Is it permissible for medical students to dissect cadavers? Does this necessitate performing Wudu' (ablution) or Ghusl (full ritual bath)?
All praise be to Allah Alone, and peace and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah, his family and Companions.
The Council of Senior Scholars issued decree no. 47 dated 20/8/1396 A.H. Regarding the ruling on autopsy. It reads as follows: All praise be to Allah Alone, and peace and blessings be upon Last of the Prophets, Muhammad, and upon his family and Companions. To proceed:
In its 9th session held in Al-Ta'if in the month of Sha`ban, 1396 A.H., the Council of Senior Scholars has examined the letter no. 2/3231 of His Excellency the Minister of Justice, based on the letter of the under secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, no. 3/13446/2/1/34 dated 6/1/1395 A.H., attached by a copy of the note of the Malaysian Embassy in Jeddah including an inquiry about the opinion of
the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia regarding performing a medical operation on the corpse of a dead Muslim for medical purposes.Also, the Council reviewed the research made on this subject by the Permanent Committee (Part No. 5; Page No. 272) for Scholarly Research and Ifta', which clarified that the subject in question has three categories:
Autopsy to determine if it is a criminal case.
Autopsy to check for epidemic diseases so that the necessary precautions are taken to protect people from them. Third: Autopsy for educational purposes.After a review of opinions, discussion and studying the research presented by the Committee referred to above, the Council decided the following:
With regard to the first and second categories,
the Council deems them permissible in order to achieve and maximize many interests in the fields of security, justice, and protecting the community from epidemic diseases. The evil of violating the sanctity of a dead body is insignificant compared to the great public interest secured by this procedure. Hence, the Council agreed by consensus on the permissibility of dissecting a corpse for achieving these two purposes, whether the corpse belongs to a person who is inviolable (i.e. Not subject to capital punishment) or not.
As for the third category,
which is autopsy for educational purposes, it should be known that the Shari`ah (Islamic law) aims to realize and maximize interests and avoid and minimize evils by permitting the lesser of two evils in order to repel the more detrimental of them; also, when two interests clash, the superior of them is to be carried out. Dissecting animals does not dispense with the need to dissect human beings, which fulfills numerous advantages as shown by scientific development in different fields of medicine. Therefore, the Council deems it generally permissible to dissect the corpse of human beings. (Part No. 5; Page No. 273) However, the care of the Shari`ah for the dignity of a Muslim while dead is the same as when alive,
based on the Hadith related by
Abu Dawud and
on the authority of
`Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
Breaking a deceased person's bone is akin to breaking it when alive.
Since dissection involves humiliation of the dignity of the dead while the need for this is inexistent due to the availability of corpses of persons subject to capital punishment, the Council views that dissection should be restricted to the corpses of such people and the corpses of inviolable people avoided, in view of what is mentioned.
Autopsy does not necessitate Wudu' or Ghusl.May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.