unable to give birth.Both husband and wife agree to adopt.Even a Ustad I know gave one of his twin daughters to his brother so that his brother could have a child.They didn’t propose that he should remarry.Possibly because they didn’t want to hurt the wife’s feelings.So adoption is something common here even among muslims.

    I’ve read about renting wombs in India.Seen documentaries where these poor women agree to this agreement because they need the money for their families and most of the time,the families don’t know about the women’s decision to become a surrogat mother .So it’s possible that exploitation can happen, but if the govt puts in place laws to protect the rights of these women then it’s ok.But it’s possible for the mother who is not biologicaly or emotionally connected to the child,to feel ‘divorced’ from the child.And when it comes to family crisis,it’s often the child who is neglected and possible to be abandoned in the end.A case of the Japanese couple whose child born of a Indian surrogate mother comes to mind.It can happen.The rights of the child should also be considered.If this can happen to non-muslims then it can also happen to muslims.

    Perhaps in future there could be a womb transplantation just like the heart and other organs we see today.Maybe this could solve some of the problems plaguing this issue.I don’t know. Whatever choice we make,there’ll always be negative and unexpected issues to face.It’s not just about going ahead with it but also how protected you are with the child you’re responsible for thru’surrgacy or IVF.

  3. Metis says:

    Wafa and Lat,

    Thank you for your comments. I think this can generate very useful and interesting discussion.

    Two things here:

    First, taking a brother’s or sister’s child is not the same as adopting a stranger. And in the case where a couple doesn’t have children at all, an adopted child who is also a relative will have lesser problems with inheritance since Islam is strict about that. What do you think?

    Second, in traditional Islam a woman can seek divorce on two conditions: 1) Husband’s impotency which she should prove in court; and 2) ill treatment from him (again, this should be proved). But since Muslims are generally poorer in most cases, even if the infertility problem lies with the husband (and he is otherwise able to have sex), it is quite possible that the woman would be blamed if medical tests are not conducted. Moreover, it will be the woman who will continue to think that she has the ‘problem.’ What do you think about this?

    • wafa' says:

      for question one, i agree here that it’s easier with inheritance, and that lead me think about the importance of “will” in Islam. in one hand there are saying that لا وصية لوارث and then the saying that no one should sleep without having a will. So which one to follow, if the second one then it’s easier and problem solved and kids whether close relatives like a brother or a sister’s child should have no problem, but if the first, then yea inheritance would be a big problem here.

      ( Moreover, it will be the woman who will continue to think that she has the ‘problem.0
      this remind me of the problem -as what lots of men see it- of having only girls. Men keep threatening to divorce the wives if they didn’t have a boy next time.
      We need to plant the importance of science in our societies.

  4. susanne430 says:

    “nor were they given the option to adopt and raise the Prophet’s son Ibrahim who was born to a Coptic slave, Mary.”

    And I like this fact since Ibrahim was Mary’s child and should have stayed with his mother.

    “This disturbed Aisha a lot who wanted children desperately”

    How sad that she was never able to be a mother since God forbade Muhammad’s wives from remarrying. It seems with Muhammad married to so many women and fathering so few children that HE was the problem. How awful that these women were not able to be mothers simply because he was infertile! I guess this is why they were called Mothers of the Believers. At least they could be spiritual mothers since they were denied the gift of having little ones to cuddle.

    Here is a good summary of adoption in Christianity.

    I’m glad adoption is looked upon favorably since I find it a wonderful wonderful thing! I know many couples who have found such joy in adopting orphans!

    And re: IVF, I’m glad the author says:

    “In-vitro fertilization is a controversial issue among Christians, and the Bible does not address it. Therefore, it becomes a matter of conviction from the Holy Spirit.”

    Since the Bible doesn’t talk about it, it’s open for interpretation in the modern world and it’s a matter of praying and asking God what is best. Maybe He will lead some to go through IVF whereas for others, He may have other plans. I know a wonderful couple who went through IVF and it failed. God later lead them to adopt and they have three fantastic children whom they adore. These little ones may have never known this kind of love if M and K had been successful in their IVF attempts. On the other hand, another friend went through IVF and now has two beautiful daughters. I like the fact people can seek God’s will for their lives because it may vary from one couple to another. For some infertility treatments may be the way to go. For others, God may have children waiting for them to adopt. I don’t think God has the same plan for every single person in every area of life. Note the variety of ways He leads people to do His will. It’s not all one cookie-cutter pattern. He is a God of variety; look at people! Look at creation! 🙂

    • Metis says:

      “I like the fact people can seek God’s will for their lives because it may vary from one couple to another. For some infertility treatments may be the way to go. For others, God may have children waiting for them to adopt.”

