Family Structure in the wake of Genetic and Reproductive Technologies


8:00 – 8:30 AM Registration and Coffee
8:30 – 9:00 AM Welcome and Opening Remarks
Dean Ahmad Dallal, Georgetown University in Qatar

Overview and Background
Ayman Shabana, Georgetown University in Qatar

QNRF Presentation
Omar Boukhris, Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF)

9:00 – 11:00 AM Chair: Amira Sonbol, Georgetown University in Qatar

Fertility Decline, Small Families, and Son Selection in the Muslim World: The
Controversial Convergence of Contraceptive and Reprogenetic Technologies

Marcia C. Inhorn, Yale University

Reprogenetic Technologies and the Valuing of the Biological Family
Inmaculada de Melo-Martin, Weill Cornell Medicine, Cornell University

Admissibility of DNA Evidence as Proof of Paternity in Light of Maqasid Al-Sharia
Mohammad Fadel, University of Toronto

11:00 – 11:15 AM Coffee Break
11:15 AM – 12:45 PM Chair: Jeremy Koons, Georgetown University in Qatar

Exploring the Relationship Between Abortion and Genetic and Assisted
Reproductive Technologies

Angel M. Foster, University of Ottawa

The Duration of Pregnancy in Contemporary Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh) and
Legislation: Tradition, Scientific Revolution, and Consequences

Delfina Serrano-Ruano, Institute of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Languages

Modern Biomedical Technology and the Global Infertility Industry
Jennifer Lahl, Center for Bioethics and Culture Network

12:45 – 1:45 PM Lunch Break
1:45–3:15 PM Chair: Reza Pirbhai, Georgetown University in Qatar

Third Party Gamete Donation in Iran: The Shift from “All in the Family” to “Going it Alone”
Tremayne, Oxford University

Bioethics and Religious Law (Fiqh): The Principle of Doing Good Deeds and its Applications in
Contemporary Reproductive Practices

Shirin Naef, University of Zurich

DNA Testing and Islamic Law: An Example from Morocco
Zaynab El Bernoussi, Al Akhawayn University

3:15–3:30 PM Coffee Break
3:30–5:00 PM Chair: Mohammed Ghaly, College of Islamic Studies

Implementation of Genetic and Reproductive Technologies in Qatar
Ayman Shabana,
Georgetown University in Qatar
Kristin Monroe, University of Kentucky

Anxious Reproduction in Qatar? Women’s Experiences of Miscarriage
Susie Kilshaw,
University College London

The Family as an Endangered Pillar of Society: Normative Pluralism and the Contradictions of the
Ethnocratic State in the Gulf

Alexandre Caeiro, Hamad Bin Khalifa University

5:00 PM Conclusion


Fertility Decline, Small Families, and Son Selection in the Muslim World: The Controversial Convergence of Contraceptive and Reprogenetic Technologies

Over the past three decades, fertility rates have plummeted across the Muslim world—a fertility decline that has been profound, even revolutionary. For example, nearly half of the world’s top fifteen fertility declines have occurred in Arab nations, according to the 2015 United Nations World Population report. A “quiet revolution” in reproductive behaviors and desires has emanated from Muslim couples themselves, who are choosing, via various contraceptive methods, to have smaller families.

Yet, this dramatic Muslim fertility decline is not the only reproductive revolution taking place across the region. From Morocco to Malaysia, the Muslim world has also seen the growth of one of the largest in vitro fertilization (IVF) sectors in the world, designed to overcome Muslim couples’ infertility problems. Infertility treatment via assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) has been encouraged by both Islamic authorities and some Middle Eastern governments, which have subsidized ARTs for their citizens.

One of the ARTs that has gained considerable ground in the Muslim world over the past decade is preimplantation genetic screening (PGS), used to diagnose genetic conditions and also determine the sex of the eight-cell IVF embryo. Although Muslim authorities have attempted to prohibit the use of PGS for sex selection—given the early Islamic injunction against female infanticide and the discouragement of son preference—the emerging empirical evidence suggests that the use of PGS for “son selection” is now becoming widespread in IVF clinics in some Muslim countries.

Based on ethnographic research carried out in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), this paper will assess how these new practices of IVF with PGS are leading to what scholars call “selective reproduction.” Although Muslim couples may be using PGS as a way of “gender balancing” their smaller families (especially when a daughter has already been born), this form of PGS-assisted son selection may instantiate new forms of son preference and daughter discrimination. In short, a reproductive revolution that has led to contraceptive-assisted “small” Muslim families is now intersecting with repro-genetic forms of gender selection and potential gender discrimination. The bioethical dimensions of this technological convergence in the Muslim world will be explored in this ethnographically-oriented assessment.

Marcia C. Inhorn, Ph.D.
Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs in the Department of Anthropology, Yale University

Reprogenetic Technologies and the Valuing of the Biological Family

Reprogenetic technologies, which combine the power of reproductive technologies with the tools of genetic science and technology, give prospective parents a remarkable degree of control over a variety of their offspring’s characteristics. Not uncommonly, proponents of these technologies treat them as mere value-neutral tools, limiting their assessments to risk and benefit considerations. But such assessments are ethically unsound. Far from being value-neutral, reprogenetic technologies support or alter human values by mediating our perceptions of the world and our reasons for action. In this presentation, I focus in particular on the biological or genetic family and show how reprogenetic technologies reinforce the value that such families have in many societies. I also explore the negative consequences of ignoring the value-ladenness of reprogenetic technologies.

Inmaculada de Melo-Martin
Professor of Medical Ethics, Weill Cornell Medicine

The Admissibility of DNA Evidence as Proof of Paternity in Light of Maqasid Al-Sharia

The protection of progeny (nasl) is considered one of the five universal ends of Islamic law. As might be expected, numerous particular rules of Islamic law are understood as serving this end. One of the most important means classical Islamic law adopted to protect progeny were its rules intended to prevent disputes regarding paternity. Accordingly, Islamic law includes many rules regulating sexuality intended to minimize the risk that a child could be born of unknown paternity. The rules regarding the duty of divorced wives and widows to observe a `idda, as well as the duty of men to observe the obligation of istibra’, are obvious examples of such rules.

