By Sarah Alawi
Dar Al-Ifta, Egypt’s Islamic body, issued a statement earlier this month on the legality of egg freezing under Islamic law following a controversial Facebook post by an Egyptian woman, Reem Mahana, on her decision to freeze her eggs.
Mahana said she froze her eggs for “the simple reason” that she wants to build a family when the time is right: “I cannot guarantee when exactly I will get married… I totally reject the idea of getting married to any man [only] to have a child.”
Before Mahana’s Facebook post, there was uncertainty around whether or not egg freezing was lawful (halal) according to Islamic law. Dar Al-Ifta had previously issued a Fatwa saying that embryo freezing, for married couples, is permissible in principle provided that four requirements are met.
Dar Al-Ifta has now declared that the process of egg-freezing is “permissible, and there is no Islamic prohibition of it if it is carried out under four conditions.” The idea is that women can freeze their eggs provided that the eggs are fertilized within the (future) marriage. The four requirements are:
- Eggs must be fertilized by the sperms of the husband while the couple is married, and not after the marriage is over, such as in cases of divorce, or death;
- Fertilized eggs must be kept completely safe and under strict control, preventing intentional or inadvertent mixing with other preserved eggs;
- A fertilized egg must not be placed inside the womb of a woman who did not originally produce the egg, and eggs may not be donated;
- Egg freezing must not pose negative side effects on the fetus due to the impact of the various factors that they may be exposed to during the process, such as those that could induce birth defects or mental retardation later.
Dar Al-Ifta’s Fatwa goes to the heart of the general premise in Islam that assisted reproductive technology is permissible, and maybe even encouraged, so long as the sperm and egg come from the married couple and no other party is involved. That is why surrogacy, for example, is not permissible (under the Sunni school of thought). Iran is the only Muslim country which has allowed the use of surrogacy, as well as egg, sperm and embryo donation.
Dar Al-Ifta’s Fatwa is a big step in clarifying the position for single women who wish to look to assisted reproductive technology (ART) to preserve their fertility in the face of the “biological clock.” Mahana’s story is not unusual, even in the West. As recent studies have suggested, women are freezing their eggs “waiting for partners, not careers.”
Other countries in the Middle East are in the process of updating their ART laws. Up until this year, UAE laws allowed only married women to freeze their eggs with single women being allowed to take up egg-freezing under special circumstances. The update on ART laws will allow single women to preserve their fertility without the need for special circumstances.