      That is a wonderful way of putting it. I like it. Thanks Susie. I agree that any couple who is committed to each other and want children should do what best suits their situation and that should be done by asking God for guidance and support. This is important.

  5. Lat says:

    As for inheritance,I thought one could bequeath properties to whoever they want and leave whatever that is left to be divided as according to the inheritance guidelines.But here is different.The Islamic council will only interfere if the parties feel wronged and make a complain, otherwise families can divide their shares themselves.

    Yes adopting a relative is easier and makes for less paperwork.There are also families who adopt from India not one but three children! My mum is a close friend of theirs so I know.As I said earlier,the muslim council here will not come forward to access everything when someone dies,only when their assisstance is required.So families can will whatever they want to whomever they can unless a member is not happy with it.

    For centuries women have been blamed for being barren if the couple has no child,even if the problem lies with the husband.Only very few good men will come forward to defend their wives and admit their incompetence.As you said a poorer woman as compared to a richer one,cannot go to court to prove her case unless she has support.But poorer women are also the ones who are ready to rent their wombs to carry a stranger’s child and even breastfeed them while they are together.It’s all buisness.Once an IVF case here went wrong,with the wife’s egg fertilized with the wrong sperm.When found out the couple filed a case against the hospital but after much thought,they decided to keep the child since the mother has bonded with the baby.I think they received some compensation as well.Mothers can be emphatic esp towards their own child,what about fathers,esp to a child not your own?

    I agree IVF is good but it has it’s weaknesses too.

    • Metis says:

      I read this heart-breaking story of this Muslim woman who adopted a boy who was orphaned and just to make him mahram she was forced to breast feed him for which she had to first induce lactation through very painful procedure that for some reason left her with a permanently sore back. I thought that was really weird especially because I can’t see how feeding someone can create *blood ties.*

      • Lat says:

        That is so terrible! Inducing breastmilk unnaturally for this purpose is outrageous! Why do women had to prove this mahramship this way? How are men made to prove for their adoption of orphan girls then? I really can’t get around this breastfeeding thing..really.

        • Metis says:

          Lat, you asked “Why do women had to prove this mahramship this way?”

          This is a standard practice derived from sunnah and hadith. But in cases where women don’t lactate, it is all the more odd to make them lactate for this purpose.

          “How are men made to prove for their adoption of orphan girls then?”

          They also make their wives nurse the baby girls by virtue of which the girls become mahram to the men. Under Islamic law the woman’s husband is considered the actual owner of her milk since it is believed that it is his semen which caused the pregnancy that stimulated the lactation. Hence, the milk is called laban al-fahl, “milk of the sire”.

          • Lat says:

            “… actual owner of her milk ..” (shaking head)

            So are men owner of her bodily disease,mental depression etc? I guess not otherwise angels would be cursing men instead.

          • Tasmiya says:

            Just to expand a bit further on this, if a woman induces lactation artificially and breastfeeds an adopted girl, the husband is not a mahram for the child because the milk was not produced from a pregnancy occasioned from the husband. (I did read this on sunnipath a long time ago but I cannot find the link anymore)

            I always found this ruling unfair and favouring the adoption of boys. If the family observe hijab, it would mean once she reached puberty, an adopted daughter could not take off her hijab in front of her adoptive father.

            • Metis says:

              Tasmiya, I didn’t know that! This is extremely interesting information. I would really like to know why the ruling is different for girls. Thanks so much for sharing and I’ll ask more people if they know anything about it.

      • mariam says:

        althought stupidity of the scholar who advised this woman is obvious,I am in wonder of muslim women who accept anything coming from mouth of scholars.