Less well-known, perhaps, was Islamic law’s categorical distinction between children conceived in the context of a licit relationship, and those conceived outside of a licit relationship. Any child conceived in the context of a licit relationship would be legally affiliated to the mother’s husband, in the case of a free woman, or her master, in the case of an enslaved woman, even if the biological father of the child, in fact, was a stranger, i.e., the child was conceived as a result of illicit intercourse (zina). Conversely, a child conceived outside of a lawful relationship could not, as a matter of law, ever be affiliated to any male, even the biological father, even if he was subsequently discovered or acknowledged paternity. This doctrine was said to result from a legal decision attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, in which he ruled, in the context of a paternity dispute, “the child belongs to the lawful bed, and the adulterer receives nothing (al-walad li’l-firash wa li’l-‘ahir al-hajar)” and was reflected in the juristic principle “the sperm of the adulterer is without standing (ma’ al-zani hadar—or muhdar).”

The impossibility of an illegitimate child being affiliated to a father would seem to be contrary to the universal end of the protection of progeny, but in any case, unless the biological father was willing to confess to the crime of zina, there would have been insuperable evidentiary problems in any attempt to affiliate children to potential fathers, based solely on the claim of biological descent. Does the introduction of the possibility of DNA testing change, in any material way, the internal coherence of classical Islamic law’s approach to establishing paternity? Even if it does not, does the possibility of identifying with certainty the biological father of an illegitimate child suggest that a departure from the classical approach is nevertheless warranted? If so, does this logic of biological paternity call into doubt the vitality of the principal, “the child belongs to the lawful bed,” such that a husband who suspects that a child born to his wife is not actually his may subject the child to DNA testing? This paper will explore these questions from the perspective of maqasid al-sharia and argue that the possibility of identifying the biological father with certainty through DNA testing calls for the recognition of a narrow exception to the classical rules: in the case of an illegitimate child, the mother should be allowed to introduce DNA evidence to prove the identity of the biological father, but only for the limited purpose of establishing a duty of monetary support, and an obligatory testamentary disposition in favor of the child (wasiyya).

The core of the doctrine, however, that the adulterous father should not benefit from his adultery should be upheld, meaning that while he should be subject to the duties of fatherhood, he is not entitled to the rights of fatherhood. A fortiori, DNA evidence should not be used to undermine the affiliation of a child born in a lawful relationship to his legal father, unless the father formally accuses the mother of adultery, pursuant to the procedure of li`an.

Mohammad H. Fadel, Ph.D.
Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto


Exploring the Relationship Between Abortion and Genetic and Assisted Reproductive Technologies

The legal status of abortion varies significantly throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). In Tunisia and Turkey abortion is legal and provided by the public sector throughout the first trimester. In contrast, in both the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Lebanon abortion is legally prohibited in almost all circumstances. Yet the development of genetic and assisted reproductive technologies raises new legal, socio-cultural, and moral questions about abortion, pregnancy termination, and the status of the embryo or fetus. Longstanding juridical and socio-cultural positions on abortion have implications for how new genetic and reproductive technologies may be perceived, interpreted, and accepted.

Simultaneously, advances in genetic and assisted reproductive technologies may shape perceptions of and the demand for abortion services.

This paper explores the intersection of abortion, genetic and assisted reproductive technologies, and family formation. Based on extensive and longstanding fieldwork throughout the region, this chapter examines the legal, political, medical, and cultural influencing abortion services in the context of genetic conditions, fetal anomaly, and/or multi-gestation pregnancy. This chapter sheds light on the legal, medical, and social risks that women incur to obtain abortion services in legally permissible and legally restricted settings and the role that intraregional abortion tourism plays in offering women services in a wider array of circumstances.

Angel M. Foster, D.Phil
Associate Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa

The Duration of Pregnancy in Contemporary Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh) and Legislation: Tradition, Scientific Revolution, and Consequences

The established legal durations of pregnancy are relevant to determine paternal filiation (nasab), the waiting period (`idda), maintenance (nafaqa), inheritance rights, and unborn children’s eligibility for bequests. The view that pregnancy should be considered according to attested experience and the observation of nature entered the Sunni law schools long before the 20th century. However, the dominant positions were not ruled by medical criteria. The agreed-upon minimum duration of pregnancy was six months whereas the maximum length remained subject to strong disagreement given the lack of any relevant instruction in the Qur’an and the Prophetic tradition. Be that as it may, the fixed maximum lengths far exceeded the average nine months, spanning from two to seven years. Meanwhile from the first quarter of the 20th century onwards, legislators in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and most Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries submitted the legal duration of pregnancy to medicine. Yet the minimum duration continues to be fixed at six months notwithstanding that successful birth cases before the sixth gestational month have been attested whereas either eleven or twelve months—sometimes based on solar and sometimes on lunar cycles—mark the maximum limit despite modern physicians’ agreement that pregnancy cannot last more than 280 days. Concurrently, the rules preventing paternity establishment out of wedlock on the one hand—whatever the evidence of genetic tests—and criminalizing extra-marital relationships on the other, remain in force.

My proposal deals with assessments of the paradoxes brought about by modern medicine in contemporary fiqh and legislation on the Islamic family, by contemporary Sunni fiqh experts from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, and the United States. Most of them approach the duration of pregnancy with a normative advisory purpose. Their assessments present the fiqh norms relevant to pregnancy in the Sunni law schools followed by a research in their methodological foundations, a personal evaluation of the soundest legal view in terms of methodology and compliance with the evidence of modern medicine, and finally, a proposal for national legislative bodies to best accommodate that evidence to sharia’s ethical and legal standards.

