Islam and Biomedicine Seminar Series: Abstracts

Dr. Mehrunisha Suleman - Muslim Values and End of Life Healthcare Decision-Making: Values, Norms, and Ontologies in Conflict?

Dr. Aasim I. Padela - Maqasid and Biomedicine

Abstract: This paper describes the utility of maqasid-based approaches for biomedicine. Specifically, it will explore basic questions concerning human health through the lens of the maqasid formulae of al-Shatibi and Jamal al-Din al-‘Atiyah and relate them to contemporary notions of the social determinants of health. It will also outline how a maqasid-based approach may assist in developing health policy by outlining how a health-action agenda that intervenes upon the leading causes of human mortality can emerge from a moral objective of the Islamic tradition, namely the preservation of life.

Dr. Asim Yusuf - ‘The Mad, the Sad, the Bad and the Glad’: Towards an Islamic Conception of Mental Illness and Wellbeing, Vice and Virtue

Mufti Kamaluddin Ahmed - Biomedicine at the Intersection of Islamic Theology, Law, and Spirituality: The Hard Cases of Inception and End of Life

Professor Peter Pormann - Medical Epistemology in Arabic Discourse: Views from the Arabic Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms

Abstract: The Hippocratic Aphorisms enjoyed enormous popularity in the Arabo-Islamic medical tradition: physicians and the general public learnt them by heart; whole disciplines were defined by them; they stand at the beginning of many nosological concepts (as the case of melancholy illustrates); and they offer many sophisticated discussions of questions of medical epistemology. Because these Aphorisms were pithy sayings that are sometimes quite obscure or succinct, they elicited a large amount of exegesis. A case in point is the very first aphorisms, which states that ‘experience is treacherous and decision difficult’. It spawned a significant amount of debate about the nature of ‘experience’ and how to use it in order to establish medical knowledge, as Franz Rosenthal has already argued some fifty years ago in a seminal article.
          Recently, the whole commentary tradition has been made available in preliminary electronic editions (see Pormann, Karimullah 2017). The present talk will focus on a number of examples for various problems of medical epistemology as they are discussed in this exegetical corpus. Examples will include more theoretical discussions about the nature of medical knowledge and practical ones about the efficaciousness of certain drugs or therapeutical processes. This will show that far from being a stagnant body of knowledge, the Arabic  commentaries on the Aphorisms are a locus of intense intellectual debate and medical innovation.

Professor Ayman Shabana - Legal Construction of Science in Light of Islamic Bioethical Discourses on Genetic and Reproductive Technologies

Abstract: Various applications of new genetics and reproductive technologies have inspired solutions to hitherto impossible medical problems. Despite their impressive achievements, however, these new technologies raise serious concerns over their potential impact on family life. Muslim responses to these concerns reveal a sober realization that such technological breakthroughs pose significant challenges to various aspects of the inherited Islamic normative tradition. Chief among these challenges is evaluating the role of science in the process of theological assessment. While the role of science in these biomedical discourses is presumed and even taken for granted, most Muslims would still defer to their religious authority on these new issues. This in turn raises a number of important questions. To what extent does science, as an alternative body of positive knowledge that does not recognize religious or metaphysical assumptions, play a role in Islamic biomedical discourses? How can this role be characterized? To what extent does science aid or challenge the normative authority of the shari‘a itself? This presentation investigates such questions by examining Islamic theological responses to some illustrative applications of genetic and reproductive technologies in case studies of individual as well as collective fatwas. It argues that the general tendency in theological and metaphysical debates in Islam appear to lean more towards accommodating rather than challenging or even denying the authority of modern science.

Professor Ahmed Ragab - Prophetic Medicine: Medical Piety in the Medieval and Modern Islamicate Societies

Abstract: Since the ninth century and until today, prophetic medicine played a significant role in how pious Muslim patients and medical practitioners dealt with medical knowledge and constructed views about their bodies in health and disease. Moreover, prophetic medicine, which is formed of a body of traditions and anecdotes attributed to the prophet and his companions, continued to influence how pious Muslim patients and physicians dealt with one another and how they understood and dealt with a variety of ethical questions. This talk looks at prophetic medicine as a living tradition and explores how this tradition impacts medical knowledge and practice among Muslims.