        • Metis says:

          Mariam, although Ridaa (milk relationship) has pre-Islamic pagan roots, it is very important in Islamic law and scholars have spent lengthy debates on the issue. It does create undesirable effects sometimes like the famous hadith collector Bukhari was fired from his position of mufti of Bukhara after passing the ruling that two human babies who suckled from the same farm animal became milk-siblings 🙂

  6. mariam says:

    Dear Metis thank you so much for writing this post.
    ” If your heart tells you that you are not doing anything that is morally wrong then it doesn’t matter how you see the shades of grey.” very well said.
    adoption, IVF and egg donation have brought too much happiness and joy for so many families specialy women in Iran.there is nothing un Islamic or complicated in adopting a strange child or using IVF or other methodes.while adopting a child ,couple should give up one third of their real state(or any thing like this ) to the adopted child for preventing any problem in simple.
    and for egg donation or surrogacy, shia has Mutah and sunni has there is no problem.
    current difference toward these issues between Iran and other Islamic countries is not because of different sects.unfortunately critical thinking in many Islamic countries( even in a country like Malaysia) is dead,completely dead.

    last year goverment changed the adoption law for single single women can adopt up to 3 female child.goverment was forced to change the law because there are so many rich single women from one hand and so many children in foster cares from another hand,they didnot changed the law because of what is( or is not) written in Quran,they changed the law because our society needs it so much and this reason is enough for changing the law.
    again thank you so much for talking about this issue.

    • Metis says:

      You are welcome, dear Mariam.

      I am growing so fond of Iranian women! I honestly didn’t know the kind of freedoms they enjoy and how in big and small ways they are better off than most other Muslim women. Thanks for sharing this precious information with us from time to time. I am learning so much from you!

  7. Sumera says:

    Because women are encouraged to sacrifice, whereas men are shown how many other options they have.

  8. Lat says:

    In mutah and misyar marriages,do custody of children go to women? Does it need to be a condition specified in the contract?

  9. Salaam Alaikum,

    Islam places major emphasis on children knowing their lineage and adopted children not having their surnames changed. Interestingly, anonymous sperm donation has been banned in the UK due to the anguish of those conceived in this manner being unable to trace their fathers. It was ruled that they had the right to this information.

    As for adoption, if you look into the stories of trans-racially adopted children, many of them feel quite bitter at losing their cultural birth name and being given a name that did not match their ethnicity. Likewise open adoption is becoming more popular and no-one would ever reccommend hiding the truth about a child’s adoption.

    I think the wisdom and purpose of rulings are often more important then the ruling itself.

    But yes, I’m all about the shades of grey.

    • Metis says:

      “I think the wisdom and purpose of rulings are often more important then the ruling itself.”

      That is very well said. I can understand that some parents long for children and are miserable, but if the child doesn’t know his/her lineage that is even more miserable. I wouldn’t want to do that to an child.

  10. P.S I know a women married to a man who was subsequently found to be infertile. He refuses to seek any fertility treatment, though it is popular in that country (as is getting the doctor to prescribe Clomid so you can have twins, this is very trendy). The general concensus is that everyone would understand if she divorced him and this is in a Muslim majority country.

    • Metis says:

      I guess in today’s time when men’s infertility can be established and diagnosed women are in a position to decide whether or not they would like to ask for divorce from an infertile husband. However, up until the last century impotency was believed to be the only form of male infertility so women suffered because they were believed to be “barren” if their husbands could “get it up” but were infertile.

  11. analysis_paralysis says:

    Hi. Me and my wife have been married for 6-7 years now and after a number of failed cycles, her family has put their foot down as to whether we should go down the recommended “donor egg” route citing it as “haram”. Of course, that has itself brought a lot of stresses between the two families and I am at a loss – I dont want to lose her and I dont want to go without a child – this is the 21st century and Gods greatest gift to mankind is the gift of intelligence. We will never ever get to be as perfect as the Creator, but we can use his gift of intelligence to make an effort to improve lives. But that being said, it is difficult to convince her now that her parents have voiced their opposition. Initally she was receptive to the idea but now its just one thing “its not hers so its not acceptable” whereas I know that her decision is based on her parents telling her it is haram. She is now moving out and separating as she will “allow me to go ahead and re-marry to have a kid”. That cold “islamic” logic has just torn me up inside. Why do I have to choose between her and the fact that I want to have a child? If anything at all, is islam not a religion of mercy & peace? Why would it put average joes through such trials and tribulations? Surely with all the stresses in life, the effects of plastics/ pesticides are all reducing fertility rates around the world, but when will muslims wake up and see things for what they are, and for once, give a ruling that actually helps “preserve” families rather than breaking them up?