Most of them strive to demonstrate that classical fiqh and modern medicine are perfectly compatible. They emphasize that, despite the occasional flaws in their methodologies, certain pre-modern fuqaha’ were particularly accurate in The Duration their estimates of either the real duration of pregnancy or the causes for its extended durations. In their view, modern medical computations and findings have quite naturally come to replace the old reliance on shared experience and women’s testimony. The transition has been made easier by the lack of any specific indication in the sources of the sharia. One of those fiqh experts addresses the consequences of adopting recent findings on embryology and genetics for the “confounding of filiations (ikhtilat al-ansab)” principle which provides the rationale for the prohibition of extra-marital relationships (zina) and paternity establishment out of wedlock.

Delfina Serrano-Ruano, Ph.D.
Senior Scientist at the Institute of Languages and Cultures of the Mediterranean and Near East

Modern Biomedical Technology and the Global Infertility Industry

The global infertility industry has grown into a multi-billion-dollar per year business by (quite literally) capitalizing on the deep longing many have to become parents. Simultaneously, advances in biotechnologies such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), embryo cryopreservation, preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), and more have divorced sex from procreation so that what was once called begetting is now called reproduction; and in many cases it is now in fact an act of technological manufacturing. In this situation bodies are commodified, in particular the bodies of women, which are valued for their reproductive capacities—their eggs and their wombs. Children become objects of design and manufacture when highly desirable eggs—from women of certain intelligence, features, build, and capabilities—are brought together with similarly carefully selected sperm, sometimes gestated by yet another woman.

In many, if not most cases, the woman who carries a child for another is disadvantaged, impoverished, and sometimes even illiterate. Underlying all of this are cultural and religious shifts that deny any sense of innate purpose to procreation, but instead view procreation as a project of the self-creative will. With the denial of any sense of purpose to procreation, we are left with autonomy, choice, and human will driving human reproduction. Thus procreation has given way to the designing, making—even manufacturing—of children, and to the use of the human body and the bodies of others, often strangers, in service of our will to make our progeny in our own image, or in an image even better than our own. In addition, we are increasingly becoming aware of and seeing links between the practices of surrogacy and egg “donation” and issues of sex trafficking, particularly in developing areas of the world. This new situation demands new approaches. In particular, it requires setting aside traditional dividing lines of left/right, pro-choice/pro-life, and religious/secular, in order to work together for the common global good of women, children and the family.

I propose the intentional bringing together of diverse voices in order to raise awareness of the global infertility industry, and to begin to build a coalition and network from around the world that can work together to educate and inform the broader public as well as policy experts of the real and serious medical and psychological harms to women and children. Also important is reframing thought and conversations around infertility and baby-making that makes its way to the level of individuals who are seeking to manage their fertility, to couples who are seeking to become parents, and to women who might consider selling their eggs or renting their wombs.

Jennifer Lahl, R.N., M.A.
Founder and President of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network


Third Party Gamete Donation in Iran: The Shift from “All in the Family” to “Going it Alone”

The introduction of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) to Iran and their legitimization is well documented by various scholars and from different perspectives. To date, Iran remains the only Muslim country which has allowed the use of ARTs in all their forms and continues to do so as new technologies are introduced to the country. The leading Islamic jurists, who allowed the use of these technologies, especially third party gamete donation, suggested various solutions on how third party donation can be practiced without breaching the Islamic rules of incest and adultery. Implicit in these ruling was the protection of the purity of the lineage.

However, while these rulings generally justified the legitimacy of the gamete donation, they did not specifically forbid gamete donation between blood relatives. As a result, resorting to one’s siblings for donation seemed the most obvious solution and, in the early days of the practice, almost every infertile couple resorted to their blood relatives to receive the ‘best’ gamete, meaning one that ensured the continuity of their lineage.

This form of donation created a host of problems from legal to emotional to financial for recipients, gamete donors, and practitioners alike, as it meant the full involvement of the kin group in every stage of the treatment. However, almost three decades on, an increasing number of infertile couples, predominantly the urban ones, are seeking treatment secretly, without the knowledge of their kin group or even their parents. Gamete donation is now practiced using anonymous gametes in the secrecy of the infertility clinic.

Currently, the medical practitioners and the legislators are actively engaged in debating whether to introduce the anonymity of the donors with the aim of presenting it as bill to the parliament to make anonymous donation a law. At the same time, such an outcome would go against the efforts of the practitioners, who are trying to reduce the stigma of infertility by educating the public to the fact that infertility is not a divine damnation but a medical condition.

What emerges from such a shift of preference for receiving blood relatives’ gametes to secretly using strangers’ gamete is an indication that, faced with the choice between maintaining the purity of the blood or being seen to be fertile, the infertile couple opt to prove their reproductive ability. In the process, by making it possible to hide one’s infertility, the stigma of infertility is being reinforced rather than weakened or removed and the ‘purity of lineage’ will eventually become a myth.

Soraya Tremayne, Ph.D.
Social Anthropologist at the School of Anthropology, Oxford University

Bioethics and Religious Law (Fiqh): The Principle of Doing Good Deeds and its Applications in Contemporary Reproductive Practices

This paper explores the merit of a “good deed” (amr-e kheir) in the contexts of modern genetic and reproductive technologies from the perspective of Shia Islamic jurisprudence and ethics and reiterates its importance in the field of bioethical issues and practice, particularly with regard to the use of human bodily and genetic materials and information, and the impact such new technical variables have on our contemporary understanding of family structures and practices. The rapid developments that have occurred in medical sciences and biotechnologies not only have brought great accomplishments in healthcare and treatment; they have also brought forth challenges and different moral contradictions that have stirred controversies in bioethics. One of the main ethical challenges focuses on the commodification of body parts and persons.

This paper tries to offer a Shia Islamic perspective to tackle these ethical challenges by drawing on concepts such as “remuneration,” “offering,” and “reward,” and emphasizing the importance of the charitable act itself. From a theoretical point of view, this paper aims to contribute to the global bioethical discourse by providing some moral principles and ideas in the tradition of Islamic jurisprudence and ethics and their contemporary reception. The paper draws on extensive ethnographic research on regulations and implementation of reproductive technologies in Iran, combined with ongoing textual analysis and mapping of legal and theological debates and positions taken by religious authorities and legal experts.

