Covid-19 Vaccine

  1. INTRODUCTION

Majlistt has been asked for its opinion and position on the Covid-19 vaccine, and its permissibility for Muslims in Trinidad and Tobago.

Majlistt notes there are at least 2 other papers put out by Islamic organisations in Trinidad and Tobago on the same topic, as well as fatawa done in other jurisdictions globally and are accessible to (and circulating within) the local Muslim community.

For the Covid-19 Vaccine, there are many companies (15 are listed at the time of this publication) currently developing and/or deploying vaccines for use globally [1].

The key issue pertaining to the permissibility of the vaccines is whether the ingredients used in the vaccines are halaal, and whether the vaccine is permissible to take notwithstanding the ingredients used. In particular, concern surrounds the following:

  • Presence of Alcohol in Vaccines

Alcohol in its form Ethanol is used in some vaccines. This conflicts with the Islamic prohibition of khamr (wine or alcohol derived from grapes) and classification of alcohol as najis (impure), and handiwork of the Devil (Quran 5:90-91). [“Every intoxicant is khamr and every intoxicant is haraam.” [Reported by Muslim]]

There is a hadith in which the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) is reported to have said, “Whatever intoxicates in large quantities, a small quantity of it is forbidden.” [Abu Dawood, in an-Nasa’i]

  • Use of Porcine Products in Vaccines

Porcine (substances derived from swine) gelatine, and the enzyme trypsin sourced from swine, are sometimes used in vaccines. This is a concern to Muslim populations, since Islam explicitly prohibits consumption of the ‘flesh’ of swine (understood and accepted to relate to the entire animal) (Quran 2:173; 5:3; 6:145; 16:115).

  • Use of human fetal cells in vaccine cultures

Some vaccines have been grown in fetal fibroblast cells, originally derived in the 1960s period. This creates the concern that the human DNA used in the vaccine culture can still be present in the vaccine when one is injected, and further that the foreign DNA can affect the vaccine recipient’s DNA and cause complications or changes.

Majlistt recognizes that these concerns were also expressed by other religions globally, in particular from people of Ahlul Kitaab (Jews and Christians), and in many cases have drawn reactions from their scholars.

  • DELIBERATIONS

Firstly, Majlistt recognizes that some manufacturers have given assurances (based on media reports and assessments conducted by Ulamaa globally of information provided on ingredients), that their products meet the halaal criteria, and contain no human or animal -based ingredients. Such companies mentioned include Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca / Oxford University, and Sinovac.

That there are halaal options means little to Trinidad and Tobago in the context that some countries are sourcing their entire vaccine supplies from single or various specific manufacturers. This means that the vaccines which become available for citizenry may or may not be sourced from a manufacturer who has assured that vaccines contain only halaal ingredients.

Secondly, the use of the aforementioned ingredients in vaccines raises concerns by some Muslims in nations throughout the world, as to permissibility to take the vaccine.

The context for assessing and answering these concerns are based on 2 essential principles within Islamic Shariah:

  1. The transformation of base substances into some other form, makes it acceptable or unacceptable depending on what the resulting form is. The legal rulings on Istihlaak (pertaining to the volume of alcohol in a substance) and Istihaala (equivalent to tahawwul, relating to chemical transformation of the properties of a substance that removes the impurities).
  1. In this case, the transformation of porcine gelatine into peptides makes it acceptable in Islam.
    1. Similar to porcine gelatine, the use of porcine trypsin enzyme (where applicable) is in a form that is radically transformed from its original substance, and on which basis it becomes acceptable to use.
    1. In the case of alcohol (in the form Ethanol), which is used as an ingredient in small quantities, in medicine, it also becomes acceptable for Muslims to use.
    1. For those vaccines that are grown in fetal cells, and based on the science explained on the resulting effects of the process on the human cells originally used, this also is acceptable for use in vaccines by Muslims.

An additional consideration is that these substances in the vaccine are injected into the body, not ingested – which removes further concern regarding the consumption of the substance.