    • Metis says:

      I’m so sorry to hear that 😦 This is a bit too much, really. I don’t think you *have* to choose if you don’t want to, you know. Maybe you should just put your foot down. If she is most important then she should just accept that 🙂

  12. naeed akhtar says:

    I am a 46 year old female and have been married for 5 years and are trying to conceive but have been told by my doctor that at my age I only have 1% chance conceiving naturally so my only option is egg donor, I am a sunni Muslim and I am torn between what is right and wrong in regards with having a egg donor,plse can some one help me with this decision

    • Anonymous Muslima says:

      Assalamu Alaikum Naeed,

      I think the first thing that needs to be understood is that scholars are just people. Their opinions are not any more divine than the opinions of anyone else on this planet. All the methods for deriving Fiqh: Istisan (Abu Hanifa), Istislah (Imam Malik), Istishab (Imam ash-Shafi’i) and Ahmed ibn Hanbal who stated all of these methods were biddah are all man made. They were not around during the time of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). The facts are that the Imam Malik and Imam Abu Haneefa both refused to have their Fiqh codified because they felt that their rulings were their opinions and the entire Ummah should not be subjected to their rulings. In fact 60% of the rulings of Abu Hanifa were later overturned by his own students. Fiqh is different from Shari’a. Shari’a is fixed and Fiqh is flexible. What might be deemed haram by scholars today, could be determined halal by scholars tomorrow. For example, for many centuries Hanafi scholars prohibited the marriage to Shafi’i. Later, they changed their ruling and allowed Hanafi men to marry Shafi’i women because they figured at least the later had the status of the people of the book. After some time the Hanafi scholars reversed all of this and allowed marriage between the two Mathabs unrestricted. So, ask yourself this question? Would you think that Allah (swt) would punish a Hanafi woman who married a Shafi’i man during this period of prohibition? Of course not. Scholars today have no special privilege to determine things divinely. As far as egg donation is concerned, Allah swt says in the meaning:

      “..their mothers are ONLY those who gave them birth..”

      Quran 58:2

      And this happens to be the very Quranic passage that scholars will use to stay that surrogacy is not allowed. So, if we take this passage, as it is the word of Allah swt and not merely the opinion of a scholar, we shall derive that the origin of the egg should not matter because the mother is the one who give birth to the child and no one else. Furthermore, these same scholars will imply that the fertilizing of an egg and sperm is not allowed because after all its zeena. Well this is not the case. Zeena is the act of the male sexual organ penetrating the female sexual organ and nothing else. It is a point of Islamic law that there must be four eye witnesses to zenna. That means that there were four males present to witness the sexual act for one to incur the Hadd punishment. Furthermore, if this was not possible then a man could swear to it incurring Allah’s punishment upon him if he were lying. But the woman could make a similar oath and the Hadd punishment would not be enforced. Also, if the man came forward and did not have witnesses nor did he make an oath, then his punishment would be 80 lashes on his back.

      As far as the paternity of the child being establish through the father, in the case where a married woman gives birth the child is always attributed to the husband unless he declares li’aan that the child is not his and then the child is only attributed to the wife. But, in this case why would he do this as the child is his. The child is also attributed to the one that gave birth to him according to the Quran.

      Islam being concerned with lineage is part of Istislah. This is a method of deriving Fiqh that was developed by Imam Malik not Sahaba RA and certainly not the Prophet (SAW). As far as being concerned with the so called Ijma of the scholars regarding the issue of egg donation, this is a personal choice. I personally don’t believe in Taqleed (The blinding following of scholars.) Research the issue and make your own Ijtihad. Pray salat al-Istikhara and ask Allah swt what you should do.

      • Anonymous Muslima says:

        I wanted to correct myself. Islam is considered with lineage as in the case with adoption. This clear in the Quran. However, egg donation is not adoption and that should be clear to anyone reading the above post. I meant that making Istislah (deduction of Fiqh based on public good) whose principals are tied to:


        Is an invention of Imam Malik and is not attributed to the Sahaba RA or the Prophet SAW. And all four Mathabs used the Quran to derive rulings before employing their own intellect.

      • naeed akhtar says:


        Thank you for yur reply,only today I was again thinking of egg donation and came to yur reply,which has helped me alot,I think for my own peace of mind I should do the istahara,
        Otherwise I have been very scared that i might do something against God’s will and be punished for it,that if I go for the egg donation my baby might be disabled or something terrible will happen to me,but only today thinking about it again and again I came across yur reply and makes alot of sense,,,,thank you so much

  13. Frank Reynold says:

    A recently published study has treated the issue of Infertility care and Islam. The research studied the case of Muslim Immigrants in Netherlands, and how Muslim couples face tough decisions if to accept Infertility Treatments and options available for non Muslim couples. It’s a good study, wish you like it. Here is the link

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