Shirin Naef, Ph.D.
Faculty Member, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Zurich

DNA Testing and Islamic Law: An Example from Morocco

A child born out of wedlock is typically not entitled to paternity recognition in Morocco. In an unprecedented move, the First Instance Family Court in Tangiers recognized the familial relationship connecting a father to his biological daughter. The court also required the man to pay 100,000 MAD ($10,500 USD) to the child through her mother for the material and moral harms caused to the child from denial of paternity or familial relations. The defendant appealed the judgment.

On October 9, 2017, the Tangiers Court of Appeals overturned the First Instance Court decision, rejecting the DNA tests and any recognition of familial relation. The court also invalidated the lower court’s use of international conventions, explaining that the child is so foreign to her father that the possibility of their future marriage would not be overruled. The Tangiers First Instance Family Court allowed for DNA tests to be admitted into evidence in family law cases, which has become a new trend in Morocco. The plaintiff was a mother who wanted to prove the paternity (bunuwwa) and lineage (nasab) of her daughter born out of wedlock. The case illustrates how, as medical science advances, international law and conventions may interact with domestic, Islamic, and constitutional law. This case also shows how two Muslim jurists reacted to DNA testing and their starkly different use of such expertise in their judicial reasoning. The case has sparked an important discussion in Moroccan society regarding the role of the state in protecting the family in the context of a predominantly Muslim society. This paper aims to examine the rising use of DNA testing in Morocco and reflect on the political, social, and legal implications of such a technology for Moroccan society.

Zaynab El Bernoussi, Ph.D.
Professor, Al Akhawayn University


Implementation of Genetic and Reproductive Technologies in Qatar

This presentation explores how genetic and reproductive technologies are implemented in Qatar. It investigates how medical professionals deal with ethical issues surrounding emerging applications of these technologies. The presentation is based on fieldwork that was undertaken between January and May 2017 with the goal of examining the extent to which medical practice in Qatar is informed by Islamic ethical norms, international regulations, and general bioethical guidelines.

Ayman Shabana, Ph.D.
Associate Research Professor, Georgetown University in Qatary

Kristin Monroe, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Anthropology at the College of Arts and Sciences, University of Kentucky

Anxious Reproduction in Qatar? Women’s Experience of Miscarriage

This paper explores whether reproductive and parenting anxiety identified by Faircloth and Gurtin (2017) is emerging in Qatar. The EuroAmerican language of reproduction and parenting, which increasingly endorses intensive mothering and reproductive agency, dominates global policy initiatives (Faircloth et al., 2013) and this paper considers how this global discourse is being negotiated, accommodated and/or resisted. The unintended and paradoxical consequence of the greater availability of reproductive technologies and the progressively “intensive” parenting culture, which has been documented in a variety of EuroAmerican contexts, is increased anxiety.

Based on ethnographic research, which focused on Qatari women’s experience of miscarriage and included interviews with 60 women, the paper explores how pregnancy and miscarriage experiences are changing, asks if such changes can be understood in light of the “anxious reproduction” into Qatari reproductive experiences, and looks for the implications for individuals, families, and the broader society.

Susie Kilshaw, Ph.D.
Principal Research Fellow, University College London

The Family as an Eendangered Pillar of Society: Normative Pluralism and the Contradictions of the Ethnocratic State in the Gulf

Inspired by a number of anthropological studies (Bowen 2003, 2007), the paper develops an “ethnography of public reasoning” in Qatar to explore the range of normative commitments and structures of justification that underlie public discourse. The main advantages of this approach, the paper argues, are three-fold: an ethnography of public reasoning enables one to differentiate between the positions of a public often perceived to be homogeneous; it allows for a systematic understanding of the political and ethical stakes underpinning public debate; and it facilitates an informed discussion about the coherence of state policy and religious discourse. The paper takes 21st century debates about the Qatari family as a case-study to illustrate what such an ethnography of public reasoning might look like. The family is a particularly apt focus given its centrality to public discussions in the Gulf.

In Qatar as elsewhere, development has been highly gendered. The modernization policies started by Sheikh Khalifa and accelerated during Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa’s reign have impacted Qatari women and family structures in distinct and often contradictory ways. In order to address this set of challenges, the Qatari regime has made “family cohesion” a central goal of its national development strategy in the twenty-first century. Family, Islam, and Science arguably constitute the three pillars on which Qatar’s modernizing project rests. Drawing on local newspapers, television talk shows, government reports, legal decrees and non-binding fatwas, I demonstrate how the institution of the family has become a privileged site for the regulatory projects of multiple actors (state agents, religious scholars, judges, tribal leaders, medical doctors, social scientists, and public intellectuals). I show first that these regulatory projects invoke different normative registers (Islamic normativity as well as customary practice, state law, natural and social science, and international human rights discourse) and then highlight how overlapping and conflicting logics can be found within each normative register. I suggest that this multiplicity of registers and logics explains the proliferation of positions and the seeming intractability of disagreement. I argue that any discussion about the ethical and political stakes that underlie these debates needs to take into consideration these different normative frameworks and logics and incorporate a contextual account of how they inter-relate. How and when do muftis draw on scientific discourses to legitimize their positions? To what extent is state policy shaped by traditions of religious reasoning? How do state actors, public intellectuals, and muftis draw boundaries between customary practices, state laws, and Islamic ethics? These are some of the questions that guide my analysis of the contemporary debate about the transformations of family life in Qatar.

Alexandre Caeiro, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor at the College of Islamic Studies, Hamad Bin Khalifa University



Zaynab El Bernoussi is professor of international studies at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Al Akhawayn University in Morocco, coordinator of the Human and Economic Development Research Unit, member of the Hillary Clinton Center for Women’s Empowerment, associated member of the Groupe d’études et de recherches sur le Monde arabe contemporain (GERMAC) at the University College London, and an associated researcher at the History of Human Freedom and Dignity in Western Civilization project by the European Union in Denmark.

