Is In Vitro Fertilization Acceptable in Islam?

A young Muslim couple and their toddler at Masjid al-Haram, Makkah, Saudi Arabia.
Mohammed Tawsif Salam/Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons 4.0

How Islam Views Fertility

Muslims recognize that all life and death happens according to the Will of God. To strive for a child in the face of infertility is not considered a rebellion against God's will. The Quran tells us, for example, of the prayers of Abraham and Zachariah, who pleaded with God to grant them offspring. Nowadays, many Muslim couples openly seek fertility treatment if they are unable to conceive or bear children.

What Is In Vitro Fertilization?:

In vitro fertilization is a process by which a sperm and egg can be combined in a laboratory. In vitro, translated literally, means "in glass." The resulting embryo or embryos fertilized in laboratory equipment can then be transferred to the woman's uterus for further growth and development.

The Quran and Hadith

In the Quran, God comforts those who face fertility difficulties:

"To God belongs the dominion of heavens and earth. He creates what He wills. He bestows female (offspring) upon whom He wills, and bestows male (offspring) upon whom He wills. Or He bestows both males and females, and He leaves childless whom He wills. For He is All-Knowledgeable All-Powerful." (Quran 42:49-50)

Most modern reproductive technologies have only recently been made available. The Quran and Hadith do not directly comment on any specific procedure, but scholars have interpreted the guidelines of these sources to develop their opinions.

Opinion of Islamic Scholars

Most Islamic scholars are of the opinion that IVF is allowable in instances where a Muslim couple is unable to conceive in any other way. Scholars agree that there is nothing in Islamic law which forbids many types of fertility treatment, provided the treatments do not go outside the bounds of the marriage relationship.

If in vitro fertilization is chosen, the fertilization must be done with sperm from a husband and egg from his wife; and the embryos must be transplanted into the wife's uterus.

Some authorities stipulate other conditions. Because masturbation is not allowed, it is recommended that the collection of a husband's semen be done in the context of intimacy with his wife but without penetration. Further, because refrigeration or freezing of a wife's eggs is not allowed, it is recommended that the fertilization and implantation occur as quickly as possible. 

Assisted reproductive technologies that blur marital and parental ties--such as donor eggs or sperm from outside the marriage relationship, surrogate motherhood, and in-vitro fertilization after a spouse's death or divorce of the married couple--are forbidden in Islam. 

Islamic experts advise that a couple must be very careful to avoid any possibility of contamination or accidental fertilization of the eggs by another man's semen. And some authorities recommend that IVF be chosen only after efforts at traditional man-woman fertilization have proved unsuccessful for a period of at least two years. 

But since all children are viewed as a gift of God, in vitro fertilization employed under the proper conditions is entirely allowable for Muslim couples unable to conceive by traditional means.