  •  In Islam, it is clearly established that
    • dire necessity removes restrictions (Quran 5:3; 2:173; 6:119) – in this regard, taking the vaccine as a necessary preventative, precautionary or protective measure is permissible and does not contradict Islam.
    • there is a high emphasis on saving human lives (Quran 5:32)
    • Muslims should take care to not harm themselves nor be harmful to others [2]
    • we as Muslims must choose the lesser of 2 evils when we are in a position where we have no other choice.

It is also noted that up to this point, in many countries, the decision to take the vaccine is an individual one, and therefore there is for many no mandatory requirement to take the vaccine.

Within these parameters, Majlistt wishes to advise the Muslim and wider communities that:

  1. If taking the vaccine is mandatory in the country, then Muslims should obey the law of the land.
  2. If halaal vaccines or halaal options are available, then these should be taken. In this vein we would urge those responsible for procuring the vaccines to consider sourcing them from vaccine manufacturers who use only halaal ingredients, as a first priority.
  3. If the only vaccines available are those containing derivative porcine or alcohol -based substances, or vaccine cultures that used fetal cells, it is permissible for Muslims to take them.
  4. Majlistt notes that these positions are consistent with other Ulamaa globally as reported by various Council of Ulamaa media channels, and in international media [3]
  • VACCINE HESITANCY

There have been other concerns expressed about the effects of the vaccine, and suspicions about the timing of development of the vaccine, the motives for its dissemination, and so on. These are classed as vaccine hesitancy, defined as “delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccination despite availability of vaccination services…, and relate to complacency, convenience and confidence” [4]. We note a number of contextual, individual, group and vaccine-specific influencers that drive these concerns, many of which are outside the scope of Islamic Theology, and thus unaddressed in this paper.

Of singular mention is the fact that, while Majlistt recognizes the slate of ethical transgressions by some pharmaceutical companies globally over time as established in studies of Ethics [5], we reference our reminder to the public for our recent paper on Covid-19 (Issue #12, pg. 6) and reiterate persons should be cautious to not be the originators of false narratives and false content (Quran 33:70), nor should they propagate unverified information (Quran 49:6), nor spread mischief in the land (Quran 28:77; 2:60; 26:183; ), nor work to endanger the lives of others without sound evidence [6].

Majlistt reiterates that persons who either decide to take or refuse to take the vaccine (once it is not mandatory to be taken in the country) should know it is entirely in their prerogative to decide if to take it, and when. Other Muslims should not discriminate, castigate or ridicule these persons on the basis of this decision.

Majlistt concludes with a reminder to everyone that Almighty Allah tells us in the Holy Quran:

“Nothing can befall us except what Allah decrees. Our Protector is He, and in Allah should the faithful place their trust.” (Quran 9:51)

May Almighty Allah protect us all and keep us in good health and Iman. Ameen

NOTES

[1] Status of Covid-19 Vaccines within WHO EUL/PQ evaluation process (20 January, 2021) https://extranet.who.int/pqweb/sites/default/files/documents/Status_COVID_VAX_20Jan2021_v2.pdf Accessed February 2021

[2] Abu Hurairah r.a. reported that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) said, “The Muslim is one from whose tongue and hand the people are safe, and the believer is the one people trust with their lives and wealth”. (An-Nisa’i 4998)

[3] Questions and Answers – Fatwas concerning issues related to Health, Medicine and its related subjects from the Islamic point of view, Islamic Organisation for Medical Sciences, http://islamset.net/questions-answers/?lang=en Accessed February 2021

[4] Vaccine hesitancy: Definition, scope and determinants, N.E. MacDonald, SAGE Working Group on Vaccine Hesitancy, Vaccine, Vol 33, Issue 34, August 2015, pp 4161-4164, ElSevier, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264410X15005009?via%3Dihub

[5] See, for example, D.W.Light, J.Lexchin, and J.J. Darrow, Institutional Corruption of Pharmaceuticals and the Myth of Safe and Effective Drugs, The Journal of Law Medicine and Ethics, 41(3): 590-600, August 2013, DOI: 10.1111/jlme.12068, Link

[6] Ibn Abbas r.a. reported that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) said, “One shall not harm oneself and shall not harm others”. [Ahmad, al-Baihaqi, al-Hakim, Ibn Majah]


June 2021
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