Dr. El Bernoussi holds a bachelor of business administration from Al Akhawayn University, a master in finance from the University in Madrid’s IE Business School, a master of public administration from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in political and social sciences from the University College London. She was a Carnegie visiting scholar at the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations. She was also a visiting scholar at Harvard University and Smith College. Dr. El Bernoussi’s research is at the intersection of postcolonial theory and dignity politics. She lived in China for two years and published several encyclopedia entries on Islamic Bioethics with her mentor, Dr. Baudouin Dupret.


Alexandre Caeiro is assistant professor at the College of Islamic Studies, Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Doha, Qatar. Dr. Caeiro earned his Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Utrecht University. His research deals primarily with the modern transformations of Islamic normativity in Muslim majority and minority communities.


Alexandre Caeiro is assistant professor at the College of Islamic Studies, Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Doha, Qatar. Dr. Caeiro earned his Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Utrecht University. His research deals primarily with the modern transformations of Islamic normativity in Muslim majority and minority communities.


Ahmad Dallal is the Dean at Georgetown University in Qatar. He has a storied intellectual history between Lebanon and the United States, where he has demonstrated his core interest in research and teaching about the cultural traditions of the Islamic world. Dr. Dallal was previously professor of history at the American University of Beirut. Between 2009 and 2015, he served as Provost of the American University of Beirut. Prior to that, between 2003 and 2009, Dr. Dallal served as chair of the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University. He had previously taught at Stanford University, Yale University, and Smith College.

Dr. Dallal has written and lectured widely on a variety of topics, including the Islamic disciplines of learning in medieval and early modern Islamic societies, the development of traditional and exact Islamic sciences, Islamic medieval thought, the early-modern evolution of Islamic revivalism and intellectual movements, Islamic law, and the causes and consequences of the September 11th attacks in 2001.

He is the author of An Islamic Response to Greek Astronomy: Kitab Ta‘dil Hay’at al-Aflak of Sadr al-Shari‘a (1995); Islam, Science and the Challenge of History (2012); The Political Theology of ISIS, Prophets, Messiahs and the “Extinction of the Greyzone” (2017); and Islam without Europe – Traditions of Reform in Eighteenth Century Islamic Thought (2018).

Dr. Dallal earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University in Islamic Studies, and his B.E. in Mechanical Engineering from the American University of Beirut.


Mohammad H. Fadel is Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, which he joined in January 2006. Professor Fadel wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on legal process in medieval Islamic law while at the University of Chicago and received his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law. Professor Fadel was admitted to the Bar of New York in 2000 and practiced law with the firm of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP in New York, New York, where he worked on a wide variety of corporate finance transactions and securities-related regulatory investigations. Professor Fadel also served as a law clerk to the Honorable Paul V. Niemeyer of the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit and the Honorable Anthony A. Alaimo of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. Professor Fadel has published numerous articles in Islamic legal history and Islam and liberalism.


Alexandre Caeiro is assistant professor at the College of Islamic Studies, Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Doha, Qatar. Dr. Caeiro earned his Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Utrecht University. His research deals primarily with the modern transformations of Islamic normativity in Muslim majority and minority communities.


Angel M. Foster is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa and the 2011-2016 Endowed Chair in Women’s Health Research. A 1996 Rhodes Scholar from Oregon, she received a D.Phil in Middle Eastern studies from the University of Oxford, an M.D. from Harvard Medical School, as well as an A.M. in International Policy Studies and B.A.S. in Biology and International Relations from Stanford University.

Dr. Foster’s research focuses on emergency contraception, abortion, and health professions education and she currently leads projects in 15 countries. She has authored more than 100 publications on reproductive health and co-edited two books, Emergency Contraception: The Story of a Global Reproductive Health Technology (Palgrave MacMillan, 2012) and Abortion Pills, Test Tube Babies, and Sex Toys: Emerging Sexual and Reproductive Technologies in the Middle East and North Africa (Vanderbilt University Press, 2017.) Her next book, Abortion, Politics, and the Pill that Promised to Change Everything: The Global Journey of Mifepristone is scheduled for publication in 2018 (Palgrave Macmillan). Dr. Foster currently serves on the Board of Directors of the National Abortion Federation and is the Chair of the Sexual and Reproductive Health Section of the American Public Health Association. In 2017, the Guttmacher Institute bestowed on her the Darroch Award for Excellence in Sexual and Reproductive Health Research and in 2018 she received the inaugural Leadership Award from the Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health for her work to advance reproductive health in humanitarian settings.


Mohammed Ghaly is Professor of Islam and Biomedical Ethics at the Research Center for Islamic Legislation and Ethics (CILE), College of Islamic Studies at Hamad Bin Khalifa University. In 1999, he did Islamic Studies in English at Al-Azhar University in Cairo and was awarded his Bachelor’s degree with cum laude. In 2002, he completed his M.A. degree in Islamic Studies also with cum laude from Leiden University and in 2008 he received his Ph.D. from the same university. During the period 2007-2013, Ghaly was a faculty member at Leiden University and since 2011 he has been a faculty member at the Erasmus Mundus Program; the European Master of Bioethics jointly organized by a number of European universities.

Dr. Ghaly serves on the editorial board of a number of academic journals and he is the research consultant of a number of research projects as well. He was invited to lecture on Islamic bioethics at many universities worldwide including Imperial College London, Oxford University, University of Oslo, University of Chicago, and Georgetown University. During the academic year 2014-2015, he was Visiting Researcher of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University.


Marcia C. Inhorn is the William K. Lanman, Jr. Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs in the Department of Anthropology and The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University. A specialist on Middle Eastern gender, religion, and health issues, Inhorn has conducted research on the social impact of infertility and assisted reproductive technologies in Egypt, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Arab America over the past 30 years.

She is the author of six books on the subject, including her latest, America’s Arab Refugees: Vulnerability and Health on the Margins (Stanford University Press, 2018). She is also the co-editor of ten books, the founding editor of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (JMEWS), and co-editor of the Berghahn Book series, Fertility, Reproduction, and Sexuality. She has received numerous awards for her books and scholarship, including the American Anthropological Association’s Robert B. Textor and Family Prize for excellence in anticipatory anthropology, the AAA’s Eileen Basker and Diana Forsythe Prizes for outstanding anthropological research in gender, health, and biomedical technology, the JMEWS Book Award in Middle East gender studies, and the Middle East Distinguished Scholar award from the AAA’s Middle East Section. Most recently, Inhorn has completed a two-year National Science Foundation-funded study of oocyte cryopreservation (egg freezing) for both medical and elective fertility preservation.


Susie Kilshaw is a medical anthropologist based at University College London. Her work explores the impact of cultural context on health and illness with a particular focus on pregnancy, reproduction, and pregnancy loss.

A Canadian based in the UK for 15 years, Susie has been particularly interested in UK health beliefs and anxieties, culminating in her book on the Gulf War Syndrome—Impotent Warriors: Gulf War Syndrome, Vulnerability and Masculinity (Berghahn Books, 2009). Hailing from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Susie attended McGill University where she received a B.A. (Hons) in Anthropology and soon after moved to the UK to attend University College London from where she received both her MS.c. and Ph.D. in Social Anthropology.

Recently, her interests have taken her to the Middle East where she has conducted fieldwork for the past 5 years. This research involves comparing miscarriage experiences in Qatar with those in the UK. A principal research fellow at University College London, Susie has taught a number of medical anthropology and anthropology courses and is a regular speaker at international conferences.


Jeremy Koons is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University in Qatar. He received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Georgetown University in 1998. He has held teaching positions at the American University of Beirut, Hong Kong University, and Stonehill College (Massachusetts). He has taught a wide variety of philosophy courses on ethics (theoretical and applied), social and political philosophy, epistemology, philosophy of mind and language, metaphysics, and philosophy of religion. He has also published numerous articles in ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy of religion. He has published two books—Pragmatic Reasons: A Defense of Morality and Epistemology (Palgrave, 2009), and The Normative and the Natural (co-authored with Michael P. Wolf; Palgrave, 2016). He is completing a manuscript on the ethical theory of Wilfrid Sellars (under contract with Routledge).


Ms. Lahl is Founder and President of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. Lahl couples her 25 years of experience as a pediatric critical care nurse, a hospital administrator, and a senior-level nursing manager with a deep passion to speak for those who have no voice.
Lahl’s writings have appeared in various publications including the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the American Journal of Bioethics. As a field expert, she is routinely interviewed on radio and television including ABC, CBS, PBS, and NPR. She is also called upon to speak alongside lawmakers and members of the scientific community, even being invited to speak to members of the European Parliament in Brussels to address issues of egg trafficking and addressing egg donation and surrogacy at the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women.

She serves on the North American Editorial Board for Ethics and Medicine. Lahl made her writing and directing debut producing the documentary film Eggsploitation, which has been awarded Best Documentary by the California Independent Film Festival and has sold in more than 30 countries. An updated and expanded version of Eggsploitation was released in the Fall of 2013. She is also Director, Executive Producer, and Co-writer of Anonymous Father’s Day (2011), a documentary film exploring the stories of women and men who were created by anonymous sperm donation. In 2014 she completed what is now a trilogy of films on the ethics of third-party reproduction with Breeders: A Subclass of Women?, which focuses on surrogacy. In July of 2015, she released a documentary short, Maggie’s Story, which follows one woman’s egg donation journey. Her next


Inmaculada de Melo-Martin is Professor of medical ethics at Weill Cornell Medicine. She holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and an M.S. in molecular biology. Her research interests include bioethics and philosophy of science and she has published extensively in those areas in both philosophy and science journals. Most of her work has been on ethical and epistemological issues related to reprogenetics and the biomedical sciences. She has been particularly concerned with calling attention to the importance of science when making ethical judgments and the importance of ethics when evaluating new scientific and technological developments. Dr. de Melo-Martin is the author of several books including Rethinking Reprogenetics (Oxford University Press, 2017) and The Fight Against Doubt (Oxford University Press, 2018).


Kristin Monroe is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. Her research has concerned automobile technology, geographic mobility, and social life in Beirut, Lebanon, in both historical and contemporary eras and addresses social life in Beirut, Lebanon, in both historical and contemporary eras.

She held the position of visiting research scholar with the Islamic Bioethics Project at Georgetown University in Qatar during the academic year 2017-18. During this period, her research focused on the empirical dimension of the Family Structure Project. She is the author of The Insecure City: Space, Power, and Mobility in Beirut (Rutgers University Press, 2016) as well as articles in journals such as History and Anthropology (2017), PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review (2016), Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East (2014), Anthropology of Work Review (2014), and City & Society (2011).


Shirin Naef completed her doctoral thesis at the University of Zurich in 2016. An examination of the religious, legal and social aspects of the development and implementation of assisted reproductive technologies in Iran was the subject of her doctoral thesis; it was published as Kinship, Law and Religion: An Anthropological Study of Assisted Reproductive Technologies in Iran in spring 2017 in Germany by Francke Verlag. Her methodological approach is a combination of extensive ethnography and textual analysis of important academic and religious seminary publications in Iran, from Shia jurisprudence and Persian histories to the analysis of laws and verdicts.

She received her postgraduate training in Bioethics at the International Centre for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW) at the University of Tübingen, where, from 2009 to 2012, she was a doctoral fellow and member of the Postgraduate Research Training Programme, Bioethics, which is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Her current research projects examine Shia philanthropy and charitable giving in Iran at the intersection of religion, law and economy, and the history and ideas of charity in Europe.

She has recently been awarded a fellowship (2018-2019) at the Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study in the Humanities, at the University of Bonn to work on her project titled Economy, Law and Religion: A Study of Shia Philanthropy in Iran. Her publications include, “Legal Status, Moral Values and Cosmological Order: Embryo Politics in Iran,” in Ethnologie française 2017/3: 459-470; “Bioethik im Iran,” in Handbuch der Iranistik 2, Ludwig Paul (ed.) (Reichert Verlag, 2017); “The Iranian Embryo Donation Law and Surrogacy Regulations: The Intersection of Religion, Law and Ethics,” Die Welt des Islams 55 (3-4): 348-377; “Gestational Surrogacy in Iran: Uterine Kinship in Shia Thought and Practice,” in Islam and Assisted Reproductive Technologies: Sunni and Shia Perspectives, Marcia Inhorn and Soraya Tremayne (eds.) (Berghahn, 2012).


M. Reza Pirbhai is Associate Professor at Georgetown University in Qatar, specializing in South Asian and World history. His research is focused on Islam in Modern South Asia. He earned a doctorate in history from the University of Toronto in 2004.

Before joining the faculty at Georgetown University he was Assistant Professor at the University of Manitoba and Associate Professor at Louisiana State University. His articles and book chapters on such topics as Islamic law and theology, Hindu nationalism, and British travel literature have appeared in the Journal of Asian History, Modern Intellectual History and South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, HAWWA: The Journal of Women of the Middle East and the Islamic World, and The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Law.

He is also the author of the books Reconsidering Islam in a South Asian Context (E.J. Brill, 2009), and Fatima Jinnah: Mother of the Nation, (Cambridge University Press, 2017).


Delfina Serrano-Ruano, Ph.D., is a tenured researcher at the Spanish National Council for Scientific Research. She specializes in the history of Islamic law. Within this field she has paid attention to legal doctrine on and punishment of so-called “sexual crimes” (fornication and rape) and the Islamic conception of the family.

In 1999 she published a Spanish translation and study of Madhahib al-hukkam fi nawazil al-ahkam, a collection of legal cases compiled by the 12th century Maliki jurist Muhammad b. `Iyad. This collection reflects the activity as a qadi and as a mufti of the author’s father, `Iyad b. Musà (Ceuta 1083-Marrakech 1149 CE) who is better known for his Kitab Al-Shifa’, a seminal biography of the Prophet Muhammad. She has also edited a collective volume on cruelty and compassion in Arabic and Islamic literature.

Results of her work have appeared in both Spanish and international academic journals like Al-Qantara, Islamic Law and Society, Der Islam, Hawwa, Bulletin d’Études Orientales, and Revue des Mondes Musulmans et de la Méditerranée. Her article “Redefining Paternal Filiation through DNA Testing: Law and the Children of Unmarried Mothers in the Maghreb” is forthcoming in the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies published by Duke University Press. She is the chief editor of the Arabic and Islamic Studies CSIC series and has been recently elected a member of the executive board of the International Society for Islamic Legal Studies (ISILS).


Ayman Shabana is Associate Research Professor at Georgetown University in Qatar. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles, his M.A. from Leiden University in the Netherlands, and his BA from Al-Azhar University in Egypt. His teaching and research interests include Islamic legal and intellectual history, Islamic law and ethics, human rights, and bioethics. He is the director of the Islamic Bioethics Project, which has been supported by three consecutive grants from Qatar National Research Fund’s National Priorities Research Program.

In 2012 he received the Research Excellence Award at the Qatar Annual Research Forum and during the academic year 2013-2014 he was a visiting research fellow at the Islamic Legal Studies Program at Harvard Law School. He is the author of Custom in Islamic Law and Legal Theory in addition to several academic journal articles which appeared in Islamic Law and Society, Oxford Journal of Islamic Studies, Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, HAWWA: Journal of Women of the Middle East and the Islamic World, Religion Compass, and Medicine Health Care and Philosophy.


Soraya Tremayne is a social anthropologist and Co-founding Director, with Professor David Parkin, of the Fertility and Reproduction Studies Group (FRSG) in the School of Anthropology, Oxford University. She is a Research Associate at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, the convener of the seminar series on Women’s Rights in the Middle East at the Middle East Centre, and a Senior Common Room Member at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University.

Dr. Tremayne was formerly the Director of the International Gender Studies in the Department for International Development Studies at Oxford University and the Chair of Social Analysis and Anthropology Associates (SA3 Limited), a consultancy firm that she co-founded with three other anthropologists (1982), which specializes in development and aid projects.

She was also a lecturer in Social Anthropology at Tehran University, the Director of the Ethnographic Museum of Tehran, and the founding co-series editor of the Fertility, Reproduction, and Sexuality series, with Berghahn Books. She served on the Council of the Royal Anthropological Institute between 1993 and 2014, as a Council member, a Vice-Chairman, and a member of the Finance Committee.


Amira Sonbol specializes in the history of modern Egypt, Islamic history and law, women, gender and Islam and is the author of several books including The New Mamluks: Egyptian Society and Modern Feudalism; Women, the Family and Divorce Laws in Islamic History; The Creation of a Medical Profession in Egypt: 1800-1922; The Memoirs of Abbas Hilmi II: Sovereign of Egypt; Women of the Jordan: Islam, Labor and Law; and Beyond the Exotic: Muslim Women’s Histories.

Professor Sonbol is Editor-in-Chief of HAWWA: the Journal of Women of the Middle East and the Islamic World published by E.J. Brill and Co-editor of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, a quarterly journal co-published with Selly Oak Colleges.
She teaches courses on the History of Modern Egypt, Women and Law, and Islamic Civilization.

2018 International Symposium


Call for Papers

Family Structure in the wake of Genetic and Reproductive Technologies
International Symposium
Georgetown University in Qatar
October 7-8, 2018

This symposium aims to provide a forum for serious discussion and deliberation on one of the central topics in the interdisciplinary field of bioethics in general and in the emerging subfield of Islamic bioethics in particular. More specifically, it aims to contribute to the dialogue between Islamic bioethics and parallel religious as well as secular approaches to bioethics. The symposium will consist of a one-day workshop and a one-day public conference. In order to facilitate in-depth discussion, the workshop will be held among invited participants only. The one-day conference will feature several panels on the main theme of the symposium. It will also aim to disseminate some of the results of the workshop discussions to a wider audience. The symposium will be held at Georgetown University in Qatar on October 7-8, 2018.

Main Theme

The twentieth century witnessed many life-changing scientific and technological breakthroughs that touch almost all aspects of human life both at the individual and collective levels. One of the most fascinating and impactful discoveries has been the identification of the human genetic structure in the form of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), a discovery which is often described as nothing less than a biological revolution. The ability of DNA to reveal each person’s unique genetic information, or genetic code, and also potential future biological changes has transformed the study of the life sciences in general. In addition to the genetic revolution that the discovery of the human DNA has resulted in, the twentieth century also witnessed the emergence and development of several assisted reproductive technologies (ART). Following several decades of experimentation in plants and animal research, the history of these technologies is often traced to the successful birth of the first IVF baby, which was reported in England in 1978. These technologies include a number of procedures that either enable reproduction despite physical inabilities barring natural conception, such as artificial insemination, or that allow greater control over the outcome of the reproductive process, such as sex preselection.

As much as these genetic and reproductive advances have brought ease and convenience, they have also engendered vexing and perplexing questions. Nowhere have these questions been more challenging than in the area of family structure and human relations. These technologies raise important questions that involve a host of legal, ethical, and social concerns. Examples of these concerns include: cryopreservation of pre-embryos, the moral status of embryos, post-marital or postmortem conception, manipulation of oocytes and embryos in vitro, the treatment of surplus or unwanted embryos, and the commercialization of the human reproductive function.

Islamic regulations pertaining to family structure are based on textual foundations, which explains their rootedness in the Islamic tradition. Modern genetic and reproductive technologies present important challenges to the received and well-established structure of Islamic family law. In most Muslim-majority countries, where personal status issues are regulated according to shari’a, legislation does not always keep up with these developments. In the absence of binding laws, disputes are settled according to the general principles of Islamic law, mostly in the form of non-binding fatwas and scholarly councils’ resolutions. The absence of formal or unified decision-making mechanisms gives rise to a wide range of views on these issues. Important open questions include: to what extent are the new forms of the nuclear family compatible with shari’a? And, to what extent does the Islamic ethico-legal assessment depend on established scientific facts? This conference seeks to explore these and similar questions in an effort to examine the impact of these new technical variables on contemporary Islamic thought and practice pertaining to the structure of the nuclear family.

In addition to exploring Islamic perspectives on these questions, the conference also aims to provide an opportunity to explore them from various comparative (secular and religious) perspectives. While the legal framework surrounding most reproductive technologies (such as IVF and surrogacy) is long-settled in most Western countries, other technologies loom on the horizon that engender new ethical and legal challenges.  Particularly, with the recent successful use of CRISPR to edit a genetic mutation out of a viable human embryo, ethicists must ask whether genetic engineering should be permitted.  And if so, should we allow only negative gene therapy (the elimination of ‘harmful’ traits) or also positive therapy (the modification of the embryo not to eliminate harmful mutations, but to produce socially desirable traits such as greater intelligence)? What kind of morally problematic issues are involved in the identification of ‘harmful’ traits?  Should we allow germ line therapy (in which the new traits would be passed on to offspring), or only somatic cell therapy (in which the new traits would not normally be passed on to future generations)?  Should we genetically engineer other species’ organs to allow for xenotransplantation by reducing the probability of immune rejection?  Most worryingly, will we see with these issues (as with reproductive technology) ethical issues swept aside in the face of overwhelming demand for life-saving and life-improving technology?

Proposed Topics and Sub-topics

Important tracks to explore the central theme of the conference include, but are not limited to:

Conceptual/Methodological Issues

  • Evolving conception of the family in the wake of genetic and reproductive technologies
  • Specific applications/procedures of genetic and reproductive technologies that have impacted the structure of the family
  • Methods involved in the reconstruction of related rules and procedure
  • Important stakeholders/participants/contributors involved in the process of regulating these technologies
  • Advantages and perils of new applications of genetic and reproductive technologies

Juristic/Ethical-legal Issues

  • How Muslim jurists/religious authorities reacted to various applications of genetic and reproductive technologies and in what form/format (e.g. fatwas, resolutions, recommendations, etc.)

Positive-Legal Issues

  • How legal systems/administrative structures responded to genetic and reproductive technologies, with a particular focus on the Muslim context, and in what form/format (e.g. legislation, codes, policies, decrees, etc.).

Social Scientific Issues

  • How implementation of genetic and reproductive technologies in specific contexts (e.g. regional, religious, sectarian) changed the perception of the family, parenthood, paternity, and maternity Partial funding may be available to defray travel and/or accommodation costs for the presenters of accepted papers.

Abstract Details

Partial funding may be available to defray travel and/or accommodation costs for the presenters of accepted papers. The organizers will work on publishing the revised versions of the submitted contributions, subject to peer review, as an edited volume or a thematic journal issue. Please send an abstract of no more than 500 words to Please also include your name, affiliation, and a brief bio of no more than 300 words.

Important Deadlines

  • A brief abstract (300-500 words) and a short bio by June 30, 2018
  • Notification of acceptance/rejection by July 10
  • First draft of papers by September 1

Background of the Conference

The idea of this Symposium was sparked by a three-year project entitled “Structure of the Nuclear Family in the wake of Genetic and Reproductive Technologies,” which has been supported by Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF). The Symposium will be aligned with the three main dimensions of this project and will aim to address this theme from three main angles: juristic, social scientific, and positive legal. This project is part of the larger Islamic Bioethics Project at Georgetown University in